GateHouse — So it’s totally normal for kids to almost fall off of piers into oceans during trips to the water with their dads, right? That’s a thing that happens pretty regularly? Right? All the time? I’ll take your collective silence as a big yes.
Being a brisk and glorious Sunday morning, and because it had been a gray and pallid Saturday and we were all tired of being in the house with each other, I took my youngest — an 18-month-old mucus production system — out to a local pier for some good old-fashioned rock throwin’. I contend there is no greater activity for children than rock-throwin’, in any capacity. Rock thrown’ into the water, rock thrown’ into the pond, rock throwin’ at a wall. Every Christmas, every single Christmas, we go through this profoundly insane charade of making a gift list, receiving presents from the gift list, opening said presents, writing thank-you notes for said presents and spending a few hours playing with presents that are all like 750% less fun than an average pile of rocks. Geology has given us the perfect toy, and here we are screwing around with Legos and action figures and whatever Monster High is.
So with a day to ourselves we headed to watch people casting nets into the Intracoastal Waterway. We’ve done this a number of times. Once my older son and I came across two fishermen, two youngish guys of probably 20 or so who had not spent a great deal of their day in the field of personal care and at least one of which was, unless he was suffering from a glaucomal condition not readily apparent, probably illegal.
Anyway, my son, being 5 and curious, waddled over to these filthy smokers and announced, “Hi, what are you doing?” And the guys, of course, were the nicest filthy baked fishermen in town, and showed him their cages and the few fish they’d caught. “Are you going fishing now?” my son asked, and one of them grunted his approval, removed a crab from his white bucket, took a large and impressive knife from his belt, put the crab on the dock and — without any warning — cut the thing right in half. There was a moment of vaguely shocked pause on the part of me and my son, who had never previously joint-witnessed a murder, and it was broken by my son who said, without breaking glance from the former crab sitting in two pieces on the dock, who said, “He killed it.” Yeah, son. Yeah he toooooootally killed it.
But this visit with the younger son involved less death, and also less teeth. In the midst of our merry rock-throwin’ one of the fishermen came over to show us a baby shark he’d just caught, a floppy thing notable primarily for its lack of teeth. I didn’t know sharks came with only gums. I guess it makes sense but have ever really stopped to think about a toothless shark? It’s an odd notion.
Anyway, the shark guy came by to illustrate once again my various shortcomings as a father, because I have done a lot of pretty decent parenting things over the years, but I’ve never, to date, caught a shark. I definitely absorbed a look from my 18-month-old like, “Why can’t you ever do anything cool?” The fisherman detached and released his shark into the water, dropping it back into the sea, which caused the toddler to give me a look like, “WHOA THE TOOTHLESS FISH JUST DISAPPEARED, WE HAVE TO COME HERE CONSTANTLY.”
So we’d go get rocks, and come throw them into the water, bloop, get a rock, bloop, get another rock, bloop, and this is when when he nearly toppled over headfirst into the water. Luckily, only his wee arms actually got wet before, being an attentive dad with samurai reflexes, I let out a helpful “WHAGH!” and grabbed him. I was fast enough to prevent a full-on submerging, but not fast enough to avoid seeing four scruffy fishermen looking at me as though this was my first visit to the ocean, or large bodies of water, or Earth. Even if he’d have gone in, I wasn’t too worried though. I mean, most of the sharks in there are toothless.