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The waves and the sea (short story)

Brigitte Neumann

Lazy little waves splashing on the beach. The midday heat is shimmering over the country and also makes people sluggish. Only a few have settled here in front of the old fishing boats. They doze in the hot sun or look out to the wide sea. No parasol offers protection from the heat. The sand crawls into all pores. The old fisherman is also sitting in the sand, further back. No one’s paying any attention to him.

His crooked back is leaning against one of the weathered boats. A worn hat with a wide brim protects him from the blazing sun. He has bent his legs and paints small circles in the warm sand with his big toe. Until recently, he went out to sea every night to fish. He knows the best places to catch them. His father showed it to him, and he knew it from his father. His whole life revolved around the sea, the wind, the waves and the fish. He straightens up a little, lets his eyes wander, paints angular shapes into the sand with his gnarled fingers and blurs them again. His son is not a fisherman. Already as a child he preferred to help his mother in the small pub in the village, back there, on the jagged red sand rock.

Albufeira, once a small town in the rocky Algarve, is growing and growing. For years, six to eight-storey concrete castles have been shooting out of the ground, one after the other. Simple, simple, white, functional and sober, they frame the old city centre. They are dormitories for the sun-hungry guests who have changed the life of the city and its people in the long term. More people come every summer.

The small pub is now a good street pub in the old’s middle town and the Cataplana on the menu has long been a well-known insider tip. They prepare this stew according to an ancient family recipe, with lots of onions, sun-ripened tomatoes, some potatoes, hearty sausages and fresh fish, sometimes also with a few crustaceans. Apply it in the still closed copper pan and only open the lid at the table. The spicy-fishy fragrance arouses all the senses for a hearty meal.

A young man approaches the old fisherman with such a copper pan. Two spoons are in the breast pocket of his colourful shirt. His dark complexion, vivid eyes and dimpled chin betray his relationship to the old fisherman. “Grandfather, I’ve got something to eat,” he shouts as soon as he thinks he’s within earshot. The old man gets up and waves to him friendly. He spreads a cloth in the sand. The boy puts the pot on top. “Come sit here, my boy,” the fisherman invites him. Both sit down and pause for a moment before the old man lifts the lid. Your delicious fragrance is rising. Together they spoon the Cataplana. “Are we going out again tonight?” asks the boy. The old man nods. They sit in silence while eating and look out to the sea. Chug chug chug. The endless expanse of the deep blue sea calls as it has been since eternal times.

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