It was only a skiff, just a green skiff. It was no more than an inland bay runner with a thirty-five horsepower Evinrude motor and one too many coats of paint, but it was freedom, it was dad’s old boat, it was where he proposed to Mom, as odd as that may seem, he has taken her out into the bay before popping the question, him figuring that she couldn’t run away as it was too far from shore to swim, so the only option for her was to say yes. After a few tense moments of seemly unsureness, she laughed and said yes. The skiff had been sitting there since I was fifteen. I’d often thought that if I were that boat, I would never feel the salt spray or the gentile rocking of the sea again. It had been setting on that X frame covered by a kindred green canvas tarp, the kind with brass eyelets and lashed down with cotton rope. So it was that I debated whether to go ahead and uncover it or not, finally deciding that it was time to put the past behind me and let all the unpleasant memoirs lay buried. As I cut the rope, the canvas flapped in the gentle sea breeze, perhaps that was the first such sign of life that it had experienced in those fifteen-odd years. You know a funny thing about those memories of my father, try as I might they came flooding back with each slice of the knife. He was the last to touch this securing rope, the last to touch the belly of his green skiff that I was about to set free. As the knife cut through the last confining rope, I could have sworn that I heard a low growl or perhaps a sign of relief. Trying to lift the canvas was harder than I thought. It was heavy; very heavy, as if the weight of all those years were trying to hold on to their perish memoirs. My thirty-year-old muscles strained; my face was bright red as I held my breath expending every ounce of energy to the task at hand. Somehow it was as if the boat didn’t wish to be set free, as it was fighting me with equal veracity. At long last triumphantly, I hurled the green carcass to the ground, standing over it in mock victory, I gasped for any renewing life-giving air that happened to pass within range of my gaping mouth. Bending at the waist with hands on knees, my thumps pointing down I struck the classic gladiatorial pose. Until at long last my frame could support my weight again. Squaring my shoulders and righting myself I turned around to view the fifteen-year-old time capsule, it was much as I remembered. My father had built this sturdy craft in his spare time. You see Dad was a master builder, he was born in Iowa which is about as far from the ocean as you can get, but he had spent the first eighteen years of his life building barns and such, guess that had taught him how to use a square and to cut a straight line, which is something that his lineage forgot to pass to this humble son.
Dad arrived here in Lords Point, Connecticut just to spend a couple of weeks with his uncle Harvard Linstrum, and my Great uncle on my grandmother’s side. The salt, the sea, even the different sounds changed him and of course, there was a seventeen-year-old girl by the name of Ruth, who to hear her tell it had him hitting his thumb with a hammer and bending way too many nails for comfort. So two years later she married him for no other reason than to straighten him out and to save Harvard’s boat building from going bankrupt. Mom must have repeated that story a hundred times and Dad would always laugh, then give one of his mucking stern looks, he would say, “Ruth you know very well it wasn’t me, it was those damn cheap Connecticut nails, the head was always on the wrong end.” Well, they honeymooned in Boston then settled into life here in Lords Point. Mom worked as a bookkeeper at the shipyard, dad worked there as well. After Harvard passed, he left the company to Dad. Four years later my brother Will came along, and two years after that my sister Sally made her grand appearance, then it was my turn, an amazing ten years afterwards, I guess I’m just a late bloomer. My brother Will was a builder and an architect, give him a pen and paper and just a scrap of an idea and he would give you back your dreams, I suppose that’s why he moved to New York, to follow his dreams. Sally was a born actress, after a while she followed suit, gravitating to New York and stayed with Will, soon she was off-Broadway, on Broadway then off to Hollywood.
Mom was the glue that bound us all together, she was of medium height, fair complexioned, brown hair and eyes, and very beautiful, I do miss her so. Dad was over six foot tall, handsome, quick-witted and sharp-tongued, which could cut both ways and often did on more than one occasion. As stated, he was a master boat builder and a proud man, Will his firstborn was his favorite, then Sally, I didn’t do too bad, I did finish third but there were no trophies or metals somehow, I was the bane of all his misery, I know it and so did he.
After mom passed it was just him and me, a twelve-year-old kid who knew it all and a proud old man. Most evenings you could find him, alone out on the bay in his green skiff, either crabbing or fishing. But moreover just sitting staring out at the empty ocean reliving his own dreams and remembrances, but I think somehow deep inside I know that he felt closer to mom when he was alone and down there. My father and I never had a heart-to-heart talk or even a man-to-man for that matter, however, we did share Macaroni and cheese and just before every winter I would help him haul his green skiff ashore where we would store it on the X frames. Dad passed away that winter when I was fifteen, they said it was his heart and I believe it’s true; he just didn’t have the heart to go on without Mom. The house, land, and shipyard were paid for. My brother Will and sister Sally came back for the funeral. Sally stayed on to help run things, Hollywood hadn’t worked out the way she thought it would. Some evenings when the sun is setting and casing its warm glow, I imagine that I see him in his green skiff down on the calm waters of the bay. Somewhere along the way I did find a way to forgive my father, call it what you will call it growing up, but peace came over me as I gave the skiff a gentile push and eased into the calm waters of the bay, as I sit there letting my mind drifted back trying to recall what dad had seen and felt on those days fifteen years ago. Surprisingly I did find a letter wrapped in oil cloth and tucked away in the skiff, it was addressed to me, written on that last day fifteen years ago he must have put it there just before we covered his dreams. Perhaps it was forgotten or perhaps not. At any rate, it was written with love as I held that letter I smiled and realized that Dad and I finally had our heart-to-heart.
David Painter is a Northeast Ohio poet and photographer. His aim is to capture his point of view on the world through nature, culture, architecture and history. Dave’s love for photography began in the 1970s with the purchase of his first Minolta SLR camera. Through his keen eye, Dave became a member of the Cleveland Photographic Society and the Chagrin Valley Photography Guild. For the last decade, Dave has added poetry to his creative repertoire. Expanding his interests to the human condition, fiction and history; his favorite era being the Civil War. Much of Dave’s poetry is inspired by his photography; the perfect marriage of his two passions. Dave is a member of many poetry groups including Allegory Alley, Scribbles Writing Organization, Poems and Unpoems, Writers Writing Poems and Out of Your Write Mind. Additionally, he is active in The Pixel Photography Club and the local historical society. Dave was born and raised in Charleston, W.V. but has made the Greater Cleveland area his home for the past fifty years. He is married with two kids.