I woke up a bit ago thinking about somewhere I haven’t been in years.
I was working for a concrete company (or Erosion Control and Soil Stabilization was what they wanted us to call it). They would send us on trips around Florida putting in abutments here and retaining walls there, and it was good work. Hotels were paid for when we had overnight work, and a decent per Diem made sure we ate at some higher end restaurants now and again. This particular restaurant was a seafood shack whose specialty was “bleu cheese buttons”; small, upside-down mushrooms baked in something like a mini-cupcake tin with bleu cheese across the top. There wasn’t much better than ending a long day in southern Florida humidity and strain with a meal that was paradoxically expensive and free.
Anyway, after I ate, I walked around the restaurant. It was right on the river; the outdoor patio stretched into a pier with a few other tables and an open area for viewing the sunset. If you haven’t seen Florida sky in the evening, you’re missing out. The pastel and neon streaks trailed into the distance and mirrored into the river while the humidity pressed down to settle on the grass for the evening.
While I stood there, I started hearing a SLOOP! SLOOP! sound. I looked down and the water around the dock was boiling without heat from the eager bodies of catfish (or some other ugly-brown relative) that had learned where the customers would bring their bread to feed them. Their awful writhing stuck out from the scene and made me wonder what other loathsome things were skulking around under the cotton candy reflection.
Just then, one of the guys I worked with, O’Neill, came up. “Man, it’s really nice out,” he said.
“Yeah, except for the fish,” I said.
He looked at me for a second and grinned an asshole grin. “They’re fine, man, you just gotta feed ‘em,” he said. O’Neil leaned back and made a primal rumble in the back of his throat, hocked up a giant gob of spit, and dropped it into the fishy mosh pit, where it disappeared.
I stood disgusted at first, I admit, but after a few moments, I was spitting right along with him. I think somewhere along those lines, I decided in the scenario of my life, I’d rather be on the dock than in the mob. I also realized that none of us gets to be as flawless as that sunset unless we’re also as fleeting.