It was cold, quiet, and the summer sun peeked over the horizon about 20 minutes ago. Frank left the house early, especially for a Saturday; Judy was gently snoring and as he kissed her cheek and said goodbye, she murmured “good luck.”
“Keys, wallet, phone, jacket,” he said out loud as he made his way from the bedroom to the kitchen.
The small cape-cod style home they shared still held the somewhat exotic smells from the previous night’s meal. The clean dinner dishes rested quietly in the sink – ready for another day, another meal. Somehow, that comforted the 30-year-old bachelor. He slipped into his favorite boat shoes, the ones with the worn soft patches in the heels and thought about fishing. His gear was in the 5-gallon bucket in the mudroom and on his way to the back door he lifted the pail and stopped for just a minute to run through the list in his head.
From some hidden part of her being, Judy felt a chill in the room when Frank opened the back door. Her body instinctively sensed the air move and she shivered in an effort to keep warm. In that state between consciousness and dreamland, she pulled her mother’s old soft quilt up under her chin. She never heard the Toyota pickup back out of the driveway and head toward the beach. The sound of the engine, the tires as the crunched along the driveway – it was all too familiar. She just drifted away again, warm.
Frank knew the Dunkin’ Donuts on route one would be open, and he really wanted a coffee, but he decided to wait and go to Ellie’s next to the pier. During the summer, they opened at 5 a.m. for the local fisherman and tourists, and while he technically was neither, he liked the way they grumpily greeted the customers and without fanfare, sent them on their way.
“Large coffee, no cream,” he said to the older woman behind the counter. “And two donuts,” he quickly added. He didn’t have to worry about telling her which kind of donut he wanted. They only had one option. Plain.
Frank paid his two dollars, put another in the tip jar and after putting the small brown bag of donuts in his fishing bucket, walked happily toward the stone jetty. On one side of the restaurant there was a small fishing pier and on the other side, a stone jetty. There weren’t that many people on the pier. Maybe one two getting ready for a day on the sea. The stripers wouldn’t start running in earnest for another couple of weeks, and then the place would be mobbed.
“Every asshole and their brother will be here,” he muttered to himself and kept walking. Frank had grown up in the small town, played basketball for the school team, and gone to college not more than 40 miles from here. After graduation, with a job offer from a local bank, he came home. He never really talked about it, nobody did, but he liked it.
The fishing was more of an excuse to get outside for a while. Growing up he learned the joy of physical work and sometimes when he had a lot on his mind, he liked to really work and let his mind think for itself. Things usually had a way of working out.
The stone jetty next to Ellie’s had been built in the 1920s by the Army Corps of Engineers, and many storms had rolled through since the last uneven stone was dropped into place. The stone structure was almost 1/2 mile long and formed a protective arm between the harbor and the river. Frank slowly made his way along the walkway to his favorite rock – the early morning breeze was cold, but his jacket and coffee kept the chill at bay. His rock was nearly white and almost 8 feet long. It was closer to the end than the beginning, and for some reason, it was the only piece of granite that seemed to be level.
For 45 minutes he stood alone, his face toward the oncoming breeze and the rising sun. He stood alone on the jetty, alone on the rock, and cast his line into the Atlantic. With just shorts, a t-shirt and a light jacket, he might have been cold, but the exercise warmed him. Rhythmically, cast after cast, the bait went to same spot in the surf. The splash it made as it entered the water was quickly covered by an approaching wave. It too became part of the sea.
Slowly, and with a practiced pace, he fished. Within minutes, his mind left the silent spot and went back to the small home on High Street he shared with Judy.
Judy was from Connecticut. She was beautiful, smart, and she said she wanted to spend the rest of her life with him. Frank was nearly 6’ 2” tall and at 5’ 10”, Judy seemed made for him. She too worked in a bank, had a college degree, and said she wanted to start a family, and yet, here he was. He would fish a little more and then head back home. He’d stop at Dunkin’s on the way and get her a coffee.
As his last cast came back up over the rock, he shrugged his shoulders, stretched his neck and noticed he’d been gone for almost two hours. Time to head home. His fishing bucket was still empty but he removed the fishing lure he was using from the wire leader, and without much of a thought, tossed it toward the white plastic bucket.
“Swish,” he said with a smile and headed back toward his truck.
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