by Michael Jungman
He was a Florida man who lived alone in a trailer in the Gulf and he had gone eighty-four days now without being arrested.In the first forty days a woman and boy had been with him. But after forty days the woman had been picked up for assaulting a Wendy's drive-thru worker and the boy had been taken by the state. It made the boy sad to leave the Florida man and the Florida man without the boy grew reckless. Running through the surf high on bath salts one day the Florida man got his hand bitten by a shark. The hand was patched with duct tape which had become gnarled and caked with dried blood.
The Florida man was thin and gaunt with spider web tattoos on his neck. A burn scar mottled his bottom lip from when a homemade electronic cigarette had exploded. His rap sheet ran as deep as the sea off the keys, filled mostly with DUIs. It was difficult to drive now with a shark bitten hand. The Florida man took it as a blessing. He would not go back to jail until he had taken his vengeance on the shark.
Everything about him was Florida except his eyes which were determined and undefeated.
A light shaking of his foot woke the Florida man. He sat up in his cot and rolled a joint. "I thought you were with kin in the panhandle."
"I left them," the boy said. "They ran a scam setting up fake job interviews and then resold the people's urine. It did not suit me."
The Florida man finished rolling his joint and tucked it behind his ear. He shook two pills out of a small bottle of Amphetamines.
The boy admired a rifle the Florida man had stolen from a neighbor. "Can we shoot things in the woods today?"
"No. Today I am going to find the shark that bit my hand."
Dark clouds hung like smoke from burning tires as the Florida man and boy walked down the path to the beach.
"I am worried for the Triple H," the boy said.
"Do not worry. I saw him wrestle in Miami once. I also went to the beach in Miami where women lay topless and I saw their breasts."
"You told me."
"Should we talk about wrestling or breasts?"
"Wrestling," the boy said. "Tell me again about the great Stone Cold Steve Austin."
It started to rain as the Florida man told the boy of the many powerful back rakes he had seen Stone Cold Steve Austin give his opponents.
The rain fell heavy now as the Florida man and the boy arrived at the pier on the beach.
The Florida man set up a fishing pole he had shop lifted from a Dick's Sporting Goods. He baited the line with rotten fish a cousin who worked at the Olive Garden had given him.
"You do not have to stay for this," the Florida man said.
The boy looked to the Florida man. "I know."
The Florida man cast his line. And then again. The wind and the rain picked up and the boy tried to duck under the corner of the pier's wooden railing for cover.
After several hours the Florida man felt a pull of the line. He let the line run from his rod without the shark feeling any tension. "Take it," the Florida man said aloud. "Take it like you took a chunk from my fucking hand."
The Florida man let more line out and then pulled the rod back hard. “I got it.”
The boy stood motionless like a raccoon caught going through the garbage. “How do you know it’s the shark?”
“I just know." The Florida man's hand throbbed as he cranked the reel. He grabbed his crowbar.
The shark rose out of the water. It whipped around as it dangled. The Florida man leaned over of the railing. He hooked the crowbar under the shark’s tail and flung it onto the pier.
The Florida man circled around the three foot mako shark. He pumped his duct taped fist in the air. He dropped to his knees behind the shark and humped it. Three good thrusts showed the shark who was boss between it and the Florida man.
The Florida man sank his teeth into the shark’s right pectoral fin and jerked his head to the side. The fish thrashed. The Florida man spit the meat out. He watched the shark’s mouth open and close. Its gills fanned in and out.
The Florida man grabbed the shark by its tail and flung it back into the water. A salty mist washed over The Florida man and the boy.
You did not hump a shark and then kill it, the Florida man thought. You hump it for pride and because you are a man. You respect the shark before it bites you and you respect it after. If you respect it, it is not gay to hump it. Or is it more gay? Either way, something so badass should not die because it did what sharks do.
The Florida man's hand hurt worse than before. The sand of the beach swayed and swelled like the sea. The Florida man took the joint from behind his ear and put it in his mouth. He sat down on the pier. "Do you have a light?"
The boy took out a lighter for the Florida man.
The Florida man took a hit from the joint. He handed it to the boy and closed his eyes.
"Rest now," the boy said.
The boy sat and watched the Florida man fall asleep. The Florida man was dreaming about breasts on a Miami beach.
Mike Jungman is a writer, comedian, and lawyer. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and French Bulldog.