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The Smell of Rain


Caribbean squall approaching...

June 2000

Gray light of day; a stiff breeze out of the southeast carries the smell of rain. The tide is out, revealing the pockmarked flat. Exposed turtle grass lies in southeast striations. The overcast is fairly uniform, and across the sound a squall draws a rakish block of gray rain over the far shore. Tourists along the Beach huddle in their condos muttering curses against the strafing clouds.

I navigate the boggy shore back to the truck where dad is waiting.
“Doesn’t look good”, I say.

We jog back together to the cut in the mangroves that allows passage to the bonefish flats. We move at a half crouch; as if we’ll somehow slip under the spitting drizzle that finds it’s way through the mangrove windbreak. On the edge of the flat we pull hats low and study the approaching shower with a squint. We want to fish, but a fly-line loosed in such conditions needs a firmer hand and greater patience than my freshly wakened self can muster.

At least we tried. Up at dawn with a quick run north we can at least lay claim to the spirit of the old ways. Of course the old people would likely have fished anyway, but it would not have been for such questionable table fare as bonefish. Only in times of extended nor’westers (when they couldn’t get to sea because of the weather) did they hunt the elusive ‘bonyfish’ in the shallows with live crabs or ‘skillpots’ (sandfleas). They needed food, not sport, and anything as silly as a fly rod would have been quietly dismissed with characteristic humor. One fished for food or for a living; anything else was just killing time. In those days leisure was a luxury precious few could afford.

On this day the vagaries of nature prevent us from pursuing our leisure and we are forced to return home to dry bed and stocked fridge. Suddenly I miss the tin-roof days when the drone of a good rain first awakened then lulled me back to sleep. Air conditioning back then was called windows and if they came with instructions they would have read, “Open if too hot. Close if too cold, or getting wet.”

The wild places were a little closer then.

Back at home in bed my dreams swim through fish. On an eternity of flats I cast my hook and strike at nothing.

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