Scene One – PROMISES – Bobby’s kitchen, Mequon, Wisconsin, June 1950
“Dad, are we going fishing this weekend?”
“I don’t know, Bobby. I have to mow the lawn and change oil in the Oldsmobile.”
“Frank, you said the same thing to the kid last week.” Uncle Larry reaches for the coffee pot and refills his cup. “I’d like to go fishing, too, and it's already a month past opening weekend. Pretty soon the weather will be too hot and fish won’t bite.”
“I know that, Larry.” Dad reaches for an ashtray. His green flannel shirt sleeves are rolled above his muscular forearms. He lights a Lucky Strike. “The house needs painting and Beth wants me to spade the flower beds. I can’t do those jobs in winter.”
I swing my head from Dad to Uncle Larry, like I do when I watch a game of ping-pong in our basement.
“Frank, you always have some reason to change your mind.” Uncle Larry pushes his chair back from the kitchen table. Blue veins pulse on his forehead. “You promised Bobby and me that we’d go fishing after we top-coated the asphalt driveway. That was three weeks ago.”
Dad snuffs out his smoke. “Plans change, Larry.” He quickly stands, knocks his white-painted kitchen chair backward to the floor, and leaves the room.
Scene Two – HE BIT ME– Pike Lake, Hartford, Wisconsin, July 1950
“He bit me,” I cry, hobble across the beach, and fall into my mother’s arms. I lift my left foot. A red and blue welt throbs on my big toe.
Mother wipes sand from my foot and inspects the injury. “How did this happen, Bobby?”
Dad fishes beyond a bank of cattails near where we sit. “A crab bit me. It doesn’t hurt much anymore.” I sniff back my tears, try to stand, and immediately sit back down.
“There aren’t any crabs in Pike Lake, darling.” She pulls me closer. I sense Coppertone sun-tan lotion on her warm arm. “You probably had a run-in with a crawdad. What did he look like?”
“He was green with huge pinchers, like those lobsters in the tank at the supper club, except he was much smaller.” I rub my toe. “I know there aren’t any lobsters in Pike Lake, so what’s a crawdad?” I watch Dad reel in his fishing line, inspect the bait, and cast his line toward the shallows.
“We called them crawdads where I grew up.” She laughs and adjusts her white sailor hat to shield late afternoon sun from her eyes. “They’re related to lobsters. Around here, dear, they’re known as crawfish or crayfish. What’s important to remember is a crawfish would rather get away than have an encounter with you. Although he walks forward, he avoids danger by using his tail to rapidly swim backward.”
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Richard Wilberg, MS, PLCC, ACC
Creativity Coach for Personal Fulfillment and Career Success
You know, this post feels a bit wistful to me. I feel like the Dad is tough and rigid. His son just wants to go fishing. His brother, Larry, wanted to go fishing, too. Perhaps Larry died and that's why he's not on the fishing trip. I feel like that moment... when you realize that there are some things more important than painting the house is spending time with the people who live in it. That's when you'll learn about yourself, and the world. The dad learned a lesson through tragedy, but now he may be in the present more.
5/28/2021 12:08:17 pm
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About the Author
I write personal essays, creative non-fiction, flash fiction, and self-development articles from my home in Madison, Wisconsin.