The Girl with the Rainbow Unicorn T-Shirt By Wadin' Boot I- Maybe we just call her Ambrosia? In 2005, while serving a fruit and whipped cream dessert at the Dean’s Hall dining room, I fell in love with a girl who wore a unicorn rainbow t-shirt. In a moment, my world would forever change. I’d like to tell you that story. “I’ll take some of that. What do you call that stuff anyways.” “ambrosia” “ambrosia, like the fruit-of-the-gods?” “that would be correct.” She held my gaze longer than was appropriate. Regarding me, sizing me up, always a warm feeling when someone really beautiful does that. “What’s in it.” “Pear, mandarin orange, maraschino cherries, you can make it out of any kind of canned fruit. Some people even make it with jello and fruit. But what makes it special….” I let my voice trail off, waiting for her to inquire further. “What, don’t leave me hanging here,” She looks at my nametag “Joe... What makes it special… Joe” Again, the gaze held on me. “Well that would be the shaved coconut and the whipped cream, with just a lick of sugar.” I serve her one large spoon. And load the second, bounce it a little in my hand, let the struggling maraschino’s fall back to their crème bed below. “See the fruit is sweet enough, you can ruin this with too much sugar.” And I slop it in her bowl. “You should try it with a little nutmeg, you know, in the spice rack. I put some there today, everything crème based is better with nutmeg.” “I’ll take your word for it.” It was then I noticed the unicorn t-shirt. This thing was full-on. A unicorn, white (of course) stood by a small mountain stream lined with bunnies and green grass and flowers. In the background there was a rainbow, complete with glitter sparkles. And the weirdest thing about it? The Unicorn’s half-upturned leg was holding what appeared to be a fly-rod, the line spooling out into the sky and finished with a nipple-corrupted fly of some sort. The rod appeared hand drawn, as did a fish, peaking it’s head out of the water, presumably looking for that rainbow-defying fly. As if the T-shirt weren’t arresting enough, the ends of the rainbow were distorted by some ample breasts that appeared to be made of a different version of Ambrosia. “Are you looking at my Unicorn?” “No. Not really, more the flyrod. I’ve never seen a unicorn flyfish. I’m trying to think how a hoofed-animal can fish” “Unicorns are magical you dope. Do you flyfish?” I turned my hat around, and showed the meat-sauce-stained logo of this venerable web-site. The shift boss, an acne-spackled whiteboy pastafarian named Ishmael Ezekial Sands (“Call me Ishmael Easy E”) said, half joking, “get back to work, mon.” “Easy E, I’m just talking to this nice young lady about fishing, you know how important that is to me right?” “Me too. We should fish someday” “I’d like that.” And then she was gone. Not Ezekial though, he was right behind me, reeking of ganja, some new kind of soul-glo dread crème, and pork chops with a little more than caramelized plum sauce. “That girl is sure fine Joe, you need to chase her down. The fruits of Zion and the Rivers of Babylon are nothing compared to her.” “I hear you Easy E. I hear you my brother. I believe I may be in love. A girl that's into unicorns and flyfishing, could you ask for more?” II The Rivers of Babylon We were listening to Jamaican Ska on the way to the River S-----. Duke Reid, Jimmy Cliff, the Skatalites. But when the Melodians came on, I could swear I saw Easy Ezekial chortle back a little sniff, his hand off the Microbus wheel, wiping a tear away from his eye, in so doing losing his stash off his lap. He was singing off key about every other line, looking around for his precious with his good hand, the other overcorrecting as we moved up the narrow river valley at speeds that seemed improbable for this mechanical crap shoot: Melodians: By the rivers of Babylon Ezekial Ishmael: …rivers Babylon Melodians: where we sat down There we wept When we remembered Zion Ezekial Ishamael: Zion His time delay was distracting, but despite that, I was jumping to conclusions. This journey, paralleling the once finest Steelhead river in all of Washington state, partially high on Ezekial’s fumes and the engine’s loose monoxides, the music, his death-defying company- all of it combined gave me energies to wax philosophic. Here were my ruminations: 1- Ezekial was too high to drive 2- Microbus travel is awful 3- Easy E was emotionally incontinent 4- Ezekial Ishmael Sands was my boss. Where did I go wrong? 5- I would have to change, to move on. Hey wasn’t that why I was in college in the first place. Good point fact-checking homunculus Joe. What’s next then? Number 6. Ok then, bring it on…. 6- I didn’t know what to move on to, what to become 7- I would catch more steelhead while I figured #6 out When suddenly my self-absorption came to a shocking end. There, out of the mud-grimed window, standing on a white beach of big river gravels was a 16-hands-high prince-white unicorn hoisting a spey rod, ripping out a cord of line towards a run so promising that I shouted for Ezekial to pull over. In the glint of sun that blinded for a second as we swung onto the road’s verge, the unicorn was gone. “Did you see that?” “See what Joe?” I knew better than to tell him. “All I see is a girl with a rod. A big rod.” “hey, wait a second.” “What is it what do you see?” Easy E, despite inhaling or imbibing various hallucinogens, volatiles, hydrocarbons, alcohols, barbiturates, amphetamines, glues and other neurotransmittables was not only an extraordinary Jamiacan-style sprinter, but had freakishly good eyesight. “it’s the girl from the food line.” “No shit, the unicorn girl?” “yeah mon, that’s her alright, I can see her t-shirt from here.” “And better than that. She’s got a fish on.” He handed me some invisible binoculars, and like a fool, I took them, and did a double take. Even I could see her suddenly pull back, first high-sticking the fish, a long arc in her rod, the line picking up off the water and drops shooting up in unison like they were told to jump by an aquatic drillmaster. Her breasts jumping too. The she lowered her rod to the side, palmed her reel a little, and began marching down the waters, towards us, the steelhead leaping and playing about not far from us now. She moved confidently, quickly, her paces measured, canting. No waders, just cutoffs, coltish legs and water sandals beneath well-cut thighs. She had the fish to hand in maybe four minutes. “Oh she’s good.” “She’s not just good, she’s beautiful.” Fish released without leaving the waters. And then she looked up and waved. Cupped her hands to her mouth, and shouted. There’s no way you could have made that shout across 60 yards of gurgling river, a 30 foot embankment and up into Ishmael E and my ears without fruit cans and really tight string, but somehow it did, clear as day. “I’ve been waiting for you Joe.” I looked at Ishmael E. “Did she say what I thought she said?” “You heard me right Joe, I’ve been waiting for you. Come to me…” “You better watch out mon she could be a voodoo woman, harpy. A Unicorn Donnie Darko” “Shut up Easy. Tell Joe to get his gear and get his ass over here.” III- The No Huddle Offense of #6, Marcus Gravy I knew things were good when she presented me with my own animal-themed shirt. It was a token of her great love she said, of her respect for me as a fisherman and as a man. And I was to wear it whenever I could as it would bring me great luck. She knew I liked hoodies, practically wore a hole in my Easy Street and Germanic Ballard ones, and so she got me a bad-ass wolf hoodie. Now this thing still brings a tear to my eye just as predictably as the Melodians could for Easy E. On it an airbrushed wolf, its body silhouetted against a bright winter moon draped in American flags. Snow capped mountains surrounded the scene, and the wolf’s head, turned direct on, faced out. In its bright white teeth (they glowed in the dark I would later find out) she had taken a fabric pen and drawn a flyrod and reel. It was awesome and whenever I wore it, and believed in it, steel was mine in a way I could never fully comprehend. B runs, A runs, any runs. It was as though the shirt lifted my game. At least until the November rains came, river’s blown, spirits sapped, midterms back all C’s and D’s.. “It’s your animal spirit.” “I guess.” “You didn’t bring it today?” “No, it’s dirty.” She looked petulant, walked away from me, pulled line from her reel and threw a cast I could only ever dream of seeing on youtube. She hooked-up on the swing, and her line played a tune in the low wind, a sad mournful tune that I would realize later was the death song, the howling, the requiem passing of one alpha male for another. I never would have thought anything of it until he walked by asking for a double heaping of brussel sprouts. How could I not remember someone who actually desired a double portion of that horrible mustard-scented micro-cabbage? Let alone topped with as he put it: “as much sauce as you can fit on your spoon, bro” I looked up, as if to say, “Dude, you sure about that?” and as soon as I did I saw something that left me deeply disturbed. There it was, clear as could be, a dolphin t-shirt on his muscular chest, a ten-pin triangle of marine mammals leaping high out of a glittering aquamarine sea complete with turtles, corals and Orcas (Orcas? That’s right humunculus Joe, Orcas). In the background of tropical cumulonimbus and lightning bolts, a crudely sketched set of football posts sticking out of a lone-palmed deserted isle, and on the lead dolphin’s head, a football helmet. I knew this style. I knew this strength. I knew this as Ambrosia’s work. But it was different, She had gone tropical. Forgotton steel and wolf and cold weather solitary beasts. This was entirely new, she was inspiring captains, teams, armies, whole ecosystems. She had found her #6. “I can’t believe you eat that stuff Marcus.” Even Ishmael E knew who he was. “Easy E, you should eat more Sprouts and smoke less pot. You’ll come to love them.” “Yeah, your right Marcus. But you forget I already love pot. The peace of I and I be with you.” Their fists bumped, blew things up right over the hot-pan steams. It was a church-like moment fit for a freshman dining hall. “You too bro.” And in a second it all clicked. Marcus Gravy. He was the backup quarterback come star now that the starting prick, E. Howard Wilkus, was arrested for something dubious and unacceptable. Small in stature, but brick-shithouse strong, Number 6, Marcus Gravy. Grew up an orphan, home schooled himself, wrote his own college letters of recommendation, payed for his SAT with monies from his chicken coops. Full ride scholarship. He lined up with all the others in Dean’s hall nearly every night and I had never noticed him before. I had served him taco pie, refried beans, turkey loaf, hamburger rolls, chicken fried steak, western omelettes, blackened catfish, lasagna, mashed potato, flank steak, teriyaki dogs, sesame noodles, apple crisp, pumpkin pie. My god, it dawns on me as I write this, I probably served him Ambrosia too! He had come to captain the football team to improbable win after improbable win. Right up to 1AA regional finals. Holy crap he was good, even I went to see him and I don’t care for the game. A relentless attack from his no-huddle offense, a dynamo on legs, a human steam train, a divot machine, a turf-tearing titan, the concrete truck, the Coop Duper. The Daily Free Press had all kinds of things they wrote about Marcus Gravy, and, well , the guy had no enemies. In some small way, I had fed this man, I had made him who he was, I had empowered him. He made good copy, but up until now, to me, he was all theoretical and abstract. A guy in a helmet sixty yards away. I could fit him between my thumb and forefinger. Here before me now though was a man who knew what he wanted and fast. Sprouts. And apparently, behind it all, behind the small façade of this sprout loving somewhat impish man, who knew and liked Ishmael E, my best friend, was a greater power. How could I not know him, but yet know exactly what that power was? Much as the brussel sprouts suggested otherwise, much as I didn’t want to admit it at first, we were kindred spirits Marcus Gravy and I. I handed him his bowl of sprouts, steaming, fetid. Like turds from a lettuce munching sea-turtle. He looked at my shirt and said: “Nice Shirt Joe. She told me all about you. You just got to believe in the shirt man, and it will all come back.” I looked down at my badass wolf t-shirt. The silkscreen was peeling, the wolf’s forelegs missing, the paint pen flyrod faded. “I don’t know Marcus. It’s just a shirt. I’m not superstitious.” Ishmael E piped up “You crazy Joe, you should be.” “No way man, that’s not just a shirt, that’s a badass-wolf shirt, and when you wear it, you got that wolf-like hunger. I see it now, it’s like you’re coming out of a long winter, but bro, believe, the good times are coming again, and soon. You hunt alone or with your pack my brother, but I know you are good at what you do.” And even as he said it I felt a kind of power surge back through me. Like she was channeled through Marcus Gravy. He walked away. And with the aroma of sprouts intoxicating me I looked to see the end of the line, how many more mouths I would have to feed, how long would this work-study shift run for, there she was, staring at me, smiling again, and she cupped her mouth to her lips and whispered these sweet words to me….. "I want to fish again...with you..."