As I walked into the jewelry store, the associate asked me, “what did you do to your ring this time?”
“I punched a shark. I think I damaged the prongs.”
Another patron looked at me quizzically and asked, “why did you hit your vacuum cleaner?”
I shook my head and said, “a real shark, in the ocean.”
This got their attention. In 2015, the number of shark sightings seemed to be higher than normal. Warm waters and dry weather made the creatures brave enough for shoreline visits. Even with the news, people at Myrtle Beach continued to fill the shallow surf, enjoying the warm salt water. I waded out to waist deep and stood with my friend Joci and her 5 year old son. Joci remarked that she needed to take her sunglasses to shore. Jake and I waited a few moments, then decided to go and finish a sand castle. I turned south and caught my breath, stumbled and shoved Jake toward the shore when I saw the two rows of teeth rise out of the water. It was heading toward us. I could hear Joci screaming, “Shark! Get Jake!” In that moment, I grabbed Jake with my right hand, shoved him toward the shore, turned toward the shark and started punching the water with my left fist. I made contact with something near my left leg while half-walking-half- swimming backward toward the shore. Something scraped my ankle and then it was gone. We tripped in the waves and then were on the sand. Commotion, confusion and words of a lifeguard, “don’t panic, it was only a sand shark.” I tilted my head at him and asked, “an 8 foot sand shark with grayish white rust-spotted mouth and two rows of teeth?! Hardly.” He looked at me and tried to clear the surf of swimmers.
We packed up and headed inside. I was done with swimming in the ocean where we are just visitors. I looked at my trembling hands and realized that I was wearing my engagement ring and wedding band as I rarely remove them. “I must have looked like a fishing lure with the stone sparkling under water! That was dumb of me!”
We wiped the scratch on Jake’s knee and didn’t say the word “shark” around him. A few weeks later, he went for a checkup and the pediatrician asked, “have you had a good summer buddy?” Jake replied, “yeah, I got bitten by a shark.” The doctor chuckled, but when he saw Joci’s face, he checked the healed scratched and reported that all was well.
My ring was repaired then and again in March when I caught it on a goat’s horn. Maybe I should find a non-sentimental ring to wear!
This year, I went back to the beach for a few days and ventured into the warm Carolina coastal waters. Yet, I never relaxed as I fought heavy currents, watched for dorsal fins and rubbed sand on jellyfish stings.