Counting Sharks by L Brown

Counting Sharks

Counting Sharks

by L Brown

“How'd you go with that brunette, Jenny?" Frank asked.
"Yeah, her."
"We saw a rerun of Jaws up at the Paradiso,” I said.
"Oh fuck, I forget to tell you. A shark had a go at Jason Skinner this morning."
“You're kidding."
"Nope, his board’s got a bite in it. He reckons it was a great white."
"Jesus. At Smith's beach?"
"Yep. I heard just before I left work."
"You reckon it's the same one from last summer?"
"Could be."

The previous summer, Frank’s cousin was bitten by a great white shark at Smith’s Beach. He had thirty-eight stitches and was lucky not to lose his right foot. But two days later, a surfer visiting from out of town was attacked and killed. A dozen guys were in the water at the time and said that the shark took him just as quickly as you can snap your fingers. One second he was paddling his board, then the next, he was gone, dragged down deep underwater. They said that his surfboard was still connected to his ankle by its strap and it flopped and skittered around on the surface like a fishing float for almost a minute before falling still.

The beaches were closed, and the shark hunted, but none big enough to do that kind of damage were taken. Every night the news reported the number of sharks culled during the day. I kept a tally.

Thursday 16th — 5
Friday 17th — 8
Saturday 18th — 15
Sunday 19th — 11
Monday 20th — 4
Tuesday 21st — 7
Wednesday 22nd — 4

Total: — 54

I’d never seen people so angry and divided. Some became bloodthirsty and cheered on the hunters, while others protested the futile and barbaric nature of it all. The police had to patrol the beaches to keep the peace. I guess people’s view depended on their proximity to the ocean—both spiritually and geographically. In this sense, no two positions was ever going to be exactly the same. When the beaches reopened, I suspected that they only did it to try to calm everyone down. I’d not thought about sharks much until then; they’d never bothered me in the water, and I’d always thought of the ocean as belonging to the fish in much the same way as the sky does to the birds, so a bit like flying in a jet—whenever we surfed we were taking our chances. Frank had gotten excited about it, and he saw opportunities. One day he was devising plans and devices to catch the killer shark, and the next day he’d be at the foreshore selling crappy seashell necklaces to the protestors and promising to donate the proceeds to Greenpeace.

"I guess we’d better leave it a day or two before we get back in the water."
"Yeah, I was just thinking that,” Frank said.
"Funny you watching Jaws and all, maybe that Jenny is a bad omen."
"Julie," I said.


L Brown lives in Bristol, England. He has been a contributor of short stories to The American Writers Review Literary Journal and has had poetry featured by Albany Poets New York and various online journals.

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