Tuesday, July 27, 2010
SWIMMING WITH STINGRAYS
A couple of summers ago, I visited my Aunt Helen in Jacksonville, FL. My adult daughter, Holly, and daughter-in-law, Nicole, along with her baby, Kaden, accompanied me and we had a great vacation eating seafood, exploring St. Augustine, and going to the beach. Until the stingray invasion.
Holly, Nicole, and I waded out into the cool, refreshing ocean. Kaden sported a fancy inner tube. We went about waist deep, backing into the waves and laughing as the spray flew around us. Kaden enjoyed the ride in his tube. The sun was shining; the afternoon was just perfect.
"Oh, look," Holly said, pointing to a little stingray.
"Hm," I replied looking into the water. Interesting. We peered at the stingray for a moment as we moved to the side, avoiding being anywhere near it.
Before our next breath, we were surrounded by stingrays! Coming from behind, a huge flotilla bore down on us, surrounding us and cutting off our escape route to the beach. We looked around us and saw - truly - thousands of the things, a huge . . .school? . . . flock?. . . flapping from deep water to the shallow surf, flowing from our left to our right and on and on until they were out of sight!
Holly and Nicole began screaming! "EEEEEEEEEE!"
"Don't scare the baby," I yelled. "Don't scream, you're scaring the baby!"
I pulled Kaden and his tube out of the water, afraid that he might get stung.
I admit that Steve Irwin's stingray-induced death popped into my mind. "Horror!"
"No, no," I said to myself. "That was a fluke and a huge stingray. Nothing to be afraid of."
"No, really, I don't need to be afraid."
"Poor Steve Irwin!" my mind debated like opposing politicians, fright and common sense fighting for my emotions.
"EEEEEEEEE!" the girls continued to scream. Both Nicole and Holly began climbing my back! "EEEEEEEEE!"
Now I'm staggering along dragging Kaden and mostly carrying Holly and Nicole, still yelling, "Don't scream. You're scaring the baby!"
We floundered toward shore, screaming bloody murder, Kaden having joined the chorus. The stingrays bumped into Holly's and Nicole's legs, accompanied by ever shriller screeches. One caught on Holly's calf, wrapped its "wings" around her leg, then wiggled itself free and swam away. "EEEEEEE!" Holly shrieked, wrapping her arms around my neck.
"You're choking me!" I squeaked. Holly released my throat and began pushing me forward.
"Shuffle your feet," Holly called, "shuffle your feet!"
"Shut up, Holly!" Nicole retorted between screams while still trying to climb my back. "Just shut up!"
At that, I began laughing, stumbling, gasping, tottering with two girls on my back and a baby in my arms, the laughter sucking the last strength from my legs.
By the time we tumbled onto the beach and sprawled on the sand, we were all shrieking with laughter and relief, except for Kaden, who howled with terror. Wiping the stinging salt water from my eyes, I looked around at the other vacationers. Not one person had noticed our distress or the stingray armada currently cruising beyond our sight.
We didn't go back onto the water that day.