It was a struggle for Eric to wake up at 4:30 to be at the shoreline at the first flush of dawn. He stumbled into his waders, tried to ignore the sharp plastic edge from the price tag jabbing the middle of his back as he opened a can of evaporated milk and poured it over stale cornflakes. It wasn’t a promising beginning to what he imagined would be his glorious retirement.
At the shoreline, the sun did indeed rise with a majestic glow, inflaming the tips of the wild waves. Eric, awash in joy, reached into his bucket, nabbed a slippery sandworm which wriggled as he speared it with a hook. With a sense of occasion, (“I’m here! I’m really here!”) he cast his line straight into the flock of gannet birds in the midst of a feeding frenzy. He knew enough, had read enough to know two things: gannet birds signaled the end of fishing season and that with any luck there might be strippers lurking below. He pictured hauling a forty pounder from the ocean and wondered, as he scanned the empty shoreline, who might help him should he slip and fall while wrestling his trophy to the shore.
Through the long slog of the last two years he fed on this vision of his wide open future: fishing, fileting and then fishing some more. But seconds before his bait slipped below the surf, a gannet swooped down and grabbed the bait. Remembering what he had read about gannet’s and their crazy sharp beaks, Eric reluctantly took off his windbreaker, and reeled in the wild and frightened bird. He covered it with his jacket and it calmed down sufficiently so that he could pry the hook lose. Injured but free, the bird and the man took each other’s measure. There was an intelligence there, a vitality that struck Eric hard. Aware that the appeal of holding a prized fish in his hands as it gulped air in vain had slid away, Eric reluctantly packed up and headed home.
Maybe buying a boat and net would be the way to go, Eric thought as he trolled the Internet for ocean fishing gear on sale.