Dad took me night
fishing for corbina with Manuel Kanino and some of his Army
buddies. Itís way past bed time, and I am so excited to be out at
this hour doing something so different with the grown-up men. I
love dad for bringing me along. They fish in a spot close to the
Locks. I am drinking Cokes and they are drinking beer. Itís fun.
The men wade out to their hips and start casting their big rods.
This goes on for a long time. Iím young, so them being up to their
hips is me up to my shoulders and chin. I am so excited and I hop
with each wave. At my ankles, I can feel the suck, push and pull of
the tide. I often feel other things swish by my feet down there and
wonder what they are. But dad is right next to me, so I donít
worry. Panama is in the six month sunny season, so itís always hot
during the day. Itís night though, and Iím wet standing there in
water up to my shoulders. After a while, I actually get a little
cold, which was rare in Panama. Itís very dark. The sky and stars
are crystal clear. The moon is full, silhouetting scattered low
calm clouds. Way back on the beach, there is gear, a big bucket of
bait, a few coolers, and a battery powered radio. Each time someone
catches something, they trudge back to shore, put it in the big red
cooler, and then re-bait the hook. The hooks are big. The bait is
big. The rods are big. The fish they are catching are big.
The fish I remember most from that night was a fish I never saw.
The man next to dad hooks something large. I know it is big because
he cusses as he fights it hard. Heís leaning back, and his forearm
muscles are tense as he works the fish. He kept yelling, ďCímon!Ē
Everyone is excited and wondering what heís got. It seems heís
hooked a whale. Suddenly, his line goes limp, and he cusses loudly
when he realizes heís lost the biggest fish of the night. He reels
in to put on a new hook. But the hook is still there. There is
also a very large snook head (about the same size as my head) on the
hook. But the rest of the large fish has literally been ripped
off. They explain the big snook ate the big bait, and then,
something bigger ate the big snook. Someone starts talking with
authority about bull sharks and tiger sharks.
I look out at the dark oily ocean and wonder if maybe the shark is
close. In a blink, Iíve gone from excited to terrified. Dad tells
me to go sit on the shore by the bait box and the red cooler. I
donít argue. I start back, but stop a few feet from him. Shore is
only about fifteen yards away. But there is no doubt in my mind the
big bull shark has swam behind and is between me and the shore.
Heís hoping Iíll walk right towards him. Heís still hungry. I
remember the one time I saw a bull shark that had been caught. It
was longer than our Volkswagon. It had all the teeth that had ever
been. I feel like a sissy standing there. I canít move. Then I
feel dadís hand on my shoulder. He walks me to the sandy shore. I
never said a word, never said I was scared. He never said a word to
me, and never said he understood. He never embarrassed me in front
of the men which I really appreciated. He just knew I was scared.
Fishing and standing in the water up to my shoulders is over for me
for the night. And Iím fine with that.