By R.W. Van Sant
“Ted?” Jerry entered the house, bearing a small container of ice cream.
“Cooking!” His voice emerged from the kitchen.
“Still like chocolate.”
“Of course!” Ted responded. The smell of boiling hotdogs filled the house. Jerry’s stomach rumbled, even though he had just eaten an ice cream cone. He appreciated that Ted had not attempted anything more ambitious for dinner. With his cooking, simple was safer. “So, did you get laid?”
“Is that all you think about?” Ellie had made her wishes clear on the subject, and he didn’t want her to think he was a jerk. Besides, his ego felt too fragile to take another hit so soon.
“No,” he replied. “There’s also money. But then one often leads to the other doesn’t it.”
“So, you’re planning to become a gigolo?”
“Now there’s an idea,” Ted said.
“Got room in your freezer.” Jerry opened the old refrigerator and reorganized until there was enough room to squeeze in a container of ice cream. It was starting to soften. “This needs a defrost.”
“Need a new fridge.” Ted pulled out a tray of baked French fries and set them on a hot pad on the table. Jerry scanned the refrigerator for suitable condiments. Ketchup and mustard presented themselves as the most likely candidates. “I’ll be replacing a lot of things. So, think you got a shot?”
“No chance, she just wants help with college paperwork.” Jerry set the small plastic bottles on the table. “I told her I’d clear up some time to help her out sometime this week. I shouldn’t take more than a few hours.”
“Yeah, sure, we’ll plan a night off, or maybe we can go out.” Ted dumped half the fries on Jerry’s plate and the rest on his own, then he tossed the tray into the sink. Jerry grabbed the pot of hot dogs, used a slightly bent fork he fished out some of the dripping meat and put a couple on each of their plates. “After dinner, I’d like to do some practice with the shark sticks on the porch. I put up a target punching bag.”
“Is it legal? These are still guns, of a sort.”
“We are in the county, out of city limits. You may have noticed that we don’t have many neighbors to complain about the noise. It’ll be fine.” Ted tossed a small pile of ketchup-covered limp french fries into his mouth.
“What about those POD things you bought for us?” Jerry asked, “They’ll keep the sharks away, right?”
“The PODs have been pretty well tested over for years. People tested them against great whites, tiger sharks, and even bull sharks.” He said. “But I’m not willing to risk my ass on it. That’s why we need to learn how to use the sticks. I have seen sharks along the coast.”
“How likely are we to run into a shark in the cove?” The thought of confronting a shark underwater, in its natural environment, sent chills down Jerry’s spine.
“There have been many sightings over the years and more than one attack.” He said.
“Sharks. I don’t know Ted.”
“It shouldn’t be a problem. We’ll each have one, as long as we stay close together, say like twenty feet we covered by each other. It’s a backup.”
“If I see one shark I’ll use the stick so fast; it’d think lightning struck the water.”
“Don’t worry; I’m not taking chances. I recorded some DVD documentaries recorded from shark week. They’ll show how us how sharks behave and how divers deal with them. Sharks hardly ever attack people. Almost every recorded attack resulted because the swimmer or diver looked like a seal, or splashed around like a fish in distress. Since sharks don’t have hands, they explore with their teeth. One bite is usually enough to tell the shark not to eat you.”
“With some sharks, one bite is enough.”
“If you are serious about this marine biologist idea, you’re going to have to face your fears. Not every shark is Jaws. This might be a great chance to study a shark in its natural habitat; as safe as a shark cage.”
“Were they expensive?”
“Yep, I paid a few hundred a pop, and they’re used.” He said calmly. “They should be worth every penny.”
Jerry felt the familiar pangs of old dreams returning. A professor told him that that life could turn on a dime if a person could only see that moment for what it was, and seize the opportunity. With a personal cove, he could become an excellent marine biologist. It would be like an astronomer owning an observatory. Fate had handed him a chance to live childhood dreams. He’d be a fool not to take it.
Then, of course, there was the ship, the Morning Sunshine. Of all the classes, he’d taken at the University, history, and anthropology interested him the most. What a historical treasure a hundred and the forty-year-old ship could be; what secrets she could hold? The sunken derelict might be filled with artifacts of all kinds: watches, coins, cups, even the ship’s compass would be worth a considerable amount to the scientific community. They might even be able to make some money by selling some of the salvage to private collectors or maritime museums. There was a piece of undisturbed history sitting at the bottom of the cove just waiting for him to explore, study, and perhaps eBay.
If he got his degree, he could request a scientific grant, or even get a university to pay to have the cove drained in exchange for allowing them to excavate and study the wreck. Few universities get a chance like that. Removing water shouldn’t be too difficult for engineers who knew what they were doing, especially since it looks like the reef has done half the job already. While the scientists and historians worked on the Morning Sunshine, he and Ted could see to the clean up the beach and cove floor. Once the ocean water returned, it could be idyllic. A perfect private resort with a private, diving facility safe from sharks—it was an ambitious idea, but one that he decided to broach to Ted after the week was over.
“Let’s scarf this food down and get some stick practice in before it gets too dark.”
“Can’t we just eat while we practice?”
“Anxious, are we?”
“It’s called multitasking.” Jerry picked up his plate. “Come on.”
“Sure.” Ted grabbed his food and followed Jerry to the porch. “I think someone caught the diving bug.”
Jerry sat on the rough wood near the corner of the porch next to a new punching bag that dangled from the awning and quickly ate while Ted readied the Power Head shark sticks. He finished his food just as Ted finished loading a shotgun shell onto the end of the weapon. “I’ll let you go first.”
Ted took a wide stance in front of the bag and thrust hard into the center. The loud crack of Ted’s first ‘shot’ startled Jerry and left a painful ringing in his ears. Jerry found himself dreading the inevitable ear-splitting explosion. He didn’t like firing guns for the same reason. “I think I need earplugs,” Jerry said.
“It’ll be fine.” Ted, on the other hand, had always liked guns. He took the stick and reloaded then hit the bag again. This time Jerry held his hand over his ears. Sand flew out the back spraying the house. “That’s how it’s done.”
“Got it.” Jerry put down his plate and took the other stick. Ted handed him a shotgun shell. Jerry took it and loaded the device. He gritted his teeth in expectation of another ringing blast to his ears and thrust the short spear hard into the large bag. He felt the sting of the vibration through the stick and the force of its kick on his wrist as he blew another hole into the bag.
They dodged loose porch boards while taking turns destroying the punching bag with the heavy weapons. After twenty minutes, the bag had to be duct taped back together. They wasted several dozen shells, continuing until the tape would no longer hold the target together. Before they gave up for the night, Jerry had a healthy respect for the weapon. He felt that if he had too, he could use one competently.
With sore arms and a sense of accomplishment, Jerry slumped into the couch to relax. True to his word, Ted broke out several pre-recorded DVD’s of and a six-pack of Budweiser. The first show was two beers long, about the feeding habits of the Great White Shark. Jerry saw numerous ways in which a seal could be bitten in half. The shark was an ambush hunter and usually struck from below. They came at their prey with such force that often most or all of its body came out of the water as it struck.
Although the narrator insisted that shark attacks on humans were rare, marine biologists named their part of the western coast the ‘Red Triangle’ because it was Great White feeding grounds. Jerry pondered this as he watched marine biologist playing with sharks on the screen. He noted how pathetically un-protective a shark cage appeared next to the giant predators.
The tape that interested Jerry most, however, was a documentary concerning the PODs. The initial tests of the device had been made by a diver whose sanity Jerry sharply questioned. To test them, the inventor swam directly into a school of tiger sharks that he had lured by chumming the waters with fish blood and guts. Because of all the blood and food in the water, the sharks that swarmed him were in a frenzy. The sleek killers circled the diver until he turned on the device. They instantly scattered, and none approached him afterward. Jerry made Ted rewind and play it again. There was no mistake. The moment the diver activated his POD, the sharks fled like birds from a cat. For the first time, he felt that they might have a chance. If, indeed, there were sharks in the cove.