Sea — August 2002
By Capt. Bill Pike
So Long, Mr. Sonny
|Part 2: “Been fishin lately?”|
Bob, the Methodist minister, who ran a dive shop before he entered the ministry, said some fine things about Mr. Sonny during the service, pointing out the special virtues of fishermen, a brotherhood Mr. Sonny rightly belonged to, although he had gotten a little old for far-flung offshore adventures. The things Bob said put me in mind of a conversation I once had with Mr. Sonny during a dinner party at his home several years ago, not long after my wife and I first moved to Florida. I was just finishing up my dessert, an admirable blueberry cobbler Mr. Sonny's wife Lucille is rightly famed for.
"Been fishin' lately?" he asked, his eyes sparkling the way the water does on a sunny day. The question's a fairly standard one in the South--an opener, a feeler--and calls for an affirmative response. Mr. Sonny didn't know me very well at the time, except that I was a Connecticut Yankee, wrote for some kind of marine magazine, and spent most of my free time remodeling an ancient, semi-discombobulated stilt-house my wife and I'd had the temerity to actually haul off and buy.
"Haven't had a chance, Mr. Sonny," I replied. "Been pretty busy."
"What kind of time frame we talkin' about here?" he asked, a look of mild concern clouding over the sparkle.
"Quite a while," I answered. "Six months maybe."
Mr. Sonny squinched his eyes and flinched as if he'd been struck between the shoulder blades with a Penn International. Then he turned a bit and smiled at me quizzically, holding my gaze for a long, truthful moment. That was all there was to it--the exchange sort of just ended, gently fading away. No speech on taking things a little easier. Not a single hackneyed phrase about stopping to smell the roses along the highways and byways of life. Just the squinch, the flinch, the quizzical smile, and the long look, which I can envision even today, many years later, with a clarity that is altogether stunning.
I went fishing some weeks later, although it wasn't with Mr. Sonny. Instead I went with my fishing-fiend friend Don to a spot south of Dog Island, in his Mako 22. The day was a wonderful one, highlighted by green seas, white caps, blue skies, and some protracted reflection, the kind that signals a sea change of sorts.
It's odd, the things that happen at funerals. While filing sadly out of the church the other day in the company of so many others, I began wondering. Was there a connection between the huge number of friends Mr. Sonny had and the lightness of his touch? It's hard to know for sure about such things, but I've come to the conclusion that there probably was such a connection, although I can't quite say exactly how and why it worked.
There's one thing I can say for sure, though. I'm living a life today that's just a little different than the life I used to live, in part because of a conversation I had with an old fellow several years ago, a conversation that was inexplicably deepened by a squinch, a flinch, a quizzical smile, and a long, truthful look.
So long, Mr. Sonny. And thanks.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.