Birth, Death, Sharks, Chum … Eternity?

Memo to regular readers: You are under no obligation to attend the memorial service to be held in my memory.

Irregular readers may disregard the above. Why? Because they are irregular.

The event will be a memorial service instead of a funeral service because I will not be there.

Of course, “I” wouldn’t be there in any funerary event.

A funeral service usually features only what is left of the material part of someone.

I am convinced that what is left of me will become … what’s the word? … ah, yes: Chum.

“Chum,” the dictionary tells us, can be “material thrown overboard as fishing bait.”

I shall become chum because, in a moment of weakness last year, I agreed to accompany my spouse on an ocean cruise.

For chum,” habeas corpus” is not possible, nor will enough remain to be “delicti;” just a few leftovers, attracting herrings.

To understand, let us rewind, to pre-1975.

In those halcyon years, I swam in the ocean. I putt-putted atop the ocean in boats. I flew over the ocean in airplanes.

Then came 1975.

In that year, came “Jaws.”

I saw it.

In a darkened theater.

I saw that glassy-eyed munching machine chomping down on the boat, the cabin, the man (Robert Shaw), the woman (Susan Backlinie) and, for all I know, half of the New England coastline.

Eventually, the screen flickered to black, the house lights came up, the other people left.

I sat there, just as glassy-eyed as the shark had been. I was awestruck – and terror-stricken.

Eventually, I stumbled out into the darkness.

“God,” I said, looking upward, because that’s where I was taught to look when praying directly.

“God … we are blades of grass, grains of sand. We know not what lies in store. I have no idea what will kill me.

“But, God … I now know what will NOT kill me.” Not shark.

I foreswore salt water.

As regular readers know, I go to the beach to be with family. I do not go to the ocean. Once each trip, I wade in waist-deep, face the shore, make defiant gestures at chortling family and friends, then stride manfully back to the sand, all within perhaps one minute.

Other than that, I have been ocean-free.

Until now.

There are river cruises. There are lake cruises.

But, no. She wants an ocean cruise. She has been on several. She loves them.

“Won’t you come along?” she asked. Wheedled. Whined. Implored. Flirted. Importuned.

I held out, but weakened.

Last fall, she outright vamped.

I succumbed.

“Yes,” I muttered weakly, figuring that the fulfillment of the promise stood at least an equal chance of not being possible until after I had succumbed to advancing age, leaving her to regret, at my funeral service, that we never did take that cruise.


They loom: The promise and the cruise.


Tickets have been bought. Travel arrangements are being made. Swimsuits have been hauled out of winter storage.

I said I would go. Go I shall.

It’s returning that is at issue here.

To make that more likely, I intend to stay in the very middle of the ship. I hope that there will be food, drink and perhaps a small chair somewhere in the middle. Should you be booked on the same liner, you’ll recognize me as the sallow, untanned geezer with Yankees baseball cap pulled down almost to the top of Kindle reader, blocking my view of anything that includes wavetops, sea birds or … Horrors! … fins. Don’t give me that “They are dolphins” bit, either. Sharks have been known to disguise themselves as dolphins because … because they are Satanic spawn, that’s why.

Family members, including but not limited to some of the aforementioned chortle-on-the-beach crowd, have been “sympathizing.” Their efforts include shark teeth, copies of all the “Jaws” videos (I regift those as rapidly as they arrive), a remote-control shark balloon (Really!) and a standard-issue life preserver decorated by gleeful grandsons with drawings of sharks.

I am underwhelmed with gratitude.

A co-worker who shall remain nameless but whose initials are “Randy Bartley” can no longer conduct sane conversations with me. He starts a sentence, breaks into chortles, sneezes, guffaws and gasps as he envisions my impending torture. He is no longer an Old Chum, in either sense of the word.

As I enter into my seventh decade, I still do not know, for certain, what will be the death of me. I devoutly hope it will not be by shark.

I suspect, however, that my demise will be from another heart attack, this one brought on by the sight of the gangplank that will take my last, Zombie-like footfalls as I stagger into ….eternity? Oblivion? The western Caribbean?

Perhaps I shall stagger instead into … a harmless, relaxing enjoyable cruise.

Only the Great White knows.

Denny Bonavita is the editor and publisher of McLean Publishing Co. in west-central Pennsylvania, including the Courier-Express in DuBois. Email: