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The Observer, Feb. 14

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The Observer's kid is fascinated with sharks. He's 8, and he's got books on sharks, watches anything he can about sharks on the Discovery Channel (It's Shark Week this week, by the way, so we're getting more than our daily quota), and can pretty much tell you what it is and where it comes from just by looking at a picture — “That's a Caribbean reef shark. They can grow up to 13 feet long. Did you know they're responsible for more attacks on humans than any other shark?”

Given all that, Junior has nagged The Observer for years to let him see Steven Spielberg's “Jaws.” Finally, last year, we gave in, with the understanding that we'd get to fast forward through all the horrific deaths and blood, and reserving the right to play it back a few times during our favorite scene: the spooky, near-perfect monologue when Quint tells about the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis (“He's got black eyes — like a doll's eyes. He don't seem to be livin', 'til he bites ye ...”). Since then, Junior has watched the Dad-expurgated version probably 20 times. He abso-freaking-lutely loves it. For several weeks — until his Mama told him he was going to get electrocuted by the light fixture in the bathroom — his favorite activity at bath time was to make his Great White from Toys-R-Us go after one of his plastic pirates, yell “Smile, you son-of-a,” and then make water (and, we suppose, a great gout of imagined shark guts) fly up and hit the ceiling over the tub.

Last night, The Observer and Spouse were watching the news when we heard about the death of actor Roy Scheider — who played Chief Brody, police chief of Amity Island and shark slayer extraordinaire in “Jaws” — in Little Rock. Chief Brody is like a god to The Observer's kid. If there were Roy Scheider posters, Junior would have one over his bed. If there were Jaws Underroos, he'd have Brody and Quint on opposing butt cheeks.

Junior was up way past his bedtime, and when he heard the newscaster mention “Jaws,” he got out of his bed and came into the living room to listen. The news station ran a clip of Scheider from “Jaws,” and then said he had died at UAMS — only a few short blocks from The Observer's house — from complications of myeloma cancer.

Like I kind of expected he might, Junior got choked up at the news. Like his Mom, he can be tough as a maple cutting board. But, like his Dad, he can also dissolve into a big ol' blubbering mess at the drop of a hat. So, he's standing there crying and I'm trying to soothe him, hugging him, simultaneously loving him for his big heart — so easily broken — and trying not to chuckle. Finally he got to a point where he could speak. And through his tears, he said: “Well, I guess he doesn't need a bigger boat anymore.”

God bless, Roy — wherever you are.

A note passed along to The Observer relates the post-tornado situation in Clinton this week.

The note says the National Guard — to whom all in the tornado-ravished area are grateful — is setting up roadblocks after dark. The Guard is trying to stop looters.

The writer of the note was driving from Clinton to Scotland on a back road when a guardsman stopped her and required her to produce identification. The guardsman took down her license plate number as well.

“I wasn't singled out,” the note writer said. “I watched them stop the people behind me, too. However, it still felt odd — having to justify myself.”

Looks like a war zone up there. Feels like one, too.

From the Life in a Small but Wacky Town Desk: Last Thursday, The Lovely County Citizen of Eureka Springs, under the headline “There arose such a clatter,” ran on its front page a photograph of a white truck pulling a person on a sled down a snow-free White Street. The picture was taken Feb. 1

In the same issue, the newspaper reported on its police beat page that on Feb. 1, officers were unable to locate a white pickup truck reportedly pulling a person on a toboggan.

Fortunately for the driver of the truck, the photograph didn't get license plates. Fortunately for the tobagganer, there was no follow-up police report on injuries suffered by a sledder being pulled through town on dry pavement.

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