SEAFROST

Mitch was thrilled. His uncle had given him a real metal detector for his birthday He and Jon skulked about the zoo and the surrounding fields. Head phones on trowel in hand. Director Selby watched with a great deal of amusement as Mitch tipped a large carrier bag out onto the back patio. His smile widened as The boys eagerly sorted through the vast pile of worthless metal rubbish. Luc noted they had a considerable amount of old bottle caps and rusty nails. Buckley voiced "You boys should check the internet. Some of those bottle caps look pretty old. You might be able to sell some to collectors." Kolby realised the voice was telling him a story. One designed to calm him back to sleep. He lay down and listened to the gentle tale.

Selby nodded approvingly at Frank for the idea. Then he scowled As Celia Bertram leaned over the fence and loudly decried.

"God! What a load of old crap! I've got a much better detector and I don't waste my time. Digging up pathetic nails and bottle caps. I concentrate on finding real treasure." Selby regarded the older girl. Celia was rapidly gaining a very unsavoury reputation. Luc had thrice had to speak to Rick Bertram. The Zoo's

newly appointed administator. About Celia's and her mother's attitudes.

Gail was worse than her daughter. She strutted around boasting of some obscure royal ancestor and more specifically. She encouraged her girl To think herself higher than the other children. Nor did she make her do her chores. Every child living at the Monster Zoo had duties to perform. Usually helping with cage cleaning or picking up litter. Even Mike's own two Mitch and Caren were not exempt. Luc now spoke sharply to Celia.

"I don't recall inviting you to join this conversation." Celia went very red and stomped off. Straight to her mother. Gail seethed as her thirteen year old daughter ran wailing into her. She hated it That her brother, Rick, was nothing more than a middle grade administrator. Gail wanted to own the zoo. She had hoped to seduce Selby into an illicit affair Then blackmail him into marrying her

But the Director seemed to be immune to her advances. He clearly loved his wife and adored his children. Particularly eleven year old Mitch. Both Gail and Celia loathed the boy and Celia was not above administering a sly thump or kick. When she thought no one was looking. Gail didn't exactly encourage her. But neither did she discourage this sort of behavior. She merely attempted to cover up Celia's worst excesses. But as the day progressed and Celia grew more and more petulent. Gail felt she had to act. She spoke to her brother at dinner that evening.

"Rick," he glanced up. "You must speak to Director Selby."

"About what?"

"That, dreadful, son of his is hogging the toys"

"Toys? What toys?"

"You know very well that the toys here are communal

"So?"

"Celia wants a go with the metal detector. But Mitch and that Slater brat won't hand it over." Rick laid down his fork and looked hard at Gail. Before replying.

"The toys in the play centre are communal. But that metal detector is not. It was a birthday present to Mitch Selby from his uncle."

"He should still share it."

"No he shouldn't. Celia doesn't share her things with the other children and there's no reason Mitch should either."Gail scowled as her brother refused to give into her demands. "Besides! Metal Detectors are boy's toys. What on Earth does Celia think she's going to do with it?" Rick resumed eating. Celia sat at the table and snivelled like a spoilt four year old.

Two days later Mitch and Jon were again out in the fields behind the zoo. It had rained the night before and the whole place was squelchy under foot. Amid the grass were deep puddles and muddy patches. The boys were taking it in turns to wear the head phones and do the digging. At this point Jon was operating the detector and Mitch was walking at his side. A small spade in one hand and a tupperware collecting box in the other. So far it had been a disappointing morning. Then the machine began to beep. Jon pin pointed the spot and Mitch crouched down To start digging.

"Urgh! He'd knelt in a wet patch. But then he forgot his discomfort. As something strange caught his eye. "What is that?" Jon pulled off the head phones and also bent down. He poked at the slimy, glistening creature.

"A newt maybe?" It was a possibility as the tiny amphibian did appear to have a cresting ridge down it's back. But it didn't move like a newt. It certainly didn't

have legs. More sort of flippers and instead of scurrying. It seemed to swim

across the puddle. Most of it's body under the water. All but it's head and a couple of humps.

"It kind of looks like a sea serpent to me." Mitch voiced.

"That small and if it is? How did it end up out here? The sea is ten miles away." Jon decried the idea. He reached out. To touch the tiny creature again. But

this time. It defended itself. Not in any conventional manner. It didn't bite or hiss. It dived under the water Which then turned to ice

"Woah! How did it do that?" Jon gasped in surprise

"I don't know. But I' think we'd better take it home. Captain Dave might be able to tell us. What it is?" Mitch emptied, the plastic box, of the few oddments. They'd accumalated that morning and then using the trowel. Dug around the small patch of ice. The tiny newt/serpent was hiding in.

Jon expertly punched a couple of small air holes Into the lid. with his penknife. Mitch placed the ice and serpent into the container. Quickly putting the lid on it. Immediately after! Jon picked up the metal detector and head phones. Before both boys began the slow walk home.

They instinctively wanted to run. But knew they mustn't. The unusual speciman was already frightened. They had to tote it home without causing it any further distress. It took then thirteen minutes to make it back to the zoo and another four to make it to the sea life centre. Captain Dave looked up as the two boys

entered. He and two assistants were scrubbing out a large tank. Ready for the arrival of a new animal At the end of the week. Captain Dave saw the boys were carrying something.

"What's tha's got dere boys?" He asked, in his thick West Country brogue.

"We were out metal detecting in the East pasture," Mitch began. "The machine started beeping. So we thought we'd picked up a metal object. But! When we crouched down to dig We found this little fellow."

"At first we thought it was a newt," Jon took up the story. "But then it did

the weirdest thing."

"Really? What?"

"It froze itself and the puddle round it." Captain George's face changed

"It froze itself, you say?"

"Yes!" Mitch concurred. "I guess it's some sort of defence mechanism. To

protect itself from predators." The Captain took the box from the boys.

Noting the water inside was still solid. Gently carefully Captain Dave carried the still closed box To a nearby tank. He glanced round

"Aiden! the assistant was as curious as the others. "Fill this tank with some of that warm sludge We cleaned from Baleo's habitat. The assistant returned from a secondary room A few minutes laterl with a bucket of dirty water, weed and muck. Which he tipped into the empty tank. Dave removed the lid from Mitch's plastic tub.

"Now then laddies. Let's see If you've found me a wee prize."

"Prize?" Jon and Mitch echo'd.

"Aye! From what you've described. I think the pairs of ye has bortz us a new and vera rare little catch." He slid the icy lump into the bigger tank and closed the aperture at the top. Everyone leaned forward to watch. At first nothing happened and Mitch half panicked. After all that, had he failed to actually capture the strange creature. Then the mud seemed to shift. The ice melting into the warmer sludge.

"Uh! The whole company gasped as one. As a tiny head suddenly popped up and swivelled around. Then the little creature moved. Three minuscule humps appearing as it began to circle the tank. Exploring it's new home.

"What is it?"

"Something I've only heard of twice before and never in these parts, " Dave smiled at the two boys. "Well done! You're quick thinking as bagged us a," he paused for effect then smiling said. "A Seafrost!"

"That's a Seafrost?" Aiden had heard the name too. "I had no idea they were so small. In fact I thought they were extinct?"

Captain Dave sent for Director Selby, Professor Buckley and David's father The head Keeper Pete Slater. Luc peered at the new acquisition Then beamed at the two boys.

"I am extremely pleased with you both. You acted wisely. Bringing Seafrost here. You have probably succeeded in saving it's life."

"I wonder how it ended up so far in land," Buckley mused peering into the glass tank." Captain George's other assistant had an answer

"It was on the news this morning. The gale force winds coupled with a westerly El-Nino current last night Caused a water spout to form." The others understood. What he was implying. The tiny creature had probably been swept up. By the rare water tornado and tossed ten miles inshore. To where Mitch and Jon had found it. Selby thought it an incredible stroke of luck. They'd even seen the animal. Let alone realised how special. it was Word sped around the zoo in less than an hour. Celia heard and fumed. She complained to her mother that.

"It's not fair. I told you I should have had that metal detector. Then I'd have found the animal." Gail inwardly sighed. Doubly so a day later. For as a reward. Pete Slater bought Jon his own Metal Detector. It wasn't as expensive as the machine Mitch had. Neverthe elss he ws thrilled Celia was not! The present made her moan even more. She wanted one.

"The best one. Better than Mitch's," she raged at her mother

Rick again refused. Citing Celia's gender as a reason and also the cost of such a big ticket item. As to why she couldn't have one.