“The great fish moved silently through the night water, propelled by short sweeps of its crescent tail.”
I was twelve years old when I read that.
"The mouth was open just enough to permit a rush of water over the gills."
I was at Nauset beach, lying on my belly, facing the water. I had on my baggy swim team bathing suit, the straps tied together at the back with a shoelace.
"…The land seemed almost dark as the water, for there was no moon."
My sister had gone off to collect shells at the water’s edge.
"...All that separated sea from shore was a long straight stretch of beach—so white that it shone."
Normally, I would have gone with her. But I was enthralled.
"...The woman laughed and took his hand, and together they ran to the beach."
"A hundred yards offshore, the fish sensed a change in the sea’s rhythm."
Is that a fin?! No, no, just a duck resting on the surface.
"...The fish turned toward shore."
I’m almost positive it’s a duck.
"...The vibrations were stronger now, and the fish recognized prey."
Where is my sister? Did she go in?
"...The woman felt only a wave of pressure that seemed to lift her up in the water and ease her down again."
The beginning of Jaws continues to haunt me in ways that few books have, the words having somehow lodged in my impressionable gut, forever safe from my reasoning brain.
In the mid- 1970s, there were no great whites off the coast of Cape Cod. All that happened after the break in the Outer Beach, and once the seals established themselves. Now, when the waters warm, annual sightings are a common occurrence. Though no one has ever been hurt. Keep in mind, there has been no fatal shark attack in Massachusetts since 1936. But it doesn’t matter, does it? You read the book too. You know what I mean. The damage is done. Razor sharp triangular teeth imbedded in our psyches.