My Pet Great White Shark

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					My Pet Great White Shark




             My Pet Great White Shark



              Author:      Nathan Bezayiff

              Address: 180 Unit B Dakota Ave.
                       Santa Cruz, CA 95060
                        (831) 426-2414

              Email: bezayiff@physics.ucsc.edu

                      Word Count: 8105




                                                 1
My Pet Great White Shark




                   My Pet Great White Shark



       The beginning of a great friendship I enjoyed with a shark

throughout my life did not begin easily. Though no man or fish ever

functioned more closely as a single spirit, the friendship almost never

happened. Caudal guarded my bedroom window while I slept. Caudal

chased us in games when we‟d pretend we were seals. However, early on,

certainly no friendship seemed possible and some unexpected

circumstances would be required to calcify the polyp and the algae into a

coral-reef friendship.



       *******************************************************



       “That one, over there. That‟s the one I want,” I decided, staring into a

ten-story tall, football-field wide aquarium. I picked the shark at Rupart‟s

Grand Aquarium in downtown Oceanopolis. “That one far away, hard to

see,” I pointed, enthusiastically. Dad promised me a pet great white shark if

King Caudal ever bucked off Tougher Martin, this occurring last month at

the sea animal rodeo championships.

       “Well it‟s about time,” Dad said, impatiently. “I was going to pick the

shark myself.” We‟d been here over an hour.




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My Pet Great White Shark


       “Stay here, Mike, I‟ll get the salesman,” Dad said, embarking across

a vast, tiled expanse under cathedral high ceilings to a tiny salesman a

hundred yards away. The large open area he walked through resembled a

mall‟s central plaza. Enormous tanks housing great sea beasts encircled

the area rather than department stores.

       After he left, my attention returned to the Great White Shark tank. I

watched the shark I wanted, as he swam in slow rhythmic cycles, surface

to floor, surface to floor. Perhaps sixty great whites swam in the tank, and

though some were bigger and others faster, none seemed to be as majestic

or mysterious as my shark. He seemed majestic in that his brilliant white

belly illuminated the water around him. He seemed mysterious in that he

never approached the glass to impress a prospective owner, as the other

sharks did. I noticed that the shark distinctively lacked grace, his changes

of direction abrupt and jolted, when they should have been smooth and

fluid. He also seemed relaxed and carefree, gliding both upwards and

downwards on a vertical elliptical trajectory, his oversized caudal fin

pumping casually and effortlessly.

       “Okay, Mike, point out the one you want,” said Dad, more relaxed

now. A teenaged Caucasian salesman with a half-purple Afro stood beside

Dad. He wore a small, gold colored earring and his standard blue uniform

partially concealed tattoos on his neck and arms. Above the pocket on his

shirt was stitched the Rupart‟s logo and his nametag said “Andre Ughart.”




                                                                               3
My Pet Great White Shark


The name alarmed me because Billy Ughart was a vicious bully to me and I

wondered if they were related.

       Anyway, I pointed out my selection to the salesman.

       “That one? Okay but there are two things you should know about

him,” the salesman cautioned. We listened. “First of all he came from a

busted illegal shark fighting ring. He‟s been abused. He hates people.

Normally we don‟t sell ex-pit sharks but sometimes we can rehabilitate

them. Our shark psychologist certified that shark a month ago, so he

shouldn‟t be a problem to anybody.”

       “So he‟s not dangerous then?” asked Dad, concerned.

       “That one? No, probably swim from starfish,” answered Andre. “He‟s

timid you see, scared. What he‟ll do is stay as far from you as possible.

He‟ll find a place to hide in your yard and that‟s where he‟ll go.”

       Dad eyed Andre suspiciously, as if dissecting a con. Andre‟s face

rebutted nonchalance, unconcerned with completing the sale.

       “Even though he was a pit shark you have no problem selling him?

Even though they‟re bred to kill, you can guarantee the safety of my son?”

       “Yes, Dude, we can, absolutely,” replied Andre, unwavering. “Look

our marine shrink is the best in the city. He‟s domesticated a dozen pit

sharks and hundreds of other animals as well. He‟s had experience with

everything from runaway blue whales to sea horses that couldn‟t dance.

He‟s the one they called, when the blue whale got loose in downtown. He‟s

the one they called when the giant squid threatened the seafloor engineers.




                                                                             4
My Pet Great White Shark


Dude, he‟s the only one the insurance company puts any trust in, and they

don‟t back nothing that carries a risk.”

       Dad appeared more inclined to accept the idea. He still eyed Andre

suspiciously, but the muscles in his face relaxed.

       “And you say he‟s done this many times before, huh?” asked Dad,

surrendering gradually.

       “Yyyessss, Dude, absolutely,” Andre said, exasperated. “We haven‟t

had a single incident. Like I said, our marine shrink is a real pro.” Andre

regarded Dad as a hypochondriac, his slight inner agitation permeating the

general atmosphere.

       “Okay,” Dad said, reassured. Though not completely convinced, he

allowed the conversation to proceed.

       “Second, no pit buzzers,” the salesman yawned, bored. “If he hears

one and he knows you‟re anywhere near, the friendship is done. In the pit,

since he couldn‟t figure out which spectator made him fight, he just figured

he‟d hate‟em all. Have you ever seen a pit buzzer before?”

       “No,” I replied. Andre went and got one.

       “Here it is,” he said. I took it from his hand. “Okay, so don‟t ever let

him near that. An employee sounded one near him as a joke. The shark

freaked out, went crazy. He swam erratically in circles around the tank‟s

perimeter. Then he started leaping out of the water, you know, as if he

could jump out of the tank. Finally, a diver went in and shot him with




                                                                                  5
My Pet Great White Shark


tranquilizers. Now whenever a human goes in the tank, he hugs the

opposite wall.”

       I turned it over several times. The silver colored inch thick compact

disk felt moderately heavy. A half-dollar sized black button protruded from

one side, a speaker comprising the other. The black button felt firm when I

pushed it. Nothing happened due to a keyhole on the buzzer the salesman

wouldn‟t unlock.

       “Okay, Mike, are you sure want him? You sure you don‟t want a fresh

new pup, wag his fin right from the start?” asked Dad, as I returned the

buzzer to Andre. Then I caught my shark staring at me. Next he rocketed

behind a dense cloud of other sharks.

       “Yes! Definitely, I want him for sure!” I said, eagerly. I moved around

to see him better, glimpses of his body flashing between the sharks he hid

behind.

       “You sure you want him? You really sure? He‟s had a hard time with

people, may not let you pet him for awhile,” counseled Dad again, warning.

       “Yes, Dad, I want him, I‟m sure,” I said, ignoring Dad. The pack of

sharks my shark hid behind dispersed, and he zipped across the aquarium

and hid behind a new group.

       “Okay, we‟ll take it,” Dad told Andre, then turning to me. “Mike, stay

here for a minute. I have to go to the bathroom.”

       Dad headed across the plaza to the restrooms on the other side. As

before, movie screen sized tanks filled with large swimming beasts




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My Pet Great White Shark


surrounded the plaza, the beast‟s large and graceful bodies inspiring awe

and trepidation as they moved fluidly and casually.”

       As Andre began to leave an unexplored detail flashed through my

head. Like an item on a list almost forgotten, I felt relieved I remembered.

Then I felt hesitant and unsure to pursue but convinced myself no problem

would result. Plus I couldn‟t see how getting a shark could be used against

me. What would he say about my coming here?

       “Excuse me sir? Do you know Billy, from Dolphin Elementary?”

       Andre turned around, calm and uninterested.

       “Sure, he‟s my brother. You know him?”

       Suddenly I felt alert and full of adrenaline, as if Billy himself asked

me to reply.

       “Well, uh…yeah. He‟s uh…kind of a bully to me,” I stammered,

straining each word. I couldn‟t look at Andre as I replied, half prepared to

absorb the flurry of insults customary from the other Ughart.

       Andre guessed, “You the kid whose mom came over to get Billy in

trouble?” Mom confronted Billy‟s mom about the situation last year, their

conversation resulting in zero action taken by Billy‟s mom to discipline her

son.

       “Yes, that was me,” I admitted, embarrassed. All the kids at school

made fun of me, that I needed my mom to defend me.




                                                                                 7
My Pet Great White Shark


       “Well, Kid, I know Billy‟s a jerk and he‟s kind of a problem but we all

got to learn to defend ourselves in life. No one‟s going to fight your battles

for you. We all got to learn to fight „em ourself.”

       “Right,” I agreed, helplessly, looking at the floor. I thought of the girl

who lost her crush on me when Billy told her I wet the bed. I thought of the

times Billy cornered me in the bathroom, socking me in the stomach. Billy

seemed to me an unsurmountable problem. I dreaded nine more years of

public school with him.

       “Take care, Kid, have a nice day,” Andre said, leaving. Just as he left

Dad returned, missing our conversation about Billy, thank goodness.



       **************************************************



       The city of Oceanopolis was founded by the billionaire John D.

Morganstein. He made his fortune from human amphibious technology and

solid laser materials. Thanks to John D. Morganstein, one could buy, over

the counter, things like gills, pressure stabilizers and instant salinity

adjusters. Also, thanks to John D. Morganstein, entire buildings and other

structures, normally made of concrete and steel, could now be built out of

solid lasers.

       A basic philosophical question he asked late in life was, “Shouldn‟t

land, rather than water, cover the area where the Earth‟s best weather is?

Why should Hawaii be so small and so much great weather wasted on




                                                                                 8
My Pet Great White Shark


surrounding ocean?” He dreamed of a thin, man-made continent that

stretched from Hawaii to Japan. The feasibility was a half submerged city

resting on artificial filling atop the underwater Mid-Pacific Mountain range.

John D. Morganstein oversaw the initial construction of the city, the

installation of downtown‟s first skyscrapers and laying out of the sidewalk

system. John D. Morganstein based the city‟s transportation system on

submarines until roads could be filled in. Sadly, John D. Morganstein died

before most of the city could be terrestrialized. After his death the citizens

adapted to and enjoyed the city as it was and decided to leave

Oceanonopolis largely unfilled of land.

       Oceanopolis is similar to most terrestrial cities, except for a few

differences. Physically, it is about the size of Southern California, vertically

centered at sea level, and half a million people live there. There is a

downtown with skyscrapers, suburbs a little farther out. The country where

I lived was farther out still. Like many cities, their environment determines

the industry. Aquatic engineering and marine biological resources are their

biggest employers. Like many cities, their culture and entertainment center

on their natural habitat. Sea animal rodeos are the most popular sports.

The underwater volcano is the most popular ballet.

       However, differing from terrestrial cities, instead of pure asphalt

roads, they have pure water expressways, many meters deep. Most people

drive cars to work. We drive submarines and boats. Also, their buildings

are columnar rather than planar. In your house, the living room is next to




                                                                                 9
My Pet Great White Shark


the dining room, next to the hallway, etc. In my house, the living room is on

top of the dining room, on top of the kitchen, etc. The lower half of my

house, the part containing our bedrooms, is always submerged. The

communal rooms are always above the surface. This allows citizens to

enjoy the awesome weather above the ocean and the beautiful shallow

underwater below it. Finally, above the water, buildings are totally

separated by water instead of land. Yards, parks, and alleys are filled with

fish, algae, and coral rather than trees, bushes, and lawn.



       *****************************************************



       Everything the salesman and my father said turned out to be correct.

Has there ever been a nine year old who appreciated his parent‟s sound

advice when it contradicted some desire? Surely not me. I saw something

in that tank that impressed me. I saw something there that captured my

imagination. For some reason a voice in my head absolutely decided on

this shark, everyone else quickly comprehending the problems of my

decision but me.

       I named him Prince Caudal after King Caudal, my hero rodeo shark.

Closer now his dorsal surface was solid blue-grey with a bronzy gloss that

transitioned abruptly to a super white belly. The shark had small, irregular

dark spots posterior to his most caudal slits, and a black oval blotch in the

axil of his pectoral fin. The shark owned black, hollow eyes and his caudal




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My Pet Great White Shark


fin seemed oversized for him. Up by his head existed a series of long faded

scars, remnants perhaps, of some horrific accident in the past.



         ******************************************************



         “Here, Caudal, come play with me!” I yelled, the first time I tried to

pet him. The water rushed through my gills as I cannonballed into the yard.

“Here, Caudal! Here, Caudal! Come and play with me!”

         When the turbulence ceased and the yellow-tailed purple fish

regained casualness, I saw Caudal race away from me. When I called out to

play with him again, he disappeared into a canyon at the back of our three

acres.

         “Wait! Caudal! Wait! Stop! Come back and play with me!” I yelled,

watching him go. The canyon walls actually rose thirty feet above the sea

floor and were covered with coral my parents collected.

         I swam to the top of the canyon wall. Grassy reticula leaves swirled

continuously in front of the canyon walls. Cauliflower coral decorated the

top of them. Peering into the canyon below, I saw Caudal swimming

nervously. He changed direction abruptly and constantly, more so now

than in the tank.

         “Here, Caudal, Cadual, Caudal! Here, Caudal, Caudal! Let‟s play

Atlantis together!”




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My Pet Great White Shark


       Then I descended into the canyon. As soon as Caudal saw me, he

bolted upwards in my direction. Instantly elated, I thought I would pet him

this time. A flood of fantasies rushed to my head. We‟d leap Hi-Oh style in

the sunset. We‟d combat orcas and giant octopus in underwater jungles.

He‟d carry my princess and me to our castle in some secret cave, reserved

only for us when I grew old enough for love.

       The fantasies desisted abruptly when Caudal flew past me, up and

over the canyon wall.

       “Wait! Caudal! Stop! Wait! I want to pet you!” Frustrated and upset, I

clamored clumsily, changing my direction. I tried harnessing leverage from

the reef wall next to me but then a current knocked me into a collection of

sea urchins. The sharp and thin sea urchin spikes cut and scratched my

arms, as if someone pushed me into a blackberry bush.

       “Dang it, Caudal! Why don‟t you let me pet you!” I exclaimed. Small

red pockets of blood began seeping through my scratched up arms,

numerous cuts crisscrossing them and staining my clothes.

       Next I followed Caudal into a cave on our property. The cave

extended to my left for forty yards, before narrowing into a dead-end. I

don‟t think Caudal knew the cave dead-ended, being new to the yard and

all, but I did! Thus I happily swam into the cave after him, hoping to pet him

at last.

       “Caudal, Boy, it‟s okay! It‟s okay boy. It‟s me.”




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My Pet Great White Shark


         The shark swam wild with terror in all directions, bouncing off the

walls. He hunched his back and pointed his pectoral fins downward while

his big caudal fin pumped violently.

         “It‟s okay, Boy, it‟s okay,” I said, respectfully. “I‟m not gonna‟ hurt

you. I‟m your friend.” I slowed my advance towards him, understanding he

could be very dangerous.

         “It‟s okay, Boy, it‟s okay. Just wanna‟ play boy. Just wanna‟ play.”

He seemed to inspect every crack and crevice, darting quickly and

abruptly. Then he bared his large triangular teeth at me and my body froze

in fear.

         “No, no, Caudal, please don‟t. No, no, Caudal, don‟t…do anything…”

         Then his body rotated and wobbled, his lesser fins stabilizing him

against the currents. Dense clouds of bubbles emanated from his gills,

puffing faster and thicker like smoke from a revving locomotive.

         “No, no, Caudal, please don‟t do it! Please don‟t do it, Caudal, I‟m

your friend.”

         His lower jaw dazzled brilliantly in my headlamp, the resplendent

whiteness of daytime replaced with a fuzzy, yellow hue. The light grey of

his head‟s dorsal side absorbed the dark yellow of the wall behind him,

smooth and continuous in contrast to the rough features of the jagged

rocks.

         “No, no, Caudal, please don‟t do it! Please don‟t kill me, Caudal, jus‟

wanna‟ play!”




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My Pet Great White Shark


       Then he charged and I screamed. He rolled back his eyes and

opened his mouth. I didn‟t think. I didn‟t move. I stood there absolutely

paralyzed, like a sea anemone on a rock. I can still see that giant

slaughterhouse racing towards me, that wide-open mouth getting larger

and larger, the dark recesses of his mouth morphing into its own terrifying

cave. I remember the rows of teeth like Indian arrowheads covering his

jaws. I thought I could see splotches of old prey on the inside of his mouth,

terrified my stain would come next. I remember how my headlamp outlined

his countenance with a yellow border, creating the image of a blazing

demon rushing at me.

       Then abruptly, he swam up and over me, leaving me staring at the

dead-ended cave wall. My speeding heartbeat throbbed through my body

and loudly in my ears.



       ***********************************************************




       So this was how it was. Whenever I jumped in the backyard to try

and play with Caudal, he always swam away from me. Whenever I swam

after him, he evaded me. Whenever I cornered and begged him to let me pet

him, he became defensive. Whenever I just sat and stared at him from my

room, he just showed me his tail.




                                                                            14
My Pet Great White Shark


       I used to watch him from my bedroom window, my head on the

windowsill, as if rain cancelled an outdoor adventure. I used to stare at him

from my bed, thinking how he swam more naturally without me in the yard.

I used to sleep with my head towards the yard watching him swim with the

same energy he used to flee from me. I used to stomp up the steps to my

house after school, pouting because I couldn‟t play with him.



       *********************************************************



       Finally, several weeks later I complained to Mom. I sat next to her in

her limu garden, watching her weed some aggressive and fast growing

kappa. The kappa encroached upon but did not dominate the wavy, golden

limu lipoa. The kappa clumps formed ugly red and green puddles

interspersed among the lipoa and would soon overrun the garden if left

unattended.

       “You have to be patient, Michael, you have to give him time,” said

Mom, sympathetically. “He‟s around new people in a new place. He doesn‟t

yet know me or you or anything in the yard. He doesn‟t know where he is or

what he should do. He doesn‟t even understand yet how much you want to

play with him.”

       Mom already filled two trash bags of the thick, fleshy kappa. She

opened a third and shoved a yellow-orange mat of the algae into it.




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My Pet Great White Shark


       “But, Mom, first time I saw Joey and Sara, we played Atlantis

together! I was a warrior fish and Sara was a mermaid. We didn‟t know

each other then and we had a good time. Why can‟t Caudal be like that?

Why can‟t Caudal go out and have adventures and play with me like Joey

and Sara did?”

        “Because, Michael, he was abused,” Mom explained, tender

heartedly. “That means people hurt him, were mean to him. Would you like

it if people threw you in a pit and made you beat up Joey and Sara? Would

you like it if people cheered and screamed while bigger people beat up on

you and hurt you?”

       I knew the answer but hesitated to concede. Searching in vain for a

rebuttal, I frowned, “No.”

       “And Caudal didn‟t like it either; he blames people for it,” reinforced

Mom, incontrovertibly. “So far we‟re the first people who‟ve been nice to

him. Because everyone else he‟s known has been mean to him, he‟s not

ready to trust humans yet.”

       Then she paused for a second, taking a breath. She stood up with

her hands on her hips, surveying in satisfaction, the visual improvement of

the garden.

       “I want a new shark. I want to take him back!” I decided, gloomily. I

sat in the sand, handling some seaweed.

       “No, Michael. We can‟t take him back now. He‟s part of our family.

We‟re his home now.”




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My Pet Great White Shark


       “But, Mom! I want him to play with me! I hate this!” I pouted,

unyieldingly. “Joey‟s octopus sleeps in his bed. Peter‟s hammerhead does

tricks. All my shark does is swim in the yard and won‟t even chase my

remote-control sea lion. Can you believe that, Mom? He won‟t even chase

that stupid toy!”

       “He will, Mike, he will. You just have to give him more time. Old

wounds and his distrust of humans take time to heal. There‟s a healing

process that has to happen for him Michael, and you have to let him heal

on his own time.”

       Though Mom‟s soothing voice instilled hope that Caudal would

eventually be my friend, I hated that he did not play with me now. Peter‟s

shark wasn‟t traumatized. Joey‟s octopus didn‟t need an episode of

healing. Why was I so blessed to receive a screwed up shark that wouldn‟t

even chase my sea lion toy?

       “But, Mom, why do we have to keep him? Why can‟t we make

another shark part of our family?” Mom handed me a bag of freshly picked

lipoa, my favorite in sandwiches. “If he‟s not happy here why not trade him

for a shark that will be? What‟s the point of all this?”

       Mom only nodded and stood there, the collective golden hue of the

garden enhanced without the aesthetically contaminating kappa. Patches

previously occupied by the ugly red algae now formed a complimentary

brown, subtle background. The wavy lipoa danced more gracefully in the

gentle undercurrents upon liberation from the suffocating and entangling




                                                                             17
My Pet Great White Shark


kappa. The leafy lipoa plants appeared healthier and livelier, as if removing

the kappa released stolen nutrients the red algae pirated and hid.

       “Because, Mikey, you have to learn,” she began, then collected.

“Because you have to learn that there are some people in the world, that if

you‟re patient with them, will come out to play with you.”



       ************************************************

       Then one day I had it. Something snapped. I decided to show him

what a good friend I was and reveal to him his absurd behavior. A laser

leash, my parents bought me, made this action possible. “Here give this a

try,” Mom said smiling, as I clasped the „flashlight” looking object in my

hand. Instantly I felt empowered, and headed to the backyard with

authority.

       “All right, Caudal, now you listen!” I yelled, his Caudal fin against the

back of the cave wall. “Now you listen! I‟m your friend and I want to play

with you. I‟m your owner and I want to pet you. Nobody‟s going to do

anything to hurt you. Nobody‟s going to do anything to make you fight. I

want you to know that you‟re our pet and we want you to be a part of our

family.”

       The shark paraded his usual semantics, attempting to scare me off.

However, his endless fleeing fled my fear of him as well, and I regarded this

repetitive display as a boring nuisance.




                                                                              18
My Pet Great White Shark


        “Not gonna‟ work, Caudal. You might as well give up,” I said, sternly.

“I think you‟re full of it and that all you‟ll do is hide.”

        Puzzled, the shark ceased his antics momentarily, unsure if he

believed me. Deciding I lied, he assumed a charge ready position, but by

shaking my head, I denied him the fear he sought.

        “Not gonna‟ work, Caudal, and I meant it. Told you I‟m going to pet

you and I wasn‟t lying. You can come here voluntarily, or I can lasso you

with the laser. It‟s your choice, Caudal, only you can decide.”

        Understanding my determination, the shark could not seriously

maintain his torpedo pose. Though he sat there with barred teeth, he knew

that I knew he bluffed. Thus he began swimming nervously and

contemplative, his eyes settling on the large space between the ceiling and

I.

        “Oh no you don‟t, Caudal, you‟re not escaping me this time!” Sheriff

to outlaw, “You‟re not even going to get a chance at that! I‟m going to pet

you!”

        Then suddenly he aimed his body on incline, revealing his entire,

sodium lamp colored belly. One second he‟s swimming randomly and

chaotically, the next he‟s a ready torpedo, aimed above me. His yellow

underside glowed like a fuzzy lamp, bright and commanding against the

shadowy cave wall. He cocked his caudal fin far to the left, contorting his

body into a “J”. Then in a huff he bolted over me, his caudal fin swishing

rightwards in one quick, powerful sweep.




                                                                              19
My Pet Great White Shark


       “Okay, Caudal, have it your way!” I yelled, aiming the remote control

at him. Then, just as he passed over me, I shot the laser at him. The solid

beam of light bolted into his belly first, then flashed into a lasso upon

contact. The laser glowed bright white with fuzz, appearing as flexible and

tangible as a rope. The leash yanked the shark backwards as if he bounced

off a wall, then held him suspended in mid water, straining and stammering

uselessly.

       “I told you, Caudal, I was going to pet you and I meant it. I told you,

Caudal, you weren‟t swimming away this time.” Then I reeled him in slowly,

helpless as a catfish. Though he exerted mega-joules of horsepower, the

lasso absorbed and contradicted all tension applied to the leash. Thus I

stood there effortlessly as if handling a toy, the large massive fish fighting

tirelessly to escape.

       “Don‟t worry, Caudal, you needn‟t fight,” I reassured him, friendly

now. “The lasso‟s not going to hurt you. Just hold you in place. That‟s all.”

       Then finally, victory! At last, triumph! For the first time ever I stood

side by side Prince Caudal, only an arm‟s length away from touching him.

His unblemished dark yellow body almost pressed against me, the currents

from his pectoral fins swishing by me. The shark still clamored and

strained, not totally surrendered, but less now due to fatigue. He even tried

to tail slap me, but I was too close to him for that.




                                                                                  20
My Pet Great White Shark


       “There, there, Caudal. It‟s okay,” I said, tendering my voice. “I told

you I‟m not going to hurt you. Just wanna‟ play boy, play. That‟s all,

Caudal. Play.”

       Then I reached out my hand and pet him, stroking his sanderpaper-

ish skin in gentle movements. I pressed my hand against him a little harder.

Then I pet him in circles around his head.

       “There there, Caudal, see? Doesn‟t that feel good? Don‟t you see

what you‟re losing, swimming away from me all this time?”

       The shark settled down now, tired and less alarmed. He stopped

squirming and levitated tranquilly, his fins relaxed and passive. The bursts

of bubbles from his jaws slowed, approaching a more natural rhythm.

However, he did not totally trust me, a nervous eye indicating his confusion

and apprehension.

       “There there, Caudal, it‟s okay,” I nurtured. “No one‟s going to do

you any harm. Just wanna‟ play, Caudal, that‟s all. Play.”

       Then I pressed my body against him, my best effort to give him a

hug. I put my head on his forehead, and draped my left arm over his other

side. I perceived the muscles in his head loosen, his body deflexing and

trusting against my skin. The two of us hovered above the cave floor in a

state of serenity, the leash and headlamp illumination permeating the cave

like an ethereal force field.




                                                                                21
My Pet Great White Shark


       *****************************************************



       After this, slow progress occurred. Caudal often didn‟t come to me

when I called him, but stopped fleeing when I petted him. Caudal still

preferred to stay away from people, but swam more naturally in my

presence. The dreams of going across the ocean or fighting giant orcas

still required much to be desired, but that he played with me sometimes

brought happiness. In fact, he even enjoyed one game where I played seal,

jumping off a boogey board, before his jaws could grab me in violent

surprise.

       He also trusted me to swim him sometimes too. If given a choice

he‟d rather not go, but sometimes we‟d take a short stroll in the country.

Often he displayed agitation when I suggested a swim, but felt more

comfortable leaving the yard as time passed. Whenever we did swim, he

swam slowly and cautiously, always maintaining a short distance between

himself and other objects, including me.



       ******************************************************



       On a clear, bright and sunny day, from the surface a person can see

all the way to downtown Oceanopolis. Without valleys, trees, or hills,

visibility is unimpeded in the landless city. Looking, away from downtown

the entire scene is dominated by a vast ocean joining an eternal sky at




                                                                             22
My Pet Great White Shark


infinity, sporadic buildings protruding from the ocean like isolated wharf

legs. Pairs of floating sidewalks parcel up the ocean into patches like

country roads segregating farm fields. Looking towards downtown, the

buildings are dense enough to blend into a continuous island, the inner

skyscrapers crowning downtown like a volcano‟s peak. The sidewalk pairs

in outer suburbia break the ocean into blue tiles with white-blue-white

borders, modest waves breaking into the rising tower prominent within

each „tile‟.

       The sidewalk system deserves explanation. By far the easiest and

cheapest phase of Oceanopolis, Mr. Morganstein built it so he could walk

around in the great weather he loved until the land he envisioned could be

filled in. After he died and the land phase was rejected, the settlers retained

the sidewalk system for a variety of reasons. Though the settlers preferred

living in the Eden-like tropical underwater, they recognized that foreigners

would prefer an above-the-water option when visiting the city. Plus the

settlers could not wholly abandon their evolutionary roots. Humans are

designed for land, after all, and are unable to become totally aquatic.

       Each sidewalk is U-shaped with a flat bottom. They are built of solid

white laser and reside permanent in position, never drifting even

millimeters. The sidewalks never submerge, and the inside of the „U” is

always kept dry, so land lovers can walk comfortably and dryly through the

city. The laser wall heights adjust as needed, to exclude waves and swells

from the trough, forming tunnels if necessary during rain or harsh storms.




                                                                             23
My Pet Great White Shark


The sidewalks define roads on the surface of Oceanopolis, a water road

passing between the two sidewalks of any given pair.



       ******************************************************



       On such a day, I took Prince Caudal farther into the country than

we‟d ever gone before. The underwater was transparent as glass, the ocean

as calm as a lake, the rich salty underwater buttered my gills as I jumped

in. We began the morning on country water-roads by the Jenson‟s abalone

farm, spent the midday in Tokugawa‟s seaweed fields, and returned

through Olianhu‟s pearl oyster hatcheries. The ocean floor along the water-

road was smooth and flat. I saw Mr. Jenson swimming his giant octopus.

Occasionally submarines passed us by on a Sunday drive. We spent all day

playing in fields and watching marine life, leaving control of all activities

and senses to the commands of our imaginations.

       At some point we headed home. We started getting bored. I started

feeling hungry. Caudal seemed a little tired. Underwater, and still a ways

out, we turned right on some intersection onto some water-road, one of

many running through Olianhu‟s pearl hatcheries. The water road between

oyster fields formed a canyon forty feet below us. Caudal and I swam

twenty feet deep, level with the hatchery sea floors. Row after row of spat

collectors passed us like vineyards, each row a single „clothesline‟ from

which the spat collectors hung. The spat collectors, garbage sized black




                                                                                24
My Pet Great White Shark


sacks that house the pearl making oysters, swayed lazily in all directions,

oscillating with the slowly breathing ocean.

       Suddenly, Caudal began swimming cautiously, his tail alerted, slowly

sweeping East to West. I looked up and noticed another large animal,

suspended just below the sidewalk on our side of the street. The white

underside of the beast‟s jaw blended into the dirty, milky sky. Caudal and I

were too shallow to allow the animal sufficient camouflage. A bright,

glowing laser leash connected the animal to the surface. I swam upwards

intrigued, curious to identify the owner.

       As I swam closer to the sidewalk, a laser ladder appeared. The

sidewalk wall disappeared on the short stretch the owner and I occupied,

permitting access into and out of the water. I proceeded to climb up the

ladder, the refracted owner coming into view and noticed that the animal

glanced between Caudal and I. The animal had dark, hollow eyes, a copper

blue dorsal side, and a Caudal fin a little smaller than Caudal‟s. The animal

barely moved, except for his glances and floated about five yards from me,

patient in anticipation. I felt nervous, when I realized the animal was

another great white shark, but did not really become fearful, until my head

broke the water‟s surface.

       Half a head taller than me, with small beady eyes, his introductory

biceps had already formed, as he advanced through little league octopus

wrestling. A little older than me, with jet black hair combed to the left, the

owner stood on thick, tree trunk like legs as his pre-adolescent muscles




                                                                                 25
My Pet Great White Shark


bulged under his wetsuit. My heart sank, my eyes widened. My hands

clamped down on the ladder. My breathing quickened, my heart raced,

blood rushed to my face. Here stood the cause of my social stress at

school. Here stood the first transition from blissful childhood to life‟s harsh

reality. Here stood alone with me in the country the problem no longer

confined to the schoolyard, only the ocean and sky to call on for the help I

would soon so desperately need.

       “Hello, Mikey. Nice day to be out swimming your shark,” said Billy,

grinning. His tiny eyes impaled me on a pole of helpless fear.

       “What ya‟ doin‟ out here, Billy, swimmin‟ your shark?” I looked down

at the water, swearing never to be curious again.

       “Not really, Mikey, actually…I was out lookin‟ for you.”

       “I see,” I muttered weakly. I noticed his shark vibrated slowly now,

like a hibernated snake next to a heater.

       “Yeah, Mikey, you might say I‟ve been out looking for you,” said

Billy, quietly intimidating. “You see I knew you had a shark. My brother said

you got the shark with the scars all over its head at Rupart‟s. Do you know

that your shark is special, Mikey? Do you know why your shark is special?”

       “No,” I answered, not really caring for the answer. I felt embryonic

tears hot in my face, ready for birth into rivers on my cheeks.

       “Because he used to be a killer, Mikey! He used to be number one in

the pup shark fighting rings! My brother said he ripped apart the pups of

tigers, hammerheads, even orcas. Can you believe that, Mikey, orcas? Do




                                                                              26
My Pet Great White Shark


you know that the killer whale whips the great white shark ninety percent of

the time?”

       Again I answered “No.” Then I realized I unconsciously dropped the

leash control. I looked behind and below me at Caudal who circled inches

above the canyon floor, dragging the glowing leash.

       “Then you know what happened, Mikey? Then you know why your

shark went anchovy? He lost a match here to Little Terror and almost lost

his own life as well. Your shark needed plastic surgery afterwards, had to

completely rebuild his face. Then people tried to fight him again, but he

wouldn‟t fight anymore, wouldn‟t even leave the chute. They tried to fight

him tirelessly, but he refused. When he refused, they beat him and drugged

him, and then he hated people too. Anyway, Mikey, being the kind-hearted

tender person that you know and love, I thought your shark might like to

rewrite history. Being the compassionate, caring friend that I am, I thought

your shark might like a shot at the world‟s record.”

       Then Billy produced something from his jacket, an object I had seen

before. Billy looked at the object with satisfaction, holding it out for me to

see. Billy rotated the object to display both sides carefully, its shiny silver

reflecting in the sun. The object again resembled a compact disc and was

about an inch thick, and I saw that this time the keyhole was unlocked.

       “Huh, huh, huh, Mikey. Yeah what‟d ya‟ say. What d‟ya say, Mikey,

shall we let them have them go at it?”




                                                                                 27
My Pet Great White Shark


       Then Billy stooped down by the sidewalk‟s edge, his thumb hovering

over the black button as he held the object in the water. Little Terror

vibrated erratically, yet remained patient and obedient when Billy canceled

the leash.

       “Huh, huh, huh, Mikey, what d‟ya think? What d‟ya think, Mikey, has

your shark been dreaming about this or what?”

       My eyes opened wider with terror, my face begging Billy not to push

it. Then I climbed an extra rung and braced myself for impact.

       “Huh, huh, huh, Mikey. Yeah What‟d ya‟ say? What d‟ya say, Mikey,

shall we give your shark a second chance?”

       “Noooo,” I yelled desperately, reaching out my hand. Billy simply

cocked his head back, evil laughter emanating from his throat.

       Then, Click.

        The loud obnoxious buzzer shattered my ears, my hands covering

them reflexively to block out the noise. Little Terror descended

enthusiastically, his tail swishing eagerly and confidently. Caudal fled

instantly in panic, down the road, turning right, gone. Billy laughed like a

maniac, collapsing on the sidewalk, clutching his ribs.

       “Ha! Ha! Ha! Look at him swim!” yelled Billy, incapacitated. “I guess

he‟s just an anchovy after all, just like his owner!”

       “Nooooo!” I shrieked, stupefied Caudal left forever. I looked in

desperation after my shark, already longing for his return.




                                                                               28
My Pet Great White Shark


       “Ha! Ha! Ha! Look at the shark run! Look at how he runs away, just

like the little blond girl!”

       The first tear rolled down my cheek, my eyes were too crowded with

water to provide extra room for it. Then the second tear followed, itself

short on real estate. Then all the other tears followed, covering my face.

Then I started crying and crying, sobbing like a mother losing its child.

       “Ha! Ha! Ha! What a piece of plankton! Your shark‟s probably out to

sea, caught in a fishing net!”

       Then after much sobbing, something changed. After a few minutes

my passion redirected itself. I no longer felt afraid, helpless, or pitiful, the

weak timid kid he pushed around in the halls. I no longer thought of myself

as his victim, thinking I should just endure this like always. No! Rather, I

looked at my hands and wondered just how hard they could hit. No! Rather

than think about how fast I could run, I inspected my fist, possessed now

with the spirits of tidal waves. I looked up at Billy from my tear-soaked

arms, eyeing him with vengeance. I looked up at Billy and asked myself,

“Just how tough is he?”

       Then in a flash, the spark plug fired. Unconsciously I flew onto the

sidewalk, Billy deaf and afraid. His evil countenance surrendered to shock

when I leapt at him, plowing him over like a lineman ripping a fullback‟s

hole. He put his hands up reflexively when I hurled my body into him,

collapsing backwards, unable to absorb my thrust. I popped up




                                                                                   29
My Pet Great White Shark


immediately, my butt on his belly, and slammed his head backwards into

the sidewalk.

        “You son of a witch! I‟ll kill you! You piece of crap jerk! I‟m going to

bleed you!”

        For several minutes I overpowered Billy, thinking of nothing except

the brutal tyranny of his reign. For the several minutes I beat him, I felt

nothing except unceasing anger. From the little blond girl he embarrassed

me in front of to the cruel prank that sent Caudal to sea, I released years of

pent up frustration through unrelenting fists, pounding him again and again

like water columns pounding the beach.

        “I hate you, Billy! I hate you!” I exclaimed, slugging his head

leftwards and rightwards. “You don‟t even understand, Billy! I‟m gonna‟ kill

you!”

        “Ahhhh, Mikey! Damit!” he cried out, hurting and in pain. “Get off

me, Mikey! You little bastard! What the hell?”

        Billy, an up and coming pre-adolescent octopus wrestler, athlete,

could surely summon some reservoir of energy. Though my body pinned

him down and I gained a considerable start on his head, my stamina could

not control forever his kicking and squirming under me. I fought to control

his violently shaking body but it too now fought for its own survival. Now I

began feeling slugs from Billy‟s right and left, blood from my own face

airborne while I swayed to and fro, recoiling to maintain position.




                                                                               30
My Pet Great White Shark


       Then Billy grabbed onto my shoulders quickly, catching me grabbing

a breath. Alarmed and reflexive, I grabbed onto him firmly, and we pushed

and pulled, neither one gaining an advantage. He strained and strained to

topple me off, but I resisted and countered, draining his energy. Then

finally Billy convulsed a pent up reserve, and we tumbled into the water

road, holding each other and bleeding.

       Underwater now, and sinking into the canyon of the water-road, Billy

was clearly through. Billy and I continued to fight for a while, but his

exhaustion soon inhibited his efforts. Apparently my initial offense

depleted him of much power, and he now grabbed onto me more for

support than malingment. When we hit the bottom of the canyon floor Billy

fell backwards knocked out, his eyes revealing a certain absence of

consciousness. Then for a moment I thought he was dead, but then knew

he was very much alive when I saw his gills working properly.

       Now another problem presented itself. Little Terror, having returned

some time ago from chasing my shark and watching passively, suddenly

became involved. He barred his teeth at me, he swam erratically, and he

behaved as Caudal did in the cave. He circled around us, he inspected

Billy, and he darted back and forth. Immediately I looked for a possible exit,

but only the sidewalk sixty feet above presented one. The smooth bottom

of the water-road contained nothing to hide in. The road extended both

ways into blue infinity. Thus my only option was to head for the sunlit




                                                                            31
My Pet Great White Shark


sidewalk above, golden rays teasing an entrance to a heaven towards a kid

unsure of his salvation.

       Little Terror hesitated in pursuing me initially so I kicked off to a

good head start. I think maybe he expected Billy to rebound and chase me

and therefore didn‟t need to pursue me at all. Little Terror headed over to

Billy and tried waking him up, but Billy only slumped this way or that. Little

Terror knew he needed to decide fast, because slowly but surely I

approached the top of the canyon wall. Hatchery sea floors contain many

cracks and crevices, perfect for me to hide in and wait for help to arrive.

Thus Little Terror gave up on his owner before I swam too far away,

eliciting a scream from me when he charged in my direction.

       Harder, harder, and harder I swam! Kick, kick, the harder I kicked!

That shark was not going to pass me over in the cave as Caudal did. I

defeated his owner! Sharks and owners sometimes shared a mutual pride

in their companion, and a shark used to winning his pit fights would not

accept humiliation very well from a weak, scrawny kid like myself.

       I approached the border of the canyon wall, my face lighting up as I

hoped for a boulder or crevice. I kicked and pushed as if swimming

through oil, praying I didn‟t have to get to that sidewalk. I looked behind me

at an intent Little Terror, charging me as if hunting a seal. Next I returned

my attention towards the canyon wall, the top of it descending as I swam

higher and higher. The straight horizontal line separating road and farm

descended speedily down, the spat collectors nearest the road coming into




                                                                                32
My Pet Great White Shark


view. Then I gave one last hard kick while butterfly pumping my arms,

triumphantly peering over the canyon wall in anticipation of victory.

       But there was nothing.

       That is, the hatchery seafloor offered no refuge.

       The hatchery seafloor was rocky and jagged but near the road there

were no boulders or crevices. There were indeed some very excellent

crevices to hide in, but I could not out swim the shark to them from here.

Dismally I looked back at an angry and aggressive Terror, sobbing because

his jaws offered my only exit. I looked back at the charging shark almost

upon me, and could not believe my life would end this way.

       “Oh my goodness, God, please don‟t let me die!” I sobbed, terribly.

“Please don‟t let me die, God, please don‟t let me die!”

       Then, just when Terror‟s eyes rolled back. BOOM! Just when his

upper jaw detached in socket, BLAM! Another shark, large and grey, bolted

out of nowhere, railroading Terror sideways. The second shark collided

into Terror with its mouth wide open, biting hard into Terror‟s head. The

second shark bit into Terror‟s head with enough force to break it open,

blood oozing from the victim like dye in solution. The two sharks

immediately began spinning around each other, their tails and bodies just

missing me. The two sharks drifted upwards towards the surface spiraling,

a glowing laser leash whipping around the pair as the second shark

maintained its grip.




                                                                             33
My Pet Great White Shark


       “Oh my goodness, Caudal! You came back! Oh my goodness,

Caudal, you came back for me!”

       As the two sharks spun slower, surrendering energy to the viscous

ocean, a cloud of debris emanated from the pair. The cloud of debris

consisted of shark brains and blood, and reddened the water around them.

Caudal did not let go for some time, ensuring the death of his foe. When he

did release Terror he revealed Terror‟s blown up head, and let Terror drift

to the canyon floor below.

       “Oh my goodness, Caudal, I thought you were gone!” I shouted,

ecstatically. “Oh my goodness, Caudal, I can‟t believe it! You came back for

me!”

       Then Caudal retrieved me, his jaws wide and grinning, dragging me

away from the canyon. We also rescued Billy as well, Terror‟s body

proximal to Billy and polluting the water around him. Next Caudal let me

ride Hi-Oh style behind his dorsal fin, the first time he permitted me to do

so. Finally, Caudal and I swam home euphoric and exhausted, dragging

Billy whimpering and wrapped up in the leash.

       “Oh, Caudal, you came back! I can‟t believe it you came back!” I

remember how inexpressible my joy was, how I felt like I had the best shark

ever. “Oh my goodness, Caudal, I‟m so excited. This means we really are

friends after all and that we‟ll always look out for each other.”

       Then I patted his dorsal fin and he concurred. Then I told him what a

great future we had and his eyes rolled delighted. Whenever we stopped I




                                                                               34
My Pet Great White Shark


gave him a hug, and he pressed against me, returning the gesture.

Whenever I told him how great he was for returning, he expressed the

same, and we edified each other.



       ***************************************************



       Thus we arrived at home, the best of friends. Mom took Billy and me

to the hospital where they took care of us both. Billy took a long time to

recover but suffered no permanent damage. I never knew another bully,

Billy or otherwise, because the incident became famous at school. Never

again did Caudal run when I pet him. Never again did Caudal hide when I

wanted him. Caudal and I swam all over town and the immediate ocean,

embarking on a whole host of expeditions and adventures, the coral and

the polyp cemented fully now, a friendship even the turbulent ocean could

not hint at dissolving.




                                                                             35

				
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