R.W. Van Sant
“Hey. Jerry!” Ted shook the bed. “Wake up. It’s time to eat, and we’re burning daylight.”
“Umphh!” Jerry pulled the covers back over his head to shut out the light.
“Okay, I’m getting ice-water.” The tugging ceased. Jerry heard the door close. He sat up. Ted stood by the door, smiling. “Good you’re awake, feather mattresses can be a real bitch to dry out. They tend to mold.”
“I’ll get a hammock.”
“Hurry down; breakfast is ready.” Ted left, but his voice echoed down the hall. “It’s gonna be another busy day.”
Since he would be in and out of the water all day, Jerry declined a shower for coffee. The aroma was wafting up the stairway from the kitchen. Grumbling, he got out of bed, pulled on his clothing, and stumbled downstairs.
Breakfast looked surprisingly good. On the table was a pile of French toast, a bowl of scrambled eggs, some ham steaks—and of course, coffee awaited Jerry’s appetite. He sat at the table down and started eating, ravenous from the previous day’s exertions. Ted knew how to put together breakfast. Jerry ate second servings of everything. His culinary survival required a new plan. Ted would cook only breakfast for the duration of his visit for every single meal.
“You interrupted a bizarre dream.” Jerry grabbed the pot and poured another cup of go-go juice.
“You’re welcome. There’s a breakwater nearby, reef-like. I want to dive there today.”
“Whatever you say, boss,” Jerry vowed to himself he would relax; let go of the stress. One week of fun on the beach, and then maybe a fortune waited. Even if the treasure did not exist, the training and experience itself were at least things that he could never get in New Mexico.
The day was warm. The sky was slightly cloudy, but they had the beach mostly to themselves. Jerry donned his wetsuit and hefted the tanks tank harness onto his back. Side by side, he and his brother waded out into the chilly morning surf. When the water reached their chests, they put on their masks and activated each other’s PODs.
“Ouch!” The scuba tanks shocked him. The DVD indicated that sometimes a POD unit could do that, but he hoped to escape the odds. No such luck.
“Sorry!” Ted offered.
“Crap, can we fix this?”
“Don’t know how.”
“Well, it shouldn’t kill me. Let’s go.” Jerry clenched his teeth against the electrical jolts and submerged.
The water along the inside of the breakwater was clearer than the brackish liquid they swam in the day before. It was much easier to see the schools of fish that swam by. A few seals dove off the breakwater to investigate but kept their distance. Jerry wondered if they could feel the electric field that they were creating in the water. The presence of the seals meant that there was an increased chance of running into a shark. He forced the images of sharks breaching the water with bloody seal carcasses between their jaws from his mind. The POD periodically gave him reassuring jolts. His muscles involuntarily contracted under their assault. He focused on the seascape and continued.
Jerry swam with greater ease than he had the day before. Growing confidence allowed him to be more relaxed. The current was strong near the rocks, and he soon found himself straining to move forward. Ted had warned him, but Jerry needed to get used to swimming in a current before taking on the one in the cove. Strained muscles brought on by the electrical hindered his ability to fight the currents. If it was this difficult in a breakwater, he could not imagine how he and Ted could hope to handle the currents in the cove.
Jerry felt the currents, tried to use them to his advantage. Instead of fighting them, he swam at angles, first right, then left. He attempted to follow a school of fish, but a curious seal dove from the jagged edge and cut him off. The creature swam away, frolicking in the currents that oppressed him. Jerry decided to take a cue from the seal. He started to turn and twist. He explored the range of movement that the bulky equipment on his back allowed. The wonder and splendor of the plants and wildlife held him enthralled.
He looked to see if Ted were similarly wonder bound. His brother was looking at some rocks a couple of yards ahead of him. Just past, something moved—a black torpedo shaped shadow heading directly toward them. Jerry tapped Ted on the shoulder, and made the hand motions that conveyed the message shark, danger! Ted acknowledged and then swam off quickly—toward the shark.
Jerry could feel a tingle as his brother swam onward and wondered if his brother was crazy. Instead of attacking Ted, however, the shark turned and swam away. The POD worked.
Floating in silent fascination, Jerry watched as his brother displayed dominance over the most perfect killer nature ever devised. He could not believe his brother had been that stupid. Breathing grew laborious, and his lungs strained to get air. Time had gotten away from him. His pressure gauge re-affirmed what his lungs were telling him; his tank was empty. Ted, noticing his brother’s distress, motioned to the surface.
They climbed out onto the large rocks of the breakwater. Lungs burning, Jerry spat out his mouthpiece and took a deep breath of air, then another. He continued until his breathing returned to normal.
Not wanting to waste oxygen yet, Jerry nodded.
“You’ll have to learn to relax.” Ted dropped his mouthpiece. “Getting all excited like that burns the air fast.”
“You asshole!” Jerry gasped.
“Look, I had to try it out.” Ted gulped in massive, adrenaline-charged breaths. “I had to be sure it worked. Better to find out against a lone tiger shark than something more dangerous, like a Great White.”
It was a logical argument, but he still wanted to slug his brother. “Could have warned me.”
“It was spur of the moment. Hell, I didn’t think I’d have the guts to try it.” He continued. “Now there’s no doubt they work. One less distraction while we’re diving.”
“You could have told me about your intentions.”
“I said, I’m sorry.”
“I like to be informed.” Jerry stood up and clamored along the rocky breakwater. Ted was a bit more agile along the rocks. They had swum quite a distance along the breakwater, and it took some time to reach the beach. It was a quiet walk.