The sun was still down, but he had been awake for more than hour. He often woke this early, when it was dark and the palm trees were still and the air carried only the ocean with it. He sat alongside the shore, among coral rocks and sun-kissed driftwood, listening to the rising seawater flood tidal pools left beneath mangroves by a once retreating tide. For a while he sat there. A sailboat stood still on the horizon before an egret, lurking across the flats, crushed the image underfoot. He rose and walked to the end of the dock and watched the sea begin that clandestine transition from indigo to silver. And he could take comfort that romance, idealistic and poetic, could still exist undisturbed in nature.
After climbing down the dock's weathered and barnacled truss, he balanced himself and propped his back against one of the wooden pylons, letting his legs drift freely in the incoming tide. The water was warm and he watched sergeant majors dart around his feet, their yellow stripes veiled by the dawn's crepuscularity. In the distance, the clouds burned and the horizon simmered as the sun breached the ocean surface, casting eleven hundred shades of red across the sky.
Again he had brought his journal, pen, and story and again he failed to achieve what now seemed impossible. An hour passed. His phone buzzed.
“Jason, where are you buddy?”
“On my way.”
“Alright, just remember to bring that cast net. Mine’s still busted up.”
“Okay I’ll get it. Do we need chum?”
“Nah man, I grabbed it earlier this morning, just get over here.”
“Okay, see you in ten.”
He scaled the truss quickly, with every movement deliberate and each muscle acting under the authority of a mind accustomed to greater feats. Walking back to shore, the dock felt cool below his feet, the planks not yet warmed by the ascending sun.
Further offshore an osprey plunged towards the surface. A barracuda, rocketing across the flats, was too slow to acknowledge its assailant. When the bird drew near it tilted backwards, and uncovered outstretched claws. Then those talons sunk into the flanks of the fish and hoisted it into the sky. The barracuda writhed with its sides painted red by the dawn and by the blood. It’s mouth hung ajar, its jagged teeth gleaming and useless, and its eyes were frozen as if fixated on some disclosed, now-conceivable understanding.
Behind him, Jason heard a familiar splash.
On the beach, palm trees stood basking in the morning light. Their frames sinuous and their frons bristling and bending, yielding before the oncoming day.
With twist and shove of a rusted metal knob, Jason opened the door to the fishing locker and turned on the light, revealing a collection of equipment spanning decades of use and generations of ownership. He sifted through old tackle, lures and rigs he remembered using with his father not so long ago that had not been used since. Yet, the once familiar weights and lines now felt awkward and alien in his hands and he considered that it was not the passage of time that made things distant but the degree of detachment.
He grabbed the cast net hanging above the workbench, turned off the light, and gently closed the door behind him as he walked to his truck. It was an '84 Ford, his father's, blue, with the paint peeling off, torched by the years spent under the sun. It wasn't in very good condition but he refused to get it fixed despite the collective opinion of those who rode in it.
The old highway connected the island chain. The once decrepit route had transformed over the past decade into the superhighway necessary to fuel commercial lust. Right now it was barren, a refreshing contrast to the stagnant state of traffic almost every evening. His car sped smoothly over the fresh asphalt, and it made him uneasy. He drove past chain restaurants and tourist traps along the highway. These contrived institutions infected purity and integrity for the sake of a depthless, fiscal desire for homogeneity. The Seaside Diner, where he’d go for breakfast with his father as a child and to see that waitress as a teenager, had been torn down the past summer. Tiny’s, the marina where he used to watch charters return with mahi mahi, wahoo, swordfish, and other pelagic trophies, had been razed the autumn before. The corporate enterprises that planted their brands above the rubble did so with a hostility to what he held sacred.
At the channel two bridge he looked out at the sea. It seemed unlimited and untamed. Tuna towers ventured on their bold paths towards the horizon. He'd like to imagine their crews were pathfinders, unsure of what benthic terrors dwelled beyond curvature of the earth, reluctant to perish but enamored by exploration. Fantasizing that some would never make it back to shore, he indulged a bittersweet sentiment involved in adventure, danger and death.