Saturday, December 27, 2014

Mistaken Identity, a #MG Short Story

Douglas Winslow Cooper and Brian Maher

“Dad, can I go with Tommy and his dad to Lake O.?”

If you lived in the Williams’s town, you knew what the “O.” stood for. If you were a visitor, you would try to pronounce the actual name…usually wrongly. Lake Osiris was a twenty-acre lake a couple of miles from “downtown.”

“It’s too cold for swimming,” Mr. Williams replied.

“We’re going to look for tadpoles.”

“Well, fine. It’s spring. I don’t know if tadpoles have hatched from the frogs’ eggs yet, but you’ll find out. Come back before dinner.”


No definite tadpoles were found, but tiny swimmers from a small pond near Lake O. were scooped up into a couple of jars. Were they very young tadpoles? Tommy’s father, an accountant, had no idea. His idea of camping out was eating his Big Mac at a picnic bench outside of the fast-food establishment instead of in his car.

Returning home, the explorers shared their catch, each boy getting one jar of what‘s-its.

Mrs. Williams looked at Tim’s and said, “I’ve never seen tadpoles that small before.”

Mr. Williams said, ”Are you sure these are tadpoles?”

Eldest brother Rick was more sure, “Those aren’t tadpoles.”

Elder sister Tess said, “Yucky!”

The next day, Rick borrowed the jar of what’s-its and showed them to his biology teacher, Dr. Ross.

“Rick, you're correct: these aren’t tadpoles,” Dr. Ross said right away, “they are mosquito larvae. They will become adult mosquitoes this summer. Where did you get them?”

“My brother, Tim, and his friend found them in a pond by Lake O.”

“I’ll alert the New York State Department of Environmental Affairs and send them a sample. These needed to be tested. They could be carriers of the West Nile Virus.”

“Really, Dr. Ross?”

“Probably they are not, but that virus can make people very sick, and insect bites often do cause illnesses.”

Although testing showed that these larvae did not carry the West Nile Virus, the town decided to rid the pond of the mosquitoes with an insecticide. They also drained and dried up several small nearby ponds.

The local weekly newspaper took a picture of Tim and Tom back out at the pond. It printed a news article praising the two Scouts for their discovery, which might have have prevented serious illnesses.

Mrs. Williams told Tim that this was a good example of “serendipity.”

“What’s that?” Tim asked.

“When you go looking for one thing you want, like tadpoles, and find something even more important,” she explained.

Rick added, “My biology teacher was impressed with what you did. You boys were alert. He quoted to me the great French biologist, Louis Pasteur, who said that ‘chance only favors the prepared mind,’ that discoveries that seem lucky would not come if those who were there were not looking carefully for something.”

“Our Scout motto is ‘be prepared,’” said Tim.

“And you were, son,” said his mom, giving him a hug, a BIG hug.

One of our 50 mildly instructive short stories for young readers.

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