The Midnight Fishing Trip
This story is about relationships between younger and older folks. Set early in the year, perhaps months after the Christmas season. It tells of a grandfather and his grandson, a grandmother who loves her "boys" and lessons about the timeliness of certain gifts and sharing truths. Based on true stories and real people.
Detailed scenes with good character involvement. A wonderful story to enjoy with everyone, and especially with those looking for original or unusual stories that touch upon the real reason for celebrating Christmas. Recommended for all ages and for sharing!
A neatly-ordered series of slack tide waves was breaking gently on the shore as a ruddy-colored hand reached around the doorway and turned on the overhead light. He moved slowly and flipped the covers back to get out of bed. Even though bedtime had come early, it was the middle of the night and he wanted to sleep some more.
He looked at his new watch on the nightstand and knew it would probably be cold against his skin. Warm as he was from the comfort of his short sleep, and as anxious as he was to wear it, he couldn't help pausing at the thought of putting it on his wrist.
He heard the call a second time as heavy footsteps made their way toward the kitchen: "Come along, sleepy head. Wash up and come get some breakfast."
As he sat up, the cool air in the room instantly seemed to burst forth with the delicious smells of hot country ham and scrambled eggs. He knew that hot buttered toast would also be on the table in a moment too, so hurrying to the bathroom he washed his hands and the sleep out of the corners of his eyes. 'Grandma is the best cook in the world,' he thought to himself.
Granddaddy was already at the table, and the boy could sense his impatience at waiting for his grandson. "G'mornin'," he said half-asleep. "Uh-huh," grumbled his elder.
"Now, you boys eat up," Grandma said while setting a big platter on the table, "and I'll make biscuits or sandwiches of whatever's left to take with you." Looking at the mounds of ham and eggs, it made him happy to think of taking lots of her sandwiches on their trip, but the way Granddaddy was filling his green-rimmed plate soon took the idea of 'lots' out of his head.
Grandma sat down at the side of the table and joined hands with the two of them. Granddaddy thanked God for the meal and asked for a good catch of fish -- and whatever else the good Lord might bring their way.
As the fishermen ate, Grandma filled one small jug with orange juice and another with water. She put a few apples in a bag with a couple of cupcakes and candy bars. They were kept in the unheated pantry, stored in stock pots and an old covered roasting pan that protected goodies from mice. She then starting making egg sandwiches from what remained of the freshly sliced loaf of crusty and still-warm bread.
"What are you doing?" asked her husband. "That's enough food for days. We'll only be gone until dawn." His fussing appeared to have no effects whatsoever on Grandma's labors.
"The boy will get hungry again," she said softly, "and so will you." Then in a louder tone, "You just mind what you have to do and don't worry about my business!" she snapped.
He grinned to himself at their angry sounding exchange of words and knew there was nothing behind them but playfulness. It was just the way they carried on with each other sometimes. Their affection was well known to everyone in the community. If ever an honestly cross word passed between the two of them no one seemed to know about it. Many years together had pretty well melded the two of them into one person.
"Might as well be talking to myself," Granddaddy would sometimes say when she seemed to ignore his offhand caustic remarks. "You do," she agreed without hesitation. Finishing his milk, he watched the way Granddaddy made little stacks of ham and egg and expertly forked them up.
Breakfast was great, but he finished quickly because the thought of any adventure in the boat always took his mind off everything else. He asked to be excused from the table and went to get his jacket and pocketknife. "Don't forget to put your old shoes on," Granddaddy reminded him.
Gathering other things he thought might be handy, he could hear his grandparents through the bedroom wall as they talked. He put a small flashlight in his jacket pocket along with a couple of safety pins; they can be used for lots of things, he thought to himself. A fresh handkerchief was stuffed into a hip pocket with the knife.
Granddaddy was about the take the last egg when he caught the boy watching from the doorway. (Grandma never used them all for sandwiches and always left one on the plate; she knew how her boys liked to eat.) Giving a short laugh, he looked toward the counter past his wife as though checking the time on the clock. Unknowing, she blocked its view.
"Deary," he said to his wife using the name they usually called each other by, "I guess I just ate too much. This last one's more than I can handle; if I divvy it up, can you eat a bit more?" he asked his grandson while taking a small piece for himself.
The youngster took a piece of bread and folded it around the egg. He was surprised at how good it tasted and how quickly it was gone. "The boy's still hungry," said his grandfather. Grandma said that was good; she hadn't made too much of a sack lunch after all. They laughed.
"Got your watch?" asked Grandma with a knowing grin. "Sure do!" he responded and slid a jacket sleeve almost to his elbow so she’d be sure to see it. "It's," he paused to look carefully at the placement of the slim black hands under the slight crystal dome: "12:29."
Granddaddy rose from the table as if someone had fired a starter's pistol, and headed out the back door. “Where you off to so fast?” asked Grandma. “Got to get another fishing net from the shed,” the voice fading into the darkness replied. He had years of experience making good fish nets, and sometimes made nets for other folks. It was one of his many skills learned over a lifetime of hard work in several different occupations. “Are you ready?” Grandma asked.
The creaking of the tall backyard gate meant he had to hurry. He hugged his grandmother and said 'Good-bye!' Grabbing their sacks, he ran through the house as his grandfather was closing the trunk lid of the clean gray Plymouth sedan. The screen door clacked loudly against the doorframe as he raced from the porch; Granddaddy shot him a look but didn't say anything.
Why did I let the door slam? he fussed at himself while making a mental note to be more careful in the future. It was hard to make amends on his short weekend visits. "Sorry about the door, Granddaddy. Thank you again for my watch," he said as they drove away. "You're welcome," but Granddaddy ‘s voice had that offhand edge to it.
"You would have gotten it for Christmas if you had learned to use one yet." Granddaddy was one of those folks who valued doing things in their proper sequence. He liked doing necessary things as soon as possible, and not messing around with things ahead of their need. The gift of the watch well after Christmas was thus just good sense. "I hope you'll take good care of it and remember not to overwind it."
"I understand," he said while trying to think of something else to keep their conversation going. It was also sort of a rule that Granddaddy didn't talk too much, to anyone. He pretty well kept his own counsel, as people would sometimes say about certain folks.
"When did you get your first watch?" he asked, thinking it seemed a mature sort of thing to inquire about. "Was it a Christmas gift? Did your granddaddy give you yours, too?"
Granddaddy carefully surveyed the road as they were making the short drive to the river where the boat was moored, and the first impression was that he wouldn't answer with much more than his customary "Uh-huh," but even less - only silence - came back.
The man that the boy always wanted to spend so much time with was busy thinking of getting the boat loaded, setting and then removing the nets they would spread across the channel mouths before the day's water traffic began. Time was getting short, and their catch might be short as well.
"How old were you?" he tried again. Catching himself out of his thoughts and looking over his right shoulder, the old man replied, "I don't remember. It was a long time ago. My Daddy did all he could to keep plenty of food on the table and a dry, warm roof over our heads. There wasn't much left for unnecessary things." It appeared Granddaddy would fall silent again.
It was the first time he could recall ever hearing his grandfather speak about his own youth, and while he wanted to know more, it sort of embarrassed him and left an odd feeling. He didn't think Granddaddy really wanted to talk about it very much. His hardened hands kept their place on the wheel he as continued recollecting the past with a mixture of bittersweet fondness and fact.
"We made a lot of our own fun. There were big woods and fields we could run and play in. I remember the river was where us boys spent most of our time. My sisters - your great aunts - were learning how to cook and sew while we were just being boys. I remember one time...."
Granddaddy's voice trailed off and he paused as they pulled to the last corner where they had to turn to get to the river shore. For a few moments he seemed reluctant to talk any more about old days far gone, yet the floodgates of memory had opened and he continued his revelations.
"I suppose our greatest gift when we were young was that we could always depend upon each other. Your great-granddaddy worked hard to keep us all fed. New shoes were a special treat. After summer was over, we'd all get new shoes for school. We had chores to do every day and would also do little jobs for the neighbors along the road or on the farms, when we had the chance, that could earn a little bit or be traded for things. That was back when everyone traded things they had lots of, for things they needed. Nobody had much money."
He found himself wondering if that was why Granddaddy's garden was bordered by so many pens and cages full of chickens and game birds, and the big old peach tree that made so much fruit. Plus, there was the huge grape arbor that covered almost the whole fence on the north side of the backyard by Grandma's clothesline. He loved the sweet taste of its juicy blue-black fruit and was careful to avoid the wasps and bees that often seemed to be a part of the vines as well.
Setting several nets and likely catching, as was usually the case, far more fish than they could eat or store in the freezer suddenly made new sense too. He stared at Granddaddy's rough, callused red hands on the steering wheel and wondered at all the things he had probably ever done.
"Usually, for Christmas treats, we'd get fruit, like oranges, and a bit of fudge candy. There was buckets of pecans and walnuts, too." It seemed like Granddaddy's eyes were shining. He quickly touched at his left eye and wiped the liver-spotted finger to the leg of his patched britches.
"But we felt very blessed," he continued. "The Bible says that Jesus never had a home after he left his parents. He and his disciples sometimes didn't know where their next meal would come from or where they would sleep, but God took care of them. Sometimes, when I was young, I would think that God loved us even more than his own Son, because we had so much. And besides, we had two fathers - one in Heaven and our own daddy at home."
"Granddaddy, can I ask a question?" The boy sounded very serious. "Uh-huh," came the reply.
"Jesus in the Christmas story and the Jesus that didn't have a home; they were the same, weren't they?" The old man felt a sudden pang of guilt that he hadn't spent more time with his grandson, explaining what the Bible says about God, and Jesus, and the meaning of salvation.
As if someone was talking deep inside his head, he realized the proper time had come to talk with the boy about the only things that are truly important in this world.
'He's growing up,' he thought to himself as his eyes glistened again.
They pulled well off the roadside and began loading gear down to the shore break, staging it for the carry through the rising water to the simple, open boat. "I know something we can do together this afternoon," the elder fisherman said.
As moonlight bounced off the waxing tide sliding up the sandy beach, the boy beamed brightly at the prospect of their spending more time together.
- The End -
The Midnight Fishing Trip / © L.L. Hamilton, Jr.
Was this The Very Best Story? Let us know please!
Email us at "Family@TheVeryBestStory.com" today. Thanks!