Beginnings #4: What’d She Order?

The simple pleasure of just being on the water, on the boat, was almost overshadowed by the thunderheads rolling in. It was lucky, he thought, that today he’d chosen to fish instead of sail, so was in the fiberglass motorboat instead of a clunking wooden hull topped with a tall, aluminum mast. Thunder rolled above him, and in his haste, the mackerel jig swung loose of the rod, and as he pushed the throttle steadily forward, the frothy wake streaming out behind him, the colorful streamers and shiny hooks of the jig danced in the now fierce wind like a semaphore signaling his intent. Rushing to safe harbor, it screamed into the darkening skies. Now the rain came, and as it crushed down upon him, pouring out the stern scuppers and rinsing mackerel guts off the floorboards, he smiled. He smiled because it was a warm rain, and it felt good on his salty skin, and he was in the channel now and the pines rose high on both sides, blocking the wind so that rain came straight down, heavy and warm. For a moment, it grew so dark and the rain so heavy that he couldn’t see the dock, but he knew it was close. Lightning cracked, the world lit, and he steered toward his mooring. Here in the harbor, lightning wasn’t a worry. Even out in the bay, out near the point, he only worried when he was in the sailboat. Maybe he should have stayed out longer, kept fishing. The storm would pass quickly; it was just a burst of clouds, pouring across the landscape and then out over the sea where the water cooled it and slowed it and eased its power. But it was enough—the tide was almost low anyway, and the day was getting late. He’d boated two stripers, one big enough to keep, so now on the dock he cleaned it with a whip-thin filet knife and threw the bones and innards into the water along with the rest of his bait fish, the oily mackerel. Gulls plunged towards these prizes. He trotted up the hill, holding a fat filet in each hand, covered in scales and aching for the taste of grilled striped bass.

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