Shell Island Lesson This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   "Exit to the front and watch your step on the rocks," the tour guide slowly announced over the intercom. "Oh, yeah, and have a great time."

My family and I, dying of thirst on a scorching hot day, dawdled along a sandy white beach. The sand burned our toes. Finally, we collapsed, ready for a water break.

"How much longer till we find the perfect spot?" I asked, anxious to sit beside the clear warm Florida waters.

"It should be right over there where the tour guide said it would be," my mom replied.

Nate, my older brother, jumped in, "I see some people now. "

We picked up our gear and moved a bit more quickly. When we reached the people, we picked a spot and set our stuff down.

"Wow," Dad mumbled in amazement, "look how clear the water is!"

"I'm going to look for shells in the water since this place is called Shell Island," I yelped.

Nate said, "Me, too."

"Not until you both put on suntan lotion," Mom insisted, stopping us in our tracks.

Once covered with lotion, we waded into the water to search for shells. Soon, an animal swimming around startled us.

We had no idea what it was. As quickly as we could, we scrambled out, but my mom managed to be stung by the animal before she escaped.

"Ouch! My leg!"

We all stared at her leg. The small red slash resembled a scratch. She was alright, although the experience definitely gave her a scare. She and Nate left for a walk down the beach while my dad and I remained in the water to search for more shells.

"I'm going to get a drink," he announced. "Do you want one?"

I replied, "In a minute, I have to find one more shell."

I continued my search for the one perfect shell. Feeling with my toes, I found one, iridescent gray and perfect. As I was about to dive under, I heard a loud shout.

"Cassie, look out!" my dad yelled.

"Ohhhhhhh!" I screamed.

Close by, a stingray swam, just a few feet from where I stood. About a foot in diameter, like a miniature flying saucer shooting through the sky, he undulated and glided his way through the water. I could not believe this was happening to me.

Left alone, abandoned by everyone who had seemed to be warned of this intruder's presence, I froze with fear.

Zeroing in on my exposed, vulnerable body as I stood in the water, the stingray swam between my legs paralyzing me for a second. In an almost out-of-body experience, I could not move or feel myself for a moment. As soon as he moved away, I hustled out as fast as I could, falling and tripping over the crashing waves.

"Are you all right?" my dad asked.

"Yeah! I'm fine. It just scared me for a second."

When my brother and mom returned, I told them, my voice still quivering. Finally, and cautiously, we swam for a little longer, before we started back to the ferry.

As we walked, a mumble of talk between my parents and brother hovered in the air. I stared off into space, just thinking.

"Now that I think about it, I was in the wrong. After all, I entered the stingray's home," I mumbled to myself. "It was just protecting itself and family. Everyone who comes to visit on vacation is invading the animals' habitat and disturbing their routines."

We traveled off into the sunset wondering what other animals we might find in this unique place. I knew the stingray had taught me an important lesson. For the rest of my life, I will respect the habitat of all the creatures in all my travels. ^


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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