123 Widening the Net

Si maneuvered the prow closer to shore but north of the groin, maintaining one rule of proper distance while breaking another, until the sound experiment produced an audible, with benefit of megaphone, consistency.

“Si, can you keep us in this spot?” Si dropped the anchor.

Chapter 122 Widening the Net

“I’ll be in the cabin. Call me when you need me.” Si wanted to avoid being cast in this drama. He retreated down to his comfortable chair and looked out towards the beach where the Pastor’s partner lingered, awaiting instructions on this training ground for newbie miracle workers. What these instructions were eventually to be was the subject of some disagreement, if the tone of conversation on deck was anything to go by. She perched, apparently impatient of the delay, on what must have been a larger piece of driftwood that in the nearshore gloaming undulated as a sea serpent, raising dragon sharp talons and lashing tail. It rose up near the wall that severed the beach in two, and with she its black rider merged into a fearsome apparition, a creature of oceanic, not of lakeside, depths.

He closed his eyes to it. Shadows rubbed out the ever-darkening face of the bluff, shooed the beach going public reluctantly up the ramp as the beautiful day ended. Silhouettes criss-crossed the top of the bluff, dissolving as night arrived. He dozed, aware of voices and movement above him, as in a dream.

“It’ll be too dark soon to do anything, now, thanks to your bickering. She’s not going to be able to see my signals.” Herb hectored the fuming trio. His plan had been to figure the distance between boat and beach at which the sound level was consistent over a number of tries, with a range of speaking voices and with set pieces: prayers, songs, readings, and preaching, as they’d have to use all of these, in the event. It had all backfired.

The culmination scene was to let out the nets over the side, and to haul them in overflowing with fish. Kitty had researched nets and proposed using lightweight mesh ones. The only fish substitutes that Myrtle and Thea had found, their assignment, were in bright tropical colors, inflatable and expensive. Kitty suggested beige packing peanuts; surely, at that distance, most eyes wouldn’t perceive the difference. Her sensible and cost-effective alternative ensured another round of back-biting for Herb, and more rehearsal time wasted as they railed on at him about real ropes, then segued to false gods; he didn’t see their point, only felt their rancor.

“We can’t see how to make this ugly net work in the dark. I’ll call her in, if you won’t.” Myrtle raised the megaphone to her mouth and before Herb could protest, crowed, “Sister Kathy, swim out.” He was puzzled by her use of the word ‘Sister’ as applied to her nemesis. She materialized, sleek in her suit, at the foot of the boat ladder.

“Sister Myrtle.” Kitty mimicked the Pastor’s wife, ignoring the other two women jockeying in on the exchange. They ganged up behind Kitty’s brand new Sister in post position at the head of the short flight of steps.

“Sister Kathy, climb up and demonstrate these nets.” As Kitty rose from the water, up the ladder onto the deck, Herb interrupted his wife’s run-on agenda and attempted to re-establish his own, now in a more deferential tone.

“Kathy,” he wheedled, “before you go back to the beach, will you please check the propeller, make sure we haven’t picked up any weeds.” This politeness to her only served to whip up more venom in the under-served hearts of the other three. “Si was concerned we might be catching some, stop the propeller from working, so he says. I’m no sailor. How far are we from shore?”

Kitty knotted a length of twine she pulled up behind her to mark the length of the distance from shore, where she’d left the other end tied to a stake firmly set in the beach. “I’d estimate that we’re still in the ball park. I’ll measure exactly when I get back to the beach.” Turning her attention to the bale of netting strewn about her feet, she commented, “Actually best, Sister, if you untie this up here on the railing, or in the water, otherwise you might trip up. It springs at you.” She faced Herb. “What’s next, Pastor?”

“My timing hasn’t worked out as well as I’d hoped. We didn’t get to rehearse many of the sound issues we’d pre-arranged to try. Now that night is falling, unfortunately we’ll have to wait until another opportunity. All part of the learning curve.” His attempt at excuse came out with an unconvincing snigger. His family was glaring, closing in, encircling Kitty though she seemed to rise, standing head and shoulders above them, her hair a glowing halo re-directing the remains of the dying light. “Mrs. Minosa, Thea, and her niece, Erin – have you two actually met, well you have now, haven’t you? – are suggesting that before we head back, that we test the fishing net. Can you show us how that will work, while we can still see?”

“This should all be done on the side of boat, or boats, facing away from the shore of course, so that we can work the miracle unseen. We’ll have to secure the net to the side, to be able to haul it back up.” Kitty maneuvered, finding the openings as she wrestled the now expanding net over to the railing. “Are there any fish to put in?” Erin huffed and stuffed. Kitty lifted one end of the net up on the rail and pulled up on the attached drawstring. Plastic peanut fish eyes smiled out at her.

“Aren’t there any more lights on the boat?” Minnie Minus whined. Herb went below only to find his pilot fast asleep. The moment Herb’s back was turned the women let go, their anger a hissing quiver of speech, first Thea, then Erin, then Myrtle.

“You harlot.”

“You shape shifter.”

“You whited sepulcher.” They formed a chorus. This was an unfamiliar portion of the script to Kitty.

“Wait, is this a re-write?” Maddened by Kitty’s belittling, Myrtle wound up again.

“Who violates my son, is evil!” At this, Kitty just laughed in her face.

“Look closer to home, Sister.” With that taunt, the angry birds descended and man-handled their startled prey into the open end of the netting.

“False unbeliever!”  Thea pronounced, as she lashed a rough knot in the other drawstring, while Kitty kicked.

“Save me, Sister… you can have all of them back again.” Kitty recanted, reaching her fingers through the mesh. Myrtle spit at them.

“Keep your foul hand and your unclean hair. ” They heaved the net and its castigated contents overboard into the dark waters, as Myrtle intoned, “And the Lord said unto the sinful, I will cast my net over you.”

“My hair is clean…” was the last they heard of her. Herb stumbled back over the cluttered deck, flashlight in hand.

“This is it for light. Where is she, Myrtle? What was that splash?”

“She had to go.”