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By Richard Dani
(A couple of days ago Rogan issued a Summer-themed writing challenge in the forum section. It seemed like a good idea to me so I thought I'd get the ball rolling with a submission of my own. Hope y'all like it.)
William lies on the blanket watching the seagulls circle overhead. He rubs lotion on the small squares that define his flat stomach partly to prevent burning and partly to draw attention to his best physical attribute. Roger sits beside him looking out over the greenish-blue ocean that tumbles over itself in small, lazy breakers.
The boys seem oblivious to their fellow sunbathers despite the crowded nature of the beach. Small children race by with their pails and shovels kicking dirt with each stride. Young girls wearing micro bikinis parade back and forth along the surf callously attempting to be noticed. An older couple sits a few feet to William’s right, hidden beneath layers of clothing and wide brimmed hats while reading books thicker than nuclear energy manuals.
But to the boys, they are all a million miles away as they merely go about their business. William repeatedly oils his stomach and Roger continues to inspect the surf waiting for more and more people to brave the chilly Memorial day waters. Their friendship was born in middle school and is capable of enduring long bouts of silence. In fact, both boys prefer it that way. Like a long married couple, they are together as much out of habit as they are for companionship.
“Hey,” Roger says while poking his partner in the side, “I think it’s time.”
William lifts his mirrored sunglasses to the crown of his head and responds, “You sure?”
“I’ve been watching the water all day and I doubt it’ll get any better.”
William stands and rubs his thumbs over his clenched abdomen while scanning the ocean. About forty people wearing pained expressions dance with the chilly waves that break against their backs. They had hoped for a better crowd, but the beach is already beginning to clear. “I guess this will have to do,” he says and waits for Roger to stand beside him. Together they walk silently toward the surf.
As they reach the water’s edge, a blond girl in a white two-piece smiles at William and tucks a strand of hair behind her right ear while waiting for a response that doesn’t come. The boys, with business like efficiency, wade into the water and dive in. They swim out past the crowd and separate with each going in a different path that is parallel to the beach. The two boys, though yards apart, operate as one. They dive beneath the water and dig deep into the pockets of their knee-length shorts. Simultaneously, they pull out weighted, Ziploc bags and open them slightly to allow the meat chunks and blood to slowly seep out. Bag after bag the boys release until their pockets are empty.
After returning to their blanket, William again lies on his back and begins to apply oil to his midriff. Roger wipes the water from his face and fishes a pair of binoculars from his bag while reminiscing about the day his plan was born. One afternoon, his absentee father had taken him on a helicopter ride over the ocean. From the air, the sharks had been clearly visible as their large gray bodies serpentined through the water. Thinking back to that moment, Roger remembered his father saying with a proud grin, “If people knew how many sharks were out there they’d never go in the water. Hell, if you’ve swam in the ocean chances are a shark has been within 15 feet of you.”
Roger had asked, “Then how come more people haven’t been bitten?”
His father had looked back at him and said, “Sharks don’t like people. They don’t have enough fat on them. Nope, they like blubbery creatures like sea lions and stuff. Movies just paint them in a bad light. Now sharks do have a ferocious appetite and I suppose if someone whet it a little with some blood…well, on a busy summer day all hell would probably break out.”
Roger, bored with the past, scans the surf wondering where his father is now and if the man ever thinks of him. He has considered giving dear old dad a call but he knows what that will get him. A few weak apologies and promises that will be broken faster than the words can leave his lips. Instead Roger has decided to send him a different message. One that he can not ignore. One that he will have to take at least a little responsibility for.
Roger sees the first dorsal fin emerge. It cuts through the surf and quickly disappears only a few feet from a crowd of bathers. He reaches into the bag and withdrawals the second pair of binoculars. He drops them on William’s stomach as he says, “Hey, sit up. The show’s starting.”
William leans forward as the lifeguard begins to shout but his warning comes a little too late. Two more fins have appeared and the surf is already alive with screams.
If you have no questions or fears about your abilities, then you will learn nothing from your mistakes and know nothing about your limitations.