expanses blending together, so endlessly blue-and-white: everything bigger-than-life as if the universe itself had been born right there in dazzling June light yet totally serene, with the surf rolling steadily in to shore and sailboats fixed on the horizon like white triangles in a painting. I would change into my bathing suit and walk along the edge of the water as the seagulls wheeled and called above me. I dug my bare toes in the sand, making holes, and watched the watery, jelly-like sand quivering until mysteriously the holes were filled again. I waded into the Gulf ankle-deep at first, with seaweed and broken shells flowing between my legs toward the shore; then deeper, with the water green and foamfilled around my thighs; finally deep enough to swim, the waves swelling, cresting, curling rhythmically over my head, pulling me sideways and under. I would let myelf be carried along, luxuriating in the idea and the presence of water: I was in the ocean. It was ocean water in my mouth, salty and warm; it was the ocean floor beneath me. I floated and wallowed and smiled. I swam some more, I walked along the shore and found sand dollars and hermit crabs and jellyfish, but mainly I fished. I would change into my long-sleeved shirt buttoning it at the neck against the sun and put on my baseball cap and with my father and uncle I would walk out on the pier and we would spend the afternoon and part of the night fishing. I never tired of holding a pole, of watching my cork. I would peel a shrimp, bait my hook, angle the line over the railing between the lines of others fishing around me, and wait. I waited with no thought in mind. I was simply an extension of my cane pole. I was content. Sometimes I would feel a muscular tug as the cork went under and I yanked up hard. Usually a scavenger cat no good to eat would be flopping on the line. I would pull the catfish onto the pier and then, holding its mouth with my uncle’s pliers, remove the hook. Sometimes when I wasn’t careful enough the catfish managed to jab me with with the toxic fin on its back and my uncle would come over, laughing, and give me a wad of moist chewing tobacco. I would hold it on the jab for a while to take away the sting. The hours passed, the sun beat down, and all of us on the pier fished as if hypnotized bony old men in yachting caps and worn tennis shoes; red-headed fat women in bonnets; big, brown, bare-stomached hairy men; men with crab nets and live-bait buckets and chunks of meat to catch tarpon. We were a quiet community focused on the single business of catching fish with everyone seeming to wish the other well. We always admired a man’s impressive string of redfish or gafftop cats as he walked by. We would gather around to stare at the strangeness of another man’s stingray or porcupine fish. We listened to the surf rods whine. We watched boys using perch hooks keep pulling up from among the pilings small-mouthed, beautifully striped angel fish. And occasionally someone would call out, “Hammerhead!” and we would all look over the railing, trying to see the shark in the gray-green water below. At sundown I would finally notice it, the huge fan of rays slanting across the western half of the sky my father and Uncle Mitch and I would go back to the tent we had set up next to the car. My mother and aunt would have supper ready, and we ate fried chicken and potato salad out of paper plates as the surf rolled in and the breeze blew as if it were going on to China. After supper my uncle would ask, “Well, now, did you finally get enough of fishing for one day?” and I would say no. The others laughed because as my mother told me later with my sun-flushed face and sweat-matted hair I looked as though I had had enough of everything for that day. But my uncle lumbered around, getting the poles and gear boxes ready, and we went back to the pier again to fish under the lights until midnight. The next day would be more of the same: fishing on the pier, down the beach at the granite-rock jetties, back across the channel in the bays. My uncle would let me use his rod and reel and I would wade out into a bay up to my knees, casting out. I would stand there, the salt breeze blowing, the pelicans flapping around near the causeway, oleanders blooming pink and white in the sun. I would feel something hit my line and I would reel in furiously and there it was, finally, an elegant, glistening, footlong speckled trout. In the late afternoon it would be time to go. We would load up the car and cross on the ferry and start back to Sinton. The adults talked; I didn’t. I sat in the back seat, the hot wind blowing in on my sunburned face and arms and neck. I was sweaty, my clothes had sand in them, my eyes burned, my hands smelled of shrimp and fish and tobacco juice. I was so tired I felt as if I had almost disappeared: somehow the Me that had come down to the coast from Kerrville had been used up. I would look at the gas flares of oil wells burning near Ingleside, at the huge sunflowers along the highway. Then. with the wind like the open door of an oven on my face, I would sleep. I’ll be bles *sed! How come, Beauford, if Congress can approve buying oil “off-budget,” it can’t finance in the same way some of those other programs it’s cutting back on? Twenty-two billion in five years comes to almost four and half billion a year, and that’s way more than they’re taking out of any program. Even the changes they’re talking about making so that Social Security doesn’t go up as fast as the cost of living index -that Jake Pickle pickling bill doesn’t come up to that amount. How come they can’t handle some of that “off-budget?” They could, but you’ve got to call a halt somewhere. You see, I told you wrong when I said that none of the oil deal will show up in the budget. Actually, the interest payments will, but not until after the Treasury bills are sold. That interest on the national debt right now is only a hair less than ninety billion a year, half the amount we spend on all national defense put together. You’ve got to think twice before running that up anymore. Did that committee think twice before that vote? Give them credit for something. Stockman made a very logical argument: he said that it wouldn’t be like the money we’re wasting on those programs he wants to cut. You know, he wants to cut solar energy research, water purification projects, synthetic fuel development, highway construction, mass transit, and things like that. Those are all little dinky things compared to food stamps, child nutrition, CETA, Social Security, but I don’t want to get into that. What Stockman argues is that there is every reason to buy the oil “off-budget” because we don’t lose any money by it once we buy the oil, it’s our oil; we have simply traded dollars for oil. He said that’s the same way we keep up our gold stockpile now sure, we lay out a dollar, but we’ve got a dollar’s worth of oil to show for every dollar we borrow to buy the oil. You’re carrying me a bit fast. I don’t want to get into any argument about those social programs, that welfare mess, either. Stockman’s right, all the THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7
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