A New Dawning
Charlie came running out of the woods in the morning mist.
When he saw the lake pier, he slowed down to a walking pace.
He dried his tears with the sleeve of the jacket, and looked behind him. For a moment he hesitated, reached for his cap that was just about to slip off his head, and put it back in place. Then he walked onto the pier, kicked a soda can that went flying over the edge, and made a low splash when it hit the water. It was an old wooden pier, but the people who owned the summer-houses kept it in good condition. In the summer there was a lot of life there, but it was autumn and most of the people had gone back to the city.
Ever since he got permission to go fishing with his dad, he had enjoyed it. It had been four years ago. He had been five at the time. They left at the crack of dawn, walked down to the pier, and got into the boat. His dad rowed onto the lake, coughing just a little. It had been too early for Charlie, and he fell asleep in the boat. The splashing of the row, and the movement of the boat was so soothing that he couldn't help himself.
Hesitantly, he walked to the edge of the pier, and looked down into the water, but was careful not to step too far. They had spent every summer he remembered by the lake so he knew the danger it held. In the midst of summer one could swim in it, but it was much too cold for that this late in the autumn. Carefully, he sat down on the edge, his feet dangling, and his palms on the wood. There was a breeze, but not enough to dry the tears that kept coming. Slightly red-eyed, he glanced around, and dried the tears with the sleeve of his jacket. The wind picked up a bit, and he zipped up his jacket, but stayed put.
Their boat wasn't there now. His dad had taken it on land last weekend.
"Why do we have to take the boat ashore?" he asked even though he knew the answer.
"It's time," his dad said. "We won't take any more fishing trips this year. Soon we'll go back to the city. You've got to go to school."
"I don't want to go to school. I just want to stay here, and fish with you."
"We'll do it next summer. I promise."
And he'd taken the boat ashore, put it on the trailer, and driven with it to the summer-house. He parked the trailer with the boat at the back of the house, then covered it up so it wouldn't be damaged during the winter. Charlie knew the drill. Next spring, they would fix it up, paint it and do all the small repairs that were needed to keep it in good condition.
Charlie looked down into the water. Why couldn't they go fishing? Just one more time? It wasn't fair. At that moment a cold, wet nose touched his cheek. He looked up and saw their big St. Bernhard's standing next to him. Their eyes met. Without thinking, the boy touched the dog's snout, and got his fingers licked in return. Charlie looked down again, and put his palm on the pier. The dog poked him with his snout, then wiggled his way under the boy's hand. Charlie hugged his friend.
His mom had named him Brautigan after her favorite writer. Brautigan had been allowed to come along on fishing trips. Then one day, he'd dived off the boat when he saw something interesting in the lake. When he took that plunge the boat shook so violently that the boy thought they would end up in the water. His dad wasn't too happy about that, and said they couldn't take the dog if he scared all the fish away. After that they always fished alone.
"There you are."
Charlie looked up, and saw his mom come walking down the pier. He frowned a bit, and looked away. When he let go of Brautigan, the dog gazed questioningly at him, but he just stared into the lake. His mom came to them, stopped for a moment, then sat down beside Charlie. The silence was only broken by Brautigan's heavy breathing, as he lay with his eyes semi closed, and drool dripping from his mouth. His mom laid her right hand on Charles' shoulders, but he looked at the dog instead. Sneakily his hand sought out his face to dry the tears away.
"It is okay to cry," his mom said, but he didn't reply.
She had never gone out on the boat with them. His dad said she had once gone fishing with him, but never after that one time. Maybe she got sick on the boat, and maybe not, but he was sure she didn't like the movement of the water. "If I can read about boat trips why would I have to go on one?" she'd said to his dad. When they went out on the boat, she would usually stay home reading, or writing books. That was her world.
"You know, your dad loved you," his mom said. "If he could have, he'd still be with us."
"Why did he have to die?"
"I don't know Charlie. I really don't." He looked up at her, but she was looking at the lake. "Sometimes this just happens out of the blue, and he had been..." The light of the sky was getting brighter, and the mist receding. It was still chilly. "I see why you two loved coming here. It's a beautiful place Charlie."
She looked at him, tightened her grip on him, and tried to smile.