Rushing Water Held Tightly in Place

This is flash-fiction-sort-of-memoir prose that I wrote after a fishing trip with my brother a few years ago.  We try to hit the Owens Valley every year or so for fishing, coffee, and sometimes snow. Aren’t all fish stories fiction?

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We paused at the rim. The chill air was alive with spring sage. The water below, a dark ribbon. A lone string of fog, floated by, as we scouted our descent into the Owens Gorge, some 500 feet below. It was carved by years of river flow. Just water, gravity and time. Allen pointed to a bend in the river, maybe 400 yards from us on the far side of the gorge, his voice, waxed paper on a gritty floor said “Let’s try there?” I’d follow my brother just about anywhere, especially when there’s fish at the end. We picked up the pace, not a race, just a quickening heart-beat, our feet knew what to do. It was slow work. We watched our steps, lest we tumbled or jumbled our gear on a crag. And we’d heard there might be snakes as the gorge warmed up.

We turned the first bend and heard the kingfisher before we saw its streak of blue and white flight. The bird’s cackle brought a sparkle of light, as the first trout rose and splashed, just ahead, where the river turned. We looked back up. Why did it always look steeper going down than from the bottom?

The water made its own music as it flowed free. Loud and boisterous, then a meandering melody that always seemed to slow me down. We walked carefully on rocky river stones. My brother was a bird sitting on a branch, just watching. His clothing all tan and green, straight out of a fly fishing magazine. This stretch of water ran clear, over smooth rocky bottom, golden green, mossy streaked, and then there was a flash of tail, and another. The sound slapped our ears. The fish were out. They were feeding on the surface.

Allen was the first to assemble his rod. I wasn’t quite ready to fish, still too much in my head, so I got my camera out and made a couple of test shots to check aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. I’d ease into fishing this way. He started with a look around. What would catch him? A branch behind, the reeds in front? He started in close, with a short roll cast, barely upstream. The fly tangled on a reed and with a flick of the tip of his two weight rod, the fly flipped over backward and landed softly in a tiny eddy just downstream from the reed. Schwack! A solid 14 inch German-Brown trout flung itself against the parachute Adams, but left the fly unscathed and still floating. Allen looked my way and laughed.

He took two steps, and casted again, just ahead of the reeds. I managed to get a shot of the fly landing softly right behind a rock. It looked perfect to me, but he picked it up for two short false casts, to dry the fly. Then fluid poet on a rocky river, he slipped the fly into the seam at the head of the pool. The current curved the fly like a crescent moon as a tail flashed, a mouth grabbed and the rod tip pointed instinctively to God.

The trout reared its head and exploded from water, turned gently and seemed to hang in the air, then came down with a splash. It sent spikes of spray. It landed hard a wet crash. The line ripped off the reel spraying Allen’s glasses and face. A quick swipe from his sleeve and he sees the fish heading down stream. The fish, heavy now with the weight of the current, headed straight for a log. Allen ended it. He pressed his palm against the reel. Pulled the fish to a stop, a moment before the log. Will the line snap? With one power move the fish could set free, but the line held, the fish tired. He reeled it in quickly for a moment of fame and an upstream release so this fish could meet another day.

Daily Prompt: Fishing

Generations

My wife and I spent Thanksgiving weekend in Camarillo, CA.  We had wonderful weather and time to catch up with my brother, my dad, my nephew, and more.

My brother and his wife raise Guide Dogs and have a new puppy in training, Bud.  Bud and his big brother Newman, are black labs with the cutest eyes.

We shared several meals with my dad who turned 96 in October.  He lives at Alma Via, an assisted living residence.  He has his share of health issues, but hey, he’s 96. He’s earned them.

On Friday my son’s family met us for a gathering of generations.  We had my dad (the great grandfather), me (the grandfather), my son Matthew (the father), and his daughter Violet Mae.  Four generations in one photo.

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Hanalei Blues (fiction)

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The end of September brings Hanalei back to the locals. There are still tourists. There are always tourists, but they thin as the air cools; as the days grow shorter. And most tourists fear the looming possibility of heavy rain, flash floods and large waves as the calendar turns toward winter.

The pier belongs to the bay, which is nestled in the Hanalei valley surrounded by steep, irregular ridges, shrouded in a lush tropical green. When the sun strikes the mountains in the late afternoon, the green glows like it’s made of light. Waterfalls streak the north facing walls. They are flash flood monitors. If there are more than 7 it’s time to move the kids, cars, and farming equipment to higher ground. If there are more than 10, just get the kids to the cliffs. There’s no time for cars and equipment.

Waves lap at the pier piles as tourists march along the length of it, sipping drinks and chatting into another sunset. Mano sets the hook on a nice fish, plays it longer than needed, and hoists it to the deck. He strikes a pose against the setting sun, like he is the king of this pier, though much younger than his uncle who has four rods in the water, and sits on a beach chair, sipping something from a plastic mug, ice cubes clinking. Mano is pleased to be seen but acts like the tourists are not there. He steps on the spine of the small hammer head. The shark thrashes and shimmies. Mano whacks it hard on the head with the butt of his knife and lays it out on the picnic bench where two tourists play a game of checkers. A pool of blood gathers under the hammer head. Tourists get close to see the tiny teeth.

The last of the sunset sends the tourists back to the bars, the restaurants, the expensive vacation homes. Mano casts again and speaks in hushed tones to his uncle. They laugh as the last light brings their village back to them.

In the morning, Mano tosses a leash at a tourist who is renting a board from the Green Trees Surf Shop. He intends to startle the tourist, maybe laugh at him, but gets a look of contempt from his co-worker who is filling out a rental agreement. Mano acts like he owns the shop, but is just another worker who seems like a truant. Like he’s not working at the shop even when he’s there.

Mano hasn’t always hated the tourists. Not that it matters, but they sold the house next to his bungalow and now it’s a rental. Tourists come in with their red Mustang convertibles, their tan muscular bodies with slinky girlfriends and think they can do what they want with his beach. They make noise until late at night and their leave their haole trash on the beach.

The tourist, a thirty-something guy from San Diego, sweats as the boards are loaded. A twinge of fear gathers in his gut as he selects a paddle. He’d surfed at Hanalei ten years ago, but not on a stand up paddle board. Not at the reef. He is nervous about looking foolish. He is nervous about falling onto the reef in shallow water. He thinks about sharks.

He surfs for an hour and catches his share of waves. As he paddles to catch his last wave, a movement comes from his right. Mano is paddling an outrigger canoe into the wave. The tourist tries to back off, but it’s too late. He jumps from the board as it slams the canoe.  There is a pause, like the ocean has forgiven them. The tourist pops his head up to see the canoe sliding by, then is pulled under water and dragged behind the canoe. His board is caught on the outrigger. His leash is strapped to his ankle. The weight of the tourist pulls canoe to the left. The tourist breathes water. His knee scrapes the coral reef. The canoe exits the wave with alarming speed. It pitches into the air, nearly flips over, but Mano stands, leans into the wave and settles the canoe into the water. The tourist surfaces and sputters for breath. Mano jumps from the boat and yells at the tourist to unstrap his leash. The tourist thinks he’ll be left without his board. Mano yells again for the tourist to remove the leash, which he does. Mano pulls the leash through the outrigger stays, and pushes the board toward the tourist who is standing on the shallow reef, paddle in hand. Against the setting sun the tourist looks like Neptune. Mano tells the tourist to swim to the board and he does. Mano climbs back into his boat and paddles hard. As he passes the tourist, he stands and slows. The tourist is standing on his board. He does not know what to do.

“Haole dude. Ok now?”

The tourist nods his head. His knees shake as blood drips to the deck of his board.

“Dat some kine ride brah,” says Mano. “Betta you paddle in brah. Sharks like sunset. Sharks like blood.”

Mano paddles toward the setting sun. As blood drips onto the deck, the tourist paddles toward shore, scanning for the fin of a reef shark.

Point Reyes Store Fronts

This is my entry for Cee’s Black and White photography challenge.  We spent July 4th driving out to Point Reyes Station where we made dinner reservations at the Station House, got a pastry or two from Bovine Bakery, then headed out to Drakes Estero where we saw fox, coyote, deer, cattle, and loads and loads of birds.  Interestingly enough, the estero was fairly void of its usual assortment of ducks and shore birds.  Just a few cormorants and the odd turkey vulture keeping an eye on things.

The town of Point Reyes Station is only a block or so long, but it hosts some mighty fine shops.  Here are my favorites for this week’s event.

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Among other books in the book shop window was Susan Casey’s The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean, and William Finnegan’s Barbarian Days, A Surfing Life.

I enjoyed both books, especially Finnegan’s.  He narrated it on Audible.com.  Great story telling on a subject near and dear to me..

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Point Reyes certainly has surf, but it’s generally way past my ability.  And the mouth of Tomales Bay, at the north end of the jut of land that is Point Reyes National Seashore, is rumored to be a breeding ground for the great white shark.

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No trip to Point Reyes Station is complete without a stop for coffee and pastry at Bovine Bakery.  Pretty much every weekend morning you’ll find a line out the door, and they have a assortment of gluten-free products for my sweetie.

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Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Store Front Signs

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Steps: indoors or outdoors

This is my post for Cees Weekly Black and White challenge for STEPS.  It’s been a while since I’ve played.  Been busy bettering my writing with the Writers Studio San Francisco. They meet weekly on the seventh floor of the Mechanic’s Institute, which is a great old building at the base of Post Street near Market in San Francisco.

These are the stairs that take me there. At least part way. There’s a great old library in the building and lots of people playing chess. Next class starts June 28.

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