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Wednesday, 21 March 2007 00:00

A mother’s remedy for shark attacks

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By Stephanie Wampler

It was one of those days .... One of those days when an unnecessarily shrill alarm clock tears you from deep slumber, when you swing out of bed and land your foot on a particularly sharp Lego, and while you are hopping and cursing, you crash into the corner of the door.

That hadn’t happened to me, but I had been up with kids several times during the naight, then overslept, and then burned the French toast twice. The kids were late to school. I had forgotten the field trip money and the juice boxes for lunch.

At the grocery store, a woman cut in line in front of me. (It was one of the self-check lines. She had short, brown hair, a turquoise sweater, and dark pants. She was buying a lot of canned biscuits. You know who you are, Lady. I hope you feel guilty.) Of course I said nothing, having the presence of mind to think of several cutting comments but lacking the nerve to actually voice them.

So the day continued, one thing after another, until I was in a terrible mood, and night had finally arrived. The kids were playing, and I sat down for a few minutes to distract myself with the Internet news. The always-cheerful headlines informed me that a man had been eaten by a shark. Apparently not actually eaten though. The shark had just chewed on him for a couple of minutes until the man began hacking at its eye with a sharp tool. Then, he somehow “wiggled out” of the shark’s jaws and swam to the surface where his brother pulled him into the boat. A less-than-perfect day for that diver, I should say.

The article went on to mention a marine expert who speculated that the shark probably thought the man was a seal. I speculated that the shark was very surprised when he crunched down on that particular seal.

Maybe it was one of those days for the shark, too. He was swimming around, had missed breakfast perhaps, possibly torn his fin on the coral reef, and was looking for some comfort food. A fat, tasty seal would be just the thing to sooth his ruffled feelings. Soon he spied a seal and, very naturally, took a bite. Bad choice. In addition to the strange rubbery taste, this seal was somehow able to hack his eye out. Nice.

I read this article on the Internet and stopped to contemplate a few minutes. I could really sympathize with both the diver and the shark. All of us had had one heck of a day. We should have just stayed in bed. Days like this can’t end fast enough. As I sat absorbed in these thoughts, the sounds of my sons’ shrill voices brought me back to consciousness.

“No, it’s not!”

“Yes, it is!”

“Don’t bite me! That’s not appropriate!” (He picked that up in kindergarten, but it doesn’t seem to work very well on his brother.)

“AAARRRGGGHHH!”

SLAM! BANG! BANG!

I was beginning to wonder if intervention might be helpful, when both boys came running in and climbed on my lap. They were screaming and sobbing, red in the face, one with a big bite mark in the middle of his back.

(Back-biting is a feat I am always impressed with. Biting someone on the arm is easy. Arms are small and round. Anyone could do it. Getting a solid set of bite marks onto someone’s back is a different matter altogether.)

I paused briefly to inspect the dark red marks. Then we iced the bite and sorted through the argument. It seemed that one boy felt that Scotch tape is clear and that the other boy felt that Scotch tape is not clear. This issue had caused problems all day long — they had argued about it at breakfast, in the car on the way to school, twice in the car on the way home from school, and then again at supper and in the bathtub. Each time, with such an important question at stake, tempers had flared and a violent eruption had come closer and closer. And now we had a bite.

I moved to the recliner and sat down. They piled into my arms and we pulled up a blanket. I held them for awhile and stroked their heads. “Has it been a hard day for you guys?”

“Yes,” they sniffled.

“It’s been a hard day for me, too. What would you say if we just sat here and rested for a few minutes?”

They snuggled closer and we all took a deep breath. There was silence all around, and the dim lights seemed to offer some solace.

“But he bit me,” my injured child whispered.

“I know, sweetie,” I whispered back. The ice pack was cool; the blanket was warm. The anger began to dissipate, and their taut bodies began to relax. I pulled my little fellows closer. Their breathing grew regular, and their eyes began to sag.

My injured child made one last, feeble protest, “He bit me.”

I was almost asleep too, but I made a supreme effort and murmured, “At least he’s not a shark.”

And with a gigantic yawn, I began to fade away. As the burned toast, the forgotten juice boxes, and the lady at the check-out line slipped into oblivion, a soft calm stole over me. None of them were sharks either, I guess.

(Stephanie Wampler is a mother and writer who can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

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