The clouds were dun colored, and starting to gather themselves for a ruckus. The
logging trail down to the river had taken an abrupt turn up-slope, then flattened
itself out against a bus-sized outcropping of gray-green stone. Lichens and moss
covered the pockmarked surface of the rock, turning it into an old man’s stubbly
face. As I approached the giant stone, I saw at its base where it had calved,
forming a shallow cave. A good place to take shelter from the coming rain. The
thunderhead was now compacting itself, hunching its shoulders, ready to deliver.

     The autumn air was becoming palpable, and dense. I unslung the day pack and set it upright against the wall of the small cave. From the pack, I removed the small gas burner, the two cup coffee boiler, some Kenya AA, and a bottle of water. I set it up to brew, and stepped outside to take a leak. I began to hear short, huffy rumbles
from the leaden sky. The storm was a teenager, flexing and testing new muscles,
hissing with attitude.

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     The rain started to fall. Slowly at first, fat gobs that splattered against the
trail. I ducked back under the rock ledge, poured a hot cup of coffee, leaned back
against the stone wall and watched the rain. It was coming harder now, a steady
sizzling sound as it bounced against the greens of the forest canopy. I watched the
rain, I drank some coffee, and I tried to recall in sequence exactly what had

     We’d had an argument that morning. A stupid one, in my opinion. Something about curtains. She wanted new curtains, and what kind did I like.

     “I don’t really care. Whatever you like is fine with me.”

     Something like that. She gave me that look. The one at which she is so adept. The one that conveyed venom, contempt, and pity in the same smooth move of one arched eyebrow.

     “You could help me with this,” she said.

     “Ummm…..I like gray,” I said, trying to appease.

     I was also trying to finish the fly I was tying, a size 16 Thunderhead. I needed to replenish my fly box, and I was out of Thunderheads.

     “Is that all? Is that the extent of your ability to help me with one simple task
around here?”

     “No,” I replied, “It’s not the extent of my ability. It is the extent of my willingness.”

     I got up from my tying desk and got myself another cup of coffee. She followed me.

     “I just don’t get you.”

     “I know,” I said.

     We were trying hard not to be unkind to each other, but that’s where we were headed. I decided to finish hackling the Thunderhead still in my vise. Safe territory. I sat back down.

     I can’t remember hearing the front door close, but I do remember hearing the rumble of her exhaust pipes as she drove away. Like small thunder.

     The rain had eased back a bit and was beginning to lose its sound and strength, so I stepped out onto the trail and stretched. I took the rod from the day pack, fitted
it together, and fixed the reel onto it, snugging down the ring. A faint sun was trying to break through the clouds. I kept the pack stashed in my cave and made the short hike down to the stream. I knotted on my tippet. The water was dimpled with light rain and rising trout. I tied on a Thunderhead, size 16. A cloudy gray fly. I like gray.

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