The Squall of All Squalls

I used to love to fish. Down at the dock, I’d dangle my feet off the end, feeling the outright peace being saturated with sun and calm and things-are-just-right brings.

Jumping, hissing, and spouting, frothy mini-geysers covered the harbor shore to shore.

Sometimes I’d row a skiff out, and float around in the shadows under the piers, throwing in my line to see what I could catch.

There, I was free from older-brother teasing, and “would you watch your little brother for a sec . . “ babysitting. Whether on the dock or out in a boat, I spent as much time every summer as I could with my catch bucket and lunch by my side, line in the water.

One lovely summer noon when we were 15, my friend Sally and I sat on my favorite dock, glumly watching our bait bobbers flop uselessly on the surface of the water — we’d caught plenty of fish earlier, but there had been no bites for some time.

This was odd, because no matter what time of day, this one spot almost always produced fish after fish.

Suddenly, the skies turned an ominous, greasy, green-black-bruise color, and out of nowhere, a massive squall exploded into being right over us.

The air temperature plummeted to goose-bump cold.

Brutal gusts of wind slashed across the surface of the water, trying to slice our faces and bare legs and arms like armies of mini razors.

Fat stinging rain drops slammed into everything.

We were drenched before we could have opened our mouths to say ‘wet’!

The water out in the harbor bubbled and frothed as if someone had forgotten to turn off the stove once it got to a boil.

Boil indeed! Jumping, hissing, and spouting, frothy mini-geysers covered the harbor shore to shore.

All the boats in the fleet, regardless of size, bobbed up and down at their moorings like little toys, frantically swinging back and forth on their lines as if they were desperate to get free.

Neither Sally nor I was a stranger to squalls, but this! This was the Mother of All Squalls.

I was so surprised and shocked by this ferocious deluge that I just flopped down on my butt, holding my arms over my head in a futile attempt to keep the pointy rain from my face.

Forget it — it was a no-win.

I started laughing. This was too much fun!

Sally did the same, and we sat there immersed in goofy hilarity — until we noticed that the rain was coming down so hard and fast that it had filled our buckets, and the fish we’d caught earlier in the day were jumping out.

We tried to get up to catch them. The dock was so slippery we couldn’t stand up. We just slid around, getting splinters in our bare knees and the tops of our feet. But we caught most of the escaping fish and plopped them back into the buckets.

The squall couldn’t have lasted more than ten minutes, but was so fierce it felt like a century.

Then, just as abruptly as it had burst from the heavens, all at once the skies opened to the sun.

As if blotted up by a world-size rag, the bruised green-black clouds disappeared.

The cold just evaporated.

The strangest thing, though, was the water. Where one second it had been leaping and tossing about like a wild boiling potion, the next moment, it was completely flat.

Calm and glassy. Like the finest mirror. Not a single ripple.

All the boats were stock still. You’d never know just a second ago they were pulling on their buoys like just-caught wild mustangs.

Now they were like good little soldiers, all in tidy rows, all lined up with the flow of the current out of the harbor.

How the heck did they calm down so fast? Why wasn’t even one of them still at least wiggling, or swaying?

No wonder the fish hadn’t been biting! They knew! They’d dived down to the muddy bottom, taking shelter!

Sally and I sat on that slippery dock, utterly soaked head to foot, covered in fish scales and slimy fish gore, feeling overcome.

A massive river of emotion swept through me. We looked over at each other — what a sight! We were the epitome of bedraggle.

We started laughing again, and didn’t stop for a long time. The awesome surprise, the incredible exploding crash of the squall — the sheer size and power — the stinging bullets of rain — here and gone!

The sudden sunlight — gratitude for being safe on the dock and not out at sea — seeing each other clambering around in fish-blood and rain water, scrambling after fish trying to escape . . . it was all too much. Laughter was all we were capable of.

We finally stopped, our bellies aching. We threw the rest of the live fish back into the water, and walked home.


The Squall of All Squalls
© Angela Treat Lyon 2024

Image: Curly Waters
© Angela Treat Lyon 2024

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