This dock’s been in my family for a lotta years. A lot more years, I reckon, than most’ve the families who own cabins here on the lake now. You can see who’s old and who’s new by the way the outsides of the cabins look…old families, our cabins look like cabins. The new ones, they buy an old fish’n cabin and then they fix it up t’ look like a time share on Maui, only decorated with rustic look’n grizzly bears cut outta pine wood. My family? We’re the folk whose hundred-somethin’-year-old collapsed barn provides the “reclaimed” wood that lines the new folks’ cabin kitchens, all half Ikea sensibility and half Montana wild west. It ain’t a pretty marriage.
Used to up come here, when the kids were little. They’d sit here on the dock too, all four of ’em learned to dive right off the side here where the water’s deep. I’d take the kids in this beat-up fish’n boat, and we’d row out to the middle of the lake where you can’t see the shore in any direction. They’d throw bread crumbs to the fish and we’d feel like we were alone out in the middle of some ocean somewhere.
Kids are grown, now. The youngest, she got herself a scholarship to a college back East. Didn’t get those brains from her mama’s side of the family, mine are simple ranch folk who never thought twice about Rhode Island, I can tell you that much. She packed up her Subaru hatchback and hugged me tight, asked me “Mama, what are you gonna do with yourself now that all of us are moved out?” Well, I told her not to worry, ’cause I got a lotta ways to spend my time.
Thing is, I feel like I’m float’n out there in the fishin’ boat again, without a shore in sight. Last night in the cabin, we were talk’n and someone asked “If you could do anything you wanted to, what would it be?” Everyone seemed to have some great plan, like they’d been think’n a long time about what they’d do if suddenly they didn’t have a ranch to run, or if they quit sell’n insurance and had nothin’ else to do. The subject changed long before the conversation came ’round to me, but y’know? I didn’t have an inklin’ what I’da said if it had, not the slightest clue. If you’da asked that question ten years ago, I could’ve told you a lot about what I wouldn’t do if I had the chance. Like make four sack lunches every weekday of my life, with one child allergic to peanuts and one who got the hare-brained idea to be a vegetarian. Who ever heard of a vegetarian who lives on a cattle ranch? But I can’t tell you the last time I knew what I would do, if I could choose.
My family likes to tell the story about the day, back when I was a girl, I decided to follow a rainbow to find the pot of gold. I put my rainboots on, my cowboy hat, and walked myself half-way to town. My parents got the call to come pick me up at the Sinclair down by Jackrabbit Road. I lay there think’n about it all night last night, after everyone else had gone to sleep. I laid there, try’n to remember what it was I’d do, if I had the chance.
And I remembered, when I was little and my dad used to take me out on this dock real early, when the fish were bitin’. I’d sit there and dip my toes in the cold water while he cast his fly rod, and watch the sun rise. The sun would make this golden path right down the middle of the lake, and I remember thinkin’ how I’d like to follow all that gold, see where it comes from and where it leads to. It looked magical, somethin’ from a fairytale.
So here I am, about to get in a rowboat and follow the sun’s path down the water, as far as it takes me. It might get me to the fairyland I imagined as a child, and it might get me nowhere at all…far as I’m concerned, doesn’t matter which. I’m just gonna follow the light and see where it leads, ’cause at least I can say I tried (click to tweet)…and that’s about the best a person can do, ain’t it?
746 words…Photo by Darlene of Simply Darlene. Thanks, friend, for the photo prompt and introduction to flash fiction!