The Breadcrumbs widget will appear here on the published site.
By Lowell Jaeger
Paint-chipped yellow rented rowboat. Eight-year-old
stepson and I afloat on murky waters one merciless
early morning, mosquitoes and blackflies
feasting on our necks and earlobes, humid doldrums
hazing a bake-oven sun. Few nibbles and no fish.
And no conversation. A man can outlive some sadness
but this memory wakes me at four a.m. and hounds me
hapless till dawn. How he never once dared complain,
even as we chewed our way through cheerless
sack lunch snacks, even as we gulped warm cola
and nearly gagged. I’d flubbed it between us
long ago, but skip − for now − the blame for that.
Say I was untutored, lacked insight, deaf
to doubts about fatherhood in the first place,
his mother and I so locked in our own distractions
we mostly forgot the kid was there. No recollection
how I’d dozed off. Then woke in the bow of that boat,
bug-bitten, ashamed, and irritable. This outing . . .
we might have rowed together toward better memories
than we’d made till then. An hour
I’d been sleeping. And there he sat, staring
at a joyless puddle of bilge, too timid to speak,
his line tangled on hidden snags,
our boat drifting too shallow.