Last weekend, millions of sharks converged in the waters off Alabama beaches, causing officials to go all Roy Scheider and close the waters down for swimming.
“Get out of the water,” Mommas cried, as teenagers who took a catamaran out to Cable Junction quivered. (Sorry! I just happened to have watched “Jaws 2” last week, so my references are probably a little too specific. It’s the one where Roy fries the shark by getting him to chomp into a cable. Oh burn!)
OK, so maybe it wasn’t millions, but it was a lot more than usual. Judging by the number of fish carcasses washing up on the beach, officials speculated people had been throwing the discards of their freshly cleaned catch back into the water. There were many more fishermen out and about due to the weekend falling in the shortest snapper season in history and all the extra catching and cleaning had created a veritable Chum-a-palooza along the shores. Move over Hangout Fest.
This certainly made sense. Even my husband who isn’t much of a fisherman felt obliged to go out snapper fishin’ on Saturday. He left at 6 a.m. and said he’d be back at 1 p.m. Uh huh. That happened.
But even though Chum-a-palooza made sense, I really wanted to know if this was the only reason these creatures had decided to have this feeding frenzy off the Gulf Coast. So I did what all journalists would do, I went down to Orange Beach and interviewed the sharks. Most did just wanted to snack on dead fish, but others had much different motives. Some of which I think you’ll find surprising.
The first one I came upon was a bull shark named Roger.
“Nice to meet you, Roger. So are you here for all the snapper carcasses?” I asked.
He had a very squeaky voice, but replied, “Those make a nice amuse-bouche, but what I am really more interested in are the husbands who go out fishing and say they will be back at 1 but come home at 5.”
“Oh Roger, I could have used you last weekend, but I wouldn’t want you to kill my husband … per se. Perhaps at 4 o’clock last Saturday I would have, but not now.”
“Oh no,” he replied. “I don’t eat them. I just give them dirty looks and sigh a lot and tell them ‘nothing is wrong’ when they ask what’s wrong.”
“Well, geez Roger, I can do that myself, but carry on. You do good work,” I said as he swam under boats full of men who should have been home hours ago.
The next shark I came upon was a hammerhead named Doug.
“Hi Doug. So what are you into? Redfish perhaps?” I asked innocently enough.
“What are you trying to say? That I see colors when I eat fish? I eat all kinds and colors of fish — redfish, blue marlin, yellowfin tuna, rainbow fish. How dare you suggest I decide which fish to eat based on their color!!”
“No Doug. You just have a little redfish caught in your teeth. That’s all,” I said.
“Oh well. I’m sorry. I just hate race baiters. I find them the tastiest of all,” Doug said, as he tried to remove the redfish with his basihyals. (That’s what a shark’s tongue is called. I had to Google it. You’re welcome, Scrabble players. )
“Me too. Might I direct you to Mobile Bay? I’m certain you will find one there. Just go to the City Council meetings, and you’ll figure out who you are looking for very quickly,” I suggested.
“Thanks for the tip. Now I won’t even have to check Yelp,” Doug said as he swam west.
The next shark I came upon was a little too cool for his particular school (of Mako sharks).
I said, “Hi there, Mr. Shark. I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions.”
“I suppose,” he sighed.
“Well what’s your name?” I asked.
“Malcolm Maddox Mako, but when I’m working I prefer to go by MAD MAKs, all caps except the s,” he said in a breathy, very serious and even somewhat sexy shark voice.
“Oh, well what kind of work do you do?” I asked.
“I’m a performance artist. When I am feeding, I eat my prey with such beauty it is not just nourishment, it is art.”
“What is your prey of choice?” I asked the artist formerly known as a shark.
“I eat wannabe hipsters who are still sporting trends that have gotten so mainstream they take the trend out of trendy or the under out of underground,” he said haughtily.
“Oh yeah,” I said. “So who or what exactly are you eating?”
“Last season, I ate dudes with ironic facial hair. This season, I am focusing on both men and women sporting those oversized hipster glasses. You know the ones I’m talking about. Especially the ones who don’t actually need glasses.”
“I’m with you. I think every 20-something-year-old contestant on ‘Master Chef’ is sporting those things, but I’ve seen plenty of folks around the Gulf Coast wearing them too, so you should have plenty of um,‘ material’ to work with,” I said.
“It’s just so pretentious,” he said.
“Um, MAKs, you renamed yourself and have letters in your name randomly upper and lower-cased. You don’t find that a little pretentious?”
“Well, you know what they say – you are what you eat.”