After training, Staff Sergeant Dan Gaddis and I decided on going to the beach.  We wanted to do some free diving and catch a few more fish for our tanks, mostly I didn’t want to go home and deal with my wife all night.  Besides, it was time to let a few loose and gather some new ones, so I packed up a few of my bigger fish, and we took off in my car for one of the beaches.  But my car wasn’t a normal car; it was my ant car.

See, I had gone to the beach in my little 1990 Nissan Centre, not a bad car, but not a beautiful car by any means.  I spray painted part of it, just to make it look goofy. I painted the gas cover—not the cap, the actual cover for the car—yellow and then wrote “gas” on it, for example.  So everyone’d know gas goes right there.

Anyways, I parked my car on the beach, and I didn’t realize at the time that I had parked in an anthill.   Well, the ants had decided that it was a good idea to get in my car where I had some food.  It was at night, and the ants were out scouring for food, they discovered that my car was there, and there was enough food that the queen ant herself moved to my car. They eventually stayed there.  So I had ants living in my car.

Now, me and these ants, we at first didn’t really agree.  I would squish them every time they came out on my dash.  ‘Cause they’d come out from under my dash, usually on the passenger side and stare at me.  I didn’t really enjoy them at first, until we had a discussion about who’s going to eat whose food.  It came down to they won’t get into my bags of food if I put food on the floor for them.  They would come down, grab a French fry or whatever I threw down and drag it up under the dash.  They were like my pets.

But anyways, I took the highway through Hawaii down to the beach.  It was the H3, going from the middle of the island over to the east side.  And the east side of the island was absolutely beautiful.  But this highway is built way the hell above the ground, and it took them, I mean, years to complete because supposedly the highway was haunted, and the workers would get chased off.  Workers even died.  And it was the warriors of Hawaii that would come back as ghosts to chase off the workers because the land was being screwed up or something.  Or that’s the way I heard it.  Driving down this highway was almost freaky because there’s seven or eight miles that you can get stuck on because you can’t turn around because you’re quite a ways above the ground.  You could look off and see trees, but then when you get to looking down, it’s way way the hell down there, especially the further you get away from the mountains.

So, we made it to the beach all right, stripped down and made our way into the water to release some fish and find some new ones.  I pulled my mask over my face, securing it with a pinch and setting the wide rubber of the snorkel into my mouth. It was pretty late, because that’s when all the pretty fish came out.

The prettier fish come out at night because their exotic patterns and colors do not appear the same in lightness than in darkness.  In the light, you see the rainbows of colors and the beautiful designs that they’re in; in the darkness, when its only black, white, and shades of gray, the color become tones, and the patterns become camouflage.  The more exotic in appearance the fish, the more difficult they are to find in their natural habitat.  It’s when all the predators came out too, but we didn’t really go in the predator area.

We stayed more toward the beach ‘cause there’s sharks out there.  The water looked like a sheet of black, but inside the water you could only see where the flashlight was pointed.  It had no ambient light, like when you point the flashlight at the ceiling and the light reflects.  That’s not there.  To anybody who has claustrophobia, it would be a very very scary experience.  Because of the water pressure and being so black, it feels like all that blackness is closing in on you.  I’m not claustrophobic, but it bothered me some, took me a while to get used to it.

I’d caught a few new fish that would look really cool in my tank, had them tied in bags to my shorts, and I had been looking under rocks for things to put in my fifty-five gallon, salt-water aquarium.  I keep all types of cool fish in there.  I mean anything from convicts, angelfish to little sea anemone covered hermit crabs, puffer fish, dogfish, sand crabs, rock crabs, a little bit of everything I could catch that wasn’t too dangerous to the other fish I put in there, minus the one puffer fish I had, ‘cause puffer fish are aggressive and bite other fish and try to eat things. I had a puffer fish screw up a baby octopus that I caught once. The baby octopus’s legs were only three inches long; he was just a little guy.   Puffer fish ate it.

Anyways, Dan and I were out diving, free diving, no actual diving equipment, just snorkels and flashlights and the whole set-up, and we were separated quite a bit when he started going nuts about a fish he wanted to catch over there, so I started to head over to him as fast as I could.  I ducked my head in the water and just kicked like crazy.  I had fins on, so I could move, but I couldn’t use my arms, that would slow me down—you just kick like crazy when you got fins a foot-and-a-half long on your feet.  So, I’d look up and make sure I was heading toward him, put my head back down, and kick like hell.

Well, I ran head on into a sea turtle.  We just smacked each other, you know face to face. I’m backing up because my head suddenly hurts, and I’m shining the light to see what the hell it is I ran into.  It was like running into a brick wall.  That dude’s head did not give whatsoever.  The sea turtle was blinking and looking at me like what the hell?  I get to looking, and this sea turtle was just, it looked like it was the size of a Volkswagen Bug.  I mean, this sucker is huge.  It’s head was as big as my head.  He’s all blinking and looking at me.

I hold my one hand out to him, my other cradling my head.  “Aw, my bad dude.”

And he turns and goes swimming off the other way, and I turn and went swimming by him, kept going.  I made it over to Dan who was laughing his ass off ‘cause he seen what happened, he could see the turtle with his flashlight at the surface of the water and I couldn’t, I had been going way too fast and wasn’t looking that far out, just for his light.

It had been a far better experience than the time I got chased by a shark.  I had gone up to Three Tables around from one of the best surfing areas for North Shore in Hawaii.  Now, Three Tables was a good area to go surfing during the day time and the evening or whatever, but when the sun begins to set into the water—or so it appears—it’s time to leave, ‘cause unbeknownst to me, there was a tiger shark that lived not too far away and hunted in that area.

Well, the dude up on shore, just a local sitting up there was like, “Don’t go out there.”

“Why?” I asked.

He said, “Just don’t.  It’s dangerous.”

“Aw, whatever dude, I’ve been doing this for a while with a snorkel just catching little fish.  I don’t go after anything dangerous.” The eels already scared the crap outta me.  They’re huge.  A five-foot eel staring you in the face when you come over a little rock cliff under water was not a pleasant thing.  They could take your fingers off if they wanted to.

So anyways, out there swimming, I felt the water a swish behind me.  And I get to looking around, and I’m shining my light, standing up under water.  I go back to digging around rocks and everything and it’s probably fifteen-feet deep.  I keep going up and coming down, going up and coming down.  I feel the water swirl around me really fast again, and I’m shinning my light, didn’t see nothing.

Uh.  Okay, something’s around here, but I don’t know what it is.

I get to digging back again, and I feel the water swirl again, and I pop up real fast and shine the light and came face-to-face with a tiger shark.  I didn’t really know what they looked like up close.  I’d seen them in pictures; I’d seen them in aquariums, but they were not this big.  According to later reports, I found out this tiger shark was between twelve and fifteen feet long and has never bitten anybody.  She didn’t like people being in her territory.  It’s a her.  She hunted in that area at a certain time, and you’re just unwelcome in her little area.  So, what she did was she’d chase you.  She’d dive deep and come up if you’re on a surfboard and smash into the board and knock you off back to shore.  She had a record of over two-hundred-fifty surfboards and not a single bite.

Well for me, she just sat there staring at me for a moment as I screamed like a little girl and headed off to shore like I had been shot in the ass.   I had no idea if she followed me all the way, nothing.  All I know was that there was a shark, it had big teeth, and she was in my face.  Oh my god, that was scary.

And the dude up on shore was going, “I told you, don’t go out there.”

“You fucking asshole.  You could have told me there was a shark out there.”

“You just should have listened.”