Gaff laughed, entertained by antics of swooping and diving seagulls. He nodded toward them. “They might all be a part of the same system, but they each fight to get the biggest piece. Don’t think it’s nature’s way for one bird to give the larger portion of food to the bird diving next to him.”
Priscilla giggled at the thought. “You take it… No, you take it… No, I insist. You take it. It’s much bigger than the fish you caught.”
Gaff reacted to her with a belly laugh. “Pelican would probably take both fish.”
Priscilla was sitting in Bobby’s chair on the other side of the cooler. Her eyes followed those of her friend and she laughed. “Yeah, we humans have some strange ideas. Leaving some food on your plate so that the hostess won’t think you didn’t have enough to eat! Silly, really.”
Gaff turned to her, more serious now. “It is silly, but a lot of those customs are a shorthand way of communicating with people around you. Ways of showing respect, too, some of them.”
She nodded, in silent thought.
He yawned and turned toward the sun. “You haven’t been around much lately.”
A shake of her head. She reached into her bag and pulled out a book. Waved it in his direction. “I’ve been taking some classes about making films at the local college. You know there’s a big film community in this area.”
It was his turn to nod. “Taking a break from studying those other books of yours? And doing the lessons in that workbook?” He looked at the tip of his rods to see if a fish was on the hook. No wiggle there. No jumping around.
Priscilla riffled through the pages of her book and then returned it to the bag. “Do that at night. And in the morning. Starts the day out right. Besides, I’ve had a few opportunities to apply the lessons from that book.”
Gaff chuckled as he pushed out of his chair to head toward his fishing rods. “Sounds like there’s a story in this…..
I need to check my lines before we get too deep into it.” He flipped a bail and reeled in first one hook and then the other to find his bait in tatters. “Looks like someone was eating around the bone here.”
Priscilla moved to join him on the sand. She laughed. Then she closed her eyes and turned her face toward the sun. “Never get tired of this.” She sighed her words into the wind.
Gaff paused, hands dropped to his side as he, too, turned a smiling face to the warmth of the sun. After a moment, he returned to his job. He cast both hooks, filled with bait, into the deep on the other side of the sandbar and put his hands in the water to rinse the fish juice from them. The friends went back to their chairs.
Priscilla closed her eyes to the sun and murmured, “Thank you, Mother Water, for all this glory.”
Gaff dried his hand on the towel as he asked, “And just how did you apply those lessons?”
Her head jerked upright. “Looking for a location to shoot the film I’m making for class. Has to be a beautiful old home with a window on a courtyard or some interesting walkway. So I looked at this historical home in Wilmington. You know, on that street of quaint old homes a block from the river.”
He nodded and the corners of his eyes crinkled in amusement. “Uh-hunh.”
She waved strands of hair out of the way and reached for a shell in the sand beside her. “Wasn’t right for the film, but the curator gave me a number for a neighbor down the way. Someone with a better view.”
“And you called.”
“When I did, a woman answered. I started into the explanation when she cut me off. Wouldn’t let me finish.”
“Yell at you?”
Priscilla threw the shell toward the water. “Not exactly, but her voice was hard and angry and her words…”
“Not helpful? Helpful like southern people are reputed to be?” He smiled at this last.
Priscilla turned toward him. “You know her? Sounds like you’ve got her number.”
“Na. But we’ve got a lot of people move down from the north. Takes ‘em a while to figure it out… that they don’t need to be afraid of everyone.”
Distracted momentarily by the loud squawking of the birds, she just shook her head for a bit. “She didn’t sound afraid. More like she was terribly hurt and wanted to hurt everyone she could to spread that pain around.”
“Don’t let it bother you. Maybe I can help you find another place.”
She turned a brilliant smile toward Gaff. “That’s just it. When she took a breath, I said in a soft voice that I really appreciated her kind help and hung up.”
Gaff grinned. “Good that you didn’t yell or pout about it.”
The smile brightened. “No, I did feel upset about the way she treated me and that she wasn’t at all helpful, but I didn’t feel angry. I just felt sad.”
Gaff nodded and looked toward the tip of his rod to see if there was a fish on the line. Maybe.
“When I got up this morning, I let the book fall open and read from that page. There were six lessons and they all said the same thing repeated again and again: ‘God is but Love, and therefore so am I.’”
Gaff’s brow squinched together indicating his confusion.
Priscilla threw her hands into the air. “Don’t you see? I was love.”
He shrugged, but still didn’t understand. “You were nice.”
“Yes, I was nice to her even as she was not nice to me. I thanked her for helping me even before I realized how much she had helped.”
“How’s that? How’d you think she helped you?”
“She was a test to see if I really learned those lessons.”
“And you passed.”
Priscilla’s grin was at its broadest. “I did pass. I wasn’t angry and I didn’t attack. I said, ‘Blessings to you,’ and I really meant it!”
“No hint of anger?”
The grin dimmed a bit. “I did feel hurt that she would attack me, a stranger.”
“And a nice person.”
“But when I thought about it, I realized that she might have been afraid. A total stranger called her home… and knew where she lived.”
“That would explain the fear, but the attack…”
Priscilla shrugged and ran hands through the sand. “As we said before, she was in pain and was dumping some of that on me. Maybe something happened to her at work… or she had a fight with her husband.”
Gaff laughed. “You sure are good at coming up with maybes.”
She looked intently at Gaff. “You always say that we don’t know what goes on behind closed doors… and it’s really none of our business. Whether it was something that happened that day or from a childhood filled with abuse, her pain was so great that it splatted out all over me.”
He tilted his head. “And you gave back Love instead of fear.”
“I did. I did. And the quotation this morning was perfect. I am Love.”
He laughed now. “I can hear Professor Doolittle saying, ‘She’s got it. I think she’s got it.’”