The beaches are barren at night, the waves for the taking.
And tonight Scott Conroy and his buddies have paddled out to the big shark’s fin-shaped rock at the edge of the bay — the waves’ crests must be 30 feet high. The ocean is a serpentine, oily black only broken by the reflection of a full moon.
The handheld spotlight they use to check for reefs flashes for a moment at the gray sliver of beach fifty yards away, flitters along the length of sea, and then settles on the water below them. There, like silver knives in the dark water, are a 10-foot shark and three pups.
They know better than to make for shore, but Conroy can’t help walking to the rock’s ledge. He stares down, transfixed. It barely registers when he slips on a patch of moss and falls into the water.
The first thing he’s aware of is a fluid snap; then come the jagged barbs of the shark’s skin as he slips off her back; then the wet cool. Unthinking, he claws at the rock and hoists himself out of the water as one of the pups nips at him with needle-like teeth.
Panting, Conroy grabs his leg and the blood runs through his fingers and into the water, where the mother floats belly up. Jesus, he thinks, I snapped her back.
Scott Conroy has lived in Japan, France, Italy, Germany, and Australia. In Hawaii, surfing by moonlight, he inadvertently killed a shark. This week’s vendor is living proof that truth is stranger than fiction.
About two years ago, Conroy was introduced to Real Change. Since then, he’s become a solid vendor at his spot on Second and Cherry.
“I like meeting intelligent, interesting people,” says Conroy of the job. “If I could tell my customers one thing, it would be that I appreciate their dedication to the paper.”
—Story and photo by JP Gritton