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"Go ahead and get ready, Mr. Rudleigh, I'm going to pole us along the rocky edge and see what we can see." Skelton pulled the pushpole out of its chocks and got up in the bow. Rudleigh was ready in the stern behind the tilted engine. It took two or three leaning thrusts to get the skiff under way, and then they were gliding over the sand, coral, sea fans, staghorn and lawns of turtle grass. Small cowfish, sprats, and fry of one description or another scattered before them and vanished in the glare. Stone crabs backed away in bellicose, Pentagonian idiocy in the face of the boat's progress. Skelton held the boat into the tide of the breaking edge of the flat and looked for moving fish.
A few small sharks came early on the flood and passed down light, yellow-eyed and sweeping back and forth schematically looking for something in trouble. The first military aircraft came in overhead, terrifyingly low; a great delta-winged machine with howling, vulvate exhausts and nervous quick-moving control flaps; so close were they that the bright hydraulic shafts behind the flaps glittered; small rockets were laid up thickly under the wings like insect eggs. The plane approached, banked subtly, and the pilot glanced out at the skiff, his head looking no larger than a cocktail onion. A moment after the plane passed, its shock wave swept toward them and the crystal, perfect world of the flat paled and vanished, not reappearing until some minutes later and slowly. The draconic roar of the engines diminished and twin blossoms of flame shrank away toward the airfield.
"It must take a smart cookie," said Mrs. Rudleigh, "to make one of those do what it is supposed to."
"It takes guts for brains," said Rudleigh.
"That's even better," she smiled.
"Only that's what any mule has," Rudleigh added.
Mrs. Rudleigh threw something at her husband, who remained in the stern, as rigid as a gun carriage.
Skelton was so determined that this first day of his professional guiding be a success that he felt with some agony the ugliness of the aircraft that came in now at shorter and shorter intervals, thundering with their volatile mists drifting over the sea meadow.
The Rudleighs had opened the thermos and were consuming its contents exactly as the heat of the day began to spread. Skelton was now poling down light, flushing small fish, then two schools of bonefish, not tailing but pushing wakes in their hurry. Rudleigh saw them late and bungled the cast, looking significantly at Mrs. Rudleigh after each failure.
"You've got to bear down," she said.