As we slithered down the sand dunes in front of the Water Wonderland, Brenda, who has a kind of homing instinct where Wanda is concerned, suddenly appeared out of nowhere. There is no escaping Brenda once she wants you to do something, and Brenda wanted us underneath the beach umbrella right now. And that is where we ended up–stuck under the beach umbrella next to Pusskins, Brenda's cat, who was sitting in her pink cat carrier wearing a pair of sunglasses that matched Brenda's.
And if that wasn't bad enough, Aunt Tabby had brought my hat that Uncle Drac had knitted. "Put this on, Araminta, " she said. "It will protect you from the sun. " "But it looks like a giant squid, Aunt Tabby, " I said. "And it's made of wool. I'll boil. " "Better than getting sunburned, dear, " said Aunt Tabby. She crammed the woolly squid onto my head and said, "There. It really suits you. " A weird snorting noise came from Wanda, but it soon stopped when Aunt Tabby got her hat out. You would not think that it was possible, but it was worse than mine. It looked like a green tea cozy with a pink fish on the top. And sticking down from the tea cozy part were two woolly blue braids. "And that really suits you!" I spluttered. Then I had to hide under a towel to make myself stop laughing.
Even though we were wearing stupid hats it didn't stop us from trying to get away from Aunt Tabby and Brenda, but it was no good. I think they had some kind of deal between them, because every time we tried to sneak off to rescue Sir Horace and the frogs, one of them was always there to jump out and catch us. We nearly got away when Brenda went to get ice cream though. Aunt Tabby had been reading the usual kind of boring book she likes to read about fixing things–this one was all about wardrobes–how boring is that? Suddenly I noticed she was snoring. Aunt Tabby does not snore loudly, as that would be rude. Aunt Tabby tries to be polite, even in her sleep, but it was a definite snore. I nudged Wanda. "Let's go, " I whispered. But I had forgotten about Pusskins.
As soon as we stood up, Pusskins let out a loud yowl. Aunt Tabby sat up with a start and saw us creeping away. "Are you going for a swim, Araminta?" she asked suspiciously. "Er, yes, Aunt Tabby. " So we had to go for a swim. The one good thing about swimming was we did not have to wear Uncle Drac's hats, because, as I pointed out to Aunt Tabby, they would only get wet and then they would fall off and sink. Which would have been a good idea, come to think of it. It was quite fun in the sea really. I splashed Wanda and pretended to be a sea monster and then she tried to splash me but I was too fast for her and she got mad. Then she yelled, "Shark!"
Wanda has a very loud voice, and all the little kids who were busy jumping up and down in the waves screamed and ran for the beach. I grabbed hold of Wanda's arm. "You shouldn't do that, " I told her. "It's not fair frightening the little ones like that. " "Let go!"Wanda yelled at me. She wriggled and tried to pull her arm away, but I can pull harder than Wanda, so I won. Wanda was still yelling, "Let go of me, Araminta! Let go! There's a shark!" Now I am not stupid–I know about sharks and stuff like that. I did a project on sharks once and I know that sharks do not live in the sea near Spookie House. They would not dare.
But from the way Wanda was yelling you would think we were surrounded by sharks, and that that creepy music that always starts up when a shark circles someone was playing full blast. It was only when Wanda inhaled a mouth- ful of water and had to stop yelling for a moment that I noticed how quiet it had become. And how everyone was standing on the beach pointing at us. Then I noticed Aunt Tabby and Brenda pushing through the crowd and heading for the water waving their arms, and I wondered why since neither of them likes swimming. And then I saw the shark fin. It was really close. It didn't look like I expected a shark fin to look somehow–it was much bigger–and all I could think was that if the fin was that big, then there must be an awful lot of shark attached to it. Which was not a nice thought. "Shark!" I yelled. "I know, " Wanda yelled. Wanda has much shorter legs than I do and I usually beat her in any running competi- tions. But she won this one with miles to spare. I watched her shoot past me, her little legs churning up the water and kicking salty spray into my face. She did not even bother to look around to see whether I was being eaten by the shark or not–anyone would have thought that she did not care.
By the time I had made it to the beach Wanda was sitting under the beach umbrella wrapped up in a towel and eating a cheese sandwich. Aunt Tabby squashed me in a big bony hug while all the other people on the beach stared out to sea and watched the shark fin. They did not seem as excited as they had been when Wanda and I had been in the sea with the shark. In fact I thought they all seemed a bit disappointed, and I definitely heard one of the little kids say, "But, Mom, it's not fair. I always wanted to see someone eaten by a shark. " And then his mother said, "Never mind, dear. Maybe next time. " I do not know what small children today are coming to. Or their mothers. There was no chance of us sneaking off after that.
Brenda, Aunt Tabby, and Pusskins kept their beady eyes on us all afternoon. The beach got even more boring since the shark did not hang around for long after his lunch had disappeared. We all watched his fin swim off down the coast until it was out of sight behind the rocks, and then people began to pack up and leave as no one wanted to go in the water again. Soon we were the only ones left. Aunt Tabby and Brenda started building a sand castle. "Come on, you two, " said Brenda. "Help us fill the moat with water. " But Wanda and I had more serious things to think about. "I wonder what has happened to Sir Horace?" Wanda whispered when Aunt Tabby and Brenda were too busy trying to stop the bridge into the castle from falling down to eavesdrop on our conversation like they usu- ally do.
"I don't know, " I whispered back. "Old Morris has probably taken him to pieces by now and thrown him in the sea. Or sent him off to be recycled. Or melted him down. Or–" "Stoppit, Araminta, " hissed Wanda. "Stop!" Brenda glanced up. "Are you girls fighting again?" she asked. "No, Mom, " said Wanda sulkily. "We're bored. " "How can you be bored on a beautiful day at the beach?" asked Brenda as she turned her bucket upside down and made another tower on the sand castle. "What more could you possibly want to do?"
Wanda did not say anything but I could tell that she was thinking. And then she said some- thing brilliant. It was so brilliant that I am surprised I did not think of it first. "We want to go to Water Wonderland, " she said.