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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Pearl Gets Schooled. By Fish.

The year the movie Jaws came out, my brother and I saw it seven times.

Frankly, I've never gotten over the repeated viewings of that shark. I can't see a boat in dark water without thinking a disembodied head will make an appearance.

I am a nervous, almost superstitious person near open water.

So of course I found myself up to my armpits in the Gulf waters off of Florida on Monday.

Florida! Blue waters, white sands, dark brown senior citizens. You come for the weather, but you stay for the Bingo.

"Come further out," T shouts at me. There are three fluffy clouds on the horizon. A pair of tourists are pulled, kite-like, behind a motorboat just past the buoys. It is postcard beautiful.

I shake my head vigorously, as someone who has just spent Shark Week, in front of a television, mouth agape, would.

"Did you know," I shout, "that bull sharks have been known to swim up fresh water rivers into suburban neighborhoods to eat our pets?"

T cocks his head at me, frowns.

"Their teeth just keep growing, you know," I holler.

A strange look passes over T's face. I've seen it before -- it's the look that he gets just before he decides to teach me something...

"Hey," I yell.

He raises his arms up over his head.

"Cut it out!" I shriek.

Smiling, he arms raised in watery benediction, T wails theatrically into the wind, "Hear me, O Minion! You are summoned!"

"No, no, no!" I bawl. "There's no summoning!"


And the surface of the water is covered with tiny silver splashings. Imagine invisible fingers flicking water. Imagine invisible rain drops striking the surface.

Imagine my eyes bugging out of my head.

I fall backwards in my attempt to get away, get closer to the beach. "What did you do?! What are those?"

I look down to see a three-foot wide swath of tiny, glittering fiddies fill the space between T and I. I watch, mouth open, as they pass by with precision movements, almost imperceptible adjustments in direction. Hundreds, maybe thousands of finger-long fish swim between us and are gone.

I look up. "How did you do that?"

T shrugs, laughing. "Sometimes they just show up."

I imagine punching him, but lay back, float on my back.

There are so many things I know nothing about.


I open my eyes. My name has been whispered.

I stand up. T is pointing at a very large dark spot in the water, and he's not smiling. He looks awestruck.


He said "manatee".

But what I heard was not "manatee" but "sting ray". I stagger, a quick two steps back, my hands clutched at chin level.

And then I hear what he's really said.


I move forward.

She hasn't moved. Six, maybe seven feet long, she hovers perhaps three feet from me.

"You can't touch them," T says. "It's against the law."

I drop down into the water, open my eyes, but she is already moving away, slowly, so slowly, a lumpy gray ghost moving into the deeper blue.

And she is gone.

T and I look at each other. "That is, by far," he whispers, "the closest I've ever been to a manatee."

I am speechless.

I lay back, float on the water.

There are so many things I know nothing about.


mybabyjohn/Delores said...

Best not tell Liza Bean about the fishies.

Leenie said...

The creatures of this world know Pearl is wise. They bless you with their presence...even French speaking cats and manatees respect Pearl.

Don't know about sharks, though. I think they are Satanistic aliens from Venus.

jenny_o said...

That had to be goosebump-inducing, in a good way.

From the intertubes, a great manatee video:


B.E. Earl said...

That's awesome! Manatees are incredible creatures.

I have the same "Jaws"-inspired fears that you have. I remember a line from a comedian a ways back (I forget who) who had the same fears. He said something to the effect of "it doesn't matter if it's a 25-foot shark or a piece of seaweed brushing up against my leg...I'm running out of the water screaming either way."

Yeah...that's me.

Eva Gallant said...

Wow! Those are the reasons I stick to swimming pools instead of the ocean!

Daisy said...

I LOVED "Jaws"! Don't know how many times I saw it. Would watch it again!

Being so close to a Manatee must have been awesome. Perhaps she came by to tell you not to be afraid?

I do wonder what Ms Lisa and Ms Dolly are doing while you are away. Do you think you should phone home?

Glen said...

fish poo in the water - fact

Shelly said...

What a terrific experience! I'm like you- I remember seeing Jaws when it first came out and that has colored my whole opinion about being in the ocean.

liza said...

Manatee. Wow!
Two weeks ago during our northeast beach vacation, I let my 6-year-old watch Jaws. This is VERY unlike the hovering parent that I am. I covered his eyes, or tried to, during the gruesome scenes. He just pulled my hands away.
The next day on the beach, while quietly relaxing with his two uncles, he just came out with, "I don't want to see that thing cut open and see that little Kintner boy spill out all over the dock." What have I done?

Vintage Christine said...

My husband works offshore in the Gulf of Mexico as a diver. When we moved here from California, he assured me for several years that there were no sharks where he worked since he worked around the oil rigs. Then we went to the Aububon Aquarium here in New Orleans and lo and behold, they had a whole freaking exhibit featuring a huge tank with the legs of an oil rig and guess what was swimming around them in large numbers. Yup. And apparently you haven't seen the video of the herds of sharks milling about not that far from the white sand beaches of the Florida Panhandle. Since you saw a manatee, my guess is that you weren't bobbing about in that part of Florida. Happy vacay!

darlin said...

Excellent read, you held my attention from the beginning straight through to the end. I laughed out loud when I read "You come for the weather, but you stay for the Bingo." Note to self, pack bingo daubers if I ever head to Florida!

Have a fantastic day!

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Wow, two awesome fish sightings. And no sharks. I'd still be nervous, though.

Elly Lou said...

Manatees are magic. So was that post.

Susan in the Boonies said...

Wow oh wow oh wow oh wow oh wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'm so excited for you! And so don't want to experience that.

You know who follows those little schools of fish around, don'tcha?

And it ain't Barbra Manatee. Watch this: (you'll thank me!)


The Vegetable Assassin said...

I LOVE MANATEES! They are one of my favourite animals ever. I am jealous beyond the usual realm of jealousy.

Also, I see what you did there. With the title. Hee!

Belle said...

I remember reading the book and seeing the movie when I was young. Very, very scary. That movie has passed the test of time too! It is still good after all these years.
What an amazing experience to be so close to the manatee and those little fish. I'm happy for you.

Crystal Pistol said...

I was three and living in Germany when Jaws came out.

My mother did not speak much English. She took me and my best friend to see it on the grounds that, "It was a nice little movie about sharks in the ocean."

All my nightmares as an adult include sharks threatening to devour those I love. No joke.

I'm jealous you're on vacation while I am scrubbing toilets and cooking grocery store salmon for dinner. Poo.

Mamma has spoken said...

I would have touched the manatee, laws be damned! Actually, I've fed the maatees in the Keys. They like to visit the boat dock to drink fresh water from the hoses.

Sarah said...

Wow-what an experience! I don't even know what exactly a manatee is so you are one step ahead of me! I visited earlier to say thanks for visiting, and spent ages reading your great stories. I shall be back!
I really don't like swimming in the sea as I don't trust it-it is so big, and you can't see what is all around you. If I lived somewhere hot I would be even more scared. The one nice experience of it I have had was in Spain in a kind of lagoon. It was up to neck depth, but really clear and still-and warm. I saw a beautiful sea horse which was magnified and surrounded in rainbow colours as an effect of the water. Lovely!

Camille said...

I heard from Dolly Gee today - something about the cops having to be called last night and Liza Bean will be fine once bail is posted.

And I just noticed - 1,000 followers! Whoot! Congratulations Pearl.

The Elephant's Child said...

What a magical experience. But I have to ask 'what would the furry fiends have made of it?'

klahanie said...

Is it true that you Americans call 'Jelly Fish', 'Jello Fish' :)

Julianna said...

First, Manatees are awesome. So peaceful, slow and magestic in their own way.

(And don't tell, but I've touched one. :)

And second, I think...

"You're gonna need a bigger boat."


Sioux said...

Did you know that although manatees usually move at such a slow speed it's excruciatingly painful, they are capable of moving with lightning-fast speed when they need to.

What a magical moment!

As an adult, I sat through the "Shamu Show" three times, hoping they would pick me to come down and touch the killer whale. Darn it! Each time they picked some kid instead of me.

Susan Gourley said...

Shark week always seems to be on the week I go to the beach.

The Accidental Somebody said...

This post had me *singing* the theme to Jaws, until you got to the manatee. Then I heard a moo, as the manatee is also known as a sea cow. I think. Very cool animals!

Kate Mohler said...

I like this one. Love anything in water. Understand brothers.

The Jules said...

Lovely post.

How much more terrifying would Jaws have been if the protagonist has been a killer manatee instead of a shark though?

I actually fell off the back of the sofa I was lying on when the head popped out of the sunken boat in the original film when I was a kid. Still makes me jump.

Tempo said...

So now there's another thing you do know about... We have them here but by a different name (probably a bit different) calm, quiet creatures that dont seem all that scared of people. For such a peaceful air breathing vegetarian I wonder how they survive in the waters with sharks..

Timothy Bowen said...

Great post! I'm fond of fishies myself. :)

That Janie Girl said...

How freakin' cool is that?

Leslie said...

I have to turn my brain off when I'm in the ocean. That's all there is to it.

the walking man said...

I find it kind of hard to blame a shark for being a shark, after all you were frolicking in it's turf. Hollywood has you all messed up sharks only go looking for food and you would qualify for an after dinner toothpick...maybe.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Stupid shark movies have me so paranoid in water. Heck, they had me afraid of a deep swimming pool at one point.

Pat said...

'There are so many things I know nothing about.'
You and me both. I had to google manatee. Not the prettiest of fishes:)

Almost Precious said...

Thank God the little fishies were alive and swimming. It's something else when we have our Red Tides and the smell is so bad everyone stays at least 5 miles away from those sugary white, sandy beaches.

R. Jacob said...

how did I miss this?
the gulf and atlantic are very different. but we have manatees too.