Authors: Ike Hamill
He pulled a couple of long sawhorses from the shed out to the driveway. Bob grabbed one and set it up in line with the one Alan placed. The two men moved to opposite ends of the boat and nodded before they lifted it. They flipped it over and set it down on the sawhorses.
“There’s your problem,” Bob said. He pointed to the drain hole.
“Apparently, the Colonel called that the poor man’s padlock,” Alan said. “He kept the drain plug up at the house when he put the boat up for the
winter. If someone wanted to steal the boat, they had to have just the right plug or they weren’t going to get far.”
“Do you know where it leaks?” Bob asked.
“Yeah,” Alan said. “Back here in the transom. The wood has rotted a little. Every time it flexes, water comes in. I’ve got some marine plywood. I just need to make a template and get it cut to size.”
“Not to be nosey, but why’d you drag the whole boat all the way up to the house for that? Couldn’t you just have brought the transom up?” Bob asked.
“House phone,” Alan said, pointing at the house. “My son has trouble at school and I’m half-expecting a call. Cell phone gets spotty reception down at the shore.”
“You have kids?” Alan asked.
“Step daughter,” Bob said. “Well… Former step daughter. I haven’t seen her since the divorce.”
“It does,” Bob said.
Alan put his hands in his pocket.
“It’s getting cold out,” Alan said.
“Yeah,” Bob said. He lifted a foot, stretching his thigh muscle. He alternated feet. “I should get going before I tighten up.”
“Thanks for your help. I’ll get my hands on some epoxy one of these nights and then you’ll have to come over for a ride in the boat.”
“Cool,” Bob said. He bent forward and stretched once more before he jogged off.
Alan smiled and then turned his attention back to the transom. His first step was to remove the screws that held the metal cap on the top of the board. This is where the engine’s screws would clamp.
Bob jogged back up.
“I just realized—you probably can’t go get epoxy because you don’t want to leave your phone,” Bob said.
“Yeah,” Alan said. “It’s okay. Worst case scenario is that I have to wait a few days. I have an appointment on Wednesday morning to see how everything is going.”
“I’ve got several types of epoxy at the house. I’ll swing some by this afternoon if you want.”
“I wouldn’t want you to bother,” Alan said.
“It’s no bother. I’ll see you then.”
“Great, thanks,” Alan said. He waved as Bob jogged of again.
X • X • X • X • X
Alan was still waiting for a phone call that might never come when the SUV pulled into the drive. Bob pulled off to the side. Alan was sitting in a lawn chair in the shed with the phone bouncing on his knee.
“Still waiting?” Bob asked. He closed the door to his vehicle. He was carrying a plastic bag.
“Yeah,” Alan said. “I guess I’m just paranoid. No news is good news, you know?”
“I think this is what you want for the transom,” Bob said, pulling a set of tubes from his bag. “Looks like you’ve got everything ready.”
“Yeah, I’m ready to glue.”
Alan mixed the epoxy on a piece of scrap wood and Bob held the parts in place while Alan painted them with the stuff. They had the back of the boat put back together and sealed up in a few minutes.
“Now I just wait for it to dry,” Alan said. “Can I get you something to drink? Beer maybe?”
“Thanks, but no,” Bob said. “I have to go into town in a bit. I’ve got an appointment on Western Ave at four.”
“Sounds like you have a few minutes to kill,” Alan said. “Have a seat if you want.”
“Thanks,” Bob said.
He pulled up the other lawn chair.
“What does that say? Cook House?” Bob asked. He was peering across the driveway to the little building screened-in. It was painted dark red, like redwood, and had gray shingles. Now that Alan saw it with fresh eyes, the building looked like it would be more at home at a campsite instead of ten yards away from a New England barn. Maybe it added to the country charm of the place.
“You’ve got good eyes. Yeah, it’s where the Colonel keeps his grill. Nice in the summer when the bugs make it unbearable to be outside.”
“They’re brutal around here. I think I lost about a gallon of blood this summer.”
“How long have you lived in Kingston?”
“Just this year,” Bob said. “The house belonged to my ex-wife’s brother. He was going to default on the loan so we bought it and let him stay there. She begged me to buy it and then wanted nothing to do with it. I got the place in the divorce.”
“What happened to the brother-in-law?”
“Died,” Bob said.
“Don’t be. His choices killed him. Drugs and driving. I’m just glad he didn’t take anyone else with him.”
“So you’re fixing the place up to sell it?” Alan asked.
“Yeah, I suppose. I’m in stasis at the moment. I’ve got a couple of potential work projects that are simmering, but there’s nothing to do but wait. I figured I might as well work on the place until I figure out what I’m doing next.”
Alan nodded. “How much work needs to be done?”
Bob let his breath out slowly. “Well, depends, I guess. I need to finish the deck off the back. There was just a door leading to ten-foot drop when I moved in. Now it’s only a three-inch drop to the deck, but there are no railings yet. I need to put a porch on the front of the place. Aside from that, I’ve got to get some grass growing, just so it doesn’t look abandoned when you pull in. Then there’s a bunch of stuff I’d like to do.”
“Bathrooms and kitchen, mostly. They’re just bare-bones right now and that’s what really makes a place I think. The rest of the house could just use a good coat of paint, but I should really re-do the kitchen and bathrooms,” Bob said.
Alan was nodding. “I did that down in Virginia. Bathrooms make a huge difference in the sale price. I envy you—I wish I could work on this place.”
Bob nodded. He didn’t ask for details.
Alan noticed the registration on the boat’s bow. He’d have to renew it to make it legal on the lake. It was probably one of those tasks their antiquated town government required you to go do in person.
“If you don’t mind my asking, what happened with your son?” Bob asked.
Alan glanced at him and then looked to the sky.
“School stuff—he bullied one of his classmates,” Alan said.
“Ugh,” Bob said.
“Yeah, I don’t know what to think, honestly,” Alan said. He hunched forward and propped his elbows on his knees. “Until very recently, it felt like I could understand everything he did, you know? I might disagree with some of his choices, or get frustrated when it took him twice to learn the same lesson, but it all seemed logical to me. Maybe not logical, but understandable.”
Bob took over. “And then he does something that you can’t even fathom, right?”
“Right,” Alan said.
“I raised Imani since she was five. With her mom, I mean,” Bob said. “Then when she turned fifteen she became so different—I loved her just as much, but I wasn’t sure I still knew her.”
“They take that step and they’re no longer part of you,” Bob said.
Alan made a grunt in the back of his throat. He leaned back in his chair.
I should ask about fishing licenses when I’m down at the town hall,
I could probably do it online, but it will be easier to ask all my questions in person. Maybe Joe and I could learn to fish together.
“We took him to the doctor,” Alan said. “That’s how out-of-character his behavior was. We actually thought that maybe he had something wrong with his brain—a tumor or something. The doctor all but told us we were insane.”
Bob laughed. “Maybe it’s the stress from moving? You guys haven’t lived here that long, right?”
“We moved back in June. I’d be surprised if it was stress. Joe seems to love it here. We spent all summer working on the trail and the yard. It seemed like Joe had a blast,” Alan said. “If anything, the school is probably too easy for him. He was is in a pretty tough school down south, and a lot of the material he’s doing now is just repeat stuff.”
“But school has its own stress,” Bob said. “Does he have any friends?”
“He met a couple of kids over the summer that he really likes. He stayed over at one kid’s house a couple times last summer and now they hang around together after school. The Vice Principal seemed to think he’s plenty popular. I wish we could just chalk this one incident up to stress and move on,” Alan said.
They sat in silence for several minutes. Bob watched the trees at the edge of the horizon. They were swaying in a breeze that the dooryard didn’t feel. Alan fidgeted. He stared at the asphalt, watching big black ants march across the blacktop. He chewed on his fingernail and then spit towards the rose bushes that lined the shed.
How do you gut a fish, anyway?
I know you have to cut them down the belly and scoop out the organs, but then what?
“You said you were waiting on some work projects? What do you do when you’re not renovating houses of your exes, Bob?” Alan asked.
Bob didn’t answer right away. The two men exchanged a glance. Alan’s eyes begged to be distracted.
“I make movies,” Bob said.
“Like a producer?”
“Director,” Bob said. “At least I used to. I’m not working on anything at the moment.”
“Projects are simmering?”
“Exactly,” Bob said. “You might be surprised at how long stuff churns before anything happens. You get all the right words into the right ears and then you have to wait. I had a string of several years where I moved from project to project. But now I’m in stasis.”
“What changed?” Alan asked.
“Nothing really changed. Sometimes you get lucky, and sometimes you don’t. I had a long-term project fall through and it all seemed to cascade from there,” Bob said.
“What was the project?” Alan asked.
Bob scratched his forehead.
“If you can’t tell me about it, that’s fine. I was just being nosey.”
“No, it’s fine,” Bob said. “I’m not under any non-disclosure or anything. It was my own project that collapsed. My female lead passed away and the concept died with her, I guess.”
“Sorry,” Alan said.
Bob waved. He gripped his temples with his hand. “I didn’t really know her that well. I’m sure she was a lovely person, but I’m more sad for her lost potential.”
“I should get going,” Bob said. He glanced at his watch.
“Thanks again for your help. When I get this baby in the water, I owe you a free ride,” Alan said.
Bob smiled. “My pleasure.” He headed towards his vehicle.
Bob stopped with his hand on the door and his foot on the running board of his big SUV.
“You doing any interesting work on your house tomorrow? I mean, could you use a hand on anything?” Alan said.
“I could think of something,” Bob said with a grin. A line wrinkled his brow. “What if your phone rings while you’re gone?”
“You get cell reception at your house, right?”
“I’ll forward the calls to my cell. I’ll be over after the bus picks up my thug son.”
Bob laughed. He got in his vehicle before he called back to Alan. “See you then.”
Alan waved as Bob rolled down the driveway.
X • X • X • X • X
“YOU’VE GOT to lift it, Joe,” Alan said.
He could barely see his son’s face in the pre-dawn light. The bow of the boat rose and the twigs stopped scraping against the hull as Alan took another step back. He gripped the handles of the little boat’s stern and backed towards the cold water. His heel splashed in the shallows.
“Stop,” Alan said.
“Dad?” Joe whispered.
“Yeah?” Alan asked back.
“Are there any fish this time of year?” Joe asked.
Alan began to giggle.
“I have no idea,” Alan said. He started to laugh. Joe joined his laughter. “They sold me a license. I guess so.”
Alan shoved the stern into the water and then moved to the bow. He and Joe slid the boat into the water. Joe led the painter along the shore and then walked the boat down the dock while Alan retrieved the little motor. He lowered it into the water and carefully guided the outboard onto the back of the boat.
I’ll fall in before I let this engine get wet,
He clamped it in place by feel. The sun was still hiding behind the trees, even though the cold nights had taken most of their leaves.
“Get the tackle,” Alan said to Joe. “It’s in the camp.”
Joe disappeared into the woods while Alan found the gas can. It had a funnel attached to its spout. Alan lined it up carefully before tipping the can. He liked the smell of this gas. The oil mixed in made it smell sweet. Alan stuck his finger in the small tank and filled it up until he felt the cold gas. He capped the can and lowered it to the deck of the boat.
Joe came back and stopped on the dock.
“Is this it?” Joe asked.
“I can’t see what you’re holding up,” Alan said.
Joe turned on his headlamp and Alan saw the poles and the bag in his hand.
“Shut it off,” Alan said, throwing his arm up in front of his eyes. “I’m blind, I’m blind. Oh, help me, I’m blind.”
Joe laughed and turned off his light. He sat down on the edge of the dock and handed the poles and bag into the boat. Alan blinked at the blue spot in his vision and watched his son gingerly testing his weight in the boat.
“It doesn’t leak, right?” Joe asked.
“I don’t know,” Alan said. “I didn’t really test it.”
“No, not really. I had it in the other day,” Alan said. “I only took it out to put on the registration sticker. It’s fine. You can trust me—I’m your good old dad. Untie that rope, will you?”