Shark Tooth Necklace
Arle spends $10 on a shark tooth necklace at a souvenir shop across from our rental. It is basic as far as these things go. You don’t end up with a high-end shark tooth necklace from a joint like this one. This is a monster place/ the size of a basketball gym/ and it is heaving with cheap overpriced junk.
But Piper is 8 and he likes sharks. And he wants a shark tooth necklace.
I stand hidden in some semi-aisle between Ocean City, Maryland decals and magnets watching the whole thing go down. I notice Arle’s soft-spoken way with her kids; I notice that she doesn’t ever come over the top of the ring like Sgt. Slaughter like I do with my kids a lot. Not that my way is bad or whatever, hers is just different.
Piper slides shark tooth necklaces between his fingers testing them out. His mind is inexperienced and purer and he sees things so different than I do/ or even than Arle does. I watch like a seahorse hiding in a coral cave. I watch with vested interest because I really dig this a lot. When I was a kid buying a coral necklace or a shark tooth necklace at the shore was a big deal. And apparently it still is. I forget these kinds of things. Down here surrounded by all of this commercialism and all of these eateries and all of these holes in the ground begging for you to dump some dollar bills in them/ speaking to you like some kind of American beggar who knows that you know that- in order to truly fulfill your empty spaces- you are going to need to burn through some fucking money. Fast and loose.
But then along comes the unexpected. The smallest moment that requires some loot but that also seems….and this is hard for me to admit after a few days in the land of shitty $14 crab cake sandwiches the size of a slider….but this moment seems worth it. These necklaces, at $10 a pop, they seem worth it.
Not because they will last a long time. Nothing lasts long in the hands of an 8-year-old boy, mind you. But that’s kind of the point too, since life folds in on itself, collapses backwards upon it’s own mirrored image at the best of times. And so whatever necklace Piper ends up choosing, eventually it has to disappear. Or break. The cheap piece of rawhide snapping as he’s bouncing on the trampoline. The tooth itself breaking into several shards some night in the not-so-distant-future, in the bathtub, for no real apparent reason. A tooth in the mouth of an actual shark can endure a lot of wear and tear. I mean, think about it. It digs into fish. It slices into other sharks who come around looking to start shit. A shark’s fucking tooth, dude. It’s like one of the most radically badass things in the natural world, you know? You could go downtown today and march into the tattoo parlor and take a free Prime out of the mini-fridge and tell the painted man or woman that you want to make a statement with a shark tooth tattoo on your lower calf and they would know exactly what you are taking about. Hell, they have probably already done a couple shark’s teeth this week already.
But once a shark tooth leaves the nest of the shark’s own jaw, man, that’s when everything changes.
That’s when everything gets really strange for everyone. For the shark. For you. For the kids. For the truck drivers and the pilots and the disassociated 19-year-old chick at the check-out counter. For me.
For everyone, whether we know it or not.
I have no idea where they get all of these teeth. But it’s probably not pretty, right? Let’s be up front about all of this: the long road from the shark’s mouth to one of the spinning racks at Johnny Dune’s Beachcomber General Store cannot be all that smooth. Especially for the goddamn fish.
Google it and I bet there are whole essays about shark tooth necklaces but who has the fucking time to read that, you know? I don’t have time for the facts, for the science. This is America for chrissakes. I will make up my own story on the fly and I will present it to you as truth and you will believe it because, well, America.