Mark Sheerin

Back in the Water 

Like many kids who come from nowhere near the sea, he was scared stiff of sharks. This shameful fact emerged once a year when his family would decamp for two weeks to some beach.

It didn’t even matter where they took him. He feared attack by shark in Cornwall, in the South of France and never more so than in Portugal. Just the very chance one of those prehistoric threats was out there would make him hysterical and this fear of his was disturbing to all.

Then one day in a taverna they were served by a dark skinned man who lifted up his shirt to expose a row of pink dents in his side. Another man translated and said this was a shark bite. This second man said the first man was lucky to be alive. And the boy was never scared of sharks after that. Now he wanted his own scar, something to show off to strangers.

20 years later, he did get his brush with death, but on a night in his home town. He was in a queue for the cashpoint when four drunk teenagers turned on him and one of them broke a bottle across his face. The scar runs from his hairline down across to his left ear, and he hates it. He is forced to tell the story of this non-shark attack time and again. He always gets a look which reminds him how lucky he is and how ugly.

If it came down to it now, he thinks he could take a shark in open water. He thinks he could grab hold of the gills and strangle the damn thing. But if he ran into those kids another time, he’s got no idea what he might do. Some nights he cannot sleep and they close in on him again. He thrashes around in the darkness, no land in sight.


Mark Sheerin is an art journalist based in Brighton, England. His short stories and flash fiction have been published in such places as Litro, Metazen and Pages Of and earned placings in a number of competitions. He blogs, when he can, at