By R.W. Van Sant
Jerry had a quiet night. He awoke completely rested and ready for the day’s trials. If Jerry Lujan had any dreams, they were of swimming and the ocean—fragmented and mostly unremembered. Still, when he awoke, his muscles felt every moment of the previous day’s exertions. A warm shower helped, but Ted was in a rush to get back into town. He had no time to relax, to awaken slowly, and definitely not enough time to stretch out his muscles.
“Good morning. Ready to start your new life as a beach bum?” Paul was too cheerful for Jerry’s liking. After everything they’d done the day before, it was obscene for him to be so completely unfazed.
“Is there a secret handshake?” Jerry asked.
“Nope, just a security deposit for the metal detectors.”
“Can you really find money in the sand?” Jerry asked.
“I tried one morning. Found a little over three dollars, and paid Paul ten to rent the detector.” Ted looked at the watches behind the counter.
“I make a lot of money off of beach change.” Paul handed Jerry his card. “Congratulations.”
“Thanks,” Jerry looked at the flimsy piece of paper in his hand. It seemed absurd that such a light, flimsy thing should represent all he’d endured. He put it in his wallet.
Ted motioned to get Paul’s attention. “How about the shark sticks?”
“I found you a couple, yeah. Promise me you’ll be real careful with these. I would feel terrible if you killed each other. I don’t think you’ll need them though, not with the PODs.”
“PODs?” Jerry asked.
“These things are cool. PODs, Protective Oceanic Devices.” Paul said.”
“What are they?”
“Electronic shark repellant. The POD units attach to your dive harness and send out electrical impulses. Messes with the sensory organs, the ah, Ampullae of Lorenzini, in shark snouts, it gives them a nasty headache if they get too close.” Ted explained.
“Someone has been reading the brochures,” Paul said. “They should keep them away, about fifteen or so yards away. Box said twenty, but I never trust gadgets to work as advertised. Better to be safe than sorry.”
“And these POD things actually work?” Jerry picked up one of the boxes and looked it over.
“I’ve only heard of them failing once. A diver got bit in half by a Great White,” Paul replied. “It was later found out that the stupid SOB turned the unit off when he reached the ocean floor. Must have thought he was safe. He wasn’t.”
“Thanks. Good tip—never turn it off.” Jerry said.
“Paul,” Ted insisted. “The power heads?”
“Okay, I’ll get them.” He went back through the old door. “You’ll have to get shells at a gun shop. I don’t carry them. Do you have fingernail polish?” His voice sounded from the other room.
“Fingernail polish?” Jerry asked.
“For the ammo, for the shark sticks. It waterproofs the shells.” Ted said.
Paul returned with two black rods, each about a yard long. Jerry recognized them from TV shows. Shark sticks. Divers used them like spears. Poke a shark hard enough, and the shotgun shell at the end goes off killing the shark. The effect was impressive. If there were indeed sharks in the cove, then the sticks would be very useful.
“Your gear is ready?” Paul announced. “With as much as you rent this stuff you might as well buy them.”
“How about giving me a deal on some used stuff?” Ted looked over the pile Paul indicated.
“I’ll see if I can find some,” Paul said.
“Jer, can you give me a hand with this?”
Ted slung a tank and harness over his shoulder.
“Don’t have too much fun,” Paul said.
“We’ll probably be back tonight for refills.”
“We’re open until six.” Paul watched as the brothers lugged the gear out the front door.
“Hungry?” Ted asked.
“I could eat.” They placed the gear in the bed of the truck. Jerry looked for a place to set it down where the metal looked thick enough to hold its weight. Ted seemed not to have the same concern.
“Good, I know the perfect place.” Ted hopped into the truck, started the engine, and forced the truck into gear. He drove a couple of blocks and pulled into a familiar-looking restaurant.
“Hi Ted,” The place was filled with locals, but Eleanor, the waitress, called out as they entered the restaurant. “Picking up stray tourists, are we?”
“Be nice, Ellie; this is my brother Jerry. He might go native if you don’t scare him off.”
“Really?” she asked. “Why would you do something like that?”
“Sick of the desert,” Jerry said. “Besides, Ted begged.”
“Takes all kinds, I guess.” She set two menus on the table.
“I’ll take the special. With a coke.” Ted handed his menu back.
“Two specials, two cokes. Got it.” She wrote the order in her pad and took off into the kitchen.
“Cute, huh?” Ted asked.
“You and she aren’t going out, are you?”
“Us, no. I asked Ellie out once, shot me down.”
“You sounded friendly.”
“She’s a friend. Right now, I’m too busy to go chasing after girls. And that one would take an awful lot chasing.”
“Ah, well then I’ve got one just one question,” Jerry said.
“What did I just order?”
“Fish and chips, best on the coast,” Ted explained.
“Good, I was afraid I’d get tofu surprise.”
“As if I’d eat tofu?”
“You don’t mind if I give her a try?”
“Ellie?” Ted laughed. “Here’s a little life experience for you. There are two types of girls. Ones who thinks the smell of oil is perfume. And then there are those that don’t.”
“Which is she?”
“She’s both and neither. Most of all she’s out of your league. Think of her as sorority bound.” Ted said. “She’ll marry rich, just watch.”
“Out of my league? I think you need to reevaluate.” Jerry said. “I’ve got a lot to offer.”
“You wouldn’t tell her about the…would you? Not just to get a date? Jerry?” Ted asked.
“Now that would be stupid! No.” Jerry said. “What I meant was that I’m not bad looking, I’m smart, and in college. Someday I’ll even have money. Ted, I’m a great catch. She’d be lucky to have me.”
“Your drinks.” Ellie’s voice flowed softly over his shoulder.
Jerry put his face firmly into his palm. “How long has she been there?”
“Since smart and in college,” Ellie said.
“Thank you,” Jerry mumbled between his fingers. The dishes clinked as Ellie put the drinks on the table. Jerry was too embarrassed to look up until he heard her giggles moving back toward the kitchen. “I blew it.”
“Yep, and boy is your face red. “Ted said.
“Thanks.” It wasn’t the first time he’d embarrassed himself in front of a pretty girl; it is often best to hold your head up high and skulk quietly away.
“At least she thinks you’re funny.”
“Don’t help.” Jerry felt that it was time to change the subject. “Where are we diving?”
“There’s a beach several miles down the road. The water is clearer and calmer, better place to practice. It’s a public beach, so try not to embarrass yourself. “Ted said.
“Tell me about it.” Jerry lifted his head.
“Oh, Bro. It’s just what you’ve been asking for. Calm beach, girls in bikinis, it’s the standard California beach scene.”
“Dive there much?”
“Oh, yeah. You gotta be careful not to get yourself tangled in the seaweed. There’ll be lots of fish, some seals. Remember, where there are seals, there might be sharks.”
“Sharks.” That small fact had all but slipped his mind. They were at the northern tip of the Red Triangle. More great white attacks there than the rest of the world. “Oh, yeah.”
“You diving today?” Ellie brought plates and placed them on the table before them. “Where?”
“Down the road, we’re heading out after we eat. Interested?” Jerry appreciated his older brother’s help with his love life, but like the derelict in the cove, that ship had sunk and taken the entire crew with it.
“No, thanks. I promised some friends I’d meet them. Catch you later.”
“Your loss,” Ted said.
“Uncle Paul told me you passed your dive tests with near perfect scores,” Ellie commented.
Uncle Paul? That was an interesting little bit of info. “I guess, all he told me was that I passed.”
“Yeah, well I suppose you might have some brains. Either that or you got lucky.” She looked at Ted as she said it.
“Don’t inflate his ego before a dive. He won’t get his mask on with a swollen head.” Ted took in a mouthful of fish.
“No chance of that.”
“Well, enjoy,” she said and walked off muttering under her breath. “It’s a shame you’re all so damned crazy.”
Jerry’s heart skipped a beat when she looked back with a smile. Stop it, Jerry, he told himself, you’re kidding yourself. She is not into you. It’s just a good tip she’s after.
She didn’t need to flirt; the food smelled good enough to merit something extra. That and he wanted to stay on the right side of anyone who could cook better than Ted. Jerry dove in with unrestrained hunger, not feeling the need to indulge in table manners. The fish was crispy and tender, as were the fries. The coleslaw was homemade and slightly sweet; it complemented the meal well. The food was incredible, as good as any five-star restaurant.
As he ate, he considered her comment. Did the entire town think them crazy? He knew that Ted could be reckless, but did insanity run in his family. “Ted, the other morning those kids in the store, you know the ones who’d been drinking, they used a phrase I’ve been wondering about: crazy like a Teller.”
“It’s a local expression, guess where it came from,” Ted muttered between bites of fish.
“Ah, and it means stupid?” The drunken teenagers had used it to describe a friend who got drunk and jumped off a cliff. A mental image of an older man in a worn, tan, all-weather jacket standing out on the widows’ walk in the middle of a raging storm came to his mind. If that was how the locals viewed his family, then the saying and Ellie’s attitude made perfect sense, but apparently, Ted didn’t approve of the phrase.
“Yes, kind of. Stupid in a bungee jumping, damn the torpedoes, seeing things that aren’t there, kind of way.” He took another bite. “It’s best not to mention Teller around here; some of the local idiots think crazy is inherited.”
“Like the cove.” Jerry laughed lightly. Maybe the cove drove them to it. He certainly found it unnerving.
“Hah, hah. Wait until the house is fixed up. Then we’ll see whose laughing.”
“Ellie, she thinks were crazy,” Jerry said.
“Don’t let it worry you. Let’s get out of here. I want to get to the beach.”
“Yeah,” Jerry nodded his agreement. The sun was getting high in the clear blue sky, and Jerry didn’t want to waste another day just sitting around talking about stupid prejudices.
Perhaps he was growing more sensitive, or paranoid, but as they left, Jerry thought he heard some grumbling from a nearby table. All Jerry could make out was “damned Tellers.”
For a moment, Jerry thought his older brother was about to turn around and make a scene. It wouldn’t have been the first time he saw Ted goaded into a fight. Instead, Ted flashed them a wicked look, which shut them up.