Went to Florida Keys for a couple days and unplugged. Very disorienting. Like withdrawing from a drug. But ah, after the initial withdrawal, comes peace. Little waves breaking on the beach, lapping at the dock. Palm fronds gabbing with the breeze. The Gulf air as warm and insular as a second skin, its water womb-like – especially if you’re a hyena. The female carries multiple young in her womb and the strongest, in utero, will eat it’s siblings. That’s what it felt like as I did laps waiting for a shark to devour me. Think I’ve seen Jaws too many times. It’s ruined ocean swimming for me. Or lake swimming (there are fresh water sharks, you know.) Even swimming pools at night. Those fresh water sharks, again.
But I swam anyway. The gods have a plan for me and if getting ravaged by a tiger shark is on their list, then so be it. May as well get it over with because then I could relax (if I didn’t die) and swim without fear, for what are the odds of getting attacked again? Don’t answer that. But trusty guard dog Baxter, and beloved brother-in-law John, kept me under their watchful eyes. Like Hemingway’s Thomas Hudson, in Islands in the Stream, watching over his sons diving, with his .256 Mannlicher Schoenauer in one hand and an ice-dripping Green Issac’s Special in the other:
Thomas Hudson put the drink down in the shade and stood up.
“Jesus Christ,” Eddy said. “There it comes.”
Out across the blue water, showing like a brown dinghy sail and slicing through the water with heavy, tail-propelled, lunging thrusts, the high triangular fin was coming in toward the hole at the edge of the reef where the boy with the mask on his face held his fish up out of the water.
“Oh Jesus,'” Eddy said. “What a son of a bitching hammerhead. Jesus. Tom. Oh Jesus.”
Okay. In addition to Jaws, maybe I’ve read a little too much Papa.
(I love what a dedicated alcoholic he was – his son’s about to be devoured by a hammerhead but Tom takes care to put his icy drink down in the shade. My hero…)