Thank you Joyce and Lalo for your valuable input.
A new wave thundered onto the beach. The tide was rising. Funny how such an apparently deafening sound could lull you to sleep as you lay in your hotel room a short distance away. Why some “resorts” insisted on blasting garish music at the guests who were attempting to relax beside the pool or on the beach was literally a mind-blowing mystery.
He sought refuge on the breakwater, climbing the not-so-steep pile of rocks as gracefully as his beer belly let him. He picked his way awkwardly, his right hand clutching a plastic ring he’d fashioned into a fishing device.
Once he made it to the top and steadied his feet he gorged on the moist oxygen-filled air. His smog-filled city lungs apparently OD’ed on the stuff because his grandpa’s soothing soft-spoken Spanish suddenly washed over him with the tide.
“Remember, coil the thread around the ring but not so tight, and stick the bait through the hook, así muchacho.”
“Sí, abuelo, yes grandfather” he nodded deep in reverie.
Some of our departed never really depart. They only become more alive to us with every year that brings us closer to meeting them on the other side.
The man cast the line out and almost immediately felt a tug. Too surprised to focus, he almost lost his balance when his heel slipped on a loose rock. His hands automatically began to flip the ring over and over to pull the line in and whatever had bitten it out of the water.
Rays of afternoon sunlight struck the silver scales of a modest-sized sardine fiercely struggling to free itself. The man’s hands worked just as fiercely to wind it in. Just then, out of nowhere, a white seagull with a striking black tail swooped down and tore the wiggling sardine off the hook.
“Why you crooook!” shouted the man at the bird just as it disappeared from sight. Abuelo chuckled in the wind. The man had to smile, amused.
It was cloudy the following morning, so annoying discotheque music started to blast out of the hotel speakers earlier than usual, apparently in lieu of sunshine. The man’s ungraceful climb up the water breaker was further aggravated by his balancing a cup of coffee in his left hand, and holding on to the fishing ring with his right.
Abuelo seemed absent that morning. Maybe because his middle-aged grandson was too excited about his successful, albeit frustrated, catch the day before to listen to him. The man now expertly cast his line as if he were fly-fishing and had only to wait a few minutes before he felt an exhilarating tug on the line.
This time he was ready. Round and round went the ring in the Man’s hands, up and up went another silver sardine, then whoosh! Down came the black-tailed seagull to snatch away the man’s prey again! He was at a loss for words. He could now hear Abuelo laugh uproariously in the breeze. He marched down the rocks in angry frustration. Nevertheless, he returned to the breakwater that very afternoon, his heart and mind set on making his catch his own. His eyes scanned the empty horizon. No sign of the bandit seagull. He cast his line into the rising late afternoon tide. It stirred. The man excitedly got to his feet to spin his ring.
In a matter of minutes the slight, silvery fish was in his hands. He raised his eyes triumphantly taking in the sweet air of success, but when he lowered them again to gaze at his prize he saw it: a drenched limp, yet still proud mass of white and black feathers on the sand below. He looked again, carefully. Indeed, it was the bandit seagull that the waves had washed up ashore and now caressed lovingly with clear waters and foam.
He had to sit down. His speechless mind ran about frantically in his head trying to make some sense out of it all. “Death comes to all of us, man and beast alike”, echoed Abuelo’s voice from the depths of the past. The man recalled Abuelo saying that the day he lost Canela, his beloved pit-bull.
He had momentarily closed his eyes to the present, but once he returned, he noticed that the tide had re-embraced the fallen seagull and taken it back to sea.
“Dignity restored,” said Abuelo.
“A proper burial,” thought the man envisioning the seagull on the bottom of the ocean, spared from disgracefully rotting under the sun.
His feeling of accomplishment over the catch crept away from him, like tides creep away from the beach only to return in changed shapes and patterns. He looked at the increasingly limp sardine in his hands and released it from its hook. He threw that fish back to sea certain that his action had somehow restored their respective dignity.