I couldn’t sleep last night, for reasons that are not important.Â We all have our “can’t sleep” stories. After turning and thrashing most of the night, I finally gave up and stumbled to my balcony; a cup of coffee inÂ hand, ready to face the day.
As I stood facing the ocean one thing was readily apparent, even to my sleep-deprived mind.Â It was going to be another spectacular day.Â The wind was calm, the surface of the oceanÂ glassy smooth, and the sun was announcing itsÂ arrival byÂ bathing a few scattered clouds on the horizon in tones of rosy pink.Â Looking up and Â down the beach there was no one and nothing to be seen; nothing that is, but a large, nondescript tangle of seaweed and driftwood that had washed ashore.Â Settling in my chair to watch the sunrise my eyes kept coming back to that tangle of debris.Â I couldn’t get it out of my mind.Â Â The more I stared at it, the more I began to imagine that it was a creature of some kind.Â That was nonsense of course, but I couldn’t shake the thought.Â Finally, more out of exasperation than anything, I grabbed my camera and walkedÂ shoe lessÂ through the cool grass and onto the beach.
The beach was still deserted and as I trudged across the sand toward the debris, I realized that it was indeed a creature—a five foot shark washed ashore by the tide.HeÂ was magnificent creature and although he was obviously dead,Â Â I still found myself circling him cautiously,Â afraid to touchÂ him for fearÂ he would awake and attackÂ . Gathering my courage, I bent over to inspectÂ a yellow insulated wire protruding Â from his belly.Â I pulled on it gently but it would not budge.Â Could this beÂ theÂ cause of death? Â Not likely, I decided; For one thing, the way the insulated wire was clipped neatly at the end suggested some kind of tracking device rather than aÂ fishingÂ line. Â Peering into his mouth, I saw no fishing hooks or any other obstruction. Â Likewise, his body was free of cuts or slashes of any kind. Â So what killed this unfortunate creature? Â I may never know. Perhaps it was simply his time to die.
It was getting lighter and I realized that this moment of solitude would not last much longer—and I began snapping pictures.
The final shot put it all in perspective.Â At my feet lay a symbol of death, one of God’s creatures whose life is over.Â In front of me, was the promise of life, a bright new day.Â And between the two, the calm, imperturbable mother of us all —the sea.
For a moment I stood overÂ Â the shark in respectful silence, almost as if I were at a burial service.Â Then IÂ heard the sound of approaching footsteps; a neighbor with camera in hand—and the spell was broken.
Turning, I returned to the beach stairway with a spring in my step—eager to learn what joys this bright new day would bring.
I looked over the balcony and the shark was gone.Â Did he ever exist?Â Perhaps yes, perhaps no.Â Will someone in some future life ask the same about me?Â Perhaps yes, perhaps no.
Ron Standerfer is a novelist, freelance writer, book reviewer, and amateur photographer whose articles have appeared in numerous news publications including online editions of the Chicago Tribune, USA Today,and the Honolulu Star Advertiser. He is a member of the International Travel Writers & Photographers Alliance (ITWPA) and American Writers & Artists Inc (AWAI). He is a retired Air Force fighter pilot who flew 237 combat tours in the Vietnam War. His novel, The Eagles Last Flight (eagleslastflight.com) chronicles the life of a an Air Force fighter pilot during The Cold War and Vietnam years.Â He resides most of the year in Gulf Stream, FL.