I grew up knowing that my Grandpa Henry was once bitten by a shark. He lived on Coeur D’Alene Lake in Idaho and when I’d visit him, he would dramatically expose his wounded leg and tell me the story of the time he beat off a shark with his bare hands. The scar is located on his lower calf. It’s gruesome and skin-graphed and I can practically see the bone if I squint. There is no better way of convincing your grandson that you are, in fact, some sort of Grecian God then by terrorizing him with the story of a clobbering fight with a swimming monster who has a million teeth and yellow-burning eyes the shapes of kites.
I always imagined the shark staring at my grandpa’s leg as I do when I look at a hot sauce-covered buffalo wing. Saliva dripping from the corners of my mouth. Although, sharks don’t really have saliva, do they? I mean, if they did, it would float rather than drip, right, because of buoyancy force. I’m assuming that saliva has less volume density than water, like oil. Yeah…saliva floating from a shark’s mouth as it stared at my grandpa’s leg. That sounds about right. I hope that once he took a bite, that it did indeed satisfy his need for feed, and that the lack of hot sauce didn’t totally disappoint him.
Grandpa enjoyed leaving out the details of the epic battle and made me guess what happened next. He’d say things like “I saw him and he saw me and then…” “WHAT? What happened” I’d reply in anguish. I was such a sucker for stories. He would reply saying with a calm voice, “Well, you know what happened next…“ He ATE your leg!” I would guess in a shout. “Well, that sounds about right” He’d reply. We would go on like this, my imagination going wild until the story became somewhat of a legend in my head. A story perfectly acquainted with warm feelings of protection from my dear old grandpa Henry.
As I grew older, I went to visit my dear Grandpa Henry. He’s older now and moving slower. His breathing is stagnant and sometimes he struggles when he ties his shoes. I see him in his shorts, with his mighty scar exposed. I say enthusiastically, “Shark bite!” He leans down and rubs the wound saying with a laugh “It is just a staph infection from when my Achilles tendon was ripped. I made it up all along.” I sat there confused. “Wait…what?”
The shark from my imagination swam away into the dark waters, the sun shining brightly in its path, saliva floating to the surface.