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Swimmin' Part III

Let's see . . .where was I?

Oh yeah, the big, orange bubble of a fish had just run interference for the sea-bass that was to become my dinner.

Then came the shark.

You know, in spite of having never laid my eyes on one before, there are few things in this world as immediately recongnizable as a shark. Particulary when that shark is inhabiting the same water as you and, well, there ain't nothin' between the two of you except his hunger and your fear.

A three-foot blue shark. Now, I know three feet isn't that big, in normal circumstances. Thirty-six inches, a yard, a stick of measure that almost makes it to my waist. Nuthin', right?

I just realized that in order to get the proper scope of a three-foot shark, one would do better to imagine a very large dog with multiple rows of box-cutter like teeth.

I stopped cold. I reached up and found the ring on my shark-repellant pack and stood their like a boy getting ready to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. The shark swam by me without so much as a sidelong (sidelong? Hell, who can tell? It was a friggin' shark, after all.) glance.

I let loose breath I hadn't realized I'd been holding.

Then, as if it were suffering from a wounded fin, the shark slowly circled to its left.

The water was cold, but my blood was colder. My stomach knotted as I watched the shark circle me from about fifteen feet distance.

Then twelve.

Then ten.

I was very close to warming the inside of my wetsuit, if you catch my drift. The nose of the shark was starting to twitch as if it were having a seizure yet it continued to circle . . .

Now eight feet.

My finger crooked around the ring of the repellant pack and I began to slowly apply pressure and a huge flash of brown flesh cut through the water between myself and the shark.

The shark--his left fin no longer bothering him, it seemed--darted off until the black, distant ocean swallowed him from sight.

I made a circle in the water in an attempt to discover what had frightened the shark away, but saw nothing. It was as if nothing had ever been there. I kicked to the surface and looked for the boat. It rocked gently on the light swells about a hundred yards distant. I considered making a swim for the boat, but realized that a)chances were good no one would believe me about the shark anyway and; b)I really hadn't caught any fish and; c)it was probably a dolphin that scared away the shark and if there were dolphins around I was safe from sharks for the time being.

I took a deep, calming breath and decided to stay. Moments later, I was once again the mighty hunter in search of food. Within five minutes, I had my sights set on another sea-bass. It wasn't as big as the last one, but beggers can't be choosers, particularly when they have bourbon and sliced almonds waiting to be added to said bass for dinner.

I re-entered stealth mode, slinking through the water while making sure that no bubbles escaped my snorkel that might frighten the fish. I followed the bass slowly, carefully until I was behind it and in perfect position for the kill. I aimed the spear, closed and

Something slammed into the center of my back. The snorkel flew from between my lips as my breath rushed from my lungs and luckily, I didn't instinctually breath back in a lungfull of salt-water.

Now, remember before when I explained about neutral buoyancy? Well, I was about fifteen feet underwater with the breath having just been forcably expelled from my body and fear rushing through me and I had to swim, with great effort, to the surface. My chest burned and felt as if I were being bear-hugged by Andre the Giant. Spots danced in front of my eyes and as I broke the surface and gasped in a great lungfull of air, I knew at that moment what it must feel like being birthed.

I looked around, my head snapping in every direction as I tried to find the source of the attack.

The water rippled in front of me about five feet away. I leaned back.

And up popped the head of a sea-lion. Twin black globes stared at me. He opened his mouth . . .

And laughed at me. I swear to God he laughed at me. Three short barks, "URHHHH. URHHH. URHHH."

Well, seeing as that was the first time I'd ever been mocked by marine life, I didn't quite know what to say. Turns out I didn't have a chance as the sea-lion dipped back into the water as suddenly as he had arrived.

Now here's where it really gets funny. I got mad. No sea-lion was going to get the better of me. I'd been pushed around by aquatic denizens enough for one day and it was time to get even.

Shades of things to come . . .

(To be continued.)

Joseph Haines, signing off from The Edge of the Abyss.

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