Thursday, June 10, 2010
I just finished reading a book by one of my favorite authors, the Scottish eminence Alexander McCall Smith's Unbearable Lightness of Scones (latest of the 44 Scotland Street series). Smith described, in one chapter, a fanciful encounter between one of the characters, Matthew, while bathing, ever so briefly, in the warm ocean waters off Perth, Australia during his honeymoon. Seems he dipped his toe in a little too far, it's well after sundown, and everyone in the world except him, it seems, has seen Steven Spielberg's Jaws epic, and knows what happens next.
Except it doesn't. Despite being repeatedly forewarned by cafe waittresses and the like that Great White Sharks lurk in these here waters, Matthew just can't wait to get his feet wet. And so, despite protests from his about to be (correctly, she thinks) widowed bride, Matthew ventures into said seas, gets immediately knocked off his feet by a rogue rip tide (about which he has also been warned) and swept out to sea. And all of those love metaphors are for naught.
So much for Matthew, about to be come Shark fodder. And sure enough, as he sees the coastline fade into hopeless oblivion, a fin appears, sweeping past, taking a dreadful pause, and turning back. Matthew, most surely, is done for.
Because as the white moonstruck beast cuts through the water towards him, it rises and slows just enough to reveal it's blunt Asian snout (sharks don't have snouts) and a cuddly dolphin nudges itself alongside, and smoothly escorts our fainting hero to safety.
As soon as Matthew is back on his feet, he tells a tall tale and is immediately scoffed upon (at first by the local gendarmerie) for his troubles, and he wisely clams up his lobster trap and speaks of the incident no more.
Thing is, I had my own dolphin moment once, myself, in very similar circumstances. Except I was six years old (coincidentally the same age as another character in this series), and was in the process of being swept out to sea by another rip tide in the then-pristine Gulf of Mexico, circa 1952. I too had been warned about sharks. But I already was one by that time, at least in terms of swimming ability.
For a brief bit of background, my father, a New York AT&T executive statistician, had come down with pneumonia, coincidental to working in an office full of smokers (he was a non-smoker, himself) and the company had sent the family to Florida for him to recover, before ordering him back to Cancerville. It took about a year, and it was a memorable year, for me. My shark attack was the least of it, and given that mine, too, was a rescue-minded dolphin, the best as well. We also had a tidal wave that winter, but that's another story.
Point is, that dolphin could still be alive today, like myself, thanks to him (or her). Except for the small problem of this ever-expanding oil spill. I don't know what it's doing for the sharks. If there are any left.