Jack Coey lives in Keene, NH.
The old man was by himself in the cabin looking out a window over the lake. He held a coffee cup and was humming. There was a radio playing songs and advertisements. After some moments, he moved to the sink and rinsed a fork and knife and dried them with a towel. His wife died over the winter, and he did tasks he never did before: dishwashing, laundry, and gardening. He was lonely. They had been coming to this cabin for twenty-three summers. He tried talking his son into coming, but he doesn’t like mosquitoes. It still was pleasurable for him to walk in the woods, fish from his boat, and split wood; he sat in an armchair in front of the window looking out over the water and seeing the birds. It gave him a thrill when a gull swept down into the water and came up with a fish. After dark he stared into a fire. In the cot he and his wife shared, memories, like mist over water, came to him. His son told him to date it would keep him engaged. His daughter-in-law was pregnant, and he hoped that would bring him something. He saw the shot gun standing in the corner.
The shells are under the sink…or are they in the woodshed?
He couldn’t remember, but he did remember his wife looking at him over the candles on the table and saying to him,
“You know animals want to live too.”
“That includes fish, I suppose?”
“We’re all God’s Creatures,” she answered.
“Yeah, but I’m the one with the gun.”
That annoyed her, and at the time, he thought he was glib, but now it wasn’t so cute. He listened to the weather report coming over the radio. He wanted to fish, but he saw the sky was clouding up, and the radio said rain. A song came on the radio from when he was a college student in Boston fifty years ago.
Boy, did we believe it was possible. Peace, Justice for all, tolerance.
He was still and listened.
Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
He remembered the debates he argued, and the marches down Massachusetts Avenue to Boston Common. He felt promise strained with sadness.
I so wanted to believe it’s true. We’re all God’s Creatures Lillian used to say to me. That’s what I thought was possible too. What happened?
He looked out the window and saw a gull swoop down and come up with a fish.
Published in story shack.
Re-written: December 15, 2019