“Eat your pancakes, Trent.” His mother hovered over him at the kitchen table, hands on her hips. “It’s not every day a boy gets buttermilk pancakes for breakfast.”
Trent stared at the plate in front of him. The melty butter and steaming hotcakes smelled so appetizing…but at the top of the stack sat a batter-colored stingray. It gazed up at Trent, evaluating the danger of this six-year-old predator.
Finally, Trent spoke. “I…can’t,” he told his mother, looking down to avoid the blades of her sharp glare. “I want to. But I don’t want to hurt the stingray.”
“What stingray, Trent?” His mother sighed, exasperated. “I suppose your father has been encouraging your imagination to run wild lately.”
Trent smiled at the memory of the day before, which he’d spent snorkeling the local reef with his father. He’d learned the scientific names of twelve new species and had even seen a hammerhead shark from a distance.
“Stay calm,” his father had told him. “The best thing you can do is let the shark know you’re not afraid of him. Then he won’t be afraid of you.”
A cloud out the window looked very much like that hammerhead shark. And one of the flowers in the vase on the table had an uncanny resemblance to a sea anemone. If the oranges had spines, they would be citrus-y porcupine fish. A small sailboat braved the tossing waves in Trent’s water glass, undoubtedly on a mission to research these delicious ocean animals.
Trent was surrounded by marine creatures. They followed him up the stairs when he was sent to his room. They beckoned to him from the yard and the street outside his window. They swirled and swam through his dreams that night. They were trying to tell him something.
And that’s how Trent discovered that his purpose in life was to be a marine biologist.