#45 – Black-fin sharks!

They pushed the raft off the sand into the shallow water and both men leaped aboard and started paddling.
It took them a few minutes to get adjusted to the pitching and yawing of their strange craft. It was like riding
a bobbing cork, but it was going to work. The raft was responding perfectly, moving north with the swift
current. Jamie raised the sail and headed out to sea. By the time the villagers awoke, the raft was well over
the horizon.
“We’ve done it!” Jamie said.
Banda shook his head. “It’s not over yet.” He trailed a hand in the cold Benguela current. “It’s just
They sailed on, due north past Alexander Bay and the mouth of the Orange River, seeing no signs of life
except for flocks of Cape cormorants heading home, and a flight of colorful greater flamingos. Although
there were tins of beef and cold rice, and fruit and two canteens of water aboard, they were too nervous to
eat. Jamie refused to let his imagination linger on the dangers that lay ahead, but Banda could not help it.
He had been there. He was remembering the brutal guards with guns and the dogs and the terrible fleshtearing
land mines, and he wondered how he had ever allowed himself to be talked into this insane venture.
He looked over at the Scotsman and thought, He is the bigger fool. If I die, I die for my baby sister. What
does he die for?
At noon the sharks came. There were half a dozen of them, their fins cutting through the water as they sped
toward the raft.
“Black-fin sharks,” Banda announced. “They’re man-eaters.”
Jamie watched the fins skimming closer to the raft. “What do we do?”
Banda swallowed nervously. ‘Truthfully, Jamie, this is my very first experience of this nature.”
The back of a shark nudged the raft, and it almost capsized. The two men grabbed the mast for support.
Jamie picked up a paddle and shoved it at a shark, and an instant later the paddle was bitten in two. The
sharks surrounded the raft now, swimming in lazy circles, their enormous bodies rubbing up close against
the small craft. Each nudge tilted the raft at a precarious angle. It was going to capsize at any moment.
“We’ve got to get rid of them before they sink us.”
“Get rid of them with what?” Banda asked.
“Hand me a tin of beef.”
“You must be joking. A tin of beef won’t satisfy them. They want us!”
There was another jolt, and the raft heeled over.
“The beef!” Jamie yelled. “Get it!”
A second later Banda placed a tin in Jamie’s hand. The raft lurched sickeningly.
“Open it halfway. Hurry!”
Banda pulled out his pocketknife and pried the top of the can half open. Jamie took it from him. He felt the
sharp, broken edges of the metal with his finger.
“Hold tight'” Jamie warned.
He knelt down at the edge of the raft and waited. Almost immediately, a shark approached the raft, its huge
mouth wide open, revealing long rows of evil, grinning teeth. Jamie went for the eyes. With all his strength,
he reached out with both hands and scraped the edge of the broken metal against the eye of the shark,
ripping it open. The shark lifted its great body, and for an instant the raft stood on end. The water around
them was suddenly stained red. There was a giant thrashing as the sharks moved in on the wounded
member of the school. The raft was forgotten. Jamie and Banda watched the great sharks tearing at their
helpless victim as the raft sailed farther and farther away until finally the sharks were out of sight.
Banda took a deep breath and said softly, “One day I’m going to tell my grandchildren about this. Do you
think they’ll believe me?”
And they laughed until the tears streamed down their faces.
Late that afternoon, Jamie checked his pocket watch. “We should be off the diamond beach around
midnight. Sunrise is at six-fifteen. That means we’ll have four hours to pick up the diamonds and two hours
to get back to sea and out of sight. Will four hours be enough, Banda?”
“A hundred men couldn’t live long enough to spend what you can pick up on that beach in four hours.” I just
hope we live long enough to pick them up___


Copyright © 1982 by Sheldon Literary Trust

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Alex says:

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