CHAPTER 1 It’s Almost Over Already Hi, my name is Kit. Well actually it is Katherine Schmickle. But when I was just a baby my Mom started calling me Kat for short, but my Dad said I was too small to be a Kat so he called me Kitten. As I got taller my name got shorter and now everyone just calls me Kit. I have always liked my nickname, but my twin brother never really liked his. Mom and Dad used to call him Pup since they called me Kit. But he prefers to be called by his real name, Ben. Most people just call us the Schmickle twins.
To say Ben and I have had an exciting year would be the understatement of a lifetime. This year we have discovered there was an underwater cave under our school, and found out that our school custodian, Mr. Geary, is actually a super talented marine biologist who works with dolphins who also happens to live in the underwater cave under our school. We saved our class from a shipwreck on a field trip, survived an earthquake and a flooded school all while keeping the cave, the dolphins, and Mr. Geary’s true identity a secret from everyone. That is why when the dolphins, Reymond and Della had their first little baby dolphin Mr. Geary decided to name him Secret. So there has been that and spelling tests and writing journals
and science projects, you know pretty much a typical school year.
In all the excitement of the earthquake and the flood that happened afterwards Ben and I had been distracted from the fact that the school year was almost over already. Usually this is something that I celebrated with a giant countdown calendar on the wall of my bedroom. But this year I didn’t want school to end. The end of school meant the end of helping out Mr. Geary and the end of spending time in the cave with Della, Reymond, and Secret’s little precious baby dolphin face. Without school in session there was no excuse for us to be helping Mr. Geary with his work. Ben and I knew we had to come up with a plan; we couldn’t go all summer without seeing our dolphin family.
We still had a couple of weeks to figure it out and they were amazing weeks. It was so much fun spending time with Secret. He was adorable and silly, and more than a little mischievous. Usually it was just because he was super curious -- you couldn’t leave anything near the edge of the dock down in the cave or Secret would knock it into the water and Della or Reymond would have to swim down to the bottom of the cave floor to retrieve it for you. And Secret thought it was hilarious to splash water on you with his tail. Not just a little water, a lot of water. You would be surprised how much water a tiny little baby dolphin can splash up onto a dock. It was becoming harder and harder coming up with excuses to our parents on why we kept coming home with wet clothes from school. Even though Secret
caused us trouble we instantly fell in love with him. He was always so excited to see us, and he was a quick learner too. Ben worked with him on his language skills and taught him several gestures and sounds that enabled Secret to speak with us after just about a month. I have a human cousin who is six months old and all she can do is grunt and cry when she needs a diaper change; Secret could have a full conversation with us at just a couple weeks. Dolphins really are smarter than we give them credit for.
Mr. Geary was proud of how quickly Ben was able to teach Secret his language lessons and we were all super proud of how amazing Della and Reymond were as parents. Watching the videos from the camera strapped to Reymond while the dolphin family was out at sea was amazing. It showed Della and Reymond showing little Secret how to survive out in the big blue ocean. They showed him things to stay away from, like boat propellors. They showed him were to find the best schools of fish, they showed him how to ride the currents to conserve energy, and Reymond even showed him the double backflip that I taught him how to do. But Secret wasn’t quite strong enough to get all the way around twice so it was kind of like a one and 7/8 backflip. It was still super cool. Della and Reymond were very excited to share everything they knew with their son. They wanted him to have the best life a dolphin could have.
One day when we came down to the cave Ben and I both found a brochure for Finkletop’s Marine Mammal Summer Camp on our
workstations. Ben and I read through the brochure and it looked pretty awesome. The camp was held at a research facility right on the coast. The brochure explained how the campers would be involved in active research, they would learn about ocean ecology, marine biology, conservation, and climate change. It was made very clear that this was a hands-on camp. The photos showed the campers in labs, assisting in placing monitors on seals and then releasing them back into the wild, and working on computer databases tracking the movements of the animals on maps. It was very similar to the work that we had been doing with Mr. Geary in the cave. It did look like fun. The location of the camp was actually just a couple blocks from where my Dad worked so that was cool, but the down sides were, it was mostly about pinnipeds (seals, sea lions and stuff like that) and it was expensive. When Mr. Geary showed up in the cave we asked him more about the camp. He said, “I have heard really good things about that camp. You two kids are really talented marine biologists and you should branch out a little this summer and study some different animals. I know you love Della, Reymond, and Secret, but there is a whole ocean of life out there. Don’t narrow yourself down to the first three animals you meet.” Ben and I knew Mr. Geary had a point. We wanted to spend the summer with him and the dolphins, but maybe we did need to see what else was out there, above ground.
That night we talked to my parents about the Finkletop’s Marine Mammal Summer Camp. My parents had no idea where this sudden
interest was coming from. Ben and I had forgotten that they didn’t realize we already had several months of exposure to marine biology under our belts, they thought this was the first time we had shown any interest in marine mammals at all. They said that the camp looked really cool but that it was way too expensive. I pretty much expected them to say that and I was ready for it but Ben took it a little harder. Ben said, “What if we raised half of the money ourselves?” I looked at Ben like he was crazy, where were we going to get money? My Dad was always up for a good challenge and said, “Sure. If you and Kit can come us with enough money for the first three weeks of the camp I will pay for the second three weeks.” The smirk on my Dad’s face meant that he didn’t think that we could do it, or that he didn’t think we would really try to do it. Something about that smirk inspired me to want to prove him wrong. I said, “We’ll do it.” That night Ben and I started to brain storm ideas of how we could make money. We needed something good, and something quick.
CHAPTER 2 Kit & Pup Babysitting Company Ben and I had to figure out a way to make money to pay for Finkletop’s Marine Mammal Summer Camp. We talked about mowing lawns, but everyone pretty much already had someone who mowed their lawns. We talked about teaching swimming lessons, but we didn’t have our own pool so we would have to pay some of the money we earned to rent the pool so that wouldn’t make us much profit. Then Ben reminded me that I got paid by our neighbor to babysit a couple times. That was it. We would start a babysitting business. I always heard grownups talk about how they wish they had more time to go to the movies or out to eat without kids, well Ben and I were going to give them that chance. We were going to start Kit and Ben’s Babysitting Company. We decided we would design some posters and put them up all over town. We told my Mom about our idea and she thought it sounded great. She even said we could use her office copy machine to make copies of our poster design once we were done.
The rest of the night we worked on our campaign. I tried to think of
something clever to do with the names Kit and Ben to make them look cool together like an awesome logo or something. I tried all kinds of stuff. I knew that to be successful we would need to make our posters memorable so parents would think of us first when they needed a babysitter. Then all of a sudden it came to me. Instead of “Kit and Ben” we should use “Kit and Pup” then we could use really cute images of kittens and puppies. People love kittens and puppies. There are pictures and videos of those things all over the Internet. At first Ben wasn’t too excited about using his nickname in the name of the company, especially since it was a nickname he really didn’t like that much. But he agreed that “Kit and Pup” did have a nice ring to it, and it was easier to design a poster using cute little puppy and kitten faces. Soon we had designed the perfect poster it said. “Kit and Pup Babysitting Company, for all your baby sitting needs call 555-4233” and had the sweetest little puppy and the friskiest looking little kitten on it. We went with our Mom to her office and made 100 copies and then went around town posting it everywhere we could think of.
By the time we got home my Dad said we had already received a call, and he had taken down their number. I called them back and they asked if we could come over and watch their little baby that night. I said sure and Ben and I showed up at their house at 6:30pm. A super nice lady opened the door and let us inside. She said explained, “He has already had dinner so you don’t need to feed him, if he is good you can give him a little snack, we keep them on the shelf next to the toaster. Just be sure to take him out for a walk before he goes to
sleep. He usually drifts off around 8 o’clock.” I interrupted, “I’m sorry, did you say take the baby for a walk?” The nice lady replied, “Oh yes dear, his leash is right there on the hook by the door.” “His leash???”, I asked. “Yes, His leash,” she looked confused at me, “Let me introduce you to my baby, Brutus come here baby.” Just then a giant Great Dane dog came around the corner. The nice lady introduced to her “baby” Brutus and went out to dinner with her girl friends and then on to a night of dancing. Ben and I were confused our signs clearly said “babysitting” but then again our signs clearly said “Kit and Pup” and our signs clearly had pictures of kittens and puppies on it. We could hardly blame the nice lady for misunderstanding our sign. The upside of the evening is that we discovered that pet sitting is way easier than human sitting and it pays the same.
While Ben and I may be good at working with dolphins we clearly were not good at marketing because that first nice lady was not the only one to misinterpret our signs. Actually not a single person accurately interpreted our signs. Over the next two weeks we were booked solid. We animal sat every single night. But not once did we take care of a human baby. Not all of them were as easy as Brutus. The Kit and Pup Babysitting Company did run into some adventures along the way.
First there was the night we watched the Gregory family’s thirteen Chihuahuas. Now I don’t know if there is a law about how many Chihuahuas you can have but if there is I think it should be six
because thirteen is about seven too many. At first it was kind of cute but the Gregory’s let us know that it was bath night for the Chihuahuas. So after washing fifty-two paws and twenty-six wet ears we had to corral, feed, and read a bed time story to all of them to get them to fall asleep. That night we earned our money. Then there was the night we watched Larry Bell’s anaconda, well we didn’t so much watch it as we looked for it. We knew he was in his cage when Larry Bell left the house because Larry showed us how to turn on the heat lamp at 9pm to help Albert the Anaconda go to sleep. But when Ben went to check on Albert at 8pm he wasn’t there. We spent the next hour looking for Albert. You wouldn’t think it would be hard to find a 15-foot long snake in a house, but snakes are pretty good at hideand-go-seek. We finally found him under the couch. But that was the easy part. We had to pull Albert the Anaconda out from under the couch and get him back into his cage. That was another exhausting night.
But our favorite night by far was by far when Mr. Geary heard about the mix up in our babysitting service and called and requested our services. Once we showed up at his house he said that they animals he needed watched were actually at a different location and he drove us down to the school where we got to spend the night with Della, Reymond, and Secret. We didn’t do any work just goofed off and played. Mr. Geary put on some music and we danced, and the dolphins danced. Secret wasn’t a very good dancer yet, but neither was Mr. Geary. Reymond and I played a game of catch I would throw
a ball out into the water and he would use his tail to whack it back to me. Della and Ben were having a conversation about all of our animal sitting adventures, and Mr. Geary and Secret were dancing horribly in the corner with giant smiles on their faces. We knew we only had a few days left together before summer break so we were making the most of it. Before we were about to leave for the night Mr. Geary talked to us a little more about the camp. He said that he was really happy that we were going and that he wanted to help out so he paid us triple for the night. He said, “Well since I have three very high maintenance animals, I figure it is what I owe you.” Ben and I both thanked Mr. Geary. He had already done so much for us, but we weren’t surprised that he wanted to help us out even more.
With Mr. Geary’s extra contribution Ben and I had earned enough to cover the first three weeks of camp. My Dad was shocked, and proud. He really didn’t expect us to come up with all that money but he did promise so now he was going to have to come up with his half somehow. He teased us and asked if he could take over our pet sitting business and we both said, “No, we are keeping it for ourselves.” Then I said, “But maybe if the Gregory family calls back and wants us to watch their Chihuahuas you can go do that one.”
CHAPTER 3 Finkletop Marine Mammal Camp With a blink of an eye the last day of school arrived. It all happened so fast but so much did happen. When I look back at that year of school I can’t imagine how it all fit into one little year, but it did. Ben and I went down to the caves to say our good byes, for now. Mr. Geary had made arrangements to hire the Kit and Pup Babysitting Company every Thursday night for the entire summer. That meant that we got to visit with Mr. Geary, Della, Reymond, and Secret every week. It wasn’t going to be as special as seeing them every day but it was sure better than going all summer without seeing them. And Mr. Geary said he would go ahead and pay for it even though we told him he didn’t have to. I gave Della a big hug around the nose. Then I gave Reymond a kiss and scrub around his blow hole, it always tickled him and made him splash his tail, which happened to be right next to Ben who got drenched. Oops. Then I sat down on the dock and reached down to give Secret a big hug and promised that I would be back to play on Thursday night. Then Ben and I climbed the stairs to head off on our summer adventure.
The next Monday we started Finkletop’s Marine Mammal Camp. We
woke up extra early and made our own lunches and were standing ready by the door. My Dad was shocked to see us up so early and eager to go learn on our first official day of summer vacation. In years past the first day of summer vacation meant sleeping in until 11:30 and eating a bowl of cereal for lunch. But this summer was different. My parents were still confused about our “sudden” interest in marine mammals but they were happy to see us excited about something other than picking on each other.
As we approached the camp Ben and I got even more excited; it was more beautiful than in the brochure. The main building was perched up on a bluff high above a rocky coastline. We could see a trail down to a beach were we saw a colony of sea lions. We walked into the building and met Dr. Finkletop. She sure gave a powerful first impression. She had long dark hair put up into a tight bun, thick dark framed glasses and she wore a white lab coat, she was tall and thin and had a kind but high-pitched voice. If you looked up science nerd in the dictionary you might find a photo of Dr. Finkletop next to the definition. But she was a super nice science nerd. She welcomed Ben and I and showed us to our very own white lab coats with our names on them. Then she showed a computer workstation where we could go track all the sea lions that had been tagged with transmitters from her lab over the last year. My Dad and Dr. Finkletop took care of some registration paperwork and he was on his way.
The camp only had six campers. There were three high school kids, Sara, Lauren and her boyfriend Joe. Then there was a girl named Precious who was about my age, Ben and myself. I liked that it was a smaller camp, that meant that we would all have turns being able to do stuff. Dr. Finkletop didn’t waste anytime putting us to work. Soon after my Dad left and all the other campers arrived she said, “Who is ready to make a difference?” We all shouted, “I am!” Except for Joe. I think he was just there because he wanted to spend time with Lauren. Then Dr. Finkletop said, “Well then lets get to work.” She led us out of the building to the trail and down to the beach. She took us over to a little shed and grabbed some equipment. She explained that we were going to capture one of the new baby sea lions and attach a transmitter and a small camera pack to it so that we can track its location and watch how it learns. Ben and I smiled at each other. We knew how this worked. We had been through this before with Secret. But this was different in a lot of ways. This was a sea lion and it wasn’t a tame sea lion. Secret, Della and Reymond were wild dolphins but they were used to humans. These sea lions we were about to mix it up with did not want to interact with us. They wanted to be left alone.
Dr. Finkletop taught us the best way to approach the baby sea lion and place the collar around its neck. We would then pull it to the side and quickly work as a team to attach both the transmitter and the camera. I recognized the camera as the same type that Mr. Geary used and volunteered Ben and I to be the team that attached the
camera. Dr. Finkletop and Joe were going to collar and move the sea lion pup, and Sara and Lauren were going to attach the transmitter. Precious was going to be the lookout just in case any sea lions wanted to interfere with our science. Dr. Finkletop asked if anyone had any questions before we started. Precious shyly raised her hand and said, “Isn’t this mean?” Dr. Finkletop explained that it is a little scary for the sea lion pup for just a couple seconds but then they are going to put the pup right back next to his mommy and everything will be ok again. Dr. Finkletop explained that the information that the little pup will give us would help scientists keep him and other sea lions healthier and safe. Precious thought about Dr. Finkletop’s explanation for a moment, shrugged her shoulders and said, “Good enough reason for me, lets do it.”
Joe and Dr. Finkletop snuck through the colony careful not to disturb the mostly sleeping crowd. Once the made it over to the new little pup then place the collar around him and gently lifted him up. Dr. Finkletop swung in and scooped him up and scurried him over to where the rest of us were waiting with the equipment. Ben and I expertly strapped the camera onto his cute little head. Dr. Finkletop looked at us a little suspiciously knowing that it couldn’t have been the first time we had handled equipment like that. Eventually the older girls finished placing the transmitter and Joe and Dr. Finkletop quickly repositioned the pup back with his family in the colony. The entire process only took seconds. Once we were all back by the equipment shed Dr. Finkletop gave everyone high fives. We all had a rush of
adrenaline. Even Joe seemed like he really had enjoyed himself and had taken his attention off of Lauren for a moment. We had been at camp for all of two hours and we had already tagged and camera mounted a baby sea lion. This camp was going to be awesome.
The rest of the day was as interesting but maybe not as exciting as the first two hours. Dr. Finkletop explained in detail the research that she did in her lab at the Finkletop Marine Mammal Research Center. She showed us around the lab. It was way more advanced than what Mr. Geary had. Dr. Finkletop had an entire staff of scientists working with her on her study of pinnipeds. She showed us the super advanced computer system, the animal hospital and recovery center, and then the animal research lab. The animal research lab was where Dr. Finkletop was working with some captive sea lions to study communications skills and problem solving skills of pinnipeds. She explained that the sea lions in the studies were animals that were rescued that couldn’t be returned to the wild due to the seriousness of their injuries. I became more and more impressed with Dr. Finkletop and the amazing work she was doing. Mr. Geary was right that it was important for us to see that other marine biologists are doing important work too.
At three o’clock she walked us all back to the lobby and told us all to get a good night’s rest because she had another big day planned for us tomorrow. That was great, but our dad wasn’t done with work until five. We had two more hours until he was going to come pick us up.
Ben and I were both too embarrassed to say anything so we just found some chairs in the lobby and looked out the window for a ride that we knew wouldn’t be coming for hours. In just about ten minutes all the other campers had left and Ben and I were left sitting alone in the lobby. Just then we heard a, “Pssst, over here, come here you two.” We looked over and saw Dr. Finkletop waving us over to her. We walked over to her and she told us to come with her. We thought we were in trouble. But then she said, “Your Dad told me he wouldn’t be able to pick you up until 5, I told him that is no problem. You two little rug rats can just hang out with Patty. That is my name by the way --Patty Finkletop. You can just call me Patty.” I thought to myself “Dr. Finkletop is the coolest nerd I ever met.”
Dr. Finkletop took us back down to the research lab and asked us if we wanted to help give the sea lions a shower. Then she showed us were we could find some wet suits and a locker room were we could change. After we changed we met Dr. Finkletop out in one of the research pools were she had a hose and a couple of giant scrub brushes. We jumped into the pool with Dr. Finkletop and two of the sea lions. Dr. Finkletop sprayed the sea lions down while we gave them a really good scrubbing. It was messy and splashy and a whole lot of fun. Afterwards we went back to the locker rooms to change back into our clothes and dry off. Coming out of the locker room I notice a photo in the hallway. It caught my attention because it had two people that looked familiar in it. It was a photo of Pacific Research University Class of 1981 and in the photo was a young Dr.
Patty Finkletop, but what was more interesting is standing right next to her was a young Mr. Geary.
CHAPTER 4 Thursday Night The next few days of camp were incredibly fun. Ben and I were learning so much about sea lions and the ocean’s ecosystem, but what I really wanted to know more about was that picture that had Dr. Finkletop and Mr. Geary in it. I showed the picture to Ben and at first he didn’t think it was Mr. Geary because he looked so much younger but he eventually agreed that it had to be him. I wanted to ask Dr. Finkletop about the picture but I couldn’t really find the right time to bring it up. I wasn’t sure what I was going to ask anyway. I decided I would just wait until Thursday night when Kit and Pup’s Babysitting Company would have their next appointment with Della, Reymond, and Secret.
Eventually Thursday did roll around and Ben and I were super excited to go tell all of our friends in the cave about our awesome camp and how much we were learning from Dr. Finkletop. Mr. Geary picked us up at our house and we all drove down to school. We talked his ear off the whole time. We told him about how we helped attach the camera to the sea lion pup, and how we helped give the animals baths. Mr. Geary was very happy for us. After we got to the school we made our way behind the secret door and down the spiral staircase to the cave. Della, Reymond, and Secret hadn’t arrived yet but Mr.
Geary assured us that they would be there soon.
I thought that while we were waiting would be the perfect time for Mr. Geary to explain how he knew Dr. Finkletop, what he was doing in that picture with her, and how did he know we would love her camp so much. So I started the interrogation off with a simple question. “Mr. Geary, how do you know Dr. Finkletop, or maybe you know her better as Patty Finkletop? Mr. Geary looked a little surprised by my question. He hadn’t ever mentioned knowing Dr. Finkletop personally, so he knew that we had figured it out somehow, but he didn’t know how. He replied, “Well, Patty and I went to the same University. We were really good friends, best friends really. We both loved spending time doing research, and taking exploration trips out into the sea. We used to go scuba diving every Saturday afternoon together. It was kind of our thing that we liked to do. We were really close friends. She is an amazing lady, and probably the smartest person I have ever met. When I saw she was sponsoring a camp I knew that it would be a great place for you Schmickle twins to spend your summer.” I thought to myself. Well that wasn’t much of an interrogation. I just asked one question and got all the answers I wanted.
But then Ben asked a question that was still on my mind, “Are you and Dr. Finkletop still friends? You haven’t ever said anything about her until tonight.” Mr. Geary sat quiet for a second. Then he answered, “No, Dr. Finkletop and I aren’t friends anymore. It’s kind of complicated. You see, in our last year of college there was an
incident that kind of ended our friendship.” I asked, “You guys sound like you were really good friends, what kind of incident could make really good friends decide to stop being friends all together.” Mr. Geary said, “Oh, it is boring grown-up stuff. You don’t want to hear my sad stories.” But that just made Ben and I more interested into what happened in that last year of college. Mr. Geary could tell by the intensity on our faces that we really did want to know so he told us the story. He said, “So, in our Senior year there was a competition, and the winner of the competition would get $100,000 to start their very own research lab. To compete you had to write a research paper about what kind of work you would do with your lab. Patty, I mean Dr. Finkletop, and I had always dreamt about starting a lab together after we graduated from the University and here was our chance. We were so excited when we heard about the opportunity to make our dream come true.”
“And to be totally honest with you kids, Dr. Finkletop and I were more than best friends, we were in love. Patty was my girlfriend. One night we decided to go on a dinner date and discuss how we would work on the research paper together to make sure that we would win the competition and have our dream lab. It was a big occasion not just because of the competition but because I was planning on asking Dr. Finkletop to be my wife that night.”
Ben and I both always hated mushy parts of movies. I would always close my eyes if I knew a kiss scene was coming but Mr. Geary’s
story was different. It made sense in my head. I could totally see Mr. Geary and Dr. Finkletop as husband and wife. They would actually be a super cute couple. I sat excited to hear how the rest of this story was going to turn out.
Mr. Geary continued, “I was nervous at dinner because I was going to take a big step in asking Patty to marry me. But she had no idea it was coming so we started our conversation off about the research paper. She said that she imagined us creating a lab to study pinnipeds, and I said no wait a minute I thought we agreed we were going to research dolphins. From that second on the rest of the dinner turned into a pretty heated argument over whether we should focus our research paper on dolphins or pinnipeds. I refused to change my mind, and Dr. Finkletop refused to change her mind. We got so frustrated with each other that Patty eventually just got up and left dinner before it was even over. Then I was sitting there in the restaurant alone with a diamond ring in my pocket and no one there to give it to.”
“Eventually we both wrote our own research papers. Mine was about dolphins and hers was about pinnipeds. And since you are attending a camp at the Finkletop Marine Mammal Research Center I am guessing you can figure out who won the competition and went on to have their own lab.” Ben and I looked at each other. We weren’t sure how to react to that story. It was sad. Really sad. Mr. Geary lost his girlfriend and his dream of having his own research lab all in one
dinner. Mr. Geary could sense our discomfort and said, “Don’t waste a second feeling sorry for me. Everything happens for a reason. If I would have won that competition I would have never been able to find this cave and do my research in peace. I would have the science community and the news snooping all over trying to figure out what my dolphins are up to. Things definitely worked out for the best.” I believed Mr. Geary. I really did. The story he told us was sad but I can’t imagine him in a white lab jacket in a fancy high-tech laboratory. Mr. Geary was right. He was right were he was supposed to be. But… just because he liked doing research better in the cave didn’t mean that he couldn’t still find love with a special someone. So I asked, “Have you ever tried to make up with Dr. Finkletop and become friends again?” Mr. Geary replied, “Oh, I am sure she is much to busy. I doubt she even remembers me, it was such a long time ago.”
Just then we heard the familiar splashes of a couple friendly dolphins entering the cave. We were so excited to see them. Ben and I sat down on the edge of the dock ready to give them a couple of giant hello hugs. Della and Reymond popped up out of the water and immediately began to frantically motion to us. Mr. Geary said, “Oh, no!” and then Ben and I interpreted their motions too. Secret had gone missing. Della, Reymond and Secret had been out with a pod of dolphins and they let Secret go and play with some of the other dolphin pups. Evidently Secret had wandered off from the other young dolphins and couldn’t find his way back to the pod. The entire
pod had spent all afternoon looking for Secret but they were unable to find him. Della and Reymond were really worried. Mr. Geary tried to calm Della and Reymond down. He explained that he had tagged Secret with a transmitter so he could go and look on the computer and find out where he was. After just a few short nervous moments Mr. Geary explained that it looked like Secret was near the bluffs just south of the bridge. The second the words came out of his mouth Della shot back out of the tunnel to go find her baby. Reymond nodded in gratitude to Mr. Geary and quickly followed after Della.
The rest of the evening Mr. Geary, Ben and I watched the transmitter beeps of Della, Reymond, and Secret on the computer monitor’s map. We saw Della and Reymond quickly swim up the coast to where Secret was, then we saw all three beeps come together and then all three start swimming in the same direction. Secret had been reunited with his parents. I am sure Della and Reymond were relieved but if Della and Reymond were anything like my parents I am sure Secret was getting a big lecture about wandering off, and the importance of staying with the pod and following directions. Poor little Secret was probably grounded for a couple weeks. If dolphins can get grounded!
CHAPTER 5 Secret Trouble The next day at camp I wanted to talk to Dr. Finkletop about the picture of her and Mr. Geary but I could never really find the right time to bring it up. I couldn’t just come out and say, “Oh so your exboyfriend from college is a custodian at our school.” Luckily I was distracted from my curiosity by an exciting moment that happened that morning. Dr. Finkletop was in the middle of an interesting lecture on coral reefs when one of her lab assistants interrupted her and said, “He’s back.” Dr. Finkletop immediately stopped her lecture and told everyone to quickly suit up for a beach excursion. We quickly made our way down the trail to the beach and then Dr. Finkletop explained that the pup that we had tagged and attached the camera to had returned to the beach. It was time to recapture him and collect the video footage from the camera. I thought to myself, this is a whole lot easier with Della and Reymond because they just swim up the edge of the dock for us. With this little stinker of a sea lion we were going to have to slip the collar on him again. Dr. Finkletop talked Ben and I through how to dismount the camera. We had already done it number of times before we couldn’t tell her that. Then Joe and Dr. Finkletop snuck up on the little pup again. This time he saw them coming and started to make a break for the water. But baby sea lions aren’t very fast creatures on land and they were able to capture him.
Ben and I quickly took the camera off and then they let the little guy be on his way again. Another successful beach excursion for Finkletop’s Marine Mammal Camp.
That day after everyone else had left camp Dr. Finkletop took us to the video room and handed us the tape from the little sea lion pup. She showed us how to operate the video equipment and how to take notes on the computer. Then she told us to get to work documenting the little sea lion’s adventures. We were excited. I ran the video machine and Ben did the typing of the notes. He was way better at typing than me. And besides I liked operating the video equipment. You could make the tape go really fast. Most of the video was just the little guy swimming around. We were just supposed to take notes of things that he touched or ate or played with. So we could fast forward though most of it. After about 20 minutes of going through the tape we both saw something weird swim by real fast. I rewound the tape to watch it again. This time I programmed it to go in slow motion. As it went by frame by frame we could clearly see it was a baby dolphin. As we looked closer we could see it wasn’t just any baby dolphin, it was Secret. At first we didn’t believe it. But as we watched more and more tape we saw the sea lion pup and Secret playing with each other, and chasing each other. We knew for certain that it was Secret and we now knew why he had wandered off from the dolphin pod. He had made a new friend. Poor Ben’s fingers were busy taking notes, we were pretty sure that a sea lion spending the entire day playing with a baby dolphin was a pretty big discovery and we wanted to be
sure we were good scientists and documented it correctly. It was fun to watch the two cute, little, curious, animals explore their new world together. It made me wonder what other kind of strange partnerships form out in the ocean that we don’t know about. Does an octopus ever hang out with a shark, do walruses and starfish ever have sea picnics together? The footage of the two little rascals playing together just kept going and going.
I was just about to go get Dr. Finkletop to share our discovery when something popped up on the video that we were not expecting to see at all. Secret had led the little sea lion pup back to the secret cave. We watched the video of the sea lion jumping up onto the dock and searching around OUR cave. You could clearly see on the video all of Mr. Geary’s equipment and workstation. I was happy to see there wasn’t anything with anyone’s name on it to give away the location of the cave. If and when Dr. Finkletop saw the video she would know there was a secret cave laboratory somewhere out in the world but she wouldn’t know where. But then the video showed the little sea lion make his way over to my work station and I had left my hoodie jacket on the back of my chair. The one with our school name on the back of it! What were we going to do? After all of the work to keep the secret hidden, all it took was a curious little sea lion and a friendly baby dolphin to ruin it all. I was mad at Secret for second. Why had he brought a visitor into our secret safe place, but then I realized he was just being friendly and wanted to show off his home to his new buddy. I looked over to Ben to see if he had any bright ideas about
how to hide this from Dr. Finkletop. All he had to say was, “Mom always tells you to bring home that jacket, but nooo.” I pointed out that wasn’t very helpful at this moment and we needed a plan.
After talking it over for a while we decided that our plan was to just play it cool and act like there wasn’t anything too interesting on the tape until we got a chance to talk to Mr. Geary about it. Soon our Dad was there to pick us up. I decided just to be safe I would take the tape and accidentally on purpose misplace it. I put it on top of a tall file cabinet in the video room. I hoped no one would find it and watch it over the weekend.
The next day Ben and I asked if we could go for a bike ride and rode our bikes over to Mr. Geary’s house. We knocked on the door and we were so relieved when he answered. We explained why we came to visit and told him all about the sea lion tape. Mr. Geary laughed, and laughed, and laughed a little harder. He would always do that. It seemed like the more nervous Ben and I were that someone would discover the secret cave the funnier Mr. Geary would think it was. Mr. Geary said, “That Secret, that little rascal. He sure does know how to find trouble doesn’t he? Oh well, I was going to have a talk with you two anyway. This opportunity is as good as any.”
Ben and I didn’t understand at all, we were super confused. Mr. Geary continued, “I have been asking you Schmickle Twins to keep my secret for too long. I have realized that I have been selfish with
you guys. Because I won’t let you tell your parents or Dr. Finkletop about the amazing work you do with Della, Reymond, and Secret they have no idea how amazingly talented you two are. You deserve to be recognized for how hard you have worked for me, and how much you have learned. I have never had two better students than you and there are others who should know that.” Ben and I were proud and surprised and confused. I asked, “Are you saying we should tell our parents and Dr. Finkletop about the cave. But then the secret will be ruined.” Mr. Geary shook his head no and said, “I don’t think so, I think your parents and Dr. Finkletop will understand why I am keeping the cave secret and they will respect my privacy. It will still be a secret it is just a secret that we will share with a couple more people.” I was excited at the possibility of sharing our stories with my parents. There was so much I wanted to tell them. There was so much I wanted them to know so they could see how I have become more responsible and reliable and serious about learning. But what Mr. Geary and Ben and I had was special and ours so I asked one more time, “Are you sure you are okay with us letting others in on the secret?” Mr. Geary laughed his happy laugh and said, “I am happy and proud to share our secret because it is a great secret to share.” We both gave Mr. Geary a hug and headed home.
We knew this was going to change things. But it was going to make it so much easier. No more sneaking around and making up stories to our parents to cover our reasons for visiting the school. No more having to pretend like we don’t know anything about lab equipment
when we are working with Dr. Finkletop. It was going to be a huge relief. Well, it was going to be a huge relief once we figured out how to tell our parents. I mean you can’t just come out and say, “Hi Mom, hi Dad, Ben and I have been working with dolphins in a secret cave under our school with Mr. Geary who is actually a genius marine biologist who taught us how to communicate with dolphins.” Well I guess we could just come out and say that but I didn’t want to make my both of my parents faint and fall to the ground at the same time. We needed someone to make us dinner.
CHAPTER 6 The Secret is Out That evening at dinner Ben and I decided to tell our parents about the secret cave. I was so nervous. My heart was beating fast. I could feel a lump in my throat. My parents could sense something strange was going on because Ben and I were being very, very quiet. We usually were little chatterboxes at dinner. So finally my Mom asked, “What is up with you two? You are being very secretive this evening.” Ben said, “You have nooo idea.” I kicked him under the table. That wasn’t part of the plan. We weren’t going to tell them until dinner was almost over but Ben and his big mouth just made Mom more curious. “What do you mean I have nooo idea?” our Mom asked in that voice that let us know we had better answer or we would be getting in trouble very, very soon. So I decided it was now or never.
I said, “Mom, Dad, do you remember that vacation we took to Ocean World?” My parents nodded their heads yes. I said, “Do you remember how awesome the dolphins were?” My parents a little confused about where this was going nodded their heads yes again. I said, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if dolphins lived closer to us here, so we wouldn’t have to travel all the way to Ocean World to see them?” My Dad said, “Well I guess that would be nice but what in the world does that have to do with anything?” Then I said, “Wouldn’t it be
really awesome if dolphins lived in a cave underneath our school?”
My parents looked at each other completely confused and both asked me at the exact same time, “Kit, are you okay?” I said, “Yes, I am fine. Answer my question. Wouldn’t it be awesome if there were dolphins living underneath our school in a secret cave?” My Dad could tell I was being serious and said, “Well I guess that would be pretty awesome Kit, but you are talking crazy. Are you feeling okay?” My Mom reached over and put her hand on my forehead to check my temperature. “She doesn’t have a fever,” my Mom said looking back at my Dad. Then Ben finally spoke up, “She isn’t crazy. Well … actually she might be crazy….” I kicked Ben under the table again. “…But she is telling the truth this time. Mom and Dad, Kit and I discovered a cave under our school where Mr. Geary the custodian does research with highly trained dolphins that he has taught how to communicate with humans. Kit and I have been working with him over the last several months and we thought it was time to tell you the truth.”
My Mom got up from the table to check the calendar. “Nope, It isn’t April 1st. This isn’t an April Fool’s joke,” my Mom said. My Dad just looked at us. He had a way of being able to tell if we were playing a joke on my Mom or if we were telling the truth. He was confused because his instincts told him we were telling the truth but our story just too crazy to be true. We knew that it was going to be hard for them to believe us so we had made arrangements with Mr. Geary
ahead of time. I explained to my Mom and Dad, “We were planning on telling you at the end of dinner and then the plan was for us to all go down to the school and we can show you the cave. Mr. Geary said it would be okay and he will meet us down there. So lets finish dinner and then we can hop in the car and go down to the school and you can see it with your own eyes.”
My parents knew I wasn’t making it up now. I wouldn’t get them in a car and drive them down to the school and involve Mr. Geary if this was just a practical joke. They both sat in their chairs silent. I was happy that they hadn’t fainted like I thought they would. Ben and I got back to eating our dinner while our parents just stared at us. Then my Dad just blurted out, “How do you expect us to eat right now, I want to go see this cave. Come on lets go.” As soon as the words came out of his mouth my Mom jumped up and grabbed her purse and jacket. It was the first time I had ever seen my Mom not clean her plate. Before I had time to slip on my shoes both of my parents were in the car and buckled ready to go. They had gone from disbelief to uncontainable excitement. On the drive down they didn’t say a word. On the walk to the secret door they didn’t say a word. On the way down the spiral staircase to the cave they didn’t say a word. Then I opened the door to the cave and we all stepped out onto the dock and my Dad said, “Yahoo, my kids aren’t crazy!” We all laughed. I guess I had never really thought about how ridiculous Ben and I probably sounded to my parents that night at the dinner table. They probably did think that we had both completely lost our minds.
I walked my parents over to Mr. Geary who was sitting at his workstation and reintroduced them. My parents knew Mr. Geary as the custodian but now they needed to meet him as Mr. Geary the brilliant marine biologist. Both of my parents had goofy grins on their faces as they looked all around the cave. They couldn’t believe what they were seeing. Mr. Geary suggested that Ben and I give them a tour. We showed them all the research equipment, our workstations, the scuba gear and all the learning toys that we used to work with the dolphins. Then my Mom said, “Wait, where are the dolphins?” Mr. Geary said they should be here any minute and showed my parents how he could track them on his computer with their transmitters. Then just on cue Reymond splashed into the cave with a giant backflip. Then Della swam over and Ben leaned down to give her a giant hug. I remember the shock on my parents faces when they realized that not only were they standing in a secret cave under a school with dolphins but that their children had become the dolphins’ friends and teachers. Secret swam in and I sat down on the edge of the dock to give him a back rub. My Dad sat down next to me and asked if he could touch Secret too. I showed him how and for the first time in his life my Dad touched a dolphin. He was so happy he giggled.
The next couple hours Ben and I demonstrated all the work we had done with Della, Reymond, and Secret. My parents were so proud that we had learned how to communicate with the dolphins and we had dedicated ourselves to working on something that we cared
about. Mr. Geary bragged about how good we were at helping him with his research. It was getting kind of late but I could tell my parents still had so many questions. Mr. Geary suggested that sometime soon my whole family join him on his boat and we can go watch Della, Reymond, and Secret out in the ocean. My parents thought that sounded like an amazing idea and we picked a date. Knowing that they would get to see the dolphins again soon was the only way we were able to get my parents out the door. On the way up the spiral staircase my parents couldn’t stop asking us questions about the cave and the dolphins. On the walk to the car from the secret door my parents couldn’t stop asking us questions about what Della, Reymond, and Secret liked to do. On the drive home my parents couldn’t stop asking us questions about how Mr. Geary kept the cave a secret all these years. We explained that Mr. Geary kept it secret so he could do his research in peace. We then asked my parents if they could please keep the cave a secret too. They agreed to keep the secret and understood how special of a place it was for Mr. Geary and Della, Reymond, and Secret. Then my parents thanked us for sharing our secret with them and trusting them with our amazing story. It felt good to share such an important part of our lives with our parents. Ben and I were relieved to not have to keep the secret from them anymore but it wasn’t over yet. On Monday we knew we had to tell Dr. Finkletop about the sea lion videotape and the secret cave.
CHAPTER 7 You Won’t Believe It, Until You See It Monday morning came and Ben and I headed off to camp. We knew that we were going to have to talk to Dr. Finkletop about the sea lion video, and the secret cave, and Mr. Geary. We both had butterflies in our bellies. But after seeing how excited our parents were to hear about our secret it gave me some confidence that things were going to work out okay. We didn’t find any time during the regular camp hours because the other campers were always around and we didn’t want to share the secret with everyone. So we waited patiently for all the other campers to go home.
Ben and went back to the video room and got the tape down from its hiding place and then went and found Dr. Finkltetop. She was in the middle of doing some training exercises with one of the older sea lions. I told her, “Dr. Finkletop we have something really interesting to show you that we found on Sea Lion FRC3206’s video.” FRC3206 was the research name for the little sea lion cub. The FRC stood for Finketop Research Center and the rest was the sea lion’s birth date 3 was for March, and the 2 was for the second day of the month, and the 06 was for what year. Dr. Finkletop said, “We need a better name
for that little guy than FRC3206, lets call him Summer since we tagged him at summer camp.” Ben and I both smiled big. We liked that idea a lot. Then I said, “Well, could you join us in the video room to look at something we found on Summer’s video?” Dr. Finkletop had one of her research assistants take over the exercises she was doing and she joined us in the video room.
“So what did you Schmickle twins find?” Dr. Finkletop asked. “You won’t believe it, until you see it,” Ben replied. It was true. We could have described what we found but she wouldn’t have believed it until she actually so the video so we went ahead and turned on the monitor. Ben had the video cued up to the part when Summer starts to play with Secret. Dr. Finkletop stood up from her chair to get closer to the monitor. “Is that a sea lion and dolphin playing together?” Dr. Finkletop asked. “Yep, and it gets better,” I replied. Dr. Finkletop was so excited she had always thought there was inter species learning but there had never been proof of it before. But now thanks to Summer and his little camera the science community had evidence that different marine mammals enjoyed playing together. Dr. Finkletop was so excited and said, “You two were right. I wouldn’t have believed it unless I saw it.” Then Ben said, “Wait it gets even more unbelievable.” Dr. Finkletop was confused and said, “There is more than just this?” Ben and I sheepishly nodded our heads yes. Ben fast-forwarded through Secret and Summer’s day of exploration until the part when they went into the tunnel to the secret cave. We all watched the video as they navigated down the dark narrow tunnel
only to pop up into the brightly lit cave. Dr. Finkletop tilted her head to the side to try and make sense of what she was seeing. She asked, “Is that, is that… Is that an underwater cave?” Ben and I shook our heads yes. Then she asked, “Is that research equipment, is that a lab?” Ben and I shook our heads yes. Then as the video showed Summer jump onto the deck and explore the work stations Dr. Finkletop asked, “Kit, is that your jacket?” I looked at her, scrunched up my nose and shyly nodded yes. Dr. Finkletop fell back into her chair and starred at the ceiling for a couple moments. Ben paused the video and there was a picture of Mr. Geary’s workstation frozen on the screen.
Dr. Finkletop finally took a deep breath and very nicely asked us to explain what she had just seen. The next couple minutes Ben and I described how there was a cave beneath our school that we found on accident that was home to a dolphin family. Then we explained that there was a talented marine biologist that worked with the dolphins there and we were his assistants. We told her that the dolphin in the video was named Secret and that we had known him since he was born. Dr. Finkletop was glad she had already seen the video or else she probably wouldn’t have believed our story. She asked full of curiosity, “Who is this talented marine biologist you are working with?” I replied, “Well you already know him.” Dr. Finkletop look confused at first, but I could tell by her face that she quickly put all the clues together and figured it out. “You are working with Ronald?” Dr. Finkletop asked. “Umm…Maybe.” I was embarrassed that I didn’t
know Mr. Geary’s first name. He was one of my best friends and I didn’t even know his first name. “We call him, Mr. Geary,” I replied.
Dr. Finkletop looked up at the ceiling again. But a little longer this time. Once she finally looked down she said, “Ronald Geary was a very, very dear friend of mine. I haven’t seen or talked to him in years. How is he doing?” We spent the next several minutes telling Dr. FInkletop all about how Mr. Geary uses being a custodian as a cover for doing his work down in the cave. Then we told her about the amazing work Mr. Geary had done with teaching the dolphins how to communicate and hold conversations. She said, “That all sounds so incredible, but if there was anyone in the world that could do it, it would be Mr. Geary. He is the most talented scientist I have ever met.” Then I told Dr. Finkletop, “He says the same about you.” She blushed.
Just then there was a knock on the door. One of the lab assistants said, “The Schmickle twins’ ride is here.” It was time for us to go. Dr. Finktletop led us out to the lobby and froze in the doorway. I almost ran into her because I wasn’t expecting her to stop dead in her tracks. I peaked around the side of her to see what the hold up was and then I realized why she had frozen. Instead of our Dad standing there to pick us up it was Mr. Geary. He said, “Hi kids, I asked your Dad if I could come pick you up today. I knew you were going to have a talk with Patty, oops, I mean Dr. Finkletop and I thought maybe it would be helpful if I showed up to answer some questions that she might
have.” Dr. Finkletop and Mr. Geary just stood at opposite sides of the lobby staring at each other with giant smiles on their faces. I guess neither one knew what to say after all those years of not talking. So I decided maybe I could get the ball rolling and said, “We showed her the video and the cave and she said you are the most talented scientist she has ever met.” This time it was Mr. Geary’s turn to blush. The awkward silence between the two was broken when Dr. Finkletop said, “It is true you know, Kit and Ben explained the work you are doing and it is revolutionary, it is going to change the science community forever.” Mr. Geary was still blushing and replied, “Well this place you got here isn’t too shabby, and I have been reading about all the amazing work you have done with pinniped habitat studies.” Dr. Finkletop smiled and said, “Hey, if you all have the time I was going to go grab some dinner at the diner down the street, care to join me?” With a quick phone call to my parents letting them know where we were, we were all off to the diner.
The food was great at dinner that night, I had the best cheesy fries ever, but the part I remember the most was how much we all laughed. Mr. Geary and Dr. Finkletop took turns telling us stories about how silly they were in college and all the zany adventures they had together. Evidently Mr. Geary had always loved to dance, even though he should never really do it in public. And Dr. Finkletop was always a bit of a klutz and many of her stories ended with her falling into the ocean, or bushes, or even a wedding cake. Towards the end of dinner Mr. Geary said, “This has been a lot of fun we should do it
again sometime.” Without hesitation Dr. Finkletop said, “How is tomorrow for you?” Mr. Geary smiled and said, “That would be just great.” Ben said, “I think I am actually busy tomorrow.” I kicked him under the table and whispered across the table to him, “I don’t think we are invited, they are talking about a date.” Then Ben rubbed his sore shin and whispered back, “Ewwwwww.”
CHAPTER 8 You Have a Good Little Boy There The next couple of weeks of the summer were amazing. Even though at camp we were learning so much about marine science, Thursday nights in the cave were still the highlight of the week. Now that we didn’t have to hide it from our parents we bought some wetsuits and every Thursday night we would go swimming with Della, Reymond, and Secret. Sometimes my Dad would even come along, but we told him he couldn’t come every time because he would start talking to Mr. Geary about cars and Ben and I would get bored. One Thursday night we even made arrangements for Dr. Finkletop to bring us home after camp and she joined us and Mr. Geary at the cave. They had started dating again and it looked like they had finally gotten over their college argument. One night we had another surprise visitor. It was Summer and his family. Secret had brought them all over for us meet them. I still loved dolphins the most but it was kind of fun how the sea lions could come right up on the deck with us.
At camp Dr. Finkletop had assigned us to cataloging Summer’s camera footage, mostly just in case he happened to go back to the cave the other researchers wouldn’t see the footage and freak out.
We learned all kinds of things about Summer. We learned that he loved to eat sardines and hated squid even though it was his Mom’s favorite food and she would force him to eat it sometimes. We would watch on the video how he loved to chase the fishing boats and play in the waves that they made. But most of all he loved finding a nice smooth rock and laying out in the sun for hours and hours. Unless Secret came around, then he was all about going on adventures.
One afternoon at camp we were assembling some new transmitters that had just come in the mail to the research center. Dr. FInkletop showed us how to add the transmitter numbers into the computer, load in a battery, and waterproof the electronics. One of the researchers came in from outside and said there were a couple dolphins doing some crazy flips outside if we wanted to take a break and go check it out. Ben and I looked at each other. When we heard crazy flips we knew exactly who it was. Just as we had expected we saw Della, Reymond, and Secret making a big scene just about 30 yards off shore. Once Della noticed Ben and I on the beach she secretly swam over to the side where she could talk to Ben while the other dolphins were distracting everyone else. When Ben came back over to the group he said, “We need to go find Dr. Finkletop right now.” He used his serious voice so I immediately turned around with him and we ran back to the building. On the way I tried to get him to tell me what was going on but he just kept saying, “Go find Dr. Finkletop right now!” We eventually found her in her office, it was the last place we looked because she was hardly ever there. Ben caught
his breath and explained what the big deal was all about. Secert and Summer had been out chasing fishing boats to play in their waves and catch any fish that might fall out of the nets. They usually kept a safe distance but they got too close and got tangled in one of the nets under the water. Secret had been able to kick himself free but Summer got one of his flipper stuck in a knot of the net. As the fishing boat started to lift the giant net full of fish out of the water it also took a piece of little Summer’s right from flipper with it. Secret knew it wasn’t safe to leave a bleeding sea lion in the water where there are sharks so he helped get Summer to a safe beach and then he went to get help from Della and Reymond. Then they all swam over here hoping to get our attention so we could go save Summer from the beach before something bad happened to him.
Dr. Finkletop jumped up from her desk and told us to go find some life jackets and meet her at the research boat down on the beach. Then Dr. Finkletop went and grabbed one of the veterinarians, and a boat pilot and told one of the camp directors that Ben and I were going with her and that they should just keep camp going as normal until she got back. We all hopped into the boat and Dr. Finkletop used Summer’s transmitter to discover his location. It only took us a couple of minutes to get to the beach but Summer was in pretty bad shape. We helped Dr. Finkletop and the veterinarian get Summer onto the boat and then watched as Dr. Finkltetop and the vet stitched up Summer’s flipper, or at least what was left of it. It had been mostly torn off by the net, there was nothing but a little nubbin left. Once they
were done with the stitches the vet gave Summer a shot that would help him sleep for a while. He needed to rest and build back up his strength. Ben and I sat down on either side of Summer on the boat and cuddled up next to him and rubbed his back while he fell asleep. His eyes looked happy to see us. It made me feel a little better that I could help him feel safe, but both Ben and I had a tear or two on our cheeks as the boat headed back to the camp. We had become attached to Summer and we felt really bad for Secret too. Summer was his best friend. Secret had done a great job of getting Summer to safety and then going to get help as soon as possible.
When we got back to the camp dock Della, Reymond, and Secret were waiting quietly. Everyone else had gone inside, not knowing about the rescue mission, but the dolphins wanted to wait and see that their new friend made it home safely. Dr. Finkletop asked Ben and I to communicate with Secret that he did a great job helping his friend and because he acted so quickly he probably saved his life. Then Dr. Finkletop patted Della and Reymond on their heads and said, “You have a good little boy there.” The proud dolphin parents nodded their heads in agreement and then we helped move Summer into the center.
The next couple days there wasn’t much improvement in Summer’s condition. He mostly just slept. Then that Thursday night at the cave I had the idea for Secret to record a video message for his buddy. Secret thought it was a great idea. I filmed as Secret splashed all
around the cave. He was silly as ever. He was doing flips, and flops, balancing things on his nose, playing peek-a-boo with the camera, he even pretended to accidentally swim right into the ladder on the dock and fall over like he was knocked out. Secret put on a good 10-minute comedy show. We were sure Summer would love it. The next day we set up a monitor for Summer to watch the show, his mood instantly changed. He started moving around a little. He started eating more and being vocal. Ben and I spent most of our after camp time working with Summer. We all knew with such a severe injury he wasn’t going to be able to return to the wild. But with some work he could have a good life as a research sea lion at Dr. Finkletop’s lab. That week we showed Secret’s video to Summer every day, and then that Thursday night we filmed a new on and brought it back for Summer to watch.
Eventually Summer was able to move around enough we thought it might be fun to film a video of Summer to show to Secret. Summer showed how he had learned how to do one flipper push ups, how he could swim in a circle, very slowly. Summer balanced all kinds of things on his nose while he walked across his enclosure. Well he kind of walked, kind of hopped. He had developed a new way of moving since he only had the one front flipper to use. Thursday night Secret was so excited to watch Summer’s video. He hadn’t been able to see him since the accident and he really missed his best friend. The minute Summer came onto the screen Secret smiled and clicked. He was happy to see his friend doing so much better.
While Secret was watching the video Mr. Geary pulled Ben and I over to his workstation to show us something he had been working on. He said, “What do you guys think of this?” He held up a piece of a swim noodle that he had cut real short and hallowed out. It had a strap attached to it and some fins at the end of it that made it kind of look like a torpedo or a rocket of some kind. Trying to be polite I said, “That looks really cool Mr. Geary, what is it?” Then Mr. Geary explained it was for Summer. He said that the main reason that Summer could never go back out to the wild was because without two fins a sea lion really can swim very fast or very straight. He also said it would be hard to stay afloat with just one flipper so he thought of creating this torpedo support. After he explained what it was it made total sense. “Awesome! Do you think it will really work?” Ben shouted. Mr. Geary shrugged his shoulders and said, “I don’t know, but there is only one way to find out.”
CHAPTER 9 The Rocket Floaty The next day Mr. Geary came out the research center once the camp was over and the other campers had left and he brought his rocket floaty. We had told Dr. Finkletop about it at lunch and she thought it was just crazy enough that it might work. We were all excited to see what would happen when we strapped it onto Summer. Summer was excited too. We all had high hopes. After the rocket floaty was strapped on Ben and Mr. Geary helped Summer get into his pool. It didn’t exactly work the way that Mr. Geary had planned. The rocket was too big and was lifting half of his body up too high. It was like Summer was stuck on his side. Mr. Geary laughed a little and said, “Maybe we should run to the store and buy this in the next size down.” We all laughed a little but we knew it wasn’t that easy. You couldn’t just buy another one Mr. Geary would have to make another one.
Summer was super disappointed, and grumpy. He didn’t even want to watch Secret’s video that day. He just wanted to be left alone. I think he was a little embarrassed to get stuck in the pool on his side, but he was also frustrated because he had really wanted Mr. Geary’s invention to work. Dr. Finkletop told Summer not to give up hope because nobody was going to give up trying to help him get back to
full strength. I felt bad for Summer but I realized feeling bad for someone isn’t nearly as helpful as working to help them out of their situation. Ben, Mr. Geary and I went to the local store and bought a bunch of new equipment to try and build a new rocket floaty with. On the way back from the store we picked up a pizza and called my parents and told them to come over to the research center to help us out. The rest of the night we had a big party. We drew up sketches of possible new designs, we put some things together, we ate pizza, we shared stories. It was fun having all of my human friends and family all in one place. After awhile we started to run out of ideas and pizza and we thought maybe we should call it a night. It was dark outside and I loved going to the beach in the dark. I asked my parents if I could walk down to the beach real quick before we went home and they said it would be ok.
It was a beautiful night and I loved hearing the waves roll in on the beach. The moonlight was just bright enough for me to see all the sea lions asleep on the beach next to me. Some of them were even snoring. Then I heard a splash out in the water. I grabbed the flashlight I had with me and pointed it out to the ocean. Right in my spotlight I saw the handsome face of Reymond. He started to click and make gestures to me. It was hard to see what he was saying in the dark but it was something about a jacket. I asked him, “Do you want my jacket?” He gestured, “No. Summer jacket.” I still didn’t know what he meant. I said, “What is a summer jacket?” Reymond was getting frustrated with me now and very slowly made the signs for,
“Make - summer - jacket - flipper”. I thought why would I need a summer jacket with a flipper, then it sunk in. Reymond was saying that we should make a jacket for Summer the sea lion and we could put an artificial flipper in one of the sleeves. It was a genius idea. I said thank you and ran back up the bluff to the research center where everyone was packed up and ready to head home.
I said, “Wait, wait, wait, Reymond had a great idea.” Dr. Finkletop said, “How did you talk to Reymond, Ronald Geary did you teach your dolphins how to use cell phones?” We all laughed and I explained that Reymond had visited me on the beach. I told everyone about Reymond’s idea to make a jacket for Summer with an artificial flipper in one of the sleeves. Everyone was nodding their head yes as I described the solution to them. They all agreed that it was a great idea. Instead of going home we all got to work. Dr. Finkletop found some old wet suits that my Mom and Dad started working on resewing into a sea lion sized jacket. Dr. Finkletop and Mr. Geary got busy sculpting an artificial flipper out of the floaty foam we had purchased at the store. Ben and I helped run information back and forth between the two teams. With some fancy sewing and some fancy sculpting we had a prototype built in no time.
We excitedly went to Summer’s enclosure and showed him the new idea. He turned his head sideways to show he was confused. He hadn’t ever seen a sea lion in a jacket before so this was a new concept for him to grasp. But Summer trusted us so he gave it a try.
We made the jacket tight on purpose so it wouldn’t slip off in the water but it made it very difficult to put on. Putting a wetsuit on a human is hard enough, putting a wetsuit on a wet sea lion is nearly impossible. After several minutes of struggling to get it on Mr. Geary finally zipped up the back of the jacket. Summer looked just like a surfer in a wetsuit. Even if it didn’t work, it was a cool fashion choice. The most notable thing about the jacket was that it almost made Summer look like he had his right front flipper back. The artificial flipper filled out the sleeve and matched the other side almost perfectly. After some gentle tests with his new false flipper Summer put a little bit of weight down on his new right flipper. It worked. He could almost walk like a regular sea lion again. It was a relief from all the hopping he had been doing.
Then Summer slid himself into the water. He didn’t instantly start floating on his side, so this attempt was better than the last one. Then Summer started to swim around a little. He tried to use his new flipper but the little bit of right flipper he had wasn’t strong enough to move the big artificial flipper in the heavy water. But at least he could hold it still and use his other flippers to move himself around. He was easily swimming three times as fast with the jacket on compared to how he was swimming around earlier that week. During his first test we all noticed areas for improvement but we all agreed that Reymond had stumbled across an idea that just might work. Ben and I didn’t want to go home but it was getting late. Mr. Geary and Dr. Finkletop both promised to stay with Summer and keep improving the suit over the
weekend. They told us to go have a fun weekend. My parents, Ben and I all gave Summer a goodbye pat on the head and left for the weekend.
Monday we had our Dad drop us off early for camp so we could go check on Summer and see how far they had come with the suit. When we got down to the tank we were amazed by the progress both the suit and Summer had made. Mr. Geary had taken the prototype as a pattern and made a new suit for Summer from scratch. It fit him like a glove, it had a pocket for a transmitter and a hood that you could attach a camera too if we wanted, it even had his name embroidered on the back. Summer looked like he belonged in that jacket. He was swimming around his enclosure at a speed we hadn’t seen since before the accident. He was excited. Dr. Finkletop walked in and said, “Good morning Schmickles. How are you doing?” Then she explained that Summer did amazing over the weekend and after camp was over they were going to carry Summer down to the beach and let him swim around a little in the ocean, but just near the shore. Mr. Geary was going to make sure that Secret knew about it and they would be joining us for the momentous occasion.
The day couldn’t have gone fast enough for us. Don’t get me wrong the camp was amazing. Dr. Finkletop taught us new skills and gave us access to research that many college students don’t even get a chance to experience. But I wanted to set Summer free, even if it was just for a couple minutes.
Eventually the end of the day came and Mr. Geary showed up, and so did my parents. They didn’t want to miss out on the excitement either. We loaded Summer up into a carrier and carried him down to the beach. On our way down we saw three dolphins splashing and flipping and flopping their hellos to Summer. We lowered Summer down onto the sand just outside of the reach of the breaking waves. Summer was nervous. The water in his enclosure was nice and still. This was the ocean, and the waves were crashing in. He was having second thoughts but then he saw Secret do a flip just beyond the crashing waves and knew he had to do it. Summer built up his courage and timed the waves, as a big wave was washing out Summer chased it as fast as he could. As the next wave came in Summer bravely dove down into it just like he had done a hundred times before. But this time the wave pushed him back right back up onto the beach. Summer didn’t quit. He charged right back into the waves, again he was shoved back. He knew if he was going to get to his friend he was going to have to fight through the breaking waves, but he was getting tired. Mr. Geary said, “Maybe we should call it a day and come back after Summer has built up some more strength.” But Dr. Finkletop stopped him and said, “No, give him another chance. I think he has got it this time.” We all started to cheer for Summer. Our cheers and knowing that this was probably his last try for the day inspired him to put everything he had into this one last attempt. He waited for just the right wave then instead of trying to dive under it like he always had before, Summer decided he would try to float over it. The next wave washed him back towards the beach
but not all the way onto it. Summer flapped his flippers with all of his strength and got out a little further with each wave. Eventually he was in deep enough water that Secret couldn’t take it anymore and he swam to meet his friend. Then Secret pushed Summer out beyond the breaking waves into the calmer open waters just off the shore. Summer and Secret swam around each other in circles, splashed each other, and for a moment they were just two friends having fun in the big blue ocean.
CHAPTER 10 The Secret Summer Surprise The last weeks of camp were a blast. Dr. Finktletop had trained us all so well that the researches treated the campers just like we were one of them. We were involved in everything that happened there at Finkeltop Marine Mammal Research Center. Ben became a wiz with the video equipment; I preferred to spend my time at the recovery center working with Summer and the other animals that needed some encouragement and support. Summer grew stronger and stronger as the summer went on and the Saturday after the last day of camp Dr. Finkletop and Mr. Geary had agreed to let Summer try to make the swim from the Research Center all the way to the Secret Cave. It was an 18 mile trip. It would be the longest trip Summer had taken since his accident and we were all hopeful but nervous that he would have the energy to make it.
When that special Saturday morning rolled around we all went down to the research center to see Summer off. My parents, Ben and I drove out with Mr. Geary and brought some breakfast for all the humans. Della, Reymond and Secret were there too, just beyond the crashing waves. We helped Summer down to the beach and then he
took off. He had mastered walking on dry land with his new artificial flipper and he walked confidently up to the waves. He took one look over his shoulder at us on the beach and then jumped in on the next wave. He made it out past the breakers on the first try. He was stronger now than he was when he first attempted to get back into the ocean, and he needed to be because he had a big swim ahead of him. We stood on the shore and watched the bobbing heads of Della, Reymond, Secret, and Summer disappear off into the sea. Then we loaded up in our cars and headed to the Secret Cave to monitor their progress from there.
Dr. Finkletop brought her computer with her so we could track Summer’s progress. It was nice to have but we really didn’t need it. Mr. Geary had a transmitter on Secret and we knew that there was no way that Secret was going to leave Summer behind, wherever Summer was that is where Secret was too. When we got to the cave we were surprised to see that Della and Reymond had already arrived. They explained that Summer and Secret really wanted to make the trip themselves. It was a big step towards independence for Summer and he didn’t want adult supervision the whole way. At first Della said she didn’t feel like they should leave them alone but Reymond reminded her that they both had transmitters on and that Secret would do a great job looking out for his little friend.
We brought up the maps on the computer monitors and started tracking their progress. Sure enough the two little bleeps that showed
their location were in the exact same spot. Secret and Summer were side by side on their adventure. They were about halfway done with the trip and everyone realized it was going to be a while so we decided to play some games and take a swim. Dr. Finkletop was so nervous she kept checking the computer every 30 seconds to make sure they were still headed in the right direction. Eventually my Dad snuck off and went to pick us up some pizza for lunch. We were having fun spending time together but it had been several hours since Summer and Secret had left the beach at the research center and we were getting a little antsy. After checking the monitor for the onemillionth time, Dr. Finkletop announced that they were entering the tunnel system. The tunnels to the secret cave were several miles long, there were several small caves along the way where the dolphins and now Summer could come up for air, but the tunnels themselves were completely underwater. This was by far the most difficult and dangerous part of the journey for Summer. We all got a little more anxious. Both because they had reached the hardest part, and because that meant that they were almost to the secret cave.
The transmitters didn’t work very well in the tunnels because they deep below solid rock, the radio signal from the transmitters couldn’t penetrate the thick tunnel walls. So the bleeps on the monitors disappeared. Dr. Finkletop turned into a nervous wreck without having her little dot on the screen to check. She just started pacing back and forth on the dock. I sat down on the dock and gave Reymond a back rub. He was trying to be brave but I could tell he
was nervous too. Time seemed to stand still. It seemed like hours had passed since they had entered the tunnels but when I looked at the clock it had just been a couple of minutes. And then a couple more minutes, and then a couple more… and then we heard a little splash at the tunnel entrance to the cave and then another. Secret and Summer had made it safely to the cave.
Ben and I jumped into the water and swam over to give Summer a celebratory hug. I gave Secret a high five, or a high flipper, for being such a good friend and helper for Summer. Then Summer swam across the cave and pulled himself up onto the dock. He was exhausted. You could see his entire body moving up and down as he tried to catch his breath. Dr. Finkletop sat down on the dock next to Summer and he put his head onto her lap. She gave him a big kiss and then let him rest.
I looked around the cave and realized I had never seen it so full of life and happiness. Dr. Finkletop was holding Summer as he fell asleep taking a much deserved nap, Mr. Geary was right behind them. My Mom and Dad were sitting at Ben’s work station laughing at Ben and I splashing around with Della, Reymond, and Secret. I know that the cave hadn’t gotten any bigger because caves don’t grow, but at that moment everything seemed bigger. Maybe it seemed that way because it had to be big enough to hold all the happiness, love, and support that was in the room.
After the excitement of Summer and Secret’s arrival died down a little Dr. Finkletop said, “Hey everyone! Can I have your attention? I have some announcements I would like to make.” Ben and I swam over to the edge of the dock and pulled ourselves out and started to dry off. Dr. Finkletop continued, “Kit and Ben, I wanted to tell you and your parents that I have included your names on my report about Summer and his interspecies interactions with dolphins. The report is going to be published in the Marine Biologist Journal and I am going to be writing a book about Summer and his adventures.” My parents were beaming with pride. It isn’t everyday you get your name published in a fancy scientific journal. I was pretty proud of myself too, and I guess I was even excited for Ben. Dr. Finkletop continued, “However, Della, Reymond and Secret, I did not include your names in my report. Mr. Geary and I decided the world isn’t ready for this secret yet, so in the report it just says that Summer encountered some dolphins. It doesn’t say he encountered the sweetest, bravest, and most caring dolphin family the marine world has ever known.” All three dolphins gave the gesture for “thank you”. Then Mr. Geary said, “Well that isn’t the only announcement, last night Patty and I, oops I mean Dr. Finkletop and I, had dinner together and I finally got around to giving her that ring I have been carrying around for her since college. Dr. Finkletop and I are getting married.” Again let me remind you. I am not big on all that mushy love stuff at all, but you didn’t have to be a romantic to see that Dr. Finkletop and Mr. Geary belonged together. We were so happy for them. We all gatherered around them and gave them a giant hug.
Then my Mom said, “Well if everyone is making announcements, your Dad and I have one too.” My mind went racing, what could it be? Were we going to Disneyland, Hawaii, Miami? Were we getting a new car? Were we going move into a house with a pool? Then my Mom continued, “Kit and Ben, your Dad and I are so proud of all the amazing work you have done for both Mr. Geary and Dr. Finkletop. You have shown that you have really matured and your have proven yourself to be responsible and dependable. Those are all good traits to have for when you… get your new baby brother or sister! I am pregnant, we are going to have a baby.” My brain nearly exploded. I was thinking her announcement was going to be about a vacation not a new family member. But two nanoseconds after is sunk in I loved the idea. I looked over at Ben and I could tell he loved the idea too. It was going to change everything but we were ready. We had another celebratory group hug. My cheeks started to hurt from all the smiling I had done that day. Ben and I went and sat on the edge of the dock petting Della and Reymond. I asked Ben, “What do you want it to be a boy or girl?” Ben without hesitation said, “Boy!” Then he said, “What do you want?” I said without hesitation, “It better be a girl.” We both laughed. Then Secret swam over and started to gesture a message to us. He said, “What if it is twins?”