Esteban awoke to the wet slap of water against the wood. Again. Hot as hell, it felt like, and his lips cracked as he laughed sourly."Am I blue?" he sang to himself. "I sure as hell feel like it out here!" he near as yelled out over the ultramarine landscape.
Blue. Goddamn it, he hated blue. That he had spent this much time out on the water only to realize after decades that he hated the color blue was nearly too much to bear. Why have I never noticed this before? the old fisherman wondered. His only audience was the swiftly-drying carcasses of a pair of flying fish stuck to the bench not far from his head. Esteban stared at them, wishing that instead of them a pair of nice, fat bluefins had sacrificed themselves to his boat.
But he knew better. Deep blue didn't work that way.
The fisherman shifted his legs. His back had never been the same since the great wave that had lifted him up and slammed his sun-dried body hard against the gunwales of his barco, those many seasons ago. It had been a bright, hot, and blue day then, he recalled. The rogue wave came without warning and left without trace. No trace except scars on my back and ache within my bones, Esteban thought.
His eyes began to droop shut. He squeezed them tightly, then opened them wide like a bigeye tuna in an effort to revive. Stars danced before his eye, and he considered the sheer amount of hardship involved watching the blood in one's veins be slowly replaced with salt water. Water the color of sapphires and cobalt. Even the sky taunted him, clear and unmarred without even the apostrophe of a seabird to mar the vast cerulean pages unfolding overhead. The argentine disk of the sun was just past sext, although Esteban had no prayers of his own to cast out into the azure cathedral surrounding the barco.
Weariness crept back in, little feathers caressing his muscles and aching back. His head spun in dizziness. The thought occurred to him that the blueness was invading his body, supplanting the air in his lungs and blood in his veins with gelatinous shades of lapis and turquoise. Never in all his years on the sea had such a thing happened, and the old fisherman began to panic. "This heat, it is roasting my brain," he croaked. The flying fish continued their slow desiccative journey, offering no counsel of their own.
Esteban's hands fluttered, grasping for the gaff and the net. He was worried that he had no success this day. A flaccid net and empty live well bode ill for his return. Esteban decided he would rest a while longer. Patience was his virtue, and no fisherman was going to prosper without it. He closed his one good eye.
The sun burned its way slowly down the sky. The azure bowl began to darken around the low eastern edges. Esteban opened his eye a crack to see it, and to pass the time he amused himself by recalling all the shades of blue he had ever seen.
The azure of the Galician sky of his boyhood. The deep, arid cerulean he witnessed in an early spring in Madrid. The lapis and turquoise of an early morning sky off the coast, making the dawn run with his uncle in search of anchovies. Deep indigo nights and days of liquid ultramarine as he grew into manhood more on the water than he did back in Vigo. He remembered a sapphire-colored scallop shell his uncle had kept on his own boat.
Esteban coughed, his head suddenly split apart in a flash of cobalt-infused silver. The headaches seemed particularly tricky, now. The pain made his head so heavy he could not lift it off the deck. In spite of the pain, he laughed again as he thought of that scallop shell. "You and me both, St. James, have lost our heads," he whispered, "and I shall sup tonight on the blue that has come to kill me." The fisherman closed his eye again, the stinging of salt water becoming too much for even his sea-stained eyes to handle.
The flying fish remained deaf, deep blue saw fit to hold its tongue, and the waves continued their slow march over the remains of the barco slipping into the water. The carcasses of the flying fish came unstuck from the wood, drifting languidly away from Esteban on water the color of indigo spattered with azure. Behind the fisherman, his boat came undone in a swirl of splintered planks, while his body gave itself up to the deep blue sea.
By Irish Gumbo
For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Bewildered Bug challenged me with "The lone fisherman floating on the deep blue sea" and I challenged Sherree with "The past was where it was, up to its hubs in rocks and mud, and there was no going back to try a different road."