Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Breathe (08/19/10)
TITLE: Emilio's Tiburon
By Caitlyn Meissner
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Finally, starved for oxygen, I let my breath go in one loud burst.
Gasping, I glanced up and met Papa’s eyes.
“Bueno!” he said, nodding his approval.
“How long?” I asked.
“Almost two minutes.”
“You are young, Emilio,” Papa laughed. “Give it time. One day you will make a fine diver.”
“As fine as you?”
“Even finer! If you practice.”
“But enough talk,” Papa said, hefting the sink stone from the floor of the canoe. “Now, I will dive.”
I handed Papa the oyster basket. He took several slow breaths, then slid feet first into the water, clutching the sink stone to his chest.
Peering over the side, I watched as he drifted down through the water, the rope attached to his stone trailing along after him.
Now that Papa had dived, I looked up and began scanning the waves, fearing to see a tiburon’s fin come slicing towards me. But I saw nothing.
Still nervous, I waited, watching, and at the end of five minutes Papa resurfaced, gasping as his dark head broke through the water.
Hauling himself back into the canoe, he dumped the glistening oysters out of his basket and grinned at me.
“Now, Emilio, it is your turn.”
I gripped the canoe till my knuckles turned white. “Now?”
“Of course now. There are still many more oysters to be gathered.”
“Did you see … a tiburon?”
“No,” Papa said, frowning, “I saw no sign of sharks.”
I took the basket, relieved. “I will hurry,” I said, grabbing another sink stone and gulping some air before plunging over the side.
Down, down I sank through the blue depths towards the oyster bed. Fish swam past me, some singly, like little specks of color, others in groups, like a great daub from an artist’s brush.
Then my feet hit the wrinkled folds of sand, and I took a few springy steps to the bed of oysters growing on a rock.
Pulling the knife from my belt, I began to hack them off, tossing them into the basket. But in no time at all my lungs began to ache.
In haste I pried off a last oyster and turned my gaze to the surface.
Then I froze.
There, above me in the water, floated a tiburon, a gigantic man-eater, twice the length of my body.
I dropped my basket and shrank back against the rock, willing it to leave, but the tiburon glided past only to turn and come back again.
Panic snatched at me. I had to do something. But wait! Surely Papa would see the tiburon. He MUST see it! Papa would rescue me.
But as precious seconds slipped by, I knew Papa either could not, or would not help.
My lungs began to burn. Fierce anger welled up inside me. Was this how my life would end? Would I really die down here because of the tiburon?
Suddenly, a terrible thought struck me. The tiburon would have no need to kill me. I was already dying from lack of air! If I did not act, did not face my fear, I would drown down here among the oysters.
Gripping my knife, I kicked off from the rock and swam straight towards the tiburon.
The beast’s shadow fell across me, long and menacing. His eyes watched me over rows of wicked teeth.
I lifted my knife, splashing and kicking as hard as I could and … the tiburon turned, gliding away.
Heart pounding, lungs screaming, I struggled towards the surface, my vision going black.
Then my head burst out into the sunlight, and I sucked down huge breaths of air.
Papa’s hands found my shoulders, and hauled me into the canoe.
“You did well, Emilio,” Papa said.
I sat there, struggling for breath, coughing and wheezing. “Why … why didn’t you help me?” I panted.
Papa sat, silent, then looked at me, tears forming in his eyes. “My son,” he whispered, “I stayed because I love you. If you did not face your fear, how would you ever become a man?”
I hung my dripping head, fingering the knife. Yes. He was right. I had faced my tiburon. Now I was a man, and a diver.
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