Story

Watauga Gold

It should have been a fast drift over the caddis riffle, a clunking clacking scuttle on thin water. He just needed to get the gold watch and go on. Around that bend before it, he mashed his oars deep into the water and drifted to allow the dew from the day before anoint him from the rock on his port side. Up to that thinning fast water at the end he could hear its rush and the low sun split through mist in golden beams. Each ray flittered  with vibrating dust. At the last of the deep water he second guessed the thought, Push through or stop, but dropped anchor and pulled his old rod from the tube. On those guiding days, he used good stuff but called them dude rods: just good enough that his pride would not get bent when one broke. Hot enough that the occasional novice that came without their own might actually know how to lay out a cast. He liked to a cast bamboo by himself. Yesterday, Mac had a couple of knuckle-head, banana-eating Yankee businessmen on the boat, the air full of shit and stories between cigar smoke. He figured it was fair enough that if he was going to row all the way down for a retirement watch that he owed it to himself to do some catching instead of just prospecting and rowing. Mac worked the riffle in little chunks with his boat anchored upstream at the green edge. The water pimpled his skin as he slowly waded down barefooted. He caught fish after fish, all the same, little twelve inch rainbows with no color and most with busted fins from sliding down the tube of some TVA stocking truck. None-the-less he was content. He danced rhythmically for some time as the splinters of light thickened and the sun crested the tree tops on the high hill. Release the fish and up stream and mend and drift and set and strip and release. As the caddis hatch waned, he noticed two people at the end of the island. He had that prideful smile that he could only feel and they could not see downstream. He kept fishing, but an anxiety came over him that they where prospecting on the island right over the very spot where he had come to. That spot on the island that all the guides jockey for. Between each cast he found himself looking down and kept seeing a blonde head and a man standing there. As the ratio of set to cast diminished, he questioned whether it was the slowing hatch or the anxiety in lack of concentration and made way back up to the boat.

He clacked through the shallow fast riffle and as his angle through the slow bend narrowed he could see Missouri Brad’s boat and then Drew’s green claka in the back channel behind the island. At a hundred yards slowly approaching, he had no sight of his colleagues and was doing some figuring on why they were parked at the island so early for lunch. Mac stuck his oar still on the starboard side and the nose of his skiff veered to the right of the island. The couple, an older man and a girl in a bathing suit and towel gave just stood there and the man nodded his grey head with a lukewarm smile. After his boat clunked together with Missouri Brad’s oar and mated to the boat’s side he dropped anchor and climbed through the boats onto the grassy, tree covered little island. Drew popped his head out around the corner and waved him down with a half grimace and half laugh.

“What the hell, you boys doin’ down here this morning. Is it so bad you gotta stage a cole slaw hatch at ten thirty in the mornin’? I just beat my way through the biggest caddis hatch I’ve seen all year.”

“Mac. What’s up?” Drew chuckled as Brad looked at him sternly.

“We had a little situation this morning already, what you doing down here by yourself? Didn’t get ‘nough of the river yesterday?”

“I”m fetchin’ a damn watch my dude left here yesterday at lunch.”

“Yep, I had to shore and cook up down there in cow shit yesterday, you beat me to it,” moaned Drew still smiling.

“So you got here early ‘nough today, say you gotta situation? Guessin’ it aint lunch?”

Drew finally laughed uncontrollably as Brad punched him in the shoulder.

“You see those folks on the other end of the island?” asked Brad.

“That’s Doctor and Mrs. Bernstein from Richmond,” filled in Drew in his laugh.

“The Doc has been my client for five summers,” Brad whispered, “good tipper, he’s a serious guy and a pretty damn good cast, like surgical.”

“And the blonde is his wife. Figurin’ she was some kinda O.R. nurse or something that replaced last year’s model,” Drew whispered, “Anyhow we each had one in our own boats. I got lucky and had her in mine. Lucky for awhile anyway.” Drew spoke a little straighter.

“The doc said he just wanted to fish and that she was probably gonna tangle lines, so I got Drew to drift her down in his boat.”

“So as soon as the sun broke through, back in the flats, she peeled back into her bikini, I mean, it’s a damn good thing she was in the front of the boat and I was facin’ to the stern.”

“Smokin’ hot, Mac.”

“So after awhile of her up there reading a book in her bikini, I guess she was getting bored, probably not getting enough sun, she asked me if she could start fishing. So we were back there before the bridge and I rigged her up with a big ole wooly bugger and started talking her through casting. And after awhile she seemed to do alright chunkin’ it out there and letting it drift  so I turned back around and got back on the oars. I kinda figured I was better off backwards ‘stead of staring at her ass.”

“And then it happened.”

“It happened.”

“So I’m paddlin’ the doc along catchin’ a few here and there and rounded out the cliff and could see Drew’s boat banked up and anchored on Park’s Shoal. The doc had his head down, praise the Lord. And I looked on down there and couldn’t believe it. And I said to myself Drew– you’re so fired.”

Drew chuckled, “you wouldn’t believe it if I told you”.

“So I start quartering the boat out to the left bank and keep paddling back up telling the doc I’m on a good hole and all the while keep lookin’ down stream and I see the blonde with her head back yelling and moaning and her ankles on the oar locks like stirrups and that sum-bitches head is down in her crotch.”

“She put a fly in her labia.”

“No shit.”

“She insisted that I get it out right then and there. I told ‘er that her husband was a doctor and maybe they’d catch up soon, but she wouldn’t have it. Just said get this damn thing out.”

“So Drew got to operating.”

“That damn thing went right through the croquette bikini, all wove up in there, and was stuck good.”

“How did it look?”

“Sum-bitch.”

“And I couldn’t hold the doc off too long, till he saw it. And he got it out, I saw that look on him after he got over the notion that Drew even considered trying to get it out that he didn’t give a damn.”

“So now we’re here and they’re up there. I guess we gotta keep going down the river.”

“You boys aint right, mind if I go up there and look for my watch?”

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