Sunday, October 17, 2004

Part of the Past.

The following article should have been posted in May.

So here it is!

Doin' The Wave
May 23, 2004

No fishing yesterday evening.

The sun was going down golden, and the water was powder-blue, and clear azure where the sunlight glowed through, and the foam was white as snow.

The tide was in, about as far as it was going to come. The waves had built the pea-gravel beach into a head-high cliff. To get to the water, a person took a jump and ran down, to keep the gravel out of her shoes.

There wasn't going to be any fishing, because the tide was in and the waves were crashing against the little cliff. But I had my fishing pole along anyway, because if I couldn't catch, I could practice casting. I'm getting pretty good at casting. I was showing my new neighbor Tracy how to caste with a bail reel, and she said that her husband had taught her to do it just that way. Which was cool, because I'd had to develop the method on my own. I've no fear that any part of civilization will ever disappear. Somebody will figure it all out of then. We'll not get into whether that's a good thing or not. I did get to tell Tracy she casts like a girl.

"I like being a girl!" she said.

"I was more of a tomboy," she said.

"That's my daughter," she said.

I'd just got done terrorizing her daughter and her friend. They wanted to pierce their noses, so I told them all about my own nose ring, and that yes, indeed, it DID hurt, and it DID take a long time to heal, and yes, it did smell pretty rank while it was doing it.

But back to the beach. The kids were all down there fishing, or sort of. Again, they were just casting. The red-headed kid who is the boss colt decided that, like me, he wasn't even going to try putting on any bait. He'd just enjoy flipping the line out as far as it would go. I was doing the best job, of course – I was using my home-made rock-and-wire weights, and those things just take a line out in a high distant arc. Lovely to see. And I'm getting better at thunking that line into just the hole I'm intending. Some of my best casts, my most heart-satisfying flight of line and weight, have happened when the weight snapped the end off the line off, and went flying as though propelled by an atlatl into deep water. No matter.

I usually carry extra weights, or a little extra wire to make a new one. My fishing kit has become my pole and reel, Dan's buck-knife (just in case I ever do get to fillet another fish on the beach), a little camera case somebody left on the beach and that Dan rescued from the tide – and it was full of big hooks and plastic worms, so I'm putting them to good use – a couple plastic bags, a small rag for wiping bait guts off my hands, instead of using my blue jeans, and a little bag of bait.

Tracy had accidentally left a bowl of big prawns uncooked the night before.

"Don't tell my husband," she'd said. "He'll kill me."

"No, that's not wasted food," I said. "That's bait!" So we'd used it that morning to get a lot of nibbles and no fish. I don't know what Jim would have said to our using big prawns to feed fish with no fillets in return. But Tracy said we'll all go fishing in Jim's big fishing boat next weekend, and since fish caught that was cost about $75.00 a pound if not more, I don't think a few little prawns come into the computation.

While the kids and I were pretending to fish, Dan was down the beach hunting agates. Meanwhile, the kids were playing I Dare You with the waves. On the way back with Dan, I started playing it myself.

By the time I got to the kids, I was ready to tell them that the way to get the big waves to come in was to stand with their backs to the water. Water and fire are carnivorous, and they'll go for you if you turn your back on them or aren't especially careful around you. Fire will literally snatch you bald-headed. That crackle and stink as your hair goes up in smoke is not soon forgotten.

We were discussing the eating habits of the elements when the red-headed kid yelled, "Oh, big one!" and we all took a quick glance and jeezus crimeny, yes, that was indeed a big one, and it was going to have our asses if we didn't jump, and jump fast. But the only place we had to go was straight up that shifting loose pea-gravel cliff.

I haven't screamed and scrambled and laughed so hard in years. We all got soaked. Then we just stood dancing around in the foam out of the pure exhilaration of having lost to the elements, becoming soggy one with them, and survived. Well, not that we were really in danger, but we could have been.

And that evening Dan and I watched "What Lies Below," with the lights out, and scared the bejesus out of ourselves. No fakey psychological thriller, that. Zemeckis promised ghosts, and he delivered. Even though we knew that ghost was going to be in the bathtub, we practically jumped off the couch when we saw her. Ya gotta love it when they're not afraid of the ghosts.

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