This is a semiautobiographical short story I wrote dealing with loss.
The dad and the boy were taking the little aluminum boat out to try their luck at the green buoy, a trip the dad had made with his own father many times.
The sun was still on its way up and the morning breeze brought a slight chill to their faces.
As the boat slowed, the dad was lost in a memory of one of those previous fishing trips with his father…
Returning from another unsuccessful trip out to the buoy, the father suddenly stopped the boat.
“Want to drive?” the father asked.
“No, that’s ok…”. The dad was young, and the thought of controlling that motor intimidated him.
“Come on, give it a try.” He finally realized he didn’t have a choice in the matter. The father really wanted him to try driving the boat.
Moving to the back of the boat, the dad had to keep his balance as it rocked side to side. The motor was still running. He sat down, grabbed the handle and turned.
“Come on, go a little faster!” said the father.
Turning the handle a little more and a little more they were once again moving just as fast as they were before, the wake spreading out behind them as the little boat glided through the water.
As the dad and the boy reached the green buoy, the dad cut the engine. With the boat still drifting forward, the sudden silence emphasized the peaceful lapping sound of the water at the front of the boat.
“Take a look behind you, bud. Notice how the wake is still spreading out over the water even though we’ve stopped the boat?”
“Yeah…” replied the boy, turning to see the fading waves spreading out behind them. The morning water was like glass, creating a contrast between their wake glistening in the early sunlight and the smooth surface of the rest of the river.
“It reminds me of something Poppie told me once when we came out here. I was about your age.” Said the dad, applying a worm to his hook. The son was doing the same.
The lines entered the water.
“He said that each of our lives are like this boat, moving through the water, leaving little waves behind us. None of us know how long our trip will last, but the waves keep flowing outward long after we’re gone.”
“Sounds like something Poppie would say.” Said the boy, glancing behind them once again. His attention was suddenly diverted as he jerked the pole up quickly. False alarm.
“I didn’t fully understand at the time. But since he’s been gone, the more I think about it he was right. You were too young to remember him, but he really loved you so much.” said the dad, his voice breaking.
He cleared his throat. “The waves that Poppie left with his life continue on through me, and through you. The laughs we share, the stories we tell, the things we do for each other. The love we show for each other. These are all waves that we send out into the world, and each one contains a little piece of Poppie.”
A curious seagull plopped down in the water not far from the boat, creating ripples of its own.
The boy was quiet. The dad wasn’t sure if he was deep in thought or still sleepy.
The fishing continued as the sun rose higher in the sky.
Breaking a long silence, the boy said “I know Poppie used to take you up here a lot. So, in a way, his waves are still here in this place. As we’re talking about him, its as if he’s here with us now.”
The dad smiled. “Exactly. And maybe one day when I’m gone you’ll remember this day and tell your own kids about it. That’s how the waves – the love – keep passing on.”
“I don’t want to think about that, dad.”
“I know, I know. Let’s head back for lunch” said the dad, changing the subject.
The dad yanked on the rope of the outboard motor a few times. Poppie’s old motor could be finicky. A few more pulls and it finally roared back to life.
Halfway back to shore, the engine stopped. The son looked back, confused.
“Want to drive?” asked the dad.
“Sure!” said the boy with a smile, as he made his way toward the back of the boat.