Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | February 23, 2008

Motorboat

Hancock, New Hampshire. September 21, 2003.

Nubanusit Motorboat

The boat looked familiar.  Rusty oar locks, a dent in the bow, the motor rigged in place with a scrap of plywood.  But what was it doing on this godforsaken island at five in the morning?

Andy Wilton could have asked himself the same question.  One of those damned “No Trespassing, violators will be fined” yellow plastic signs was staring at him just down the beach from the motorboat.  Those things were like the poison ivy on the island.  The more he tore down, the more popped up.  He was an old man, he should be sitting out in his own boat with a fishing rod and a beer.

But he was here.  Again.  Just like every morning for the past nineteen years.

“I’ll just go take a look this morning,” he’d say out loud.  To the fish, to the sea, to God, to whoever was listening.  “I won’t even land, I’ll just drift on by and see.”

So he’d drift on by, and see that lone brick wall staring down at him with its arched windows like a dozen monster eyes, and he’d  stare, captivated, until the boat bumped up against the shore.

“Ok, ok, Jacob” — that was his boat’s name — “I see how it is.  We’ll take a little look-see.”

And he’d climb out, his back a little stiffer and his step a little shakier every year.  But he’d make it up the beach to the path, and up the path to the base of the brick wall.   Sometimes he’d find trash there: beer cans, a paper plate, or bits of broken glass.  He would tuck these in his pockets — deep, tough canvas pockets — and mumble about kids these days.

Today he left the beat up old skiff where it lay, just a few yards down the beach from the Jacob, and started up the path just a little more slowly than the day before.  His gaze never left that brick wall, not even when his eyes started to fill from the bottom up with thin arcs of salty tears.

It was pointless to come here, pointless to hope.  Nineteen years was too long.  Even if he were still alive, would Andy even recognize him?

“You’re my son.  I’d know you anywhere.”  Andy didn’t even realize he’d said the words out loud until someone answered.

“I ain’t your son, old man.”

The kid was standing in the middle of the path, chewing gum and grinning.  Now Andy knew where he’d seen that boat before.

“Get on home, kid.”

Last thing he needed was a ten-year-old watching his daily descent into guilt and regret.

“Sorry, can’t!  I’m coming with you.”

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