“Well if that ain’t a kick in the head,” exclaimed Cathy Potts as her 15-foot flat bottom Bass Tracker fishing boat had just sunk to the bottom of the Missouri River.
“God damn bird,” Seth shouted at the sky. “Avian asshole, feathered fuck face, beaked bastard.”
“Okay, enough with the illiterative insults. You should know better than steer straight into the goddamn shore, Seth. Jesus. A bird flies into your head and you go apoplectic and crash headlong into a pile a’ rocks. Lose all sense of responsibility for a watercraft and its passenger, your Mother, the women who labored uphill both ways for the duration of a TV mini-series to give you life. Blaming the bird is like Nero blaming the fiddle.”
“It hurt like hell,” whined Seth. “There’s no use arguing about it, the boat is swallowed up by the mighty mo at this point. Damn, I was looking forward to shooting some fish.”
Seth ran his hand across the strings of the bow mounted with a spool of fishing line.
“I’m not one to cry over spilt milk,” Cathy mused. “As you know I’d much rather let the cat lap it up while I finish my morning paper. I can’t help but notice, however, that while your bow is on solid ground my rig is lost to the currents. The two were next to each other resting at your feet, so explain to me, my boy, how your two hands only managed to rescue one rig? Your rig to put a finer point on it.”
“That’s not fair,” countered Seth. “I was trying to save the motor, with no help from you.”
“I wasn’t about to herniate a disk pulling a motor.”
“With no help from you and once I figured it was a lost cause, I admit I panicked, and grabbed the thing closest to me which just happened to be my bow. Let’s drop it already we gotta figure out how we’re gettin’ home. Where’s your phone?”
“In my tackle box. How about yours?”
“Back at the house. We can sit here and wait for someone to come by. Worse comes to worse Dad knows which spots we were checkin’ and if we’re not back by dark he’ll come looking. I’m gonna shoot some fish while we wait.”
Seth turned and started walking up the embankment.
“The hell you will,” called his Mother as he slipped up the hill. “This isn’t going to conveniently work out such that you get to do what you set out to despite crashing our vessel.
You can put that bow down and waste time in some other mindless manner. Skip rocks or jam a stick into the mud I don’t care, but no fishing.”
Just as Seth was about to register a complaint of judicial bias a shirtless man with a stomach like a medicine ball drinking a Budweiser out of a neon, green koozie that read “I’m on River Time” steered his Lund, steel V-bottom towards the marooned Mother and Son.
“Catching anything?” the man asked as the motor idled.
“We had a bit of an accident actually,” Cathy replied. “My boy here ran us into the rocks and our boat sank to the damn bottom believe it or not.”
“Those rocks? They’re pretty clearly marked; don’t know how you could run into ‘em.”
“A bird flew into my head,” Seth shouted in his defense. Although hearing it aloud made him realize how absurd it sounded. He would have faired better in this man’s eyes if he said he hadn’t see the rocks somehow. “A bird made me do it” made him seem like a real shit for brains.
“Well, looks like you’re hoppin’ in with me.”
The man maneuvered the boat towards the shore. Cathy reached out to grab the hull while Seth scrambled back down the embankment to climb aboard.
“I’m Ray, by the way,” said the man as he extended his hand and peered over the top of his truck stop Blue Blockers.
“Anybody want a beer?”
Cathy politely declined. Ray motioned a cold Budweiser in the direction of Seth who turned his eyes to his Mother who stared back coldly. Seth shook his head no.
The boat pulled away from shore as Ray pointed to his favorite sandbars on which to get wasted.
“That’s a good one there. My brothers and me, Rich and Dave, posted up on that patch of sand and drank two racks of Bud between the three of us. Rich got so sunburnt on the top of his feet he couldn’t wear shoes for a week. Dumbass”
Seth laughed while Cathy squinted her eyes and angled her head so that the wind pushed her hair out of her face.
“That one there my whole family, cousins and all, set up camp for the fourth of July. We put up a volleyball net and a cornhole set. Barbequed - the whole nine yards.
Partied from ten in the morning until damn near midnight. I got so drunk it took me an hour to get my boat on my trailer. I came out the house the next morning and the boat was sittin’ totally cock eyed.”
Seth found these stories of river debauchery hilarious and aspirational. He couldn’t wait until he was old enough to buy his own little boat, shitty most likely but his, go out on the river with a little cooler and catch a buzz.
Cathy found these stories of river debauchery evidence of arrested development. A middle aged man doing the same shit he’d been doing since he was Seth’s age. The lack of evolution was like sand in her bathing suit. These were the good ol’ boys that held court at the COOP drinking weak coffee from the Bunn industrial double burner speculating about corn prices and what kind of winter we were gonna have. These men were deacons and city councilman; business owners and football coaches; civic leaders and the molders of young minds. Each and every one them could give you a tour of the river and where they got so skunked they couldn’t recite the alphabet forwards. She shared a bed with one of these men. He wasn’t the worst of them but the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree cuz the apple has no choice of what tree it grows on.
“Get up front there,” Ray instructed Seth so he could grab the dock. Ray expertly guided the boat alongside the warped wood while finishing his beer, pulling open the cooler with the big toe of his sandaled foot and tossing the can inside with the other empties.
“Here you go, back on dry land.”
“Thank you so much for your help. We would of been out there for awhile if you wouldn’t of come by,” said Cathy as Seth extended a hand to her from the dock.
“Ah, somebody would of snatched you up if I didn’t. You can buy me a beer if I see you in town.” “Sounds like a deal. Thanks again.”
Seth pushed the boat off and the two gave a quick wave before walking towards their truck, now with a trailer as useful as teets on a boar.
“Ray seemed like a good guy,” said Seth. He placed his bow in the bed of the truck and waited for his Mom to unlock the doors. She climbed in and Seth repeated, “Ray seemed like a good guy.”
Cathy, not one to speak ill of someone she didn’t really know although she knew the type and you get to a point in life where that’s all you need to pass judgement, sighed and turned the keys in the ignition.
“You owe me a boat,” she said and pulled onto the gravel road.