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I read this book in the mid-to-late 80's. It was a new book then as it was a gift, but I do not know how old the stories were that were collected within. It was a hardcover with compilations of SciFi or possibly SciFantasy short stories. The cover was of far away green and pink clouds with floating city within the clouds.

I do not remember the actual plot, as what I remember doesn't even make much sense. But the way in which the scene was described has stuck with me all these years.

The short story, as I remember it, involves a young boy that has to take a bath but doesn't want to. His mother tells him to go anyway. Once in the bathroom he either imagines a gigantic whale in the bathtub or that there is a gigantic whale in the bathtub. He yells to his mom that he isn't able to take the bath because of the whale.

The next part is what sticks in my mind. He then goes into incredible detail of the sights, smells, sounds, and funny absurdity of a giant whale in the tub. The incredibly descriptive details of the smell of briny saltwater, barnacles, seaweed, the eye of the whale looking at him, every detail of the smelly, salty sea, and this whale in his bathroom.

I don't remember exactly how it ends but I want to say that he runs to his mother to explain, bringing her back into the bathroom to show her. The whale is gone. Or is it? There was something tiny left in the tub or the drain...I can't remember exactly. It gave the impression that asked, was it real or the incredible imagination of this boy?

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    I want to say Calvin and Hobbes.
    – Mr Lister
    Apr 6, 2018 at 18:56
  • The comic strip? No. This story was in a hard cover book, 3 to 4 inches thick, which at least 20-25 other short stories.
    – peterj
    Apr 6, 2018 at 19:32
  • Additionally, while doing my own Googling since this has been in my brain forever. It is not the children's story of a whale in Bruno's bathtub teaching him about bath time. Although, it is very similar to the story I am describing minus the intricate details of what the boy sees.
    – peterj
    Apr 6, 2018 at 19:37
  • Adults of even the shortest known whale species would be a few feet longer than the average size bathtub. Thus I picture the whale short of balanced on the bathtub with the middle portion sagging down into it. Most whale species would be large enough to fill an average bathroom and crush an average bathtub. Large whales could fill and/or crush a house. Thus I think either 1) the story is fantasy or 2) the boy just imaged the whale. Apr 7, 2018 at 18:06

1 Answer 1

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Despite the lack of both the bathtub and the boy's mother, I'm confident it might be "Far From Home" by Walter S. Tevis (1958): one morning, a gigantic whale appears in a public pool in New Mexico.
It was summoned by a gnome who had been captured by a boy, who put him into a paper bag: the boy wished to see a whale in order to release him.

Opening the pool's gate, the janitor sees the whale as well, is pretty shocked at the sight and runs away looking for witnesses or help; but when he comes back the whale has disappeared.

There’s no mother nor bathtub involved but ample details are given about the lasting smell of briny saltwater, barnacles, seaweed floating in the water and so on.

This story has been published a number of times in several anthologies,

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