Shark Man (#15) Bad Habit

The next day I was halfway through a Buddy’s Beach Burger when two police officers walked up to our table.

“You the kid who swam under the pier to get his surfboard,” one of the officers said, turning toward Tim, while the other officer eyed Mae Beth and me.

Tim glanced at me, cleared his throat, and replied, “Ah, yeah, that’s right. I had to retrieve my surfboard before it hit the rocks.”

“Well, it was a stupid thing to do,” the officer said, leaning on the table with both hands so he could look Tim squarely in the eyes.

“It’s not against the law, is it officer?”

“No, but it’s dangerous, and I had better not catch you, or any of your friends, doing that again.”

After the officers left, I turned toward Tim, “Why did you cover for me?”

“I don’t know,” Tim grumbled.

“That makes twice,” Mae Beth interjected.

“Twice?” I said.

“Yeah, one for the boat and one for the pier.”

“Starting to be a real habit of mine,” Tim said, getting up from the table. “Hey, I got to get home, after all there is a hurricane coming our way, and I got to help my dad batten down the house.”

Outside, the wind was howling, rattling the corrugated tin roof covering the drive-in area. I said good-bye to Tim and Mae Beth and headed home as well.

“Where have you been?” Mom demanded as I opened the front door.

“I was with Tim and Mae Beth. We went to Buddy’s for something to eat.”

“Something to eat?” Mom asked.

“Really,” I replied.

“You weren’t at the beach, were you, surfing?”

“No, honest, we were at Buddy’s.”

Mom looked at me sternly, then returned to the kitchen. I disappeared into my room and flopped down on the bed. I must have fallen asleep because Mom’s dinner call usually gets me to the table. Tonight, it took Sue shaking me awake to get me there.

“Have you seen outside yet?” Sue asked, as I opened my eyes.

“Why? What’s up?”

“Listen,” she replied.

It sounded like a freight train going by.

“The hurricane,” Sue said. “It’s really blowing outside. It’s supposed to hit later tonight. And what’s this about Tim surfing through the pier and getting chased by the police?”

“What?” I replied, shaking my head.

“Yeah, the whole beach knows about it.”

“He didn’t surf through the pier,” I said.

“How do you know?”

“I know. I was there. And it wasn’t Tim—it was me.”

“You!” Sue exclaimed. “You surfed through the pier!”

“Yes…. No…. I mean, I pulled up before I went through the pylons. I dove off my board, thinking that Candy’s leash would keep it from going through the pier, but the leash snapped.”

“What?”

“Yeah, it snapped in two. I guess no more leash for a while.

“Who cares about the leash,” Sue replied. “You mean Tim didn’t surf through the pier?”

“No, he and Mae Beth were standing on the pier, screaming at me to pull up.”

“How did you get your board?”

“I swam under the pier and got it before it hit the rocks.”

“You what!” Sue exclaimed. “And what about the police chasing Tim?”

“The police didn’t chase anyone. We were at Buddy’s Burger Shack eating a hamburger when they approached us. They just wanted to warn us not to do such a crazy thing like that again.”

Sue shook her head.

“Hey, you’re not going to tell Mom about this are you?”

“Let’s just say you owe me,” Sue replied.

It was a good thing Mom had finished making dinner because halfway through the meal the lights began to flicker and went out. We scrambled around looking for matches, lit several candles, and finished dinner by candlelight.

After dinner, we retreated to the front room and huddled on the couch, listening to the rain pummel the roof above us. While Mom and Diane struggled to read by candlelight, Sue and I played checkers on her magnetic checkerboard.

Around ten-thirty the electricity came back on. We stayed up another hour or so listening to the radio, then went to bed. For all its fury, the hurricane turned out to be a dud, more tropical storm than hurricane.

I got up early the next morning, dressed, ate, and headed to the beach. The waves were pure chaos as they churned in all directions.

“Soup,” Tim said, approaching from a distance.

“Soup?” I replied.

“Yeah, look at them, the waves, a big mess—soup.”

“Guess there’s no surfing today.”

“Or skateboarding, too much water in the park,” Tim added. “Hey, let’s see what Sonny’s up to.”

“You mean, Mae Beth?”

Tim glared at me.

We headed down the beach, toward the pier, and were about to cut over to Sonny’s when we noticed someone at the end of the pier.

“Shark Man,” Tim said, squinting.

We clambered onto the pier and headed toward the end. Jesse was leaning against the railing, staring into the water. When he heard us, he turned and looked at me.

“You know that was a mighty stupid thing you did the other day,” he said.

“Yeah, I know,” I replied.

“But I like your daring,” he continued. “Your friend here turned tail and paddled back to shore at the first sign of danger. Not you, you stayed out, and took a chance.”

I smiled. Tim shifted uneasily on his feet.

“Still, it was foolish. Next time…”

“Next time?” I interrupted.

“Yeah, next time, know what your objective is. The pier surprised you. That’s why you bailed out. You were caught off guard. Remember what I told you at Buddy’s a couple of weeks ago.”

“If you know the ocean, really know it, know the tides and currents, you’ll know everything you need to know,” I recited, having committed the lines to memory.

“Not bad,” Jesse replied, smiling. “Now, the next time you find yourself in a tight situation, don’t just remember what I told you, act on it.” With that Jesse headed down the pier.

“What was that all about?” Tim asked.

“Oh, just a little something between Jesse, I mean Shark Man and me,” I said, grinning.

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