I’ve never fished in rain like this before. I don’t mean a drizzle or a pitter-patter sort of rain; I mean a steady gray rain that sounds like popcorn popping in your poncho and after a few hours you feel soaked even though you’re dry. Daddy does it all the time. I look across this little backwater of the Big Horn where he’s casting.
“Any strikes?” I pretend not to hear him, and in truth, I can’t, but I know that’s what he’s saying because it’s what he always says when he holds his rod down and looks at me like this.
“Any hits?” he says again.
“No,” I say, “nothing,” which isn’t true, but I’m hoping he’ll give up and take me home.
“Maybe you should try one of these.” He puts his rod under his arm and holds up a little blob.
“What is it?”
“Olive Grizzly Flash-a-bugger, number four. I’ve had two good bumps.”
He’s lying. I know he hasn’t had a strike in the last half hour because I’ve been watching him the whole time. For Daddy, a strike is usually a production with all sorts of whooping and pointing.
“I don’t have any of those in my vest,” I say.
“Well come over here and get one. I’ve got plenty and they’re hitting like crazy.”
“No,” I say.
“No I’m not going over there to get one. I’m going back to the truck.”
“We can’t quit now. They’re just getting started.”
“Well don’t then. You fish. I’ll sit in the car.”
A half an hour later he’s still flailing away without any fish and I’m getting bored with my book, so I decide to get inventive.
“Daddy,” I yell, rolling down the window on the other side. “Daddy, my period’s started.”
“Not now, Peachy,” he yells back, “I’m getting a bump.”
“But I don’t have a Tampax, I’ll bleed all over your Ram.”
“Put your waders back on.”
I’m ready to get out of the truck and start throwing rocks when somebody taps the window on my side. I rub off the steam and see that it’s a woman, a game warden, probably an Indian because her black hair is long and thick even though it’s wet,
so I roll the window down.
“Hi Honey, havin’ problems with the plumbing?” she says while the rain hammers the bill of her cap.
“Plumbing?” I say.
“I heard you tell your Daddy you don’t got no Tampax. I got some in my rig over there.” She points to her pickup hidden in a stand of cottonwoods about fifty yards upriver.
“I just made that up,” I say. “We’ve been fishing in this rain all morning and I can’t get him to stop.”
“I know, I been havin’ lunch in my truck and seen you give up about a half hour ago. You got a license, Honey?”
“Sure, it’s in my vest.” When I reach into the back of the cab and pick it up, I forget that it’s on top of the gun, so when she sees it there she steps back and draws her own.
“Step out of the truck,” she says, “and put your hands on the roof.”
“It’s Daddy’s. It’s not cocked,” I say, stepping out into the rain.
“Don’t worry,” she says. “I ain’t gonna arrest you or nothin’.
I know it’s in his rights to have it there. It’s just you can’t be too careful these days.” Then she holsters her gun, reaches into the back and picks ours up by the barrel. “This here’s a beauty,” she says, turning it over in her hand. “Let’s get in the truck before it gets wet.” She walks around to the driver’s side, gets in and motions for me to get in too.
“Damn,” she says, “This is one of them ten millimeter jobbies.”
“Colt Delta Elite,” I say. “I can’t even cock it.”
“You mind if I try,” she says.
“Be my guest,” I say, but I’m thinking Jesus, make her go away, and then, just like that the rain stops and the sun comes out.
“Damn,” she says, “this sucker really IS hard to cock,” so she steps out of the car, puts it down between her knees where she can get some leverage and cocks it.
“I guess it’s locked and loaded now,” I say, stepping out again. Then Daddy surprises us both, walking up the bank with a big rainbow.
“Who’s your friend,” says Daddy looking at me then the warden then the gun.
“I’m Bunny Bell Doe Nose,” says the warden.
“I suppose you’ll be checking our licenses, Officer Doe Nose,” says Daddy, reaching into his vest.
“I’m sure you got one, no need to bring it out. This here’s a beautiful gun. You mind if I shoot it?” says the warden.
“You’re the warden,” says Daddy. Then she takes it in both hands, points it up and shoots it right at the sun so that the recoil knocks her back against the truck.”
“Damn,” she says, “what you use this thing for?”
“Nothing in particular,” says Daddy, “I just like owning it. You’d better put it on safety. You’ve got another six rounds in there.
“If you don’t mind my asking, how much did it run you,” says the warden, flipping up the safety.
“About six hundred,” says Daddy.
“Shit,” says the warden, “I wouldn’t pay no six hundred for no gun, even if I could knock down a barn with it. This here 357 is all I’d ever need,” and she pats her holster then puts our gun back in the truck.
Now that the sun is shining, and she’s dried out a little, I can tell that the warden is really pretty, and I want to tell her how it was my mom that bought the gun. I want to tell her how Daddy made the sheriff give it to him after the inquest and how he keeps it in his truck even though it makes him sick to look at it. I want to tell her that this is only the second time it’s been fired.
“That’s some rainbow,” says the warden .
“I’ll bet it’s four pounds,” I say, and Daddy says, “More like three.”
“No,” says Bunny Bell Doe Nose, “I mean THAT rainbow,” and she points up in the sky over Daddy’s shoulder.