The Old Man & The Sea, Part 2: The Deep
“Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.” — Ernest Hemmingway, The Old Man and The Sea
Out on the open water, Charles Thomas felt closest to God.
As he drew closer to the edge of the basin, the depths seemed to reach up and embrace his return with their chortling waves. This was a sign that he was where he wanted to be. To go out any further would be foolish. He had neither the line to secure his boat, nor the inclination to tempt his fate. Dropping the anchor over the side, he watched the line slide silently into the dark, blue water. The boat tugged nicely at its position. Satisfied with his location, Charles Thomas sat down on the bench seat and began making ready his poles.
Charles Thomas always considered himself to be a simple fisherman. He didn’t rely on fancy rods and reels nor shiny lures and tackle. One of the open-reels he had brought with him was an old, cork-handled Pflueger that had been given to him by his father. When Charles Thomas was a boy, his father used to take him fishing along the Green River back in Kentucky using nothing more than simple cane poles. A lush and wild river, whenever the waters rose, his father would grab their fishing poles and head out to fish beneath the great trees that lined the great river’s banks.
“We don’t need no fancy poles,” Charles Thomas could still hear his father say. “Fishin’ aint nothin’ but instinct, a little patience an’ a lotta luck.” The magnitude of his father’s words seemed to hang in the air, and then he added. “An’ it sure don’t hurts none if you shows that fish a lil’ respect,” he paused. “Especially if that fish is whuppin’ your ass.” Then a wily smile spread across his face and with a wink, they both share a hearty laugh. His father assured him that one day he would have a fishing pole he could call his own. The memory of his father always warmed his heart and gave him great hope.
Charles Thomas palmed the rod and reel reminiscently.
He had done little to restore the old rod and reel short of rebinding the guides and keeping the reel well oiled. The fiberglass rod was still strong and true, and the cork handle, though pitted, was intact and familiar in his hand. He baited the hook with one of the shrimp, and spitting on it for luck, looked out over the water trusting his instinct to show him where to cast the line. A particular patch of blue winked at him from the left and he sent the line whistling in its direction. Readying the newer rod and reel in the same fashion, he sent it singing in the opposite direction.
Charles Thomas had played his hand. All that was left to do was wait.
He surveyed the horizon again. The vast, blue sky reminded him of his Susie’s eyes. All the same, he could see the humidity mounting in the southwest. The moisture was building into towers of precipitation. Be that as it may, Charles Thomas was not intimidated. He was confident that he could still get in some good fishing and head back before a storm moved in. If one did, then he would simply stay ahead of it. Satisfied with his assessment, Charles Thomas wiped the sweat from his brow and sat down in the bottom of the boat. He stretched his legs and lay back against the bench seat.
It had been a hearty venture out to where he was and he had worked up a bit of an appetite. Charles Thomas opened the small lunch which Susie had prepared for him he found a green apple and a pimento cheese sandwich. He smiled at the apple knowing it was the fruit of his labor, and biting into it, he savored the sweet and sour flavor of the fruit. Relaxing, he looked out across the water. He was surrounded by a deep, sparkling blue as far as he could see. The vast immensity of it could well have been overwhelming, but for Charles Thomas, he never felt more at home or at ease.
A soft smile spread across Charles Thomas’ face.
Most men would be lost sitting all the way out here all alone in nothing but a rowboat. Charles Thomas, on the other hand, had been out this far so many times by himself that it was as though he was familiar with every wave. He had no fear. Only respect for the sea. That said, he wasn’t one to place all his money on one bet. Squinting, he looked up at the gulls circling his position, wheeling in and out of the afternoon sun. They had followed him out from shore. He knew they would lead him back to his Susie. In the worst case scenario, he knew the sea itself would take him home.
All the same, Charles Thomas had no time for pessimism.
What’s more, Charles Thomas didn’t venture out this far simply to land a fish. There was something otherworldly about the edge of the basin. The way the light pierced the clouds, the near silence of the waves as they folded into each other and the deep, blue mystery of the sea. Here is where he became acutely aware of all his blessings, and though he didn’t speak to God often, this is where he was so humbled to do so. He had never asked or wanted for anything, but there was one thing his heart truly desired—a child. Nevertheless, if Charles Thomas had learned anything about life, it was patience—and not to give up hope.
His thoughts wandered back to Susie. In his mind’s eye he could see her sitting there, beneath the umbrella, reading a book and waiting patiently for his return. It comforted him to know she would always be there. In truth, he missed his home back in Kentucky. Fishing along the Green River with his father, the comfort of his mother’s cooking. Susie was a stark reminder of what he had left behind. When she was cleaning around the house, he often found her singing the same hymns his mother used to sing him to sleep.
Even now he could hear his mother’s voice in the wind.
Charles Thomas kicked his heals up on the bow of the boat and took to watching the gulls wheel in and out of the sun. The wind became still and the air heavy with humidity. He imagined the silver strands of his mother’s hair in the clouds moving idly across the sky. Charles Thomas had an overwhelming sense of well-being as the boat cradled him gently in the arms of the sea. As the afternoon passed, he grew weary following the path of the sun, and with the echo of his mother still singing in his ear—
Charels Thomas closed his eyes and fell fast sleep.