THE CHINCOTEAGUE SHALLOWS
Standing knee-deep in the Chincoteague Bay, I stared to where the waterline had etched itself into the thick wooden pillars of the dock. The water was lazy today, slowly and sloppily lapping against my leg.
“Bea?” My grandfather’s rough voice wrapped around my silent meditation and pulled me from the waves.
“I’ll be up in a minute,” I responded from my liquid lair.
I could hear the crunch of gravel as his mucking boots moved toward me.
“If you’re just standing there, then make yourself useful.”
He threw down a clam rake and a net to store whatever I forced from the bay floor.
“Careful. The bull sharks might be looking for something sweet to eat.”
The sun illuminated his weathered skin, beaten and buffed by the sand and salt. He still carried his shell like that of a young man. Though twenty-six years had passed, he was the same as the day I entered the world and my mother left it. He saved me then, and he was saving me now.
“I’m going to take Samuel out with me today. Folks from New York ordered a charter.”
I shivered at the mention of the city we had escaped a year ago, when I still feared my captor would find us hidden in the Chincoteague. “Make sure he puts on sunscreen.”
My grandfather grumbled as he moved back toward the house.
I gazed out at the bay. Below the lazy tide and the lazy tourists, there was a world beneath us. Moving, hunting, surviving. Many thought what lived there was vicious, attacking unprovoked. But it was the things above the water that were worth fearing—vicious, attacking unprovoked.
My body jolted. His massive hand reached out from the water, the sun catching his gold wedding band, rigid fingers convulsing with the tearing movements of the creatures below. It sunk back beneath the surface with the memory of my grandfather holding my beaten body on the nearby dock. “It’s over, Bea.”
I slowly climbed the algae-lathered rungs nailed into the pillar and thanked the bull sharks once again for guarding the Chincoteague.