Wayne Junior had a blond cowlick, an impish grin, and a penchant for mischief. My cousin and I stood together at the ocean’s edge. The gentle surf rumbled in our ears. I dug up some sand with my big toe.
“Whaddya wanna do?” Wayne Junior asked.
“I dunno.” I shrugged, scanning the beach. My sister, Cindy, and Wayne’s sister, Michelle, lay on nearby beach towels, arms and legs glistening with baby oil. A transistor radio chirped, “This is Casey Kasem. This week on America’s Top 40 countdown....”
Our families got together every year for a reunion at the beach. The adults retold the same lame stories. The teens basked in the sun. The little kids built sand castles. This year Wayne Junior and I were left to amuse ourselves.
“Let’s play shark,” he said and ran into the water. I followed closely.
We sloshed out past the low shoreline breakers and crouched down in the gentle swells. Wayne crept up to a bobbing circle of aunts and uncles until he was directly behind our Aunt Betty. He lowered his voice an octave and droned, “Daaaaah dah. Daaaaah dah. Dah dah dah dah. Dah dah dah dah. Shark!”
Aunt Betty screamed.
“Wayne Junior, you cut that out,” Aunt Helen screeched, “Betty there’s no shark. Can’t you go play somewhere else.” It wasn’t a question.
Wayne Junior swam away laughing at the joke. I slunk along behind him.
“What was that about?” my mother asked.
“Some movie by a guy named Spielman or Spelberger,” said Aunt Helen.
Uncle Bill laughed,”Spielberg, Helen. It’s called Jaws--about a shark that eats people.”
“Well whatever it’s called. That boy’s got sharks on the brain,” Helen said, “Let’s go in and set up the picnic.”
By that time Cindy and Michelle had come into the water to cool off.
“Watch this,” Wayne Junior chuckled and he scooped up a handful of coarse sand. About six feet away from the girls he dove under the water.
Cindy combed her fingers through her blond hair, “Do you think I ought to get my bangs feathered?”
“Oh that would look so cool,” Michelle replied, “Maybe you could get a YAAAAAAA!”
Michelle practically jumped out of the water. She whirled and twisted; her head went under and her legs came up. Finally she regained her footing and came spitting out of the water. “Something bit me!”
Wayne Junior’s head popped up in time to see the two girls running for their towels. He’d gone up behind his sister, concealed by the water, and rubbed sand hard against her bare ankle. Their screams only increased when they realized the shark’s identity.
“Wayne Junior, Mom’s gonna kill you when I tell her what you did.”
Wayne Junior spit out a mouthful of water and laughed again. I was beginning to get a little tired of my cousin’s humor.
Having cleared the ocean of our entire family. Wayne Junior grew bored and gazed out toward the deep.
“I’ll bet I can swim farther than you can,” he boasted.
“No you can’t,” I said.
“Can too. What’s that?” He pointed.
I followed the direction of his finger until I spotted a triangular fin gliding up and down in the water.
“Shark!” Wayne Junior screamed up an octave and paddled toward the shore.
I looked again and swam toward the beach, allowing the push of the surf to carry me forward.
Wayne Junior stumbled onto the sand, then ran past the two tanning cousins. “Shaaaark!”
“Yeah right,” Michelle said, adjusting her sunglasses.
He ran past the aunts and uncles preparing our picnic lunch. “Shaaaark!”
Aunt Helen sniffed, “Boy’s got sharks on the brain.”
“We’re not falling for that one again,” said Uncle Bill.
Wayne Junior didn’t stop until he reached their car, his feet dancing on the hot pavement.
I stopped to slide my feet into my flip flops and flapped out to the parking lot.
“Did you see it? It musta been 8 feet long,” Wayne gasped. He was still a bit pale.
“Yeah I saw it.” I nodded. “I don’t think sharks come on land. Let’s go get a hot dog or something.”
We walked back to the picnic area and Wayne tried, in vain, to get someone to believe him. The shark grew 2 feet with each retelling.
I sat down and ate my hot dog, washing it down with a Coke. I didn’t have the heart to tell him he saw a dolphin.
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