You see lots of people out on the beaches of the Hamptons. But not too many of them venture into the water. The reason? Sharks have been sighted in the sea. A few people up island, on Fire Island and at Jones Beach, have gotten bites that needed stitches.
But anybody can see the sharks when they’re out there. It’s the fin. And attentive lifeguards are closing beaches for a while in both Southampton and East Hampton until the fins swim away.
Officials have said that there are the same number of sharks out there, but in recent years, they have been patrolling near the shore, looking for schools of bunker fish, little fish about 12 inches long, which have been swimming in packs near the beaches because they see more tiny things to eat there. After officials declared bunker fish a threatened species, they rapidly increased in numbers, and moved in. The sharks followed.
Now there is still another danger on the beaches. Another species of fish, called bitechurbutts, have been lurking just offshore of the Hamptons. And though they are not as dangerous as sharks, they will attack humans from time to time. It’s scary. And they do leave a mark.
“Bitechurbutts are native to Kazamajan,” Marine and Wildlife Lt. James Jones told this reporter. “How they got to the Hamptons is quite amazing. They have muscular tails and are very strong swimmers. They are quite capable of swimming down the Hoocheekoochie River to the sea and then across the Atlantic. But it’s also possible they were brought through U.S. Customs by travelers, perhaps in some big goldfish bowls through John F. Kennedy International Airport. Frankly, this was a bad idea.”
Bitechurbutts are a gray fish about 15 inches long, with a red stripe on each side. They swim in groups known as “bunchickles.” When angered or excited, all the stripes glow. It’s not too hard to see them when that happens. So be aware. And don’t try to swat at them. The bitechurbutts are also endangered.
The first sighting of a bitechurbutt in our community was off Coopers Beach in Southampton last Sunday morning. Other sightings happened at Ponquogue Beach in Hampton Bays and Main Beach in East Hampton on Sunday afternoon.
Then, at Indian Wells Beach in Amagansett, came the first assault. It happened on Monday at 11:30 a.m. A woman swimming in the surf screamed for help and then splashed around and dropped below the surface.
The lifeguards blew their whistles and splashed out to the scene with their spearguns and buoys and located the woman. Using a fireman’s carry, they carried her to a big yellow-and-white striped towel laid down on the beach 10 feet back from the water line.
Artificial respiration was performed on this female, who was exhibiting signs of shock and panic. Then she was covered with silver foil to keep her safe until the medics and environmentalists arrived, which they soon did. She also coughed a lot.
This reporter was on the scene. The woman, when awake, gave her name, through her sobs, as Patricia Overbite, age 31, of Mineola, Long Island. That she was wearing a small two-piece bathing suit made it easy to see the one injury she apparently had received, a pucker mark on the left buttock, which, according to Johnson Johnson of Fish and Wildlife, who was also on the scene, was a telltale indication of a bitechurbutt bite.
“It was bound to happen,” Johnson said. “With all those bitechurbutts.” He waved his arm at the fish and, in return, they glowed red angrily just underwater.
“That’s them,” said Prentiss McPherson, the chief of the lifeguards. “Stand clear.”
By this time, Overbite, having been given a sedative, had ceased whimpering and fallen asleep.
Agent Johnson told this reporter more about bitechurbutts.
“Bitechurbutts are considered sacred in some parts of Kazamajan,” he said. “They get the same consideration that sacred cows get in India. Just don’t go near them. They have gotten very surly and upset since they were told they were endangered. So this is what happens.”
Johnson said that bitechurbutts are very alert and emotional when approached. Stay away from them until they swim off or the lifeguard sounds the all clear.
“Still,” he said, “they can’t really hurt you. They have no teeth. On the other hand, they have small but mild stingers on the ends of their tongues. When joined with the brief pucker, they can really upset bathers. Look what just happened to this woman, what’s her name.”
She was snoring peacefully.
Johnson turned to the crowd. “Is anyone here a relation or friend of Ms. Whatsername?”
A man said, “I am.” And he stepped forward. “And I could take care of her.”
At this point, the paramedics arrived and started carrying the woman to a gurney intending to wheel her into the back of the SUV ambulance.
“Go with her, then,” said lifeguard McPherson. “Just wait until the medics put an ID bracelet on you. What’s your name?”
“Well, hop into the back of the ambulance. But no funny business.”
“She’s my fiancée.”
The ambulance drove off.
The next day, Tuesday at 4 p.m., another person was injured, now at Sagg Main Beach in Sagaponack. But there was no reporter at the scene so we can’t be sure yet exactly what happened. We do know that the injured person was an elderly man named Carl. That’s about it.
Anyway, watch out.
This morning, Friday, a message arrived at the White House from the president of Kazamajan, and though it was not immediately released to the public, Dan’s Papers was able to obtain a copy from a member of the White House staff who spoke to us on the condition that we not report his (or her) name, as she was afraid she might get fired.
The letter was an official protest of the incident at Indian Wells Beach in Amagansett. It said a group of 200 bitechurbutts (which translates from the Kazamajan language as “Neon Fish to Be Worshipped and Left Alone”) had been stolen from the Royal moat at the governor’s palace in Abajerdaben, the capital of Kazamajan, and must be returned within 72 hours and the perpetrators arrested — or else further action, to be determined, will be taking place.
So far there has been no response from President Joe Biden.