Excerpt of Grayson by Lynne Cox
(Page 2 of 4)
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Like raindrops hitting the water. But nothing was
falling from the sky. This was wrong.
Out of the darkness, things were flapping into my face,
flicking off my arms and head. It was like swimming
through a sea of locusts, and with each impact my
muscles tightened. I was tingling with fear, and all I
wanted to do was to turn and sprint for shore.
But I told myself, Stay calm. You need to focus. You
need to figure out what this is.
Taking a deep breath, I looked down into the deep black
Thousands of baby anchovy were darting through the water
like lit sparklers.
Blinded by panic, they were frantically tearing away
from their schools and leaping out of the ocean like
popcorn cooking on high heat. They were trying to evade
Light was exploding around me like hundreds of tiny blue
flashbulbs constantly firing.
When I turned my head to breathe, something leaped into
my mouth, wiggled across my tongue, and flapped between
my teeth. It was larger than the water bug I once
inhaled on a lake in Maine, larger than an anchovy.
Without thinking I spat it back into the sea. It had
bright silver sides and was about six inches long. It
was a grunion, a fish nearly twice as large as the baby
anchovy. The grunion were chasing the anchovy, snatching
them from the water and swallowing them whole.
More grunion were swimming in, bumping into my thighs,
raking their pointy fins across my shoulders, but I
smiled. The grunion had returned. Every year the grunion
return to California in the spring and summer. They wait
just offshore for the full moons or new moons when the
tide is high, so they can swim ashore and lay their
eggs. It always seems to be a miracle that they return
every year and know exactly where and when to swim
A lone male grunion, a scout, swims ahead, and if the
coast is clear, hundreds of female grunion follow him
in, each with as many as eight male grunion swimming
alongside. They choose a special wave, one that is on
the receding tide so that it will carry them higher onto
the beach, and the female's eggs will not be washed out
Once a female reaches the beach, she digs a hole in the
sand with her tail, then wiggles back and forth,
drilling herself down into the soft wet sand until she
is buried all the way up to her lips. There she lays up
to three thousand eggs, and one of the male grunion
arches around her and releases his milt to fertilize the
eggs. Then the adult grunion swim back to sea while the
eggs incubate in the warm sand for ten days. Then the
baby grunion hatch and ride the tide back out to sea to
begin their lives in the ocean.
I I loved to watch them come ashore and I loved to go
grunion hunting. It was a big event in Southern
California. In summer, I would meet friends on the beach
on moonlit nights and wait for the grunion. We'd spread
our large bright-striped beach blankets on a berm, at
the crest in the beach, beyond the reach of the incoming
waves. We'd sit wrapped up in more warm woolly blankets,
sometimes alone, or sometimes snuggled up with friends
to stave off the cool, damp swirling ocean breezes. We'd
talk, in muffled tones so no one would scare the fish
away, about boyfriends and girlfriends, about summer
plans and BBQs, about our lives and our families, our
dreams and how we felt. We'd explore our lives, and
sometimes touch hands under the blanket. We, too, were
restless, awaiting our own high tide.
Excerpted from Grayson by Lynne Cox Copyright ©
2006 by Lynne Cox. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a
division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No
part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.