Chris Johnson

You got fins the left, fins to the right...

It may be hard for a lot of folks to believe, but I've taken the plunge once again. Indeed, despite all my trepidations about rough waters and unforeseen obstacles, I've followed by heart to, yes, the ocean.

That's right, I've gone snorkeling. Oh yeah, I got married, too.

While on my honeymoon in Key West where I got married on the beach at sunset as any good and decent Jimmy Buffett Parrothead would, I decided to go for a little adventure. As if walking down Duval Street where all the men are either women or standing around in their underwear wasn't adventure enough.

We took a catamaran (named such for the rare six-toed sailing felines who hang around Ernest Hemingway's old house in Key West) to a living coral reef a few or several or a gazillion miles offshore. At least, the crew said it was a living coral reef, and I wouldn't know the difference between a living and a dead coral reef. I guess the only way to truly tell if a coral reef is dead is if folks stand around and talk about how nice it was and say "Don't it look natural" right after it dies.

Despite the fact that we were completely sober, my new bride and I looked like drunken frogs as we wobbled along the wet deck in our flippers on the way to the stairs, from which we could gently ease out in the ocean. However, the stairs were crowded, so I insisted we leap from the side of the boat. Yes, I was scared the water might be cold and shocking. And, yes, I was scared that I might bump my backside on some fire coral, a rock or a walrus on vacation. But I'm way more scared of waiting in lines.

This might be the first and last argument I'll win with my wife who relented and agreed to take the plunge. I held onto my mask and leaped in, happily finding neither cold water nor vacationing walruses and began to flipper my way along. I looked back for my bride. Unless she'd turned into a fish like the Incredible Mrs. Limpet, she wasn't there.

I surfaced and saw her still on the boat, gripping the railings and shaking her head like a pitcher shaking off signs. For a moment, I thought it might be some evil plan; that our whole wedding and honeymoon was a ruse to have me lost at sea so that she could legally collect my entire $7.84 fortune. Perhaps it was, but a gentle nudge from a large crewman sent her into the sea, as well.

And how lovely it was to glide just over the stunning coral reef and colorful fish who looked radioactive while only surfacing every now and then for sweet newlywed conversations like:

Shellie: Oh my God! I can't breathe!

Me: Ick! I just drank a gallon of saltwater!

Fortunately, after about 40 minutes of not breathing and four gallons of seawater, we started to get the hang of it. And then we saw the fish. A big fish. A shark. It was about six feet long.

Now, I'd wondered how I'd react coming face-to-face with a shark and feared that I just might turn the blue water yellow. But I found it thrilling. I decided to follow the shark. Well, I tried. Something kept me from moving. Something that had wrapped her arms around my neck and tried to climb out of the ocean using my back as a ladder. Apparently, Shellie doesn't share my love of shark chasing.

Later, I called my son to tell him about the experience.

"What kind of shark was it?" he asked. I'd forgotten that my son has seen more sharks than Chief Brody after having watched every Shark Week that hits The Discovery Channel. He asked me to describe the shark.

"Oh my God, Dad!" he said. "That's a black-tipped reef shark! You are lucky to be alive!"

Once again, I've dodged death. Whew! Thank goodness my wife pulled me away from my date with death under the sea. Not only do I have a wife who saves me from sharks and gives me valuable advice on Duval Street such as "assume she's a man," but she's awful cute when she's scared.

With her, I'm even luckier to be alive.

And I've still got my $7.84.

Chris Johnson is an independent correspondent. He can be reached at kudzukid88@gmail.com.

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