The waves and the sea (short story)

Brigitte Neumann

Tschschuuuugggg, tschuugg. Sluggishly ripple small waves on the beach. The midday heat stands flirty over the countryside and makes people lazy. Only a few have settled here in front of the old fishing boats. They doze in the hot sunshine or look out over the wide sea. No parasol offers protection from the heat. The sand creeps into all pores. The old fisherman is also sitting in the blank sand, further back. No one's paying attention to him.

His crooked back leans against one of the weathered boats. A worn hat with a wide brim protects it from the blazing sun. He has his legs angled up 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 get caught. His father had shown it to him and he knew it from his father. His whole life has always revolved around the sea, wind, waves and fish. He straightens up a little, lets his gaze wander, paints angular shapes into the sand with his gnarled fingers and blurs them again. His son is not a fisherman. Even as a child, he preferred to help his mother in the small pub in the village, back there, on the craggy red sandstone rock.

Albufeira, once a small town in the rocky levee, grows and grows. For years now, 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 town centre. They are dormitories for the sun-hungry guests who have made a lasting difference to the life of the city and its people. More people come every summer.

The small pub has become a good street restaurant in the middle of the old town and the Cataplana on the menu has long been a well-known insider tip. After an ancient family recipe, this stew is prepared with plenty of onions, sun-ripened tomatoes, some potatoes, hearty sausages and fresh fish, sometimes with a few crustaceans. Apply it in the still closed copper frying pan and open the lid on the table. The spicy, fishy scent ignites all the senses for a hearty meal.

A young man approaches the old fisherman with such a copper pan. Two spoons are stuck in the breast pocket of his colorful shirt. His dark complexion, vivid eyes and dimpled chin reveal the relationship to the old fisherman. "Grandpa, I'll come and have something to eat with me," he calls out as soon as he thinks he's within earshot. The old man stands up and waves to him friendly. He's spreading a cloth in the sand. The boy puts the pot on it. "Come sit down, my boy," the fisherman invites him. Both of them sit down and pause for a moment before the old man lifts the lid. Their delicious scent rises. Together they spoon the Cataplana. "Are we going out again tonight?" asks the boy. The old man nods. They sit silently while eating and look out at the sea. Tschschschuuugggg, tschuugg the waves splash into the sand. The endless expanse of the deep blue sea, as it has been since time immemorial, calls out alluringly.