They were camped at Camp Gecko for two weeks. The man and his
wife and two grown boys; a family friend and her son, Brendan,
8. The heat was intense, well over the hundred degree mark
daily, the sun pounding the sand more fiercely than the surf.
They were sitting in front of their palapa near the beach. A
flock of cawking gulls and a number of brown pelicans stood
along the shore, facing into the breeze. A set of four
Oystercatchers, bright beaks against dark bodies, settled with
the other birds. They stood aside, didn't mingle with the
others, rather kept within their own band. The boy pointed out
the four birds to the group. The man picked up a camera; he had
never seen Oystercatchers in the Bahia de Los Angeles before.
"Come on Brendan." he said to the boy.
They moved toward the birds, some thirty yards distant. The man
moved behind a beached boat to avoid frightening the birds. He
and Brendan ducked low and as they emerged from behind the boat,
then dropped to the sand on their bellies. The birds saw them
crawling forward but were unthreatened. The pair inched forward
toward the Oystercatchers, forcing themselves forward through
the sand with their elbows, knees and feet, moving ever so
slowly. The birds were now twenty feet in front of them. The
man indicated to Brendan that they should not make a sound. The
boy signaled back the sign he would use when he wanted to borrow
the man's camera to take a picture.
It took them 10 silent and
slow minutes to crawl forward to a position where they were both
about six feet from the birds. The man took several pictures.
The boy tapped the man's leg when he was ready and received the
camera silently, took several pictures himself. The birds were
curious about the event, but didn't seem to mind the proximity
of the two quiet humans in their presence. Then they lost
interest and merged with the other birds, a few yards away.
Brendan and the man stood and returned to their camp and
families. "That was fun!" he said. "That was teamwork." the
Later that day the man took the boy out in his boat, a small tin
fourteen-footer with an outboard. The boy wanted to fish. They
went to a place a few miles out, between the north point of
Piojo and the south point of Smith's and dropped baited jigs
into the hundred foot depths. The man showed the boy how to let
the line out until the lure hit bottom, bring it in a bit to
keep it off the rocks and then wait. Within seconds the boy had
a hookup. The man guided the boy's retrieval and Brendan soon
had a four-pound jawfish nearing the surface.
"Now what?" he asked.
"Bring the line over to me." the man said. "Don't reel the line
in too tight. Leave me some slack." He pulled the fish aboard,
unhooked it, held it up for the boy to admire, then tossed it to
the rear of the boat.
"Teamwork." the man said.
They fished another hour, the man and the boy. Brendan caught
six or eight more jawfish, two cabrillas and a trigger, was
tired from reeling them in, his small hands struggling to turn
the spool, his arms rubbing against his life jacket, the sun
wearing the boy down.
"Let me know if you need help." the man said. The boy
continued, tired but unwilling to relinquish the rod.
"I think I can do it," he said.
"Just remember we're a team. I'm here to help if you need me."
So Brendan brought in all his own fish, and several the man had
hooked. When they fired up and headed back to camp the man saw
a shine in the boys' eyes that he recognized as pride. The boy
had accomplished a small unimaginable feat.
They arrived at camp and threw the fish on the sand, carted them
up to the cleaning table, protected from the sun with a small
thatched cover. The table was tall, designed to fit the height
of a man standing. The man placed the fish on the table, found
his filet knife, noticed that the boy was not able to see the
"Stand here, Brendan." the man said, pointing to an old fuel
tank positioned beside the table. The boy climbed onto the tank
and was now level with the man. The man filleted the first
fish, began the second.
"What's my job?" the boy asked, "we're a team, aren't we?"
The mans knife paused only briefly as he absorbed, recognized
the boys desire to support his efforts, to be a member amidst
others. It was an overwhelming moment for the man, but he
showed little, wanting the boy to be proud of his own action
rather than to have made another happy.
"Feel like getting dirty?" the man asked.
"What do I do?" Brendan replied.
"Here," the man pointed to the building pile of guts, lying
beside the soft flesh of the fish, "Give these to the birds."
The boy tentatively picked up a liver with two nervous fingers,
stepped off the tank on which he had been standing, and walked
toward the building attack of seagulls and pelicans along the
shore. He threw the liver into their midst and a great
feathered flurry commenced that built as Brendan retrieved and
threw fishguts to the growing throng of birds. By the time the
last gut hit the beach, the boy's hands, arms and legs were
covered in blood. He had no care except for the activity at
The man and the boy washed and bagged the fish, cleaned the
table, sheaved the knife, and carted the bags to icechests for
dinner later that day.
"Thanks for taking me fishing." the boy said.
"My pleasure." the man responded with no further words.
What good were words at a moment like that? he wondered. His
heart felt the warm moments with the boy, pulled thoughts of his
own children forward for perhaps a final time, from so long back
over a twisted trail of years to the times when he had carried
his boys forward through another adventure, had shown them
something new, unexpected; when they had piloted the boat for
the first time, caught their first fish, found their way home
from miles out in the gulf in rough weather.
We are a team, he thought. He walked down to the shoreline,
threw water on his face, walked back into camp. "Here, honey."
his wife called, tossing him a towel to dry his face. She knew
his was a clever ruse to camouflage the fact that tears had
dampened his eyes. Thanks for the memories, Brendan, the man
thought, to himself, it truly was his pleasure.