The excitement Tommy felt on his walk home from school was kept in check by his concern over keeping his new pet hydra a secret from Mom. Certainly he’d kept some secrets from her in the past, but a pet that needed to be fed and cared for? That could make noise and fire?
That was a key point of Randy Aphis’ sales pitch, the whole fire-breathing thing – even more so than the fact that hydras are really hard to kill. That was what had driven the price up from five comic books to seven, along with a week’s worth of desserts at lunch. Randy made it seem like you’d have all sorts of uses for a pet that could light candles and campfires for you, but if the hydra could do that – and Tommy hadn’t seen any evidence yet that it actually could – wouldn’t that just make more trouble than it was worth? Especially if Tommy was going to keep the little guy secret in his closet or backyard shed or somewhere.
Guess that was another thing Tommy had to figure out: where to keep it. And what to name it. Or what it is – you can’t just call your pet an “it” forever. How can you tell if it’s a boy or a girl with hydras? Tommy unzipped his jacket slightly and gently pulled aside the sleeping lizard’s tail. Nothing really stood out as indicating one way or another. His new pet stretched a little bit and made a cute little yawn. Its breath seemed hot, but Tommy wasn’t sure if he was just imagining things.
Tommy went around to come in the back way, hoping that Mom would have her back turned in the kitchen, while he had the quickest route to dash to his room. Maybe if she caught him, he’d say he had to run to the bathroom.
She did have her back turned – so far, so good. But as soon as he put a foot in the door, she said, “Tommy, don’t track your – What’ve you got in your jacket?”
“Nothing,” he replied, looking down. “A football.” But Tommy knew Mom wasn’t stupid. Mom knows. Mom always knows.