Trying To Catch the Big One
The clear waters of the sea were as still as a plate of glass. The sun shimmered off of the blue-tinged surface and reflected back into the eyes of Timothy Grove. Tim, as he preferred to be addressed whether you be his mom, wife, best friend or boss, pulled his cap over his sunglass shaded eyes. He smiled at the thought. Probably more of a sarcastic sort of smile veering toward a sneer. To his mom, he would always be Timmy, much to his chagrin. His wife indulged him and called him Tim, even though she liked the sound of Timothy much better. How many times had he reminded her that she married a Tim, not a Timothy and she knew that going in?
If only that were the least of his problems with her. The fact that he was on this boat (if it could even qualify for that title, of which he was doubtful) several miles off the coast of Somewheresville, Mexico on a month-long wild goose chase instead of helping her get the house cleaned and ready for a visit from her sister this coming weekend spoke more of what their issue was. Distance. Money. All of it, all rolled into a big ball of "what the heck happened to us".
Money, the reason he was here waging a war between the hot Mexican sun and his pasty white skin and make no mistake who was pulling ahead in that little skirmish. Money, the reason he had accepted this insane farce of a job. It potentially paid and it potentially paid well. Unfortunately, to get the money, he and his beloved had to deal with distance. Physical distance may not have been the root of the emotional distance slowly creeping into their marriage, but it certainly seemed to be speeding the process along.
At least he got a nifty new camera out of the deal. A brand new Nikon with the longest and sharpest of lenses. A nice piece of technology that finally caught him up with the dawn of the new millennium, and a chance to turn his passion into a career. Speaking of things not of the new millennium, he was beginning to have very serious doubts as to the seaworthiness of the rickety and rusty El Chupacabra, the unfortunately named vessel of Captain Seymore Vick, the decidedly non-Mexican born tour guide of their excursion.
It continued to putter along, sounding all the world like it's motors would explode given the slightest strain on their capabilities. Tim heaved a sigh and turned back to watching the still waters, under the creeping suspicion that his partner had chosen this future shipwreck only because of the name. She probably considered it a good omen considering what their assignment was, and chartered it with barely a question asked as to its alleged functionality.
He reluctantly looked for any sign of their target, shaking his head in disbelief that he was even going to think the words.
The legendary and very much thought-to-be-extinct ancestor of the feared great white shark. Megalodon. That was a lot of syllables for Tim's heat-sick brain to handle, so he simply referred to it as Meggy. There was a pleasant memory of he and his wife posing in the middle of the jawbone of Meggy at the Guinness World Record Museum. He was also aware that there was a book called The Meg, which was apparently popular enough that Hollywood kept threatening to make a movie out of with George Clooney. Or was it Brad Pitt? Did it really matter? All Tim knew was that it would be no Jaws, no matter what. Either way, you could consider him skeptical of the whole deal.
Sandy, though? Sandy Oney was a true believer. She worked for The Weekly Scoop not just for the quick buck to make up crazy stories for the supermarket crowd, but because she was positive that there were weird goings-on in the world. Sandy was a total Mulder, Tim had come to find out. The Scoop had allowed her to sniff out all the implausible curiosities, and the rag fed into her passions because she had built up enough of a fan base that her name sold almost as many copies as running another story about old man Elvis fighting off a pack of rabid werewolves accompanied by an obviously doctored photo of the event.
People in the supermarket lines ate that nonsense up, which led Tim to question the intelligence of his fellow countrymen.
Sandy wanted a real photographer, not someone who could just Frankenstein a quick photo fake on a pc. Tim had needed money and applied for the gig, not with any serious thought that he would get it and Sandy herself had hired him right off the bat. She had a "feeling" about him. Even though he was clear in his skepticism, that seemed to seal the deal even further, because what better way to show the truth to people when someone who didn't really believe was there to document the evidence. Between her words and his photos, the truth would be clear to anyone who would allow themselves to see, even him.
So, for the last two years, Sandy had dragged Tim all over the country and some places beyond to follow every last piece of gossip that found its way into her ears. So when a few fishermen had started reporting sightings of a massive shark stalking the waters off the coast of Mexico, Sandy was quick to get the go-ahead from their editor to charter a boat to hunt the monster down.
Near the front of the so-called vessel, Steve, a young shirtless and witless (as far as Tim had been able to tell during their trip) employee of the dashing Captain Vick kneeled with his hand digging into a bucket of chum. Chum being the aromatic delicacy of fish guts and blood used to draw in things that actually enjoyed eating that sort of thing. Tim did not envy the kid, but he supposed at that age a job was a job, and this job let you be on the ocean most of the time. Perhaps thinking of him as witless was unnecessarily cruel, a state of mind magnified by the combination of boredom and heat. Steve's gloved hand pulled out a mound of delicious-looking chum and hurled it into the water.
Tim, as annoyed as he was of spending so much time away from the person he desperately needed to draw closer to, sat back in the deck mounted fishing chair and considered that as far as these oddball assignments went, he could do worse than the Mexican coast. He did his best to ignore the fact that he was on a pile of shoddily put together wood and metal floating over water miles deep. He attempted to ignore the oppressive sun and simply tried to relax and enjoy and soak in the nature surrounding him.
The seagull flew over his head, making a beeline for the water ahead of them. Tim sat up and readied his camera, anticipating a nice action shot of a predator swooping in and grabbing its meal. Which is exactly what he was going to get, just not in the way he figured. Fantasies of a spread featured in the National Geographic magazine danced in his head as he aimed the camera at the spot he anticipated the bird landing. Not the sort of exciting action shot that tabloid readers drooled over, but the kind that nature freaks absolutely adored. Why couldn't he land a job like that? Much more calm, more relaxed.
Land there it did, and as Tim clicked the shutter, the water erupted and the seagull disappeared into the gaping jaw of a gigantic shark. Thankfully, the camera was attached to a strap or it might have shattered into several expensive pieces as it dropped from Tim's numb hands. He stood up abruptly as Steve did the same, kicking over the chum bucket and spilling its disgusting contents over the deck.
"Whoa!" Tim exclaimed, managing to grab his camera once more and click as many shots as he could as the shark went back under.
Sandy Oney and the steadfast Captain Vick came tearing up from below deck, watching the water bubble as blood began to coat the surface. They raced to the side of the boat, gripping the railing as the fin broke the surface and passed on the side of the boat.
"Holy…," Tim began.
He looked over at Vick, sputtering, attempting to put words together. The thing was a monster. He had been a doubter, of that he would not deny, but the beast spoke for itself.
"Are we gonna, ah, you know..." he mumbled.
The roguish captain gave a tobacco-stained grin. Vick attempted to give off the vibe of a dashing sea hero, certain to have the ladies weak at the knees at the sight of what he certainly thought was a Harrison Ford-esqu lopsided grin, but Tim just wasn't seeing it.
"Need a bigger boat?" Vick said. "No. I think we're safe."
Sandy was far from amused as she stormed down the side of the boat, following the fin as it swam into the distance before disappearing under the water. Her curly brownish blond hair was pulled back into a loose ponytail that dangled against the bare part of her back exposed by the light grey tank top she wore. Her normally amused features were marred by a frown and her small hand curled into a fist and slammed down causing pieces of the old chipped yellow paint of the railing to flutter into the breeze.
"That's it?" she asked.
Tim pointed at the surface of the water where the fin had slipped under.
"That's it?!" he exclaimed. "That's a monster!"
"That's not half the size of what we're looking for," she said.
"You mean one of those Magalawhatchits is twice the size of that?"
If Tim had been on board with the idea of finding one of these prehistoric creatures to begin with, he would have been suffering severe second thoughts now. He had seen Jaws, and what just breached the surface right in his face was surely bigger than that exaggerated beast.
"Megalodon," Sandy corrected. "And yes."
"Then maybe we don't want to find one," Tim said.
Sandy's frown slowly melted back into a slight smile as she considered her partner in crime.
"Lucky for you, we don't have to worry about it anymore. We're heading back," she said.
Tim slumped back into his chair, daring the beginnings of a smile.
"Any particular reason? Other than the giant shark is inexplicably too small?" he asked.
"Just got off the horn with the chief. He got a small lead out of Alaska. Strange stuff going on," Sandy said.
"Stranger that this prehistoric shark, the Marmalade…"
"Megalodon," she countered sharply.
Tim tried to keep his smile from getting widening. One of the secret joys of his job was to drive Sandy a little crazy by showing how little seriousness he showed her passions. He hadn't gone too far. Yet.
"Whatever," he said.
"It's just as well. This one is much better," she said, her mood starting to brighten just talking about it.
"And bigger," she said.
"Joy of joys," Tim could feel himself deflating as words kept pouring from her mouth. "Dare I even ask…"
"The abominable snowman," she said.
It was impressive, Tim thought, the way that Sandy had of uttering a completely ridiculous phrase like that without the slightest bit of irony, imbued with the solemn weight of the Vatican announcing the name of a new Pope.
"'Scuse me?" he managed.
"Yeti," she said.
"I'd ask if you were kidding, but I know better by now."
"We're on a plane as soon as we get back to shore," she said.
Tim glanced up at the sun that he had previously found too brutal. What a ridiculous notion, he thought. The sun is beautiful. The sun is life.
"Alaska, huh?" he asked.
"Don't tell me you're not wanting to go," she said.
"I've recently realized that I enjoy spending my winters out in the sun. It's nice. Alaska's cold," he said.
"We'll get you a jacket," she said.
"You're such a sweetheart," he said.
To be continued…