Short Fiction: Dockside

Emily Jean Conway, BFR Staff

Mom is sitting on the couch again.

She’s been doing this lately. “Fishing,” she calls it, as if a little self-reflection is all the rod and line she needs to remember what is—has—been gone, going, for the past five years.

Mostly, she naps.

But when she wakes up, she’ll tell me about the lake again. Those are her favorite stories; it’s what’s made the most impression from her childhood. Lasted the longest, after school and old loves and adventures didn’t. But there’s a little less detail every time, so I remember for her—remind her of the time her uncle fell in the water one spring and kept falling in; when her brother broke a canoe in half before it’d even touched water when he was eight; the year the algae bloom cut the vacation short, the smell was so terrible; and when she was seven, she’d caught two fish with one hook and no bait. She likes that last one the best. There’s even a picture I can bring out for the occasion.

What’s better than me doing the remembering is when she remembers on her own and she tells me something new. A detail oddly specific—maybe too specific, so who knows how real it really is? There’s no one left who can say.

It’s happening less now, the remembering. But sometimes, whatever’s been submerged resurfaces, and the fog of her eyes clears. She calls me the right name, remembers I’m her “little bird.” And then she’ll talk about the news that morning and make a joke I haven’t heard in years at her own expense and it’s almost like having her back again.

More often it is that I walk in and she is staring at the wall and when she looks at me, I may as well be another piece of furniture. It’s these moments that remind me better than a schedule to take my Omega-3 and B-12; anything to stave off this decline.

But today she sees me. She smiles, at least, when I walk in. She stops looking at the wall. “Susan!” she says and beckons me over, patting the seat beside her. “Little bird, I have the best story to tell you. Do you have a second?”

“Of course, Mom,” I say and take the seat and smile. She doesn’t notice that it looks wrong. She would have before; she used to know me so well. Better than I know her now.

“You know that summer house my father, your grandfather, used to take us to? The one with the dock and that lake that looked gorgeous any time of the year? Really picturesque, I’ve heard it called. You remember? I’m sure there’s a picture around here somewhere.”

“I think you’ve mentioned it.”

Well, one of those times, I was out fishing. I was a little thing, so I wasn’t really thinking things through when I took out the rod that morning…”

Two fish this time.

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