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  • Writer's pictureJenny Dunaway

It's Raining Fish!

Updated: Aug 6, 2020

(This is another excerpt from the children's book I'm writing about our canoe. I've never done this before and your comments are appreciated. Please forgive the illustrations--they help me create the story.)

"Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear.” ― Mark Twain.

"Cattail, you look awful!" Mikinak observed. "A little green around the gills, I'd say. What happened?"

"Let's just say I was canoe-surfing on the Rappahannock today. Folks say you can blink your eyes and the weather changes on the bay. They are right! It was a beautiful morning, almost a flat calm, when we left the creek. The boys, Mom, Charlie Brown, and I were headed for Mosquito Island..."

"Also named by Capt. John Smith, I might add but he spelled it differently, " Mikinak added.

"It was our very first voyage to the island. The boys and Charlie Brown were so excited! We hugged the shore until we came to the narrow channel that separated Palmer from the island. It seemed a lot farther than everyone thought it would be but the island was just ahead.

As we floated over the darker water, Seth Miles called out, "Look, dolphins!" and he pointed to our left. Indeed there were two dolphins swimming right beside our canoe!" I recognized the whistles and clicks of Jimmy and Kate.

"That's quite a full load you have there, Cattail," Kate observed.

"Yeah, just a little list and you'd flip," Jimmy teased. He didn't know how right he was. So far, Charlie Brown was being good but the new escorts were too much for him. He started barking and he never barks sitting still. Up on all fours he went and I tilted to the port.

"Sit down, Charlie Brown!" everyone cried. At that moment Jimmy and Kate became airborne and the boys all said, "Wow!" in unison.

"We didn't flip but it was a very close call. The dolphins swam off and I realized we were right above the sandbar surrounding the north end of the island. My hull touched the white sand of Mosquito Island. Charlie Brown was the first out of me followed by all three boys. Mom pull me up and threw my anchor in the sand so I wouldn't flo at away. Mosquito Island is an exceptionally beautiful place, Mikinak."

"Yes, indeed, it is a lovely place! Th eisland still has a few cedars, a couple of lobloloby pines, lots of marsh elder, and groundsel. A dune rises from the middle of the island. It is anchored with salt meadow hay and some bayberry. There is an abundance of glasswort and even black needle rush. You know, the early colonists used their points as nee dles?" Mikinak was a wealth of knowledge and I tried to absorb everything he said.

"The boys discovered a volleyball net on the Rappahannock side. There was no ball in sight but they said they'd bring one next time. Apparently, the island is packed on the weekends but it's a Tuesday and things were pretty quiet. The boys took the crab nets and the basket to catch tonight's supper. They worked their way around the inlets and bars of the island catching a few here and there. Jake caught one and was trying to dump it into the crab basket but the crab fell out onto the sand, instead. Charlie Brown was right behind him and went after the crab. I tried to warn him but I was too far away for him to hear me. That blue crab grabbed hold of Charlie Brown's lip with its claw and he let out a pitiful yelp. Shaking his head, the crab went flying. Jake scrambled to catch it again and successfully got it in the basket this time. Charlie Brown liked playing stick much more than playing crab."

"Mom went progging to hunt for beach glass. She makes wave chimes and hangs them on the back porch. I can even hear them making a lovely tinkling noise in the breeze from the marsh where I'm tied .

"Yes, I've heard her wave chimes, too," Mikinak acknowledged.

"The boys explored Mosquito Island from one end to the other. There weren't many jellyfish, yet, so they swam and played with Charlie Brown who had seemed to have recovered from his encounter with the crab. The white sand was warm and the waves gently lapped at the beach unless a work boat or motor boat passed the island. The waves caused by the wake of the boat would provide waves for the boys to body-surf. I must confess that I may have fallen asleep for a little while. It was as if the beach were singing a lullaby and an overwhelming sense of peace surrounded me."

"I was abruptly brought back to reality when Zach hollered, "Mom, look!" pointing over to Stingray Point."

"The sky was strangely green and the wind suddenly picked up. It smelled like rain but I didn't see any rain."

"What you smelled was ozone, Cattail. It's the smell of electricity, sweet and pungent. I hope you got off the island."

"Yes, it only took a second for Mom to understand the danger of our situation."

"It's a waterspout!" Mom looked horrified. "Get in the canoe, NOW!"

"What about my fishing pole?" Zach asked.

"Grab it and let's go. Hurry!"

"Mom knew that you would be the highest point and aluminum conducts electricity, as does water. I'm sure she wanted to to get back to land as quickly as possible."

"Honestly, Mikinak, we had never been out in that kind of weather before. The wind had changed direction and I knew we would be fighting the tide back here to Oyster Creek."

"Never take a wave side-to," Mom reminded Zach. She was steering and paddling from the back and he was up front paddling harder than he had ever paddled before. There were whitecaps on the Rappahannock. It was rough. We couldn't get too close to the beach at Close Quarters or the waves would have swamped us. Mom angled me toward a huge wave heading our direction. We went up and over it and everyone was drenched. As we fought the waves, we noticed the waterspout was now out in the middle of the river. It was too close for comfort. I felt sick, really sick. All that up and down movement had made me seasick. I knew I couldn't give in to the queasiness I was experiencing--my family was counting on me to get them home, safe."

"We could see the entrance to Oyster Creek. We were going to make it, I thought. The water spout was headed straight for Mosquito Island, where we had just been. The narrow channel into Oyster Creek is difficult to navigate on a good day. The current was fast but we were determined. As we rounded the bend to Oyster Creek, I took a deep breath...

"Fish! Fish!" the boys yelled looking up to the sky. It suddenly started raining fish, yes, fish! Bunker were falling from the sky. Two fell into me. It truly was an amazing and strange sight to behold. Mom was just trying to rush the boys to the van parked on the road behind the marsh. She wrapped my anchor around a bush and they jumped in the van. As suddenly as it had appeared, the waterspout was gone. Mom and the boys were safe. I made it back with six inches of water in me and two menhaden."

"That explains why you look a little greener than usual, Cattail. Rough water can make anyone seasick, my friend."

"But I'm a canoe--I'm not supposed to get seasick!"

"You were very brave, Cattail. You are almost as old as I am and you returned your people back to safety."

"I supposed I did." Somehow, Mikinak could always make me feel better. The fish were swimming inside me when Zach came back to retreive them for his crab pot. Maybe they would have crabs for supper, after all.

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