Animal Behavior...

Animal Behavior...

This is a story about more sharks.

There I was. Enjoying the beach. Crystal clear waters. And then, a shadow... And another shadow.

The water was filled with sharks.

Which was pretty neat. I'd been coming to this beach for over twenty years and in that time I'd only seen one shark.

But this trip I'd lost count.

One day, I'm reading a book in a beach chair, a heron perched in the sand beside me, when I see a portly man in a floppy brimmed hat, holding a cell phone, dash to a stop at the water's edge before me.

I glance up from the page and see the guy is excited. He's moving back and forth laterally, trying to hold out a cell phone and not drop his insulated water bottle in the surf. I notice that the roles on the back of his head are sunburned.

Then I look out toward the water. I see not one shark, but two. The sharks swim at each other, for a moment I think, now it's going to get exciting, but just like all the other times that week I'd seen sharks swim at each other, they play chicken, veering away from each other at the last minute and continuing on their way.

While I'm watching the sharks, I fail to notice the man has started walking into the water. When he enters my vision, I see he is several feet into the ocean. It is like a tractor beam is pulling him toward the sharks.

I briefly think about a mouse infected with toxoplasmosis, walking toward the fuzzy cat of its doom, and then I refocus on the animal behavior before me. One of the sharks has swum on, paralleling the shore. The human doesn't seem to notice that one and instead is walking at the remaining shark.

The remaining shark, probably about four feet in length, for a second seems like it is going to also parallel the shore, when it changes course and begins to swim directly at the man.

This is way better than my book!

I stand up.

The shark swims at the man. The man realizes it's coming for him and begins a graceless retreat. He has not trained to exit the ocean by running backwards in three feet of water, carrying his cell phone and his giant water bottle.

I don't want to see the guy die, but just a nibble?

And the man splashes out of the water, tripping up the surf line. The shark cuts sideways and continues to patrol.

I am the only person who has seen this man and this shark do this weird dance? I am stunned. Did that really just happen?

Then a few of my family trickle out to me, and I watch, a few minutes later, the man walk back into the sea, toward another shark, his arms flung wide like he's a myrter walking into the flames.

Again, the shark swims at him, and the man, still not very good at retreating, manages to get out of the water.

Again, my family doesn't see the guy do this.

But, he continues to do this again and again throughout the afternoon. Finally, my family sees the guy, arms cast wide, trying to wade into his death, only to scramble backwards when his nerves can no longer stand it.

And I think, What weird animal behavior.

Then I think, Actually, what weird human behavior.