Swimming With Sharks

Before my kids left for Florida, I gave them three simple rules to adhere to.

1. Be good.
2. Listen to your grandparents.
3. Don’t get eaten by a shark.

So, imagine my dismay when I checked Facebook yesterday and found the following status update from my son:

Rusty almost got attacked by a shark today (not joking).

That’s the problem with kids these days  (especially teenagers) – they never listen to their parents. They think nothing of skipping homework assignments, slipping in past curfew, and swimming with sharks. This generation, I tell you.

I told the kids to stay away from these guys, but did they listen?! (Courtesy of recordsharkfishing.com)

I immediately picked up the phone and called Rusty. Maybe this was all some twisted post-April Fool’s Day joke he’d concocted in order to get a rise out of his friends and family? If so, it was working.

Me: What’s this about you almost getting attacked by a shark?
Rusty: Yeah, I couldn’t believe it.
Me: You’re making this up.
Rusty: No, it really happened. Ironic, huh? After you told us not to get eaten by a shark.
Me: Yeah…that’s something, alright. Let me talk to your grandmother.

The phone then switched hands, and my mom came on the line.

Me: What’s this about Rusty almost getting eaten by a shark?
Mom: How’d you know about that?
Me: Through the power of Facebook. What happened?
Mom: Oh, it was no big deal. The kids were swimming in the water and your father spotted a shark. He hollered, and they all got back to the beach in plenty of time. The weather’s fantastic, by the way.
Me: The weather’s fantastic. Great to hear. Can we get back to the close encounter with a shark?
Mom: Like I said, it was nothing. The shark was a good distance away, and they were able to scramble to safety in time. Hey, we had a delicious key lime pie for dessert tonight!

I’m just glad my kids survived long enough to enjoy that key lime pie, although I might need to ground them when they return for so blatantly disregarding the rules and nearly getting eaten by a shark after I expressly forbid that. My mom went on to reassure me that they wouldn’t let anything happen to the kids and I shouldn’t worry, but if a run-in with Jaws occurred on their first full day in Florida, and they’ve got five more to go, there’s no telling what other sorts of Facebook posts I may see this week. I also warned them to watch out for alligators, so you never know.

Near-shark attack notwithstanding, I’m glad they’re having fun in Florida. The kids would normally be with their mother this week, so I wouldn’t see them anyway, but they did leave my care two days early and, surprisingly, I missed them when they left. I say “surprisingly” because we share custody evenly, the kids with me one week and with their mom the next, a routine we’ve been doing for over four years. I’m used to my kid-free weeks and I enjoy the quiet and freedom. But I’d had my parents over on Friday night for a big send-off Italian feast (bruschetta, Caesar salad, homemade ragu) and they left with the kids after. The moment everybody was gone, it was like somebody flipped a switch. All the noise and hustle and bustle were replaced with silence, and it took me a little while to adjust. We missed out on our normal Saturday night stovetop-popcorn-and-a-movie ritual, and that felt weird, but I drank some wine and got over it pretty quickly.

The rest of the weekend I ran errands and hung out at home. Sunday, I finally bit the bullet and did my taxes. Normally I’m finished by mid-February at the latest, but this year I had an almost paralyzing fear that I might actually owe money, so I’d put off the task much longer than usual. Actually, I’m always afraid I’ll owe money, but this paranoia is unfounded; I’ve gotten a refund every year now since the mid-90s. Still, there’s always the chance that I might owe, especially with the change in my employment status, and last year my refund was a whopping $18, so yeah…I was nervous. I even played Enya on my iPod while toiling away, in the hope that her lilting, ethereal Celtic melodies might make the whole occasion less stressful. It seemed to work. Somewhere between Caribbean Blue and Only Time that dreaded red box in the top right corner of the Turbo Tax screen – indicating I owed the Feds dough – switched to a more soothing shade of I’m-getting-a-refund green. Because I started working on a freelance basis in December I had to complete a Schedule C and figure out the square footage of my home office and add up my utilities for the year and yadda, yadda, yadda – bottom line is, Orinoco Flow came on as I hit the e-file button, and I was $379 richer for the experience. Whew! If I’d known I was getting money back, I’d have filed a long time ago!

Next year’s going to be a bitch, though. With all the freelance work I’ve done and no more childcare expenses to deduct, I bet I’ll wait right up until April 14th to do ’em.

I hope Enya puts out a new CD by then…


Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

25 thoughts on “Swimming With Sharks

  1. Near shark attack. You sound like the type of person that would go blitzzo if Russian nukes were hitting your house. This is Miami. Drive by shootings(could be from cops ans well as thugs). Mosquitoes the size of Buick’s. Millions of homeless “refugees, dope holes in almost every neighbor hood, schools that have no classroom supplies(kids bring own toilet paper). Most elected officials just got out of jail, are waiting to go to jail, have gone to Columbia. Tip ice the iceberg,


  2. Ha! And here I’ve been, ahem, dying to see a shark while diving one of these days… 🙂

    As for taxes, I did my rough draft last night. I always owe due to self-employment tax from consulting and translation work, and I’m happy to not get a refund since that means that I didn’t give the government an interest-free loan. Not saying it wouldn’t be nice to have a surprise check, though… Going through it a few more times to make SURE I got all those business expenses in there. Sadly, I have no home office… 🙂


    1. I’d be okay with a whale shark (harmless). It’s the great whites and hammerheads and makos that scare me!
      I am sure my situation next year will be greatly different, especially since I’m about to ramp up my self-employment work again. I may seek you out for tips!


      1. Yeah, the reef sharks don’t freak me out, but then again, I haven’t seen one yet!!

        Here’s to ramping up any employment situation. I’ve been quite lazy these past few weeks, and now about to go on vacation on Friday… 🙂


  3. Hey–there was never any danger to your children-they are our grandchildren and the shark was at least milers away!!!!mom


    1. Audrey said she had a nosebleed, and Rusty responded that sharks can smell blood from miles away. They could have been drawn to her as if she were a bucket of chum!!


  4. ” but if a run-in with Jaws occurred on their first full day in Florida, and they’ve got five more to go, there’s no telling what other sorts of Facebook posts I may see this week. I also warned them to watch out for alligators, so you never know.”

    Bwhahahahahahahahahaha! Hilarious!

    Hey listen, I lived in Florida during the whole “Jaws” movie phenomena, and didn’t go in the water for a MONTH. I was scared sh*tless!

    I’m sooooooo glad to hear you don’t owe the IRS – whew! I too used Turbo Tax, and when that red box revealed that I OWED….I just about died! I swear, am I the only person in the U.S. that owes money from last year???

    ” I even played Enya on my iPod while toiling away, in the hope that her lilting, ethereal Celtic melodies might make the whole occasion less stressful.”

    That’s what “I” should have done – HA!

    Great post, Mark!


    1. I hear ya, Ron. I lived in Hawaii when Jaws came out, and we went to the beach nearly every weekend. It’s a wonder I ever set foot in the water again!

      Hope the Tax Man didn’t take too big of a bite out of you!


  5. I love how your mom says it was no big deal then changes the subject. Thats what mine did when she had my kids for an afternoon and lost my 4 year old for 3 hours. She said…its no big deal, we found her. Moms….are just so…just so… swell


  6. Mark–
    seriously UNFUNNY about that shark. My son and I just watched the origiinal Jaws the other night and he looked at me when it was over and said, “Well, who needs to swim in the ocean, anyway? Not ME!”

    and I was like, “dude–the chances of you even SEEING a shark while you’re swimming at the beach is like, a gazillion to smidge”

    thanks, Mark.

    glad they are ok, though–and happy for your refund!




  7. Wow, that’s crazy! I think before I go on vacation I will ask you for advice on what not to do, and I will follow it!


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