No more fish come. I finally lose the ant on a hooked treetop. And that says time to go home. To know my entry point at the streamside, I had piled three flat rocks. Finding that marker I sit down there on the mossy ancient log again. And daydream. I wish Francy and I just met back here as arranged. Side by side silent in our waders, rods laid together. Watching the stream open its evening lamps for those who can see inside.
What was my Walton ant? A falsely lit falsehood come floating atop confused instant.
As the Lambo starts up the Farm drive, there is Robert and Samarra’s truck headed out. I back up to where he can pass. He stops and looks down, van man to coupe sport.
“You know some guy got a black pickup?”
“What?” I have been rehearsing the tale for Francy of my wonderful hours astream. To inspire her to try fishing with me.
“Guy our age. Your wife come out and kissed his cheek twice like she knows him good. Saw it from the brewery roof.”
Jace. “Yeah. We just met him. He lives across the river.”
Robert is looking down at me. “Ummh.”
“So he’s visiting. He didn’t know I was out fishing today.”
“All right Frank.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Why does a woman kiss a stranger twice. Wondering.”
“Because she grew up French, Robert. That’s what women do in Europe.”
“Ummh. Okay. Anyway they been inside your house two hours.”
“Well I’m home now.”
“That you are.” Samarra sitting beside him staring at me inscrutable as Anubis, the future-gazing Egyptian jackal goddess incarnate. They drive on away.
When the Lambo approaches the house I stop at the distant spot where Francy and I slept our first night. I’ve been stealthy on the stream all afternoon. I don’t slam the car door. The little goat herd seems to have a sentimental attachment to their former home. They are lolled in shade around the porch steps, ready for Francy to come down and walk with them around the property as usual before dinner.
I enter silently and to the doorway of our unfurnished dining room. A low burst of setting sun slant floods across the big plain maroon carpet. Evening breeze ruffling the white curtain undulates seawave lines of luminance over dark texture. From across the kitchen I cannot catch Francy’s words back in her studio. But the tone is not casual. Jace’s response back there is garbled but the last word surely is “Paris.”
I freeze to listen. But the next sound is clacking hoofs of a 300-pound horned beast come in through the ajar door. Ram wants to push by me, I grab a neck fold to stop him. And there at the studio door is Jace smiling at the sight of Ram and me joined. “Frank at last. Did you get on out there today?”
I’m not quite looking anywhere. I want to see the deep sea-swelling maroon carpet not him. I want to see him the other side of a wine-dark sea. Lost in a storm would be nice. Paris. Drowned in dark would be right. “Been here long?”