Picture a bulldog that has been flattened with a meat tenderizer, shaved, and covered in glitter. Envision more things like this happening everywhere, or else: during my childhood, just like how cartoon sand would always turn into quicksand, every fictional body of water was filled with real fish that had small, sharp teeth.
In the show The Simpsons, Millhouse’s biggest concern is piranhas, even more so than the fear of his mother no longer loving him. In one episode, Bart is depicted as a skeleton due to being attacked by piranhas from a hosepipe.
Next, we were educated on the presence of small fish that feed on dead skin from our feet, and we disregarded the ones that were said to rip apart our bodies. It’s more pleasant to focus on having clean feet rather than imagining being torn apart by a frenzy of tiny, aggressive creatures with sharp, triangular teeth designed for quick piercing and cutting.
Piranhas create nests for their eggs and continuously swim around them to guard them, poised to attack like fish. To pass by safely, divert their attention with a whole cow.
They really can devour a cow, if they’re starved and confined to a small space. But otherwise, they won’t. This, as the measure of the piranha’s disproportionate ferocity, is a rumour that comes from, of all unlikely places, a US president: Theodore Roosevelt. After failing to win his bid for a third term in 1912, Roosevelt decided to take a long and lovely literal trip along the “river of doubt” in the Amazon.
At that location, he witnessed a presentation of piranhas feasting on a cow, with the water appearing to boil from their frenzy and blood. After a short period of time, a skeleton could be seen floating on the now peaceful surface. This was described in a detailed exploration by HowStuffWorks. In his personal account of the journey, which nearly ended in his death, Roosevelt referred to the piranhas as “the most aggressive fish in existence.”
Instead of chewing, piranhas bite and the food goes directly into their stomach. However, a science writer believes that they are not as dangerous as they are portrayed. In an article for the New York Times, the writer, who shares similarities with Jacopo Peterman from Seinfeld, recounts his experiences catching piranhas in the Peruvian Amazon and throwing chicken carcasses in Venezuela. He reassures readers that they can swim without fear.
Whom will you rely on? A fish specialist or Sylvia Plath? “And the fish, the fish— / Goodness! They resemble sheets of ice / A tool of blades / A piranha.”
I have confidence in Clark Moore, a poet who penned a piece titled “Ampersands,” which begins:
…and we noticed the overwhelming abundance of piranhas.
are capable of consuming an entire ampersand in such-and-such
a specific period of time. The sun had risen and was visible both above and below, appearing in a particular location.
overhead. And I thought …
We laughed heartily and continued on with great joy.
The dense and thick jungle surrounded us as we made our way through the trails, with ancient stone ruins lining the sides.
The area is overgrown with vegetation and my boots are stuck in the mud. I also notice sunken ampersands.
This was comprehensible to us, as…
And concludes in this manner:
You put your foot into the river from the riverbank.
As the piranhas started consuming, I remained still, gazing at my hands.
On Saturday, I found myself speechless as I stood alone on the riverbank.
There, with whatever remained. & ….
The situation becomes apparent, shimmering with glimmer. It heats the surrounding water and nips at you, still not fully grasped until you immerse yourself once more and it scrubs away the remnants.
Helen Sullivan, a journalist for The Guardian, will have her memoir published in 2024.
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