Short Stories » The Shark
The Shark - Short Story By Leo Tolstoy
Once, a ship was anchored off the coast of Africa. The weather was pleasant in the morning, but a hot breeze from the Sahara desert made it extremely hot and humid towards evening.
Just before sunset, the captain came on deck and called out, "Time for a swim."
Immediately sailors jumped into the water, lowered a canvas mat and made it into a swimming pool. They had been waiting for this moment the whole day.
There were two young boys on the ship. They both jumped in, but swam out into the open sea since it was too crowded inside the ‘pool’. They played and chased each other in the open sea. Their fathers cheered them on, often egging one of the boys to prove his mettle over the other.
Suddenly, somebody from the deck called out, "Shark! Shark!"
Confusion and panic ensued, and everyone scrambled to safety. Everyone, except the two boys. They had not heard the shouts.
The shark was moving towards the boys.
The gunner shouted, "Come back my boys! There is a shark out there!" One of the boys was his son. For the first time in his life, he didn’t know what to do. He could not think clearly.
The people on the deck screamed hysterically. But the boys could not hear them. They continued to play and to swim, oblivious to the monstrous danger approaching them fast.
The gunner's face became as white as a sheet. He could feel the ground under his feet slipping away. He appeared to go into a trance.
The sailors lowered a boat, jumped into it and rowed towards the boys. Just then, one of the boys looked back and saw the large animal he knew too well. He screamed with fright. The other boy heard the screams and saw the shark. Panic seized them, and they began to swim in different directions.
Their screams brought the gunner back to his senses, and he rushed towards the cannon. He turned the barrel of the cannon, aimed it and lit the wick. He had to get it right. If he made a slight mistake in direction, all would be lost.
A shot rang out. The gunner dropped down beside the cannon and covered his face with his hands.
There was complete silence. No one could see what had happened to the shark and the boys, as the smoke was too thick. When it faded, people roared with joy. The gunner got up and looked out at the sea. The dead shark was floating on the waves with its yellow belly up.
Then the boat reached the boys and brought them back to the ship.
The gunner allowed himself a smile.