By Stacy Chambers
The shark, nearly blind, preferred the sandy bottom to the middle or high ground of the tank. It was shady at the bottom, only an occasional shiny glass stone interrupted the smooth sand. Sometimes he could see small bright bursts of color made by the iridescent stones, a memory of a silver flash of a fish. On occasion he swam to the top, where two other lemon sharks vied for territory. At feeding time he always made his way up for the morsels of dead fish, mixed with soy protein.
He was born in the warm shallows of the mangroves. His mother swam off into the depths before she was tempted to eat him. The sandy seafloor camouflaged him completely. Being a lemon shark, he was pale yellow brown, with grey undertones. He had lived in this coastal reef wonderland of turtles, blue tang, sturgeon and French gunt, eating his fill and growing to five feet in only three years. If favorable conditions permitted he would grow to eight, maybe ten feet long and weigh two hundred pounds. When mature, he would swim into the depths to find a mate.
The trolling boat had a glass bottom, and glided through the shallow water silently. The lemon didn’t know he had anything to fear. No churning water signaled danger. He was caught and transported to the Bimini Biological Field Station for study. Daily, solutions of chemicals were dropped into his eyes and injected into his body. His statistics were noted, cased and filed.
He was sold for a pittance to a mall developer in Shanghai, and placed in a seven thousand gallon aquarium inside the Orient Shopping Center.
The tank, only two years old, was the delight of shoppers. Towering in the center of the mall the aquatic structure was twelve feet wide and twenty feet tall. The designers had calculated that the 5.9 inch thick acrylic glass would support the pressure created by the 33 tons of water. Lush underwater tropical plants, none familiar to the lemons, adorned the tank. People were attracted to the crystal blue walls; they would bang their hands on the glass while pressing their meaty cheeks to the glass, creating constant vibration.
On December 19, the glass ruptured onto a large group of on-lookers. The lemon’s two companions, at the top of the tank, surfed the water explosion and hit a cosmetics counter before landing in the broken shards of debris. The nearly blind lemon was blown ten feet from the tank. Sixteen people were injured.
Under the lemon shark there is no more sand, only broken glass and cool puddles of water on cement. Screaming people run from the wreckage, as he suffocates, amongst the shiny iridescent glass stones.