Somewhere in the North Sea-1965.
Men cursed everything sacred in a calmer world as steel rivets shot through the air and shouts turned into screams of desperation.
The storm refused to give in. It hadn't finished yet.
There was nowhere to go.
Nowhere to hide.
Underneath the exposed platform, books fell from a bookshelf straight into the face of Stan Slowcombe - slow by name and slow by deed, as his mates kept on reminding him. He had managed to sleep through the danger that was erupting all around him, he was an old hand after all, but books trying to smash up his face was pushing it. He sat up, and for a few moments remained still, or at least as still as the creaking metal that swayed underneath his body allowed.
What the hell was going on? He was too bloody old for oil rig dramas, too bloody old for everything.
His bunk bed suddenly lurched and threw him onto the floor. Jesus this was serious! The rig was in trouble. Screams of 'Move it!' 'Hurry up!' and 'The bastard is breaking up!' demanded action as Stan quickly struggled to his feet, threw on some clothes and made for the door.
His shoulders and arms were hammered into his body, as he fought his way up to the deck where a group of men were trying to release a life raft. Waves seething with rage, and winds hell bent on killing, broke their determined grips and unclasped their slippery hands.
It was hopeless.
He watched as two of his mates were swept into the icy arms of the North Sea never to be seen again. The pitiful echoes of their screams were lost in the ruthless swirls of destruction and shrieks of lethal lightening as their names fell onto yet another stone slab in some distant cemetery.
Stan and the remaining men managed to free another life raft. Six of them were able to scramble aboard. Just as Stan was about to jump in, the rig suddenly pulled in another direction and sent him careering over the side.
No-one would ever discover what killed him first, the water or cold, but then the North Sea had never been too fussy about how it slaughtered.
The end result was always the same.
Ten years later
Josh concentrated on the swirls and tucks of the river.
Every single movement counted or told him something. Right now the ebb and flow of the River Wye was everything, its mood and temperament crucial. As his eyes wandered from bank to bank, he suddenly felt uncomfortable. Something was disturbing the secretive commotion of the riverbank, something that shouldn't be there, it was as if Nature was trying to catch his attention. He turned his head, looked and listened. Nothing. A moment of excited hope, then realisation. His memory was playing stupid tricks again. What else could it be?
He remained still, like a lump of sculptured stone pretending to be art but without the pretension. A flotilla of swans appeared and strangled the silence with their flapping wings and insolent beaks. Josh immediately moved toward them, they were not his enemy; the noise of the swans had made certain that the creature he was stalking would be unable to detect his presence.
He angled his torso forward as he tucked his elbow into his side. His body moved with an indifferent but perfect rhythm as his forearm cast the hot orange fly toward a particular spot on the surface of the river. His timing was faultless, there was no strain or effort. He was an expert.
The artificial fly hit the target and the line landed on the ripples of the river without as much as a whimper of protest. Almost immediately, and without warning the line tightened and the reel panicked. A sudden silvery jump, a dash for safety, a battle and then a war.
Minutes later sticky eyes stared up at Josh's face and demanded mercy. It didn't beg, it simply demanded. The salmon's dignity was beyond reproach, as Josh looked into the beast's eyes and saw his own hope of a few minutes earlier, but there was something more compelling and regal about the hope that stared back at him now. Something more exact. He held the salmon in his hands and felt its courage, he also felt its pain.
Josh couldn't kill.
He sat back on his haunches for a moment and then placed the defeated monarch back in the water. For a brief second or two the salmon remained still. The man's gentle touch had not been ignored neither had his mercy.
Then it was gone.
For the second time that day Joshua Nelson had caught a fish and let it go.
The catching was always easy it was the keeping that played havoc.
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