TALES FROM THE CARIBBEAN

By the time their little group had arrived at the Captain’s boat shack — Dave the Shark Boy and his dad, along with Brother Lamb the monk and Barrack the rooster — Jessie’s welcome home party was already in progress. Two gourmet chefs from Amsterdam quickly cut Dave’s big lobster into bite-sized chunks and prepared them in a stir-fry with fresh coconut and tropical fruits. The fish boil was ready too, and everybody ate his or her fill. As the sun dipped below the horizon, the tree frogs began singing, Barrack roosted in his favorite mahogany tree, and Brother Lamb’s eyelids slowly drifted shut, until he too fell fast asleep, sitting on the ground and leaning against the trunk of Barrack’s tree.

 

The fiddle players and squeezeboxes started playing again and Jessie danced a jig while he sang Turkey in the Straw. “Oh, I went out to milk and didn’t know how, milked a goat instead of the cow; a monkey sittin’ on a pile of straw, winkin’ his eye at his mother-in-law. Oh, turkey in the straw, turkey in the hay, devil’s hidin’ in the haystack waiting for his prey….”

After Jessie finished dancing and took a bow, the Captain called a storytelling circle. They sat on the ground, elbow to elbow, with a lighted lantern in the center of the circle. It’s customary for the youngest person to begin the storytelling so they called on Dave the Shark Boy, and although he normally told a fish story, he hesitated.

“Boy, tell us a story,” Jessie said, adding his voice to the others.

“Nobody would believe this one,” Dave protested.

“Go on, son,” said the captain one more time, “Don’t be shy.”

During that brief moment of silence, a waiter volunteered a story instead:

“During the early 60s,” he said, “in my college days at Berkeley, the CIA was experimenting with LSD, lysergic acid. It was all the rage back then and some of us hippie types used it frequently. One time, a friend was visiting from Humboldt County in northern California, and he brought some Radical Red Reefer with him. After a night of partaking in LSD, California wine, and pot smoking, we transformed into a pack of high coyotes. We had a goldfish bowl in our dorm, and I started staring at one goldfish in particular because it looked like Marilyn Monroe with bright red lipstick. After a while, a weird obsession overtook me, so I caught it, kissed it, and ate it.

“Get out of here, that’s the biggest lie I ever heard,” said Big Jessie.

“Wait a minute Jessie, how did it taste?” asked Dan.

“Well, I don’t recall how it tasted, but it smelled fishy,” said the waiter.

The guys roared with laughter but the women booed.

But then Jessie turned to Dave once again and demanded, “Come on Shark Boy, tell us your story now.”

“Nope, you wouldn’t believe me,” said Dave.

But everybody kept on begging Shark Boy to tell his story and so, at last, he reluctantly gave in. It was a tale about Santana, the old man who had ended up building a shack on the little island of Lovango Cay, where he spent the latter years of his life raising goats to make cheese.

“The West Indians frequently tell a story,” he said, “about a monster shark that lives in the Puerto Rican Trough but sometimes hunts around here. When he was a young boy, old Santana was standing on a cliff overlooking superstition Bay. He was watching his dad and granddad in their 30-foot fishing boat. Suddenly a monster shark appeared that was almost twice the size of their boat. The shark’s dorsal fin stood out of the water so high that it was taller than most men. It dove deep and came up under their wooden boat, capsized it, and splintered it with one slap of its gargantuan sized tail. The monster kept circling around and eventually swallowed his father and grandfather in one big bite.”

“Santana took up goat herding after that, and never again ventured out on the ocean. Nobody believed him when he told them what happened, but many other fishermen have mysteriously gone missing since that incident, and there are plenty of rumors insisting that Santana was telling the truth.”

“When I learned to use a computer, I googled sharks and found one called a Megalodon (Carcharodon megalodon) or “big-toothed” shark, that existed during the Miocene-Pleistocene period. Archeologists recently discovered a fossilized tooth from one of these sharks that measured 7¼ inches at its base; they estimated the shark that tooth came from must have been 60 to 70 feet in length, and must have weighed 77 tons. That would have been big enough to swallow a hippopotamus. Modern scientists believe Megalodon became extinct 2 million years ago, but some of the local fishermen aren’t so sure. There are too many eyewitness accounts of what looked like an unbelievably huge shark, and too many fishermen who have mysteriously gone missing. Could one of these things still exist? After what I saw the other night, I’m beginning to wonder too.”

“Bullfrogs,” declared Jessie, “the fishermen around here drink too much rum and smoke too much loco weed. They imagine all sorts of ghosts, spooks, spirits, and monsters.”

“Santana neither drank alcohol nor smoked weed,” Dave answered, “and he was a man of few words, but when he spoke it was the truth. He was an honest man in every way!”

He sighed and shook his head, “See Pop, I told you nobody would believe me.”

“So exactly what did you see the other night,” the Captain calmly asked.

Dave said, “I was on the other side of Lovango Cay fishing for snappers, but they weren’t biting. I caught a large jack on a squid, switched to a circle hook, and let the jack run deep. All of a sudden, a shark hit the jack. At first he ran towards the trench, so I started the outboard, put it in gear, locked the pole in a holder, and tried to turn him around with the motor. The shark started to turn, but then the line suddenly went slack. I thought he had gotten off the hook, and was reeling in my line, when all of a sudden he exploded out of the water and nearly capsized the dinghy. The motor was running and was in gear, which saved my life, because if I hadn’t been moving, it would’ve hit the bottom of the dinghy and capsized it. He came so close that the prop cut a big chunk out of his dorsal fin.”

“When he came out of the water, he was on his side with his mouth open and I’ve never seen a mouth that big or any dorsal and pectoral fins that long. And that’s not even mentioning his teeth. They were giant, at least three times the size of the Great White Sharks’ teeth. It was 11 feet in length, but it looked nothing like a Great White; it was an ugly thing. Could it have been a juvenile Megolodon? Its back was black and it had a gray belly.”

“The one thing I know for sure is that it definitely tried to get me. After the strike at my boat and the near miss, it towed me so fast, that we had made it all the way to Superstition Bay by the time the sun came up. I was making slow progress towards the beach when seismic activity began deep down in the earth. The volcano belched and a mini-tsunami hit the beach. When dark bubbles of foul smelling hydrogen sulfide began rising to the surface, they must have spooked the shark. The drag on my reel was already on its highest setting, but now the reel started smoking, and when it came to the end of the line, the fish broke the line and got away.”

That’s when I noticed Barrack running towards the beach with the monk close behind him. Barrack recognized me and flew out and landed on the dinghy’s motor while the monk waded out as far as he could in the water, and stood there begging for help. You know the rest of the story.”

Big Jessie shook his head with dismay. “Boy, I told you not to show those man-eaters any mercy; if you don’t kill them on the spot, sooner or later, one of them is going to transform you into shark shit.” To be continued.

The Waynedale News Staff

The Waynedale News Staff

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