• Carol Ann Ross

The Blue Run III

The Third Installment of a Short Story

Land was a different world. He had given up trying to explain the difference between being on the ocean and being on land. But he knew there was one. Sighing heavily, he continued to study the coastline.

Shortly he noticed a few fisherman on the beach. He thought he could hear the laughter and squeals from the children running along the shore near them. It looked like they were with their families and were having a picnic.

He and his family had done that at times. It was always fun. His mother and sisters gathered driftwood for a fire and he and his dad caught fish. The girls played in waves and dug holes to make sandcastles.

He and his father cleaned the fish and then his mother and the older of the children helped cook them up.

When the fish were ready to eat, the family would sit on a blanket from home and enjoy the day’s catch along with some corn bread and coleslaw his mother had packed in a basket. Ira recalled those times with fondness as he waved back to the people on shore.

Moving back to his spot against the gunwale, Ira drowsed a few seconds before pushing on the throttle to move the boat ahead. It purred gently as the boat glided gradually northward.

How long was it before again in some hazy dream Ira heard the words “Well done.” The sarcastic tone was undeniable. Could that be? he thought. Then all at once the whir of lines filled the air, the sound jolted the youth to his feet.

Slipping on the now slimy sole of the boat, Ira caught his balance as he grabbed the gunwale and pulled himself erect.

Instantly he scolded himself for not rinsing down the deck with sea water. And thought back to the words he’d heard-or had he? Well done? How many times had his father chided him for forgetting something important? Ira belted a laugh, loud and raucous. “Okay, Daddy. I hear you.”

Enthusiastically Ira grabbed a pole as it whirred, reeled it in, whipped the spoon from the blue’s mouth and cast the fish into a box.

He let the line out, stepped to another pole, reeled, tore the spoon from the fish’s mouth and cast it into a box. Again and again, he moved methodically about the poles, his legs balancing the rock of the boat with the movement of the ocean as if they were one. He reeled in another line, took the fish, threw it in the box–he had found the rhythm.

Pleased with himself as he worked, he found even more pleasure when he found on the end of a line a grouper. Just as quickly and without missing a beat, he threw the fish into a bucket near the bow of the boat.

There was no time to even think about time and before he knew it two more crate boxes were filled to overflowing.

 

The sun sat hazily on the western sky. A chop had developed and the poles

stood still, lines all reeled in, with no bend or sound except the clickety-click of the spoon hitting the pole intermittently. Ira licked his lips. They were salty. Once again he rested against the gunwale. He breathed a deep sigh of contentment. It had been a good day.

He reached into a cooler, pulled out a bottle of Pepsi Cola and popped the cap against the gunwale. He studied the marks from previous bottle openings of he and his father and exhaled a long breath.

The cola tingled his throat as he tilted his head back to drink its contents. Tossing the bottle overboard, Ira watched it fill with water and sink. The haze of the day belied the depth and though he could have sworn he was in a good twenty feet, Ira could see the sandy bottom below.

A few small fish darted about. He watched a bigger one fast behind it.

“Always a bigger fish out there somewhere.” He laughed to himself.

Still studying the water, he spotted a whelk. It was a fine whelk, somewhat pink with strands of blue running through it. He thought of Gale’s request.

Should I? he thought. Grabbing the lip of the gunwale Ira pulled himself up and over and into the cool October water.

He was not prepared for the chill that swallowed his body but he ignored it as he swam down and down toward the shell. How far can this be? he wondered. Now, it seemed so far away. Still he persisted in reaching the shell with his arms stretched and straining to touch it. He could feel the cold. It was not biting cold, but he was starting to feel it in his bones, in his groin.

Finally his outstretched finger wrapped around the whelk. He closed his eyes for a moment; he caught a scent, perhaps it ran through his mind. But the scent was there nonetheless, It was his father’s. Ira swept his body to turn and move upward toward the light.

 

As he pulled the boat around the stand of oaks, the wooden dock came into view. Sure enough, Gale sat swinging her legs from the side, her bare toes toyed with the shadowy water below. Already her face beamed a smile, leaning back on her elbows she laughed loud and hard. “I knew it, I knew it!” she shouted. “I knew you’d come back with lots and lots of fish.”

“How do you know I’ve got lots and lots of fish, miss smarty pants?” Ira called as he pulled the boat closer to the dock.

“I can smell ‘em, brother.”

“Well, can you smell this?” He tossed the whelk near to where Gale stood. Picking it up, she poked at the white meat still inside. “Momma cooks this really good–

makes real good fritters with it.”

Ira nodded. “Sure does.”

“It’s really pretty, Ira. Thank you for the shell, it’ll be so pretty on my window sill.” Ira nodded again as he began stacking the boxes of blue fish onto the dock.

Gale watched as he pushed one box next to the other. She noticed the long line of blood along his arm.

Studying his fingers she saw too where the skin was torn and had left dried blood stains. She touched a finger to the bloodied arm and then to her lips, “It’s salty–it runs in your veins doesn’t it?”

Ira casually looked at his blood stained hands and arms, “Ha! Those blue devils will tear a hunk out of you, if they can. They don’t want to die either.”

“That’s what Daddy always said. That salt water ran in your blood just like his.” The girl pulled a crate box close to the cleaning table on the dock and reached in to grab a blue fish. Placing the thin blade beneath the pectoral fin, Gale pulled the knife hard against the body of the fish, the head separated neatly and she pushed it into the water below, then slid the blade along the pelvic fin.

“I’ve got salt water In my veins too.”