“Where is dad’s boat?” Chad kept his eyes on Jason as he took a sip of his coffee.
“It’s at my place with my boat… where he always kept it. Why?”
Chad didn’t like the way Jason stressed the word “always”, emphasizing how little Chad knew about their dad. “I just noticed it wasn’t here. I’m thinking about doing a little fishing while I’m around.”
“How long are you planning to stay?”
Chad noticed that Jason had not looked at him during their entire conversation. “I’m not sure yet.”
The next few minutes passed in silence. Jason stood by the window staring out at the back yard. Chad sat at the table pretending to savor his coffee. Made from a large, generic can which appeared to have been around for a while, the coffee was actually quite horrible.
The house was quiet and empty. Friends and family had dropped in after the funeral, but they had since said their condolences and departed. Jason’s wife, Karla, was the last to leave, taking along their two sons.
“Why did Dad keep his boat at your place?” Chad finally broke the silence.
“Because we usually fished together. No reason to carry it back and forth every time. I think he only loaded it up once. That was for a fishing tournament over on Smith Lake. He said he liked fishing at our lake the best.”
Of course he did, Chad thought. Dad always liked anything of Jason’s.
“You want to go fishing?” Jason finally looked at Chad as he spoke.
“You mean now?”
“Sure, why not. I can’t think of anything more appropriate to do on the day of Dad’s funeral than to take his boat and rods out for a little fishing. I think he would like that.”
You mean he would like you, Chad thought. Me? He probably wouldn’t even notice. “Uh… sure.” Chad couldn’t think of any reason not to go, but he wasn’t sure about the idea either. He had spent the last ten years avoiding Jason and his dad. The thought of spending several hours alone with him didn’t exactly sound like fun.
They unloaded the fishing gear in silence and walked down the hill towards the lake. Chad could see a house on the ridge which he assumed was Jason’s. It looked like a nice house and likely had a great view of the lake.
“Is that your house?” Chad finally asked.
“Yeah, we love it. Karla didn’t want to move out of town at first, but now she wouldn’t leave it for anything. The view in the morning is fantastic.”
By this time they had reached the boats. Jason navigated through the underbrush and began placing his fishing gear in the one on the left.
“Your boat and dad’s boat are just alike?” Chad asked, looking at the two identical boats near the edge of the water.
“Yeah, I bought his at the same time I bought mine and he just paid me back for it. He said he didn’t want to waste time looking at boats that could be spent fishing. He said if it was good enough for me then it was good enough for him.”
Of course it was. Chad placed his dad’s poles and tackle box into the other boat. In a way it seemed eery using his boat; he could still picture his face from the casket earlier that morning. A part of him wanted to just leave and forget the idea of fishing, but Jason would definitely give him a hard time if he backed out now. The pressure of being the little brother was weighing heavy on him again and he was wishing he had not even come home for the funeral.
“Come on. Let’s get moving. It looks like clouds might be heading our way.” Jason was pushing away from the bank as he spoke.
Chad launched his boat and let it drift near the shore not far from Jason’s boat. They were close enough to talk, but neither said anything for a while.
Jason pulled in a few smaller fish and threw them back each time. Chad felt a few nibbles on his line, but had not brought anything in yet. He could feel Jason keeping count even though nothing had been spoken.
Clouds began moving across the sky but left no hint of rain. The storm likely still several hours away.
Chad’s eyes roamed over his dad’s fishing gear. Everything had a certain space and everything was neatly in its place. I’ll probably mess it up somehow.
“Why did you abandon us?”
Chad’s thoughts were interrupted by Jason’s question. “What?” was the only response he could muster.
“Why did you abandon me and dad? It was hard enough for dad that mom left. Why did you leave?”
Chad was confused by Jason’s question. Wasn’t it obvious why I left? He didn’t say anything right off as he tried to think through Jason’s words.
Jason didn’t wait long for a response before he spoke again. “You always thought you were better than us.”
Jason’s words stung as they hit Chad’s ears. “Better than you? What are you talking about? You two had each other. I was the one that didn’t fit in. You…” Chad stopped speaking as he felt tears beginning to well up in his eyes. He wasn’t going to cry in front of Jason.
“Didn’t fit in? You didn’t want to fit in! Every time we did something as a family… the three of us… you didn’t want any part of it. How else do you explain the last decade? No calls. No visits. Nothing.”
“I didn’t want any part of it because I was never good enough!” Chad knew the tears were coming but by this time he didn’t care. “Everything you did was perfect. Everything I did was not. Dad was probably glad when I left.”
“That’s not true! Don’t ever say that. You think dad didn’t care? He loved you. We loved you!”
Chad could see tears in Jason’s eyes as he spoke. About that time Chad’s rod jumped, almost leaving his hands completely. He yanked back on the rod by instinct, trying to set the hook. The next five minutes were spent trying to reel the fish in.
By the time he got the fish near the boat, Jason had pulled the other boat up next to him and tied them together. “You want me to get the net? That’s a big one.”
“Yeah,” Chad replied, looking at Jason for moment. “Let’s make sure this one doesn’t get away.”
Photo provided by Icy Sedgwick.