In the summer of 1985, I went on my first real vacation. By real, I mean my family and I didn’t sleep in the spare room at a relative’s house for a week. We piled in to the family station wagon and made the 12-hour trek from da ‘Nati to Sunset Beach, North Carolina.
I have many memories from the week. I saw a shark for a first time when a fisherman on the pier unwittingly reeled one in. I discovered ocean currents are an actual thing when I was nearly sucked out to sea. Dad took us to see the USS North Carolina, a relic of World War II. Then, there was, as Revis has affectionately dubbed it, the “fish in the pants” incident.
After a lengthy dip in the salty Atlantic one day I moved to the beach where I laid my towel atop the blistering sand so the sun could bake my body dry. I laid face down on the towel and rested my head on a pillow made from my crisscrossed arms. I had just gotten comfortable when I felt a flutter in my swimming trunks. I quickly glanced toward my left thigh where I had felt the disturbance. I saw nothing out of the ordinary and assumed that it was just water running down my leg.
I laid my head down again. Moments later the flutter in my trunks came back with a vengeance. I looked back down at my swimming trunks and what I saw dropped my jaw to the beach like a skydiver without a chute . It looked like a disembodied heart was beating haphazardly inside my swimming trunks. There was a bulge in my shorts and it was pulsating.
I freaked the fuck out.
I shot up from the ground and squealed in terror. I frantically peeled my swimming trunks up in an effort to figure out what the hell was going on inside of them. A small golden fish finally popped out of my swimming trunks and fell onto my towel. The fish began flopping around on my towel while I continued screaming like a little girl. By this time my father had come over to investigate the ruckus.
“That fish was in my shorts!” I shrieked like it had just tried to murder me.
My father calmly regarded me. His gaze shifted from me to the fish floundering on my towel, then back again, his look clearly asking, “Are you fucking serious?” When he realized that I, in fact, was literally having a breakdown in the middle of a crowded beach because a small fish escaped the ocean in my swimming trunks, he sighed and said, “Toss it back in the water.”
Incredulous, I roared, “I’m not touching that thing!”
My father heaved a burdensome sigh and muttered, “Jesus Christ.” He scooped up the little fish and threw it back into the water. He then walked away, shaking his head over the scene his son had just caused over a fish half the size of his hand.
I wasn’t so traumatized that I didn’t go back into the water the rest of the week, but I for damn sure inspected my shorts every time I left the ocean thereafter. I’ve also endured years of criticism and embarrassment due to this horrifying incident. All I can say is this: if you unwittingly carried a fish out of the ocean in your swimming trunks I think you’d freak out, too.