Listen, If There Are Flying Fish, There Are Bound to Be Accidents

updated 03/02/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/02/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

The neighbors should have seen it coming. When Bill Heine, a 42-year-old American from Batavia, Ill. moved onto High Street in quiet little Heading-ton, England, he already had a reputation for strange roof embellishments. First he had stuck a pair of plaster arms above his movie house in nearby Oxford. Next he had put a pair of humorous, black-and-white-stockinged legs atop a second theater. Last spring, shortly after buying his brick house on High Street, he pulled his best trick yet. One Saturday neighbors awoke to see a 25-foot, fiberglass shark sculpture being towed through town by a farm tractor. Sure enough, before the day was out, the shark was up there on the roof, right above the ivy and the pots of geraniums, head-down in the shingles. What did the neighbors make of that?

"Downright disgusting," observed Irene Williams from her front yard.

"I'm not going to quarrel with my neighbor over it," declared Patricia Rakes. "But I did ask the city council if they'd lower my tax rates."

"It's a pity it did not demolish the whole house," one councilman wrote.

Of course people will talk, but Heine claims the shark actually has a solemn purpose: He says it is an antiwar protest, although he's hard put to explain the exact symbolism. He also says the idea came when he and a sculptor friend, John Buckley, were sitting around celebrating the purchase of the new abode. "We came to the conclusion that the house needed something with a bit of bite," he reports, an explanation that flies better than the one about peace.

Heine insists that Buckley's fish is artful and "improves the aesthetics of the neighborhood." But there's no accounting for taste, and local authorities have ruled the piscine plunger requires a permit and have ordered its removal. Heine anticipates one or more trials, but he's confident he'll land his shark legally. "The fish will swim on and on and on," he proclaims.

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