Route 7 Review - Page 111

man’s chest, sharp and fast, until he was gasping for breath. Mark could hear him mumbling to himself. He waited a minute and then stepped up to his side. “You ready to hook a few?” Mark sounded relaxed and nodded his faded baseball cap toward the water. The old man didn’t react for a second, then slowly turned and looked at Mark. His eyes were heavy and pink around the edges and showed no emotion. “Young man, why don’t you go have a cup of coffee and leave me to my thoughts.” He pushed his words out from the gut, his voice deep and almost hard to understand because he didn’t seem to move his mouth much, and turned back to the water. So this was the even if he acts like he doesn’t part. Mark cleared his throat and decided to cut right to the point; fight fire with fire. He knew this would be a tough sell. It was showtime. “Well, Tex, if your thoughts involve catching a fish, we’d better get started,” he said matter-offact. The old man glared at him and snorted. “Right there,” Mark continued, pointing the rod through the Cottonwood trees toward a downstream bend. “First cast, I’d bet.” “And how do you suppose I’m gonna get over there?” The old man asked with a sharp tone in his voice and patted his thigh. “Huh? Tell me that, young man. And by the way, m’ name’s Walt.” “Okay, Walt.” Mark smiled. “Well my name is Mark,” he slapped his back over his shoulder, “and we go piggy back!” The old man looked at Mark like the guide might have suggested robbing a bank. “We’re the only people on the river today so it’s okay.” Mark said in low voice as he cupped a hand around his mouth, waggling his eyebrows like he’d just revealed a secret. “No one will see.” The old man looked off into the trees for a min ute. “You’re crazy,” he huffed. Mark clapped once loudly and pointed at the old man. “Give that man a SEE-GAR! Now let’s catch some fish!” Mark squatted down like a Sumo wrestler and slapped his back again. When Walt didn’t move, Mark waved him over, nodding. Walt looked around with a B-movie head swivel. Mark squat-walked over to the old man and pointed at his back. Walt seemed to recoil; “What the hell…” Mark put a finger to his lips as if to say Hush and pointed to his back again, then looked off into the trees and posed dramatically like a linebacker ready to pounce. After looking around one more time, Walt slowly leaned onto his guide’s muscular back and wrapped one arm around his neck. Mark threaded his arms under the old man’s skinny thighs and stood quickly, setting off at a fast clip on a well-worn trail, talking about aquatic insects in the river that were active at that time of year. The old man’s free hand held his hat in place, and if you were to look closely, the corners of his mouth seemed to give a little. After weaving through the Cottonwoods and crossing a shallow riffle, Mark walked out onto a narrow, pointy gravel bar that sliced into a bend of the river. The water was black with depth where it swung through the outside of the oxbow, a thin line of foamy white bubbles floating along the undercut bank. Mark set his passenger down started tying on a fly. Walt whistled softly. “This is good water, yessir,” he said to no one in particular and took off his hat, running a hand over his gray stubble. The Cottonwood trees buffered the wind, and it was a still, silent place, but the damp chill told Mark snow was not far off. The old man coughed again, his body heaving until he put his hands on his knees for balance. Mark looked up for just a moment, and then returned to tying on the fly. A watery slurp marked where a trout took a barely submerged terrestrial, causing rings to form briefly at the tail of the pool. “That’s what I’m talkin’ about!” Mark said as he twirled the monofilament into a sturdy knot. “Do you think those bugs can see the fish coming?” The old man spoke. “Hard to say,” Mark said without looking up. “Think it helps to know?” Walt asked, still staring at the water. “Know what?” “That your time has come.” The statement was spoken as cold and heavy as the smooth stones at the bottom of the river. Being a fishing guide is a bit like being a bartender, in that conversation, advice, and humor are expected as part of the package. Mark usually had a great sense of timing with all of them, but