How it caught his eye, he didn’t know. He bent down and picked it up. It was a misshapen stone about 2 inches in diameter. It was the dark gray of river rock, but on one side silver, red, and blue stripes ran up and down along its surface. He turned it over; but no, it was just the one side where the stripes covered the otherwise dark gray. He put it in his pocket and looked at the sky.
The sun would be setting within the hour, he guessed. The air was already becoming that tempered color of dusk, a subtle dimming of light and warmth. The day’s brightness had gradually left and with it the cheeriness that sunshine brings. He’d been on the river for two hours doing more strolling and thinking than fishing. It was good out here, away from the pressures of committees and expectations and people needing him. Out here it was the way everything should be; slightly rugged and sparkling and colorful. Out here it was real.
The mayflies would be swarming soon. Trout would race toward them, flashing their colorful God-given Joseph coat and splashing in their leap to catch the flies. Then fishing could begin in earnest.
He cast out. It was a good one. He would have a trout or two or more to take home and show off and fry up. There it was! The familiar tug; the fight for life at one end and for food and satisfaction at the other. He pulled and played with the fish until it was close enough to net. With a practiced hand he unhooked his fish. Just as the splash of the trout sprayed him, he heard it.
The leaves of a bush rustle in a variety of ways. A spring breeze only slightly moves leaves in a playful whisper. The wind that stirs before a storm is faster. It’s urgent, a warning. This was neither. It was the sound of someone approaching. But, no. Not someone. The sound was too brash, too heavy.
He spotted it then, the dark brown coat, the swaying posture. The bear looked at him across the river that was suddenly more narrow than a minute before. Snout to the air, it sniffed. There was no way to remove the fish scent that touched his waders and permeated his hands. If he threw the fish to the bear it would be a short time before the bear came closer for more. Slowly he let the fish slip from his hand back to its home in the river.
Fishing was over for the night. He would give the other fisher extra room by his absence. He moved quietly and as quickly as he dared, making his way back to his truck, back to the people who needed him. That was real, too, after all.