Summer has become synonymous with sharks. Since that fucking Jaws movie came out, I’ve dealt with more calls about Great Whites a few hundred feet off the shore than you can imagine. Most of them are bullshit. The ones that aren’t are almost always smaller sharks. Bull sharks, tiger sharks. Those can still be dangerous, but they really just need to be herded back out into open water. We don’t need to clear all the beaches in 100 miles like some panicky callers think.
Shark Week and those idiotic Sharknado movies haven’t made the situation any better. And people seem to be… weirder about stuff these days. About a month ago I answered a call from a woman on the verge of tears. She claimed a pale white, human-sized worm had slithered up beneath her as she trod water under the pier and took a bite out of her heel. When I inspected the wound, it looked like she had just brushed up against a sharp rock or some old metal. But she was adamant that a creature – a creature that I, frankly, didn’t believe existed at all – attacked her.
Last week marked the beginning of a new wave. Three people were bit by a shark with a flattened muzzle, one said it felt like the shark was licking the wound before she overcame the shock of the event and struggled to get away. The reports tired me; like the worm attack, these injuries looked like simple cuts or scrapes. Not to mention sharks have no tongues. Not the kind that are capable of licking a wound like a vampire bat, anyway.
Then everyone at the beach went nuts. In one week, fifteen people, mostly women, were attacked. Some on the heel, some the calf. No matter the location, each bite looked like a cut.
Some of the victims claimed they had been attacked by a shark that swam up beneath them. They noted the same small fin as the others. Others thought they saw a thin bat ray.
Looking through a glass of tea, you think it’s easy to see shapes in water. Once you add some waves and eyewitness unreliability, though, it’s a crapshoot.
I took the boat out yesterday on patrol. Something had to be out there. It didn’t take long before I spotted commotion near the pier. I gunned the engine and reach a pair of terror-stricken kids on a date. The girl was bleeding from her shin. The shark had swum back under the boardwalk.
I trolled underneath but found nothing. A skinny guy in a white swimming cap stared at me like he thought the area might be off-limits, his red lips pursed. I thought about asking if he had seen anything swim by, but didn’t want fuel the shark fears.
By the time I noticed the rubber shark fin in his hand and the fishing knife tucked into his Speedo, he was too far away and I was stuck on my service boat.