The Sharks Were Hungry


2004-10-8

Now the weekly Special English program American Stories. Our story today is called The Sharks Were Hungry. It was written by Dorothy Cottrell. Here is Shep O'Neal with the story.

Doctor John Perry decided it was time to go home. It had been a perfect day, a day alone, the first such day in many years. He had filled his bag with all sorts of seashells enough to study for months. The island had been a good place to find shells, but now the sun was going down. He must leave before it got dark. He picked up his bag of shells and walked toward the edge of the island. He came to the sand reef that connected the island and the shore of the mainland. He stopped for a moment to enjoy the sunset on the ocean water. Then, he began to walk along the sand reef toward the shore. He walked slowly stopping a few times to rest. He began to whistle. Along with nature all day, it had cheered him. He could see the shore.

The grey colors of evening were beginning to spread across the ocean and the sand. He hurried on, then suddenly, he stepped into the water. Before he knew what had happened, he dropped down and down. The water was covering his head. He rose to the top of the water struggling to get back on to the dry sand. He felt the water rushing about him. Somehow, he got on to the sand and sat down wet and surprised at his sudden drop. He heard the water still rushing about. Then, he saw a long grey shark. He stood up and looked around. He saw the shark swim toward the shore. And then, he saw other sharks, five, six, seven of them, but where was the sand reef? What had happened to it?

He began to walk back toward the island. While he had searched for shells on the island, the strong ocean waves had washed a large part of the sand reef away. There was nothing between him and the shore, but water and sharks.

He did not know much about sharks, but he was a good swimmer. He looked at the shore, which was now almost black against the red sky. He could swim, but what about the sharks? Do they attack in the night? He tried to remember what he had read about sharks. Did sharks find their food by smelling it? If they did, it meant they looked for food at all times, even during the night.

He decided not to swim to shore. It was too dark and he wanted to see the enemy if he was to fight it. He looked around for his bag of shells and found it a few meters away. He pulled the bag onto some dry sand, then sat down next to it.

The wind was warm. The stars began to show. The moon rose. The water looked peaceful and quiet and yellow in the moonlight. The gentle noises of night soon made him sleep, but not for long. Most of the night he lay down and looked up the stars, thinking. He thought of the people in the village, his friends. They needed him. He was their doctor, the only doctor in the village. It felt good to be needed.

He thought of wood for a fire. Wood to signal for help, but there was no wood. He thought of the sharks. Would they go away during the night? Then, he thought of food. He was hungry, but hunger was his smallest problem. The ocean was filled with fish. If he could catch one, fish would satisfy both his need to eat and drink, but hunger and thirst could wait. At last, he thought of sleep. It came at last.

He slept until the sun rose. He felt stiff when he got up. He moved about, then, looked at the water before him. It was clear and green. Far off, he could hear the noise of splashing water made by the sharks. He saw red areas on the water. He knew the sharks were killing and eating the fish. The sharks were there because the fish were there. The same waves that had washed the sand reef away had somehow pushed large schools of fish into the area. He watched the sharks kill. They swam after the schools of fish played with them and killed them even though they were not hungry. They would not let the fish swim out into the open sea.

He looked at the sea. If he swam to shore, he would be in the water five, six minutes. A lot could happen in that time. A wind blew across the water. Small waves rushed across the top and stopped him from seeing the bottom. He hoped the wind would stop. Somehow clear water seemed less dangerous.

He looked at the sharks now near the shore. They were still feeding. It was hard to think of himself being attacked by a shark. A man when he is healthy feels good, but the pain, a torn belly, a missing leg, a badly crushed head by those powerful teeth. "No, No", he wanted to live. To swim now might mean sudden death, but the sharks might stay here for days a week or more.

He decided to swim. But first, he looked all around. There was not a sign of a boat anywhere, no fisherman, nothing. He looked up, not a sign of a storm just a clear blue sky.

He took off all his clothes. He kept only his belt and his small knife. The sharks were far off. He silently slipped into the water. He went deep down and looked around. He was about to rise to the top and start swimming when he saw a long grey body below him. Small dots of sunlight danced on the shark's body down through the clear water. He kicked himself up to the top and struggled onto the sand. If he had not looked down, he would be half way across now with the shark chasing after him. He did not think of the rest.

He stood up and looked around again. How could he make the sharks move out to the him. He saw the sharks rolling and playing. Their hunger was now gone. They were killing for fun. How could he make them move?

He pulled his knife from his belt. "Sharks can smell blood. " he thought. He put the knife against his leg and cut deep into the flesh. The blood ran out. He caught it on his white shirt. When the shirt was red and wet, he tied some cloth around his leg to stop the flow of blood. He tied a long piece of cloth to the shirt, then walked to the edge of the sand. He threw the shirt into the water. And pulled it with the piece of cloth.

The sharks smelt the blood. They came racing toward the shirt. He ran down the sand reef pulling the shirt. The sharks raced after it. He was leading them away from shore. Suddenly, he dropped the cloth turned toward shore and ran as fast as he could. He jumped into the water and swam. He was half way across when he turned to look back. A high bony fin was cutting through the water toward him. He put his face in the water and kept and pulled himself forward as fast as he could. The shore was nearer now. But he thought of his belly under the water. How defenseless it was. He thought of the flat noses of the shark hitting from below.

He lifted his head again to breathe. He saw the shore very near. From behind, he felt the water rush toward him, almost pushing him, helping him. He kicked and shouted as loud as he could. Then a great grey body hit him. It almost rolled him over in the water. He touched the shore with his fingers and pulled himself up the stones. The shark excited by the smell of blood and the chase went after him. Its great body crashed against the stones. It rolled and turned as it dropped back into the water. The other sharks jumped on it. The end came quickly as the shark's blood turned the water red. The injured shark was eaten alive as it tried to escape.

Doctor Perry slowly got to his feet. So, he said, "You did not get me. " He looked down at the sharks still eating, even though, they were full of food. He climbed up the stones and walked toward the village.

You have just heard the American story "The Shark Were Hungry". It was written by Dorothy Cottrell. It was published by popular publications in the book -- the Argosy Book of Adverture Stories. Copyright nineteen forty-nine, all rights reserved. Your storyteller was Shep O'Neal for VOA Special English. This is Rich Greil.

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