Every week Willow posts a picture prompt over at Magpie Tales. Many wonderful writers respond with their stories. Visit her site to read their entries.
This weeks prompt:
And my story:
I was retired. I didn’t want to be retired. I didn’t want to putter around the yard, take up a hobby, get involved with my community. Really, to be completely frank, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to spend all day every day, at the beck and call of Virginia.
My wife of 45 years, Virginia had been an at-home mother to our only daughter, who had RUN to the city at her first possible opportunity. That had been nearly 25 years ago. Since then Virginia had tried nearly every hobby known to man, from quilting to pottery, gardening to line dancing, hiking to target shooting. Nothing lasted more than a few months, and she was bored and ready to move on to the next activity. She also had been involved in almost every volunteer program available – hospital auxiliary, community driving, youth groups, elderly visitation, library society. When she discovered that she couldn’t make one group do things her way, she moved on to the next. Now it appeared that she spent her days cleaning an already clean house, and rearranging whatever she could move. I was never sure where to put my shoes and coat when I came home from work, or where I might find my pajamas when it was time to get ready for bed.
Virginia (never call her Ginny), of course, was thrilled at the prospect of my retirement. She saw this as our time together, and had been making lists for months of various outings and hobbies for the two of us. But I didn’t want to visit the Museum of Shoes Through the Ages, or learn to cook with herbs (which we’d naturally have to grow in our garden), or join a book club, or, heaven forbid, buy a small yacht and travel to uninhabited islands off the coast. Not that we could afford a small yacht, now that I was retired.
So when I arrived home on that last day of work – sublime, beautiful job, orderly, never-changing, no surprises job that I’d come to actually enjoy – I stepped out of the car with trepidation. What really lay in store for me now? Not just the yawning future, but it was always possible that Virginia would have planned some sort of surprise. It could be a retirement party, not that that would be a bad thing, I’d at least have an excuse to get blind drunk in ‘celebration’. But then again she could have decided that I needed a jolt to get my retirement started right, and planned a skydiving trip.
Virginia wasn’t at the door, much to my surprise and, actually, fear. But my neighbor Bob, retired several years earlier, was out in his yard. He waved, and asked, ‘So are you ready for your new life?’
I just shrugged, and said that I’d have to see how things went. Then Bob invited me to go fishing with him the next day – what a wonderful idea! There was no chance that Virginia would put a worm on a hook, or gut a fish, or even get into a little dingy. Maybe this was the ticket. I told Bob I didn’t have any gear, and he said that was no problem as he had more than enough, and I could borrow anything I needed until I had a chance to get my own. So the date was set – 6 o’clock in the morning and we’d head for Burnett Lake to see if the trout were biting.
My step was much lighter as I opened the front door, and called out, “Virginia, I’m home.’ Apparently the reason Bob was in his front yard was so that all the people in the house could hide before I walked in the door. It was a surprise party, indeed, but I couldn’t get drunk, because I had to get up early to go fishing! Actually I had a good time, chatting and laughing with family and friends, and the spread that Virginia prepared, well, she outdid herself. Nobody went home early.
When we finally said goodnight to the last guest, and turned to face the clean-up, I told Virginia about the fishing trip in the morning. She said, ‘Well, then, you better get your sleep. I’ll take care of this.’
The alarm jolted me out of bed at 5:30, and I stumbled into the bathroom. Once I’d washed my face and brushed my teeth, I felt a little more human, and headed to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee. Virginia was already there – dressed in blue jeans and duck boots, a waterproof jacket and brimmed hat at the ready.
‘Where are you going?’ I did my best to keep the alarm out of my voice.
“Why, I’m going fishing with you and Bob. What a perfect way to start our retirement.’
‘But you won’t bait a hook, or gut a fish. And that’s no yacht that Bob has.’
‘It’s okay, dear, you can take care of that messy stuff. The boat – well, it’ll be alright for today, we’ll just have to look for something a little bigger for our future fishing trips.’
Bob was no less surprised than I felt when he saw Virginia in his driveway. But he put a good face on it, and finished loading up the gear. I asked about licenses, thinking maybe that would end the trip that day, and give me some time to figure out how I could go fishing without Virginia. But Bob said we didn’t need licenses, because we were all over 65. He got a reproving look from Virginia when he said that, because she’d never let on to anybody that she was the same age as me, but she couldn’t deny her age, or she wouldn’t be able to go fishing.
All the way to the lake, Virginia drove from the back seat – not that she knew how to drive, she’d never got a driver’s license for herself, but she was good at giving directions. I could see Bob getting more and more tense, gritting his teeth and rolling his eyes. Virginia even went so far as to tell Bob how to back the boat trailer down the ramp!
Once the boat was in the water, Virginia realized that she’d have to walk out to the boat, and wanted Bob to ‘drive it closer’. Bob, of course, refused to do that, but suggested that Virginia walk over to the dock, and we’d come by and pick her up there. With a ‘humph’, Virginia started toward the dock. She didn't see the little gleam in Bob's eyes.
Bob drew up to the dock, grabbed hold of a post, and told Virginia to ‘come aboard’. As Virginia’s left foot stepped into the boat, Bob release his hold on the post, and the boat floated away from the dock – just enough that Virginia was spread-eagled between boat and dock, weaving back and forth trying to keep her balance. Bob took mercy on her, and maneuvered the boat closer, and after much wobbling and dramatics, Virginia was finally settled on a seat. Bob made sure we were all in life vests, then set out for his favorite spot on the lake.
Pulling out the rods, Bob handed one to each of us, then held out the bucket of bait. Virginia asked me to bait her hook for her, but Bob said, ‘No, every fisherman in my boat baits his own hook.’ Screwing up her face, and closing her eyes, Virginia managed to pick out a worm, and holding it daintily between her finger and thumb, plunged the hook into its body. ‘Ewwww, that’s gross.’
It wasn’t 15 minutes later, and Virginia’s rod suddenly jerked. She’d hooked one! Wouldn’t you know, she’d get the first fish. She stood up and began to try to reel it in and everything seemed to happen at once - Virginia waving the rod back and forth, churning away at the reel, Bob shouting, ‘Sit down, you fool’, the boat rocking so that I had to let go of my rod to hang onto both sides (it went floating away and I knew that I’d have to buy Bob a new rod), Bob standing to reach for a net and keeping a firm hold on the side of the boat, Virginia bobbing and weaving some more. And the boat started to take on water. That must have been some fish (we never did see it), because suddenly Virginia let out a screech, reared back against the pull on the rod, and fell backwards over the side of the boat, arms went flailing, and the rod went flying (another one I’d have to replace).
Virginia’s life vest kept her afloat, and Bob pulled in his rod, and got things settled, and then he assessed the damage – only a few inches of water in the bottom of the boat, enough to make our feet wet, but not enough to flounder us completely. He started up the motor, and maneuvered closer to Virginia, then telling me to stay put, he carefully coached her as she grabbed onto the side and flung one leg up and over, then literally fell into the bottom of the boat. She really did look like a drowned rat. Bob headed for shore, and a very subdued Virginia climbed out onto the dock.
Bob found a blanket in the trunk of his car, and Virginia snuggled into it for the return trip home. We heard not one word all the way.
At home, as I thanked Bob and helped him clean up his boat, I apologized for the lost rods and made arrangements to go shopping for replacements. I didn’t dare suggest that we go fishing again, but Bob said that he’d help me pick out some gear for myself, ‘including a neoprene suit to keep you dry.’ I wasn’t sure that either of us would want to repeat the experience of the day, but decided not to say anything just then.
As I walked into the house, Virginia greeted me in her bathrobe. ‘Well, that’s one retirement hobby that you’re just going to have to do without me!’
Woo hoo, retirement just might not be so bad after all!!!
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