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The Gargoyle

I left my wet suit at home last night. No, that’s not it. I forgot my wet suit at home last night. This is why you have to be prepared, and have a carefully organized and stocked fishing vehicle. A whole mobile tackle shop. So you can make up for sleep-deprived lapses of memory and planning.

This point, the one about forgetting my suit, is important. In my suit, I would have been out on a rock in deeper water. Would have never turned. Would have been out there.

But without it, I was relegated to staying right here; tight to shore, boots on the Terra.

Side bar: let us be clear. Let us make no mistakes; insinuate nothing. I tried to get to the rock. Cinched up my surf top and hoped for the best. Took a deep breath, and went for it. One step, knee deep. Two steps, waist deep. Three steps, rib deep. Four steps and I’m floating.

Took water right over my top and down the front of my body, soaking me inside my waders from my neck to my belt. There, the water pooled, and circled my waist; making a ring of dampness I had to live with for the rest of the tide.

So it was that I was relegated to standing in ankle deep water on a small boulder perhaps twenty feet from shore the remainder of the night.

This, is also an important point.

The time slipped by. Hours.

At one point, late in the night, I looked over my shoulder, unconsciously. At the time, at that moment, I could have given you no real reason for it. I was paying careful attention to the current in front of me, as I had just seen large, adult menhaden swim by a few seconds prior. I was, I thought, lasered in on what I was doing. So there was no reason for me to turn. In fact, turning around was a waste of time and focus.

But I turned around, regardless. My subconscious sounding a subtle alarm. Some kind of sixth sense, perhaps. Something neglected during my time as a civilized person. But out here in the dark, something hard to ignore.

She was perched atop the boulder like an iron gargoyle. A motionless statue staring down at me. For a moment, as time stretched between us, I thought she was a hallucination. Then her eyes flashed in the full moon light as she shifted her head slightly, and I could see she was assuredly real. Yet, there was no context for what I seeing. Twelve, or maybe fifteen feet above me, I couldn’t reconcile what my eyes were seeing with what my mind has experienced. Perched (certainly there is no other word for it) atop the rock, was a sleek, bright eyed animal of the night.

Then, she hopped down from her position with a fluid grace, more catlike than anything else, and trotted towards me. There was no mistaking it, she came directly to me. There were many ways around me, other directions to flee. Yet, she came to me. A bouncy, light gait, with ears and head up. Attentive. Nimble on the slippery rocks. Silent as a shadow. When she closed the space between us to maybe twenty five feet, I spoke to her. It was done without thought.

“Hey there, can I help you with anything?” The conversational tone intentional, to dissuade her from fleeing. It wasn’t a statement made to turn her away, but one to keep her here, with me.

She stopped, as I hoped. Then, she sat back on her haunches, eyes fixed on me. We stared at each other; her at the very edge of the lapping surf, me slightly out in it.

I am a fisherman, therefore, I am accused of lying. Ah, but no. I am a liar. It goes with the territory.

But I am not lying to you now. Could not sully this story with a lie.

This coyote, she sat down, 30 feet from me if she was an inch, and cocked her head at me. Simply plunked herself down there on the slick rocks of the shore, and we had a conversation.

I did all the talking, of course, and she politely listened. I asked her how she was doing, if she had found anything good to eat. Told her she was very good at climbing over those boulders. Asked her if this was part of her beat; her rounds.

She didn’t respond. Not with sound anyways.

Then, there was a lapse in our short conversation, me groping for something else to say. The surreal feeling of interacting with this wild animal started to tickle at the back of my mind, leaving me tongue tied. But I was never scared. Not even nervous, not even for a moment. It wasn’t that.

She took my silence as her cue to depart. She stood up and took a few steps parallel to me on the shore. Then, trotted several paces, dropped her nose to something. I shifted my feet, carbide studs scraping loudly on the barnacle crowned boulder. This made her lift her head, and look back over her shoulder at me.

“See yah,” I whispered at her. She lifted her head a little higher still, and her ears perked up. Then she turned, dropped her head again, and sauntered away, never looking back. Never breaking into a run; indeed, not even a fast walk.

I stared after her until she passed out of sight, a full grin pulled tightly across my face.

Then I too turned, and continued to cast.


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