The Truth About Sharks

The Dog Days of Podcasting challenge began on Thursday. This is the text of my second episode, which you can hear at The BathtubMermaid

Truth About Sharks

“Shark week starts on Sunday,” I told my partner as we lounged among the smooshed pillows and rumbled sheets of our bed one hot July afternoon.

“How does a woman named ‘Desert Flower’ end up obsessed with sharks,” he asked, his long fingers idly stroking the skin of my arm.

“I don’t know…they’re sleek, they’re graceful, they’re elegant – ”

“They’re vicious – ”

“They aren’t, actually,” I corrected. “Anyway, I met one once.”

“You met a shark?”

I rolled over in bed, propping my chin on my hands and kicking my feet up behind me. “Mmhm. I was nine , and I was at the beach with my cousins.”

“Marina and Estella?”

“No. Nicky and Tony. Anyway, Tony had a raft – nothing fancy, just one of those inflatable pool toys – and the three of us were using it as a kickboard, not really paying attention to where we were, and suddenly we were almost at the ropes and buoys marking the channel.”

“Ropes and buoys?”

“You seriously need to visit the beach more.”

“We live in a landlocked state.”

“Details, details. Yes, ropes and buoys. You’re not supposed to swim past them. We’d drifted pretty far out – the tide was carrying us.”

“No one noticed?” He caught the end of one of my messy braids between two fingers and rolled it back and forth, tugging slightly.

“Oh, people noticed. The lifeguards were blowing their whistles and screaming for us to come in, and Aunt Nunzia was jumping up and down on the beach, a veritable poster child for the tern ‘conniption fit.'”

“So what happened?

“We turned around and started kicking and paddling for all we were worth – three little kids, sprawled across a single raft, in water so deep we couldn’t see the bottom, let alone touch it.”

“Obviously you made it back to shore.”

I pulled my head back, freeing my hair from his possession. “Obviously. Anyway, it felt like forever, but we finally got into shallower water, and the boys were able to touch bottom – they were taller than me – but I couldn’t quite. I held onto the raft and stretched my feet way down and I touched something…”


“The something I was touching moved past me in the water, and scraped against my skin – it was like swimming past sandpaper.”

“That’s it? That’s your shark encounter? Did you even see the thing?”

“Well, no.”

“Then how do you know it was a shark?”

“Because that stretch of water is a nursery for white sharks.”

“That proves nothing.”

“And because I just know.”

“You do?” He was skeptical.

“Women always know.”


“No, it’s true. For example, I know that if I kiss you, you always smile.” I did, and he did. “And I know that given half a chance you’ll spend the entire day sleeping, and then complain you got nothing done.”

“That might be true.”

“It is true.”

“It still doesn’t answer the question,” he claimed. “Not really.”

It was also true that when I straddled him and began to kiss him again, he completely forgot whatever question he thought he’d been asking.

Islands and History

Farallon Light

When all was ready and the land duly claimed in the name of Queen Elizabeth I, Drake set sail on July 23. The next day he hove off to the southern Farallones, which he named, for reasons that are not documented, the Islands of Saint James. While Drake gives July 24, 1579, as the day spent at the Farallones, according to our present-day Gregorian calendar, the date is August 3.

* * *

When Drake or one of his crew stepped ashore onto the islands, a full 41 years before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, he became the first European to set foot in what is now the city of San Francisco (the islands are within the city’s limits).
~Peter White, The Farallon Islands: Sentinels of the Golden Gate

The Farallones captured my attention years ago, when I still lived in California, and saw an ad for a day-trip to go take pictures of white sharks, or even cage dive near the islands (with a hookah – not with scuba gear).

Their hold on me grew several years ago, when I read Susan Casey’s book about them: The Devil’s Teeth: A True Story of Obsession and Survival Among America’s Great White Sharks. In it, she mentioned a much more scientific book, the one quoted above, which is really a comprehensive history of the islands.

It only made me more intrigued. In my mind’s ear I hear the roaring waves, and the cries of birds, and in the dimmest corner of my imagination, a ghost story about the little girl who used to live on the island starts to form, because anyone will tell you that if there’s anyplace on earth spookier than these islands and the water that surrounds them, it would be difficult to name them.