He was odd, Granger was. He grew up on the coast of Newfoundland, eating a steady diet of seafood. Over the years, he was a voracious reader, especially science and nonfiction. By the time he was twenty, he decided that the sea creatures he so enjoyed eating—shrimp, oysters, fish, and the like—were sentient beings. He could not bring himself to kill for food, nor could he abide buying food others had killed on his behalf. Yet he was unwilling to forego the foods he considered his connection to the circle of life. His solution was to become a sea-farmer. In several ocean-side “aquariums,” which actually were multi-acre pens created by stretching wire barriers in the water, he raised fish, shrimp, crabs, oysters, clams, mussels, squid, and any other creature he could. But he never harvested live creatures for his meals. Instead, he watched his aquariums intently, taking only those creatures that died of, he hoped, natural causes. In that sense, Granger became a sea scavenger, equivalent to a vulture but practicing the collection of carrion only on the water. The natural life cycles of his farmed seafood, though, failed to keep pace with his appetite. That’s when Granger decided to allow motorized pleasure craft inside his pens.

He did not admit to himself at first, that he was sacrificing his charges to quell his hunger. But it was almost impossible to lie to himself so blatantly for long. Ultimately, he accepted that his hunger overtook his sense of morality. He realized he allowed motorized craft inside his “aquariums” to ensure that some of his sea creatures were killed by their propellers. Yet his twisted mind allowed him to consider that any unfortunate shrimp or cod or squid that fell victim to a motor craft had died of natural causes. He spent his days following the pleasure craft, searching for the corpses of sea life that failed to get out of the way fast enough. One day, several months after this morally reprehensible practice began, Granger admitted openly to himself what he was doing. In an act of contrition, he swam far beyond his pens, into the open ocean, where sharks circled in search of food. There, he slit his wrists and waited to become the sharks. It did not take long for Granger to disappear in the thrashing water, crimson in the frenzy of attack.

He was odd, Granger was. In his zest for finding a suitable punishment for his moral failings, he left a wire barrier to the pens down. After finishing him, sharks entered the pens through that door, where they found food rounded up for them, with only a single escape route. A large bull shark guarded the exit while others gorged themselves for days on Granger’s livestock.

The lesson in all this, if there is one, hides beneath the horror. Granger’s demented take on a naturally cruel world is, in all probability, meaningless. His decision to sacrifice himself was no sacrifice at all; he sought atonement, perhaps, or forgiveness. Or, one might think, he felt a need to erase memories of self-serving cruelty in the most painful way his twisted intellect could manufacture. And what of the sharks? Did their gluttony mean something? Should we, who now know Granger’s story and how it ended with the sharks, assign human motives or emotions to sea creatures? Is this entire tale simply a disgorgement of letters turned into syllables and syllables into words and words into sentences and sentences into paragraphs, all without meaning or purpose? But let’s take another track, shall we? Perhaps this story is a political diatribe intended as a swipe against Newfoundland coastal life, a life in which compassion for sea creatures is sorely lacking. Or, just maybe, this is an anti-Canadian rant. Or perhaps it’s an allegory for the arrogance of coastal life, in general, in which a single man (that is, one man alone—I’m not making reference to the dead man’s marital status) has the gall to think he can control sea life with a simple wire cage.

But, in order to understand Granger and his odd proclivities, one must start by examining his upbringing by his angry, drug-crazed mother and his sociopathic father. Actually, a true understanding of Grange requires going back to an even earlier time, a time when apes roamed the Newfoundland shoreline and sabre-toothed tigers strolled the streets of Manhattan. Unfortunately, I have neither the time nor the inclination to explore the history of Granger’s DNA this morning. I trust you (and you) will take the time to investigate on your own and will return her to finish the story. I’ll give you a head start. There was an article about Granger—including his odd aquariums, his death, and his prehistoric DNA—in the New York Times, September 16, 1851 edition. You will find that Yahoo posted a similar story on the same date.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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