This is a book I read when I was twenty-six. It was probably
intended for adolescents, a catalog of dangerous marine creatures compiled
by a biologist after years of field work. One afternoon the scientist
was strolling along a beach when a jellyfish, practically invisible and
only three inches long, stung his ankle. He became paralysed, and was
able only to lay his body down on the sand. Not 20 feet away, his wife
sat under the shade of an umbrella, reading a book on how to organize
her thoughts. He could see and hear, but not move enough even to blink.
The toucans clacked in the trees. His wife tucked her golden hair behind
her ears, frowning. Waves lapped his ankles. No one noticed him, not even
his loyal assistant. After some ten or twenty minutes, he got up and stumbled
over to his wife. But he decided not to tell her what had happened, not
wanting to alarm her. In truth his lips were numb: he was afraid he would
not be able to form human sounds, and he went past her, over to the cabana,
and sat on the stool there for a long time. At lunch his wife ordered
wine, but he was afraid to drink it, in case his shocked nervous system
should re-succumb. She wanted to have sex in the hammock later, a rarity,
but he could not. What's wrong with you? she said, and she returned to
her beach chair, leaving her book behind.
"Danger" is part of a project I began and then abandoned a few years ago, to write my autobiography as a reading list. I suppose it's autobiography in the sense of being a "true story"—I really read this book, and this is more or less what happened in it.