It began as a fun nautical outing, 10 of us in a motorboat off the coast of Miami. The weather was sunny and we saw no signs of danger, other than the risk of sliding overboard because every exposed surface on the boat was covered with a layer of snack-related grease. We had enough cholesterol on board to put the entire U.S. Olympic team into cardiac arrest. This is because all 10 of us were guys.
I hate to engage in gender stereotyping, but when women plan the menu for a recreational outing, they usually come up with a nutritionally balanced menu featuring all the major food groups, including the Sliced Carrots Group, the Pieces of Fruit Cut Into Cubes Group, the Utensils Group and the Plate Group. Whereas guys tend to focus on the Carbonated Malt Beverages Group and the Fatal Snacks Group. On this particular trip, our food supply consisted of about 14 bags of potato chips and one fast-food fried-chicken Giant Economy Tub o' Fat. Nobody brought, for example, napkins, the theory being that you could just wipe your hands on your stomach. Then you could burp. This is what guys on all-guy boats are doing while women are thinking about their relationships.
The reason the grease got smeared everywhere was that four of the guys on the boat were 10-year-olds, who, because of the way their still-developing digestive systems work, cannot chew without punching. This results in a lot of dropped and thrown food. On this boat, you regularly encountered semi-gnawed pieces of chicken skittering across the deck toward you like small but hostile alien creatures from the Kentucky Fried Planet. Periodically a man would yell "Cut that out!" at the boys, then burp to indicate the depth of his concern. Discipline is vital on a boat.
We motored through random-looking ocean until we found exactly what we were looking for: a patch of random-looking ocean. There we dropped anchor and dove for Florida lobsters, which protect themselves by using their tails to scoot backward really fast. They've been fooling predators with this move for millions of years, but the guys on our boat, being advanced life forms, including a dentist, figured it out in under three hours.
I myself did not participate, because I believe that lobsters are the result of a terrible genetic accident involving nuclear radiation and cockroaches. I mostly sat around, watching guys lunge out of the water, heave lobsters into the boat, burp and plunge back in. Meanwhile the lobsters were scrabbling around in the chicken grease, frantically trying to shoot backward through the forest of legs belonging to 10-year-old boys squirting each other with gobs of the No. 197,000,000,000 Sun Block that their moms had sent along. It was a total Guy Day, very relaxing, until the arrival of the barracuda.
This occurred just after we'd all gotten out of the water. One of the men, Larry, was fishing, and he hooked a barracuda right where we had been swimming. This was unsettling. The books all say that barracuda rarely eat people, but very few barracuda can read, and they have far more teeth than would be necessary for a strictly seafood diet. Their mouths look like the entire $39.95 set of Ginsu knives, including the handy Arm Slicer.
We gathered around to watch Larry fight the barracuda. His plan was to catch it, weigh it and release it with a warning. After 10 minutes he almost had it to the boat, and we were all pretty excited for him, when all of a sudden . . .
Ba-dump . . . Ba-dump . . .
Those of you who read music recognize this as the sound track from the motion picture "Jaws." Sure enough, cruising right behind Larry's barracuda, thinking sushi, was: a shark. And not just any shark. It was a hammerhead shark, perennial winner of the coveted Oscar for Ugliest Fish. It has a weird, T-shaped head with a big eyeball on each tip.
The hammerhead, its fin breaking the surface, zigzagged closer to Larry's barracuda, then surged forward.
"Oh -- !" went Larry, reeling furiously.
Chomp went the hammerhead, and suddenly Larry's barracuda was in a new weight division.
Chomp went the hammerhead again, and now Larry was competing in an entirely new category, Fish Consisting of Only a Head.
The boys were staring at the remainder of the barracuda, deeply impressed.
"This is your leg," said the dentist. "This is your leg in 'Jaws.' Any questions?"
A5 The boys, for the first time all day, were quiet.