Friday, July 18, 2008

The Impossible Dream




Its shadows reflect the absence of water.

The last time they took it out was…what?

1988.

July.


He’d taken her fishing on her birthday. She had resisted long enough. Grandpa stocked his pond with trout, some carp. One could baptize them, their numbers were so few.

Squeezing her eyes shut, she baited the hook. And still heard the worm scream behind her eyes.

Not much was said.

Your jump shot is coming along.

Jen never passes me the ball.

It will come. Just keep plugging away.

Once, their silk lines tangled like a morning spider web. The accidental contact embarrassed her, and she fiddled with the reel.

Her pretending not to notice the skin cancer on his ear.

His eyes avoiding new breasts, arrived at that year.

Their boat a tiny island. Unshared.

Swollen with the insects’ persistent plea, she almost confessed that she didn’t care about jump shots. Basketball.

Stupid sports.

But no.

They floated in a blue haze, until she snagged a decent trout. He helped her bring it in, anticipation stretching the old rope of his muscles.

But that surprised mouth, and dumb stare. Instinct unleashed a squeal, as she tossed the slippery thing into the air.

The splash of adrenaline hooking her giddy side. The imagination.

Look at the little sucker go! Let’s call him Don Quixote, Grandpa—

But his gaze sagged to the empty cooler by his feet.

Dragging the boat onto land, and flipping it over, she understood the outing to be a failure. She had hurt him, because of herself.

He climbed the hill with some effort. With her tennis shoes squelched in the muddy bank, she watched him go.

Tears leaked from her eyes.

She called them allergies. All that white pine.



There is a distance that’s longer than years.

But she climbs into the two-seater, anyway.

The fish are still there.

21 comments:

Aine said...

I'd love to hear Grandpa's version-- I bet it would surprise her.

Nothing bothers me more than disconnect. You captured the awkwardness brilliantly...

Sarah Hina said...

That's a brilliant insight, Aine. You're likely right, you know.

The weight of the day could have been very different on his side. Her notion of their disconnect--that unbearable unspokenness--might have just been a gentle, shared silence for him.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Very poetic. I agree with aine about the disconnect... Grandpa's version may be subtly different.

Charles Gramlich said...

Very powerful. The sadness at the end was palable.

Sarah Hina said...

Thanks, JR. She was probably too young and inexperienced to sense such a thing. But I'm sure you're correct.

Charles, that sense of sadness always comes when we get the timing wrong. Missed opportunities can weigh so heavily.

jason evans said...

One of the most gut-wrenching things I've read in a long time. Brutal in its subtlety. An entire tide pushing behind every word.

I don't know that Grandpa's version would be much better. But it would be different. It's the imbalance that makes me ache. She is perceptive of him and willing to bend, if he would only give her just enough understanding to dare to make the effort. But his vision is narrow. He's hoping to see what he wants to see.

Her strength lies in the fact there are other boats, and other ponds, and other people to share a summer day.

*~*{Sameera}*~* said...

That was so touching.I am in awe of your writing!

Have a great weekend :)

Cinderella. said...

Lovely piece of a very fertile imagination....!!

Nice reading you.
:)

Sarah Hina said...

Thank you, Jason.

I think what some young people struggle with is the idea that the imbalance requires correction. Feeling the responsibility of that burden. The necessity for disguises. None of it works, and in the effort, there is a harsher sense of failure.

But when we grow and become more honest and aware, then yes--those summer days are so rich with beauty, and potential.

Sameera, I hope you're having a good weekend, too. :) And thanks for the kind words about my writing!

I'm so glad you stopped by, Cinderella. And I appreciate the compliment. :)

Lena said...

amazing story! so touching and i wish to read grand pa's version too :)

Sarah Hina said...

Thank you, Lena! And that's an interesting proposition to write the other side. I'll have to consider it. :)

Sarah said...

heartbreakingly beautiful; you made the tension in that little boat so real. Well done Sarah.

quill

Sheri said...

I don't know who I feel more sorry for - Grandpa or the granddaughter.

I loved the lines where she avoids looking at his skin cancer and he avoids looking at her breast buds, newly arrived. Without saying it, I already have a very good idea that she is maybe 12 or so give or take a few years. I love how this is how you tell us her age. Very clever and that you can still connect with these stages of life.

Beautiful!

Sarah Hina said...

Thanks, Sarah. That tension can feel unbearable at times, especially when we can't escape. I'm glad it came across for you.

Thank you, Sheri! You're right, too--exactly 12 years old.

I think that's the age where things can become a muddle. We're more aware of our interests and character, and yet more doubtful of them, too. Too eager to please. That desperation can easily segue into insecurity and fear.

But why am I telling you this? This is your territory, anyway. ;)

Vesper said...

The grief is dense, almost physically painful. We all have such moments in memory when not enough was said or done, moments out of our grasps forever...
Brilliant, Sarah!

Sheri said...

Haha, That is funny. But this is EXACTLY why I write for this age. The material is endless! All those emotions, and physical and mental changes, boys... girls... body changes, hormones... it doesn't get any better than that!

I think you might have a middle grade novel in you afterall!

Sarah Hina said...

Vesper, there is always pain with looking too longingly back. It's probably better to recognize how far we've come. Thank you for your kindness. Again. :)

I actually did start a middle-grade novel several months ago, Sheri. It died soon after. But I would never say never. It's an invaluable age to write for, and some of my most prized memories are the novels I read when I was this age.

Yes, like L.M. Montgomery...I wanted to be Emily of New Moon when I grew up.

:)

Sheri said...

I know I've told you this before, I wanted to be Anne of Green Gables!

Sarah Hina said...

Me with my flash and you with your strong spirit and lily-of-the-valley.

Sounds like a great pair. :)

Sheri said...

Definitely!

Ello said...

Oh, I loved this. Sometimes as a youngster it is hard to understand the unspoken. It reminds me of the importance of being clear with my own children. I don't want to ponder and be sad over perceived misunderstandings. This was a really lovely piece.