One of the Old Ladies told me that her and the kids swam a net out at Pallinup, caught all this mullet.
"Where'd you catch that mullet?" Old Salt asked her.
"Oh, over by the bar. Then we set another net, caught some more, cooked it up on the beach wrapped in paperbark."
"Which beach? What side of the bar?" Listened intently to her directions.
Old Salt has been itchy about mullet, seeing as that latest theory is that they've swum up the river where we are not allowed to work as commercials, so we were out on the inlet this week trying to work out where this woman had caught her fish. That evening was so still and clear that as we planed across the inlet, it felt the boat wasn't even moving, just the sky and the red cliffs moving towards us. We set two nets into the paperbarks where a furtive campfire smoke smudged the trees.
The next morning it was raining sideways. I kept shouting to slow down as we roared out to the nets because the raindrops were drilling me and I hadn't found my sunglasses in the half dark tent. As we picked up, I began to realise we'd started at the wrong end of the net which meant that Old Salt had to start the motor again and reverse along it because the wind was blowing the boat across the net and getting everything tangled. I also realised that my wet weather gear was no longer water proof. All of the plastic had worn away from the insides when I'd left my pants and jacket pegged on the washing line during the storms. This may seem like a minor technicality but dodgey wet weather gear - in sideways rain when the nearest hot shower or clothes dryer is sixty kilometres away - is a real bastard.
As all these thoughts crept in, Old Salt backed into the net and bound up the prop in monofilament. You know the Concords song Business Time? Yeah, well. It's Whingeing Time. Six in the morning, the sun not yet wakened and my expletives were already spraying around deck. Old Salt always thinks my tantrums are very funny, so to up the entertainment, he backed into the net a second time after I'd untangled the first one from the propeller.
It's not easy in strong winds to climb over the stern of the dinghy, lean into the outboard and start fiddling with strands of nylon on the prop. Plus I was not longer waterproof. (Have I mentioned I wasn't waterproof?) Old Salt couldn't do it because he wore his waterproof waders which severely constricted his movements.
"I know what's going on," I shouted over the sleet, surf spray and other flying rhetoric. "You've got a deckie! No one else has a deckie. If you didn't have a deckie, you'd be thinking about how to make your job easier. But no. No. You've got a fucking deckie."
He looked a bit bemused, like when he can't hear me speaking, like when he just sees my mouth opening and shutting in the middle of a meaningless torrent of strange and vaguely humorous facial expressions. He's good at looking like that.