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Succor for Scar

The amazing life of an autistic scientist and her shark

By Guenneth SpeldrongPublished 3 years ago 8 min read

I do not like people. Everything about them was loud. Even kids hurt me. Their noise made me dizzy. Their fingers caused fire on my skin.

I preferred the ocean. It was safe and calm there.

One time kids hurt me. They found me in the water, and pulled me out to see. I could not move. They all laughed. I chocked on water.

I thought I would die there. That was ok with me. I liked it there.

Suddenly, I was alone in deep water. My arms and legs hurt. At least it was quiet now.

Then I was not alone. Something brushed against me. I was moving toward the shore. I thought it was a dolphin, but it was a small great white shark.

I was not scared. It was the size of my dad, so it was a baby. Babies are scary when they are loud, but this baby was quiet. I pet its belly, then realized it was a he because of an extra fin.

I knew a lot about sea creatures.

He was nice. He helped me. When people are nice, you thank them, so I thanked him. He swam away.

The teachers would not let me go near the ocean for a long time. The kids who hurt me said the shark attacked them. One girl had a small cut. She said she needed three stitches. I tried to say that it was not an attack. I tried to tell them that sharks almost never attack humans on purpose, only by accident. I tried to tell them that sharks did not eat humans. They find us disgusting, and that almost all "shark attacks" were accidents.

No one would listen.

All the fishermen went out to hunt down the good shark. They killed 15 sharks, all small. None was the one I met. He had a scar on one of his fins, and none of the dead sharks had one. I was not going to tell them that they got the wrong ones. I wanted them to stop killing.

I was able to sneak back down to the ocean again. Everyone stayed away. I started swimming out into deeper water, hoping to find my friend again.

After many days, he came to find me. I felt a fin brush my leg. I stuck my head in the water and recognized him.

We swam together until I heard the school bell ring, indicating it was the end of the school day.

I only went to school once a week after that. I did my homework and brought it in. I always did well. The teachers said I was gifted, but not good at writing. That was fine.

I named my friend Scar.

One day I swam out and saw splashing. My friend’s scarred fin was right in the center, being moved from side to side. I saw smaller fins around him. Not from a shark. I moved in as close as I could and recognized that they were bottle nosed dolphins. They were pushing Scar around with their noses. Scar did not like that. They were hurting him.

I screamed and I swung my arms at the dolphins. I had become stronger after a year of swimming with Scar, and the dolphins swam away after just a few strikes. Those dolphins were like my classmates. I did not like them.

Scar had more scars now.

My counselor told me that sometimes people could have scars on the inside that no one could see, and that made them act differently sometimes.

I think Scar and I had those kind too.

He did not like being pet as much as before, and was always looking around too. He seemed slower. That is how I know.

He lost weight, so I stole fish for him. I was always careful to throw them into the water first, so he could eat in peace before I swam over. We would both hate it if he accidently bit me: gross for him and painful for me.

We both got bigger. He was much bigger than me. He was a boy and a shark. Sometimes he would bring other sharks. They were never as friendly as Scar, but they were all gentle and curious. I stole fish for them too. I shouldn’t have done that. Even though they were wild creatures and one should never feed wild creatures or they lose the will or ability to hunt.

I was worried. The fishermen would bring in huge amounts of fish every day. There was so many that they never once noticed anything missing. Sometimes, the fish would sit there until they rotted.

The ecosystem couldn’t hand this kind of multi-species genocide.

I went to college nearby to be a marine biologist. I was very curious to understand why sharks were so feared while they were so gentle, and why dolphins were so loved when they were capable of cruelty equal to humans. Was it just a fluke? Just this shoal? Was it that humans and dolphins similar?

I had to know.

When I was at college, a professor gave me a book by someone called Temple Grandin. She thought I would be interested. I did not understand, since the book was about cows, and I was studying the sea. Cows had nothing to do with the sea. I decided to read the book to make sure.

After I read it, I told the professor that the book was not relevant to my studies. She sat me down, and explained that Temple Grandin was like me. I found that confusing, since I didn’t understand how. She had autism, and no one had ever told me that I did as well. It made sense.

She also told me that Temple Grandin cared for cows the same way I cared for sharks and other sea life. She was convinced I could do the same for sharks as Temple Grandin did for cows.

I read the book several more times, replacing the word cows with sharks and correcting facts to make them about sharks instead of cows.

Eventually, I ended up with a completely different book. I brought it to the professor. She edited it, and added some things for “flow”, then she sent it off to many publishers for me.

We waited. We waited many months. We did not hear back from any publisher.

The professor told me not to lose hope. She would keep trying for me.

I spent many years trying to figure out why no one liked my book. Temple Grandin seemed to do well with her book about cows. Many cows were now better thanks to her.

My sharks were still in danger though. It was not fair. I told Scar I was sorry.

After I graduated, my professor took me out to dinner and we talked about why my book failed.

She said it most likely had to do with society. People liked cows, she said. They were sweet and harmless. They also liked to eat them. Temple Grandin came up with a solution that would care for cows, and yet still allow us to eat them.

My book did not do that, she said. People were just afraid of sharks. They were not cute and fluffy like cows. Even when TV would try to tell people that sharks were not bad during shark week, they were still afraid. Sharks were large, and had multiple rows of teeth. There were many movies and shows that still said they were bad. She said popular opinion would have a lot more trouble changing over something as big and dangerous as a Great White Shark, even if that danger was just an accident.

She also told me that people LIKE dolphins. That it is a big cash industry. My book may put an end to the business of swimming with dolphins, and that would make people upset. They did not want to hear that dolphins are actually cruel, just like humans. They did not want to hear that keeping them in captivity only makes them more dangerous.

I did not understand any of what she said, but it made me upset. I felt the hot skin like I used to have when the kids were mean at school. I left to find Scar, even though it was late and getting cold.

I told him that I failed to help him and his family. I don’t think he understood my words, but he still comforted me. It was like I was the professor now, and he was me.

I did the best I could with my life after that. I was given a good job, and I worked hard. I helped a lot of marine life, just not sharks. When I was old and tired, I used my savings to buy a boat to live on. I had enough money to live there as long as I wanted, and I had a helper who got me anything I needed.

I never set foot on land again.

Scar would visit me often. I put a large fin on the bottom of my boat so he could find me.

People were afraid of me, so the fishermen would stay away from wherever I was. Slowly, the fish population began to grow again based on my daily observations. It was good.

This is Susan, Amanda Succor’s assistant. Sadly, Amanda died last week. I found this journal while I was cleaning out her belongings. It seemed sad that there was only a few pages written of what was otherwise a rich and successful life. It seems Amanda only focused on her first and largest failure. She has done so many wonderful things for the ocean. It makes me sad that she didn’t write about any of her accomplishments. As far as I know, this was the only thing she has ever written without any help.

The funeral was small, but filled with people who had a large amount of love for her. Everyone received a copy of the book she wrote. As all twelve of us sat around, reminiscing about the life of this amazing woman, we decided to write a book about her. All of us were touched in a significant way by Amanda’s incredible intelligence and enormous heart. She overcame incredible odds and a great deal of discrimination, including the neglect of her parents and the fact that she was mostly ignored by her peers. Her life and work should not go unnoticed by a world who simply is not interested in caring for sharks.

We took everything we wrote about Amanda’s life, and added it to the book she wrote. The book in your hand is what was created as a result. I hope you read it, and enjoy the remarkable life and insights of Amanda Succor. I write these thoughts down, Scar and his family are circling the boat. They miss her as much as I do. I can’t imagine that I was once afraid of these sweet creatures. They are not as fond of me as they were of Amanda, but they are still as gentle and intelligent as she always insisted.

Amanda never married, or had any kids. She left all of her belongings to me. I feel both obligated and excited to continue her legacy.

I have decided to live here, on this boat, until I have a family of my own. Even after, I will come out here and continue to care for Scar as though he is my grandfather, and his family as though they are mine.

One day, the world may see that sharks are not the terrifying threat they are made out to be. I hope to be there when that happens.

Young Adult

About the Creator

Guenneth Speldrong

Hello there. I write things. Sometimes good things. Mostly, I write to find myself. If I can entertain you in the process, then that's just the derivative icing on the proverbial cake!

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