ANDY CRUTCHED DOWN to the raft, dropped the crutches in first, then, in a move Ridley might have been able to do once himself, vaulted one-legged over the side tube, spinning in midair and landing on the frame’s bench seat, catching himself with his hands, his booted foot held straight out, not touching a thing. “Can you grab my rod for me?”
“Got it,” Ridley said, and before he’d scrambled over the side, rinsed the sand from his sandals, and slid the oars through the locks, Andy was already working out line.
“What’d you put on?” Ridley asked, stroking toward the far bank.
“Meister and a Prince,” Andy said, as if he’d never missed a day in his life, as if he’d been studying fishing reports instead of FIFA ratings.
RIDLEY WATCHED HIM LAND THE FLIES half a foot from the bank, his left hand on the line, right around the cork, boot resting on the bailing bucket. He could barely remember him graduating beyond the Zebco. Cal had taken to the water like a fish, which only drove Andy away from it and straight to the pitch, the shelf full of medals and trophies, the closet full of jerseys, all stuff Ridley would find himself marveling over, wondering over the zealot’s dedication, the endless practices and working out, the study, the way he grew to see an entire field three or four touches in the future, a game Ridley himself could barely understand. Andy’d invented a world of his own and grew to own it, and here he sat, one-legged, casting as true and easy as Cal.
Ridley shook his head, paid attention to his oars, guiding like he hadn’t in years, not since Cal took over the oars, saying he owed him a decade or so.
Andy’s first fish surprised a laugh from him, as if he’d vowed to go through the motions but not to enjoy himself or expect any success. It was no wall hanger, just a sturdy 14-inch cutthroat, the kind this river gave up by the dozens on a good day. He stripped it in, not bothering with the reel, and had the nymph out with a twist of his wrist, the trout never leaving the water.
“That was quick,” Ridley said.
“It’s pretty hot for them.”
“You smashed the barb?”
“Duh,” Andy answered, but without venom, and he flipped line back out, putting it down on a seam this time, not just bank blasting.
Ripley let the boat drift, and something big charged in but veered off at the last second, leaving a bulge just behind the fly. Andy said, “Ref!”
Ripley laughed. Out loud. It just escaped. And Andy turned his smile toward him, something Ripley hadn’t seen since the diagnosis, the nagging limp explained.
The day heated toward vicious, Ridley thinking he’d put his back into the oars and call it a day, when Andy set the rod aside, opened the boot’s Velcro straps, and worked his way out of the boot. Saying nothing more than, “Man overboard,” he slid into the long pool, leaning back and sighing. Ridley couldn’t help but stare, his body something that should be sculpted in marble, nothing like Ridley’s had ever looked even when he’d been young and in shape. He chuckled, thinking of turning his swimming son into a statue, how helpful that would be, when Andy, floating on his back, turned toward him and pointed skyward. “What are those?”
Ridley looked, the sky suddenly dotted with white moths, nickel-size fluttering bits of snow, too delicate to be out in daylight. He knew right away. “Spruce moths.” Andy had been off to soccer before this hatch really existed, a combination of drought and warming allowing the moths to thrive, taking their toll on the trees but throwing in this bonanza that the trout took to with a zeal matching the fury of the salmon fly hatch.