Hood sat on a rock on the bank of the Merced River in Yosemite and tied a fly on for his father. It was early and they were alone. The morning was cool and quiet, and Douglas seemed uninterested in the skills he had mastered and taught to his son and then lost, all within his lifetime.
Hood finished the knot and watched his father stare out at this new old river. Beyond it the hills were thick with conifers and the sky was a pale blue and there was a plume of smoke from a distant fire.
“We may as well start with a caddis,” said Hood.
“By all means.”
“Thanks for coming out here with me.”
“I don’t see any reason to stay more than just a few minutes.”
They waded into the cold water. Hood pointed to a riffle upstream of them, possibly the same riffle that Douglas had pointed out to him when they first fished this stretch twenty years ago. Hood understood that the saying about something going past in the blink of an eye can be literal, not just figurative.
Hood stepped back to give his father room to cast, the water powerful against his legs. Douglas held his old handmade rod in the air with his right hand and some slack line in his left. The fly was in the water, skittering in place on the surface at the end of its downstream tether. Beyond this basic posture for casting Douglas appeared flummoxed and looked at his son.
Hood waded up behind him and took his father’s hands and started the old motion that Douglas had shown him, the rod tip held high and the wrist firm and the elbow forming a fulcrum and the left hand feeding line or hauling it tight. It was an easy rhythm, and up this close Hood could smell his father’s aging body and the after-shave he’d used his whole life, and he could feel the loose coolness of his skin and the lightness of his bones and the reluctant machinery of his joints.
Douglas shrugged him off with an obscenity and Hood waded toward the bank so he could watch.
His father looked at him, then took up the cast again, and Hood watched the white fly line loop back and forth overhead in increasing lengths until it shot forward straight and settled and a silky filament unfurled at the last instant, placing the tiny fly at the head of the riffle.
His father mended the line then smiled at Hood with joy and the memory of joy.
Standing where this river briefly intersected time, Hood believed that all on Earth was forgiven.
He smiled back.