A Fish Story
A fox walking on the beach had drawn him out of the cabin into the gray, pre-dawn light. The fire had gone out during the night, but the cabin was warm compared with the chill of the morning. He grabbed at his coat and hugged himself to suppress a shiver in what he thought was silence.
Slowly he became aware of the faint sound of water falling off the mountain a mile across the bay. As his ears were straining to hear the cascade, a whale breached with a whoosh and a spray of water. Then the resident seal splashed at the end of the spit, a gull cried, and a salmon jumped, as salmon do, for reasons known only to salmon. This was not silence; it was a natural symphony played just for him.
The boy and the old man were still asleep in the cabin. The adrenaline from yesterday’s encounter with the bear had worn off leaving the man with a slightly hung-over feeling. He was not hooked on danger as some people said. He was simply a collector of life experiences and the more exciting the better.
The bear had popped out of the brush thirty feet from where they were fishing and challenged their right to extract fish from the stream. The ensuing war of wills, strong words, and a few thrown rocks had convinced the bear to find another fishing spot. The man was triumphant and the boy was exhilarated, but the old man did not like that kind of excitement.
Today was a new day. The stunning natural beauty of the place was worth the pain and suffering and potential bear attacks. Today he would teach the boy how to fill a freezer, how to cast and how to set a hook, how to keep a tight line, how to talk among men, how to casually handle discomfort, and how to make it all look easy. It was also a day for him to show the old man that real life is not lived in the living room. No one ever complains of cold, or rain, or sea sickness, or sore muscles, or wet socks when they are reeling in a monster. The rush of emotion when a big fish strikes is indescribable.
The man snapped to when he realized that the sun was coming up over the water. He said a soft goodbye to the seal and set off to continue the boy’s unfinished education in adventurous living. He wanted to make sure that his son was conscious of his choices. You rarely encounter bears or land a fish that weighs more than you do while sitting in an easy chair. Neither of them was ever going to get old.