He lifted his gaze to see the sun dip down, swallowed by the sea. He shifted his weight on the plank he was sitting on and turned his attention back to the bobber.
“Stop fidgeting around. You are scaring the fishes away,” his grandma corrected him as the boat swayed.
There were just the two of them; had been for as long as he remembered. Now, as he thought about it, he had not seen another human being other than his grandma and his own reflection occasionally when the sea was calm and the sun was right for years. There were drawings on the picture books under his bed, but that wasn’t the same thing as the real thing. The books were about stories of lives, which were impossible. He had never seen a building as tall as the mountains in his life, and yet, the books were full of them and people going around with metallic machines. He knew only the sea, the tiny island they lived in, and the seagulls and the seals, taking refuge on the cliffs.
The bobber sank deep, but he was miles away in those cities he dreamed of at night. He had once asked his grandma could they sail there if he built a bigger and stronger boat. She had just shaken her head and headed out to throw the washing water away. But he was sure that she got sad whenever he asked about the books and the stories and the wonders in them. She pretended she didn’t, but sometimes when she was in one of her moods, she would snap, “I will take the books away if you don’t shut up.” So he didn’t speak about them anymore nor ask about his mother and father or his older sister. He had hazy memories of them. They were buried back on the island. Grandma had explained what death meant; what radiation poisoning was. Sometimes he had bad dreams about his fingers and toes falling off. Those nights he crawled to sleep with grandma, and she would say, “My champ.” So, it was better to think he and grandma were the only ones who had ever existed.
He woke from his thoughts as the pole shook. He yanked it up and tipped the point behind him so grandma could bend over and pull the line in along with the fish. It was a big one. It would probably be the one cooked tonight, and they left the rest at the shore where he had built a secured cove for their catches.
“I think we have caught enough for a while,” his grandma said.
He nodded. They had enough to last weeks. But he had noticed that the grandma always took him out to the sea when he was getting restless and asked too many questions about the past and the bombs. It was easier to be out at sea. The rocking of the boat, the endless horizon, and the smell of salt, all the fishes in the world, and seaweed made it seem like there was nothing but that moment. He could be here until the wind got too hard, and the chill reached his bones, but grandma never let him. She always knew when it was time to go back and drink hot tea she brewed from the hops growing against the cottage grandma and papa had built before the wars.
He lowered the pole on the boat and took the oars, and began rowing back home. Grandma watched behind them to the open sea, where nothing moved except the waves.
Papa had come and get him here before everything went wrong. Then mother and father and Lilith had come, but it had been too late. They had buried Papa with them. Grandma said he died from a broken heart. He didn’t understand what that meant, but when it was his time to go, he didn’t want his heart to break or toes to fall off. But that was as far as he had gotten. He wished he and grandma could live forever.
Thank you for reading, and have a day full of hope and love ❤
© K.A. Ashcomb