With a few slow strokes of his paddle, he advanced until he could see outlines of docks, some with large boats on lifts, some with small boats or canoes pulled up on shore. He allowed the kayak to drift and turn slightly south. Once upon a time he had fished from one of those docks, and a small boat like those pulled up on the sand had been his to use as he pleased. The memories were rich and good.
A smile came to him with thoughts of the season that a soft and chubby ninety-pound fifth grade kid became a solid ninety-two-pound middle-schooler with broader shoulders by the end of a summer. He credited a broken-down outboard motor that meant he had to row the small boat every day that weather allowed, if he wanted to fish. Fishing was his passion and his escape, in those adolescent years, and he wasn’t about to let an uncooperative seven-horsepower engine keep him off the lake. He returned now, after more than sixty years, soft and chubby again, again ready to spend some days rowing and fishing.
He looked around and up. The Milky Way was now fully visible, the western horizon glowed with a soft memory of pink. He turned the bow fully south and began strong paddle strokes, gliding swift and smooth, parallel to the beach and toward the creek that connected the two lakes. The small rustic resort rental cabin on the big lake, and an unopened bottle of single malt, awaited his return. On reaching the creek, he let the current take over all locomotion, just keeping the kayak centered in the channel with his paddle. He was a little winded, and sweating a bit from the burst of speed that brought him to the creek.
A deep sense of peace and contentment enfolded him as he pulled the kayak across the sand beach, and he turned toward the cabin. It was good to be back in the summer surroundings of his youth, and getting ready to fish his favorite lake, once more. He opened the bottle and poured three fingers of good scotch in a glass, and sat at the table by the window. He could feel the presence of the big lake out in front of him, though it was only faintly visible under starlight.
He sighed. He was really looking forward to a few days of fishing and fresh air, after that last stint in the hospital. That had been rough, and there had been days that he’d not been sure if he would ever leave the place, if he would ever be able to take another fishing trip. But, now he was here, and the pain and fear of it were finally behind him. For a wistful moment he wished his grandson would have been able to join him on this trip, as they had talked about after his last heart surgery. He took a slow sip of scotch, enjoying the smokey aroma and flavor, then closed his eyes and smiled. A brief thought of calling his grandson before retreating to the bed was interrupted by darkness.
“Nurse!” The young man’s voice was strained and anxious. “Nurse! Please hurry! He’s not breathing!” His call was followed by a flurry of activity in the hallway and then in the recovery room. After a few long moments of silence, a sheet was pulled up, and responders left the room. The nurse turned to the young man as they filed out, said, “He’s gone. I’m sorry.”
She stood and waited with him until the orderlies came to take his grandfather’s body away. Afterward, he thanked her through tears and a sad smile. He said in a soft voice, “We were talking about planning one more fishing trip, after his recovery. I guess he decided to go ahead without me.”
Kevin R. Carr (2022)
About 750 Words