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The boy sat on the edge of the rickety lake pier and waded his bare feet feet through the murky emerald water of his father's youth, while the hot Carolina sun beat down on his pale city skin. He pondered where his father was fishing presently, the vast lake was calm and the surface mirrored the clouds and the sun in the sky, the boy felt level sitting at a median between the two, so he may better examine and compare. Images of his father fishing flashed through his young imaginative mind. His father was a robust southern man with a worker's frame that had been tanned by years of labor under the very sun the boy sat under at that moment. He had a gruff face that radiated genuine compassion and tenderness. The boy pictured his father in a pearly white sailor's cap, traversing the wild seas in nautical adventures, like capturing enormous sea creatures and battling the elements while commanding his crew, whom adore him as their leader, and would follow him into hell, if he had chose to do so. Then the boy wondered why he wasn't their helping his father defeat these leviathans that threaten the bounty of his catch. It must be cause' I'm his namesake, he thought to himself proudly, yet silently amongst his rambunctious imagination.
“Oh, Sal?” his grandmother called out past the garden, toward the pier,
“Oh, Sal. Where are you?”
“Over here Mammaw!”
She crept out from the deck and wandered through her botanical oasis, her pride and joy bedsides her son and grandson. It was filled with brilliant, chromatic colors and was shaded by the large Carolina trees that stood tall and were covered with green Kudzu, which made them resemble old men. On a bright day, with the sun directly over the old men's shady reach, it transformed into a brilliant kaleidoscope of prismatic colors; flashes of green that exploded into splashes of psychedelic reds, blues, and yellows that melded into every color in between. She examined the garden with a surgeon's precision, taking count of every plant to make sure everything was in order.
“Now Sal, what are you doing on that old wooden pier anyways?”
“Waitin' on Papa!,” he blurted proudly.
“Well, aren't you a little sailor!” she laughed.
“Yup, an one day I'm gonna go an catch a fish with Papa and go to Kor-e-a and Ant-arr-tee-ca, and...”
“Oh my, those are quite the adventures! And what about Grand Pappy?
“Oh yeah...hes a gonna come to. And we gonna get a fish bigger an that there boat.”
“Yeah? Well, such a big sailor your gonna need to eat some food. I made some sandwiches, come on inside and have some.”
“Aw, can't I stay out here?”
“Well, I guess we can have a picnic out on the lake. Yes, that does sound pleasant!”
She crept back to the deck and the boy heard the screen door screech to a close. He began to dawdle his feet in the emerald water again and ponder what might lurk underneath the calm green surface. His thoughts turn toward his father again, he idolizes every aspect of the man, his serious nature and his sense of humor. Small waves began to crash against the pier's moving frame and became rapid and violent in nature and it was chased by a humming sound in the distance. The boy looked out toward the sound and saw the small white schooner skimming the surface of the emerald lake, leaving behind a trail of small, tame green waves that sparkled under the midday sun.
His father was sitting next to his grandfather, whom was preoccupied with the steering wheel, smoking a cigar and both men were hiding behind large black sunglasses. The boy jumped up and began waving toward the tiny white boat that was bobbing toward him. His father waved his red baseball cap over his head.
The schooner bobbed closer and closer, until it was bobbing against the pier and the boy was holding onto the side with excitement.
“Well, I'll tell ya, that was a helluva brim right there!” his father began to chuckle deeply, he stepped out of the boat and onto the more stable pier planks. They grabbed the cooler and hauled it over to the pier. The boy's father pat his curly red head and gave his father, the boy's grandfather, a hand onto the pier.
“Shoo wee boy, you shouldn't seen the brim Sal!” he held his hands up and stretched his arms out. “It was nearly this big!”
“Wow,” the boy began to picture a huge Marlin twisting on his father's line, out on the sea. His eyes widened in awe. “What did you catch?”
“Well...” his father stepped over and popped the cooler's top off and tipped it toward the boy. Inside lay eight or nine small, shiny brim. “Just these little buggers.”
“Wow,” the boy was amazed anyway.
The screen door screeched open in the distance, “Ellis? Honey? Yall' back already?” His grandmother crept back down to the dock, this time carrying a picnic basket. “Well, I made sandwiches, there is enough for all of us.”
“Naw mom, we gonna go clean these here fish for supper.”
“Oh well, me and Sal are gonna have us a little picnic anyways.”
The boy thought about asking to join them in cleaning the fish, but he resisted. He knew they wouldn't let him, and he didn't want to abandon his grandmother now that she fixed the picnic lunch for him. His father and grandfather marched single-file, with the cooler, through the botanical kaleidoscope and into the screeching screen door. The boy took a sandwich and dipped his feet into the emerald water.
“Days like this remind me of when your Pappy was a boy.”
* * *
The teenager reclined awkwardly on the mouth of the pier. The crashing of the murky green water against the, nearly antique, pier cradled him violently with the passing of every boat. A splash of water chilled his bare skin under the cool October sun; sticky warmth reached him through the Carolina humidity. This scene of green land and water was not akin to the memories he carried for so long and hailed from his childhood. The boat was absent. He gazed back toward the land that had hosted many happy memories, he sat there, on the old splintered pier, utterly disillusioned and consummately disgusted in the lack of responsibility manifested in his fellow man. The garden, previously an Eden of hydrangeas and chrysanthemums, was now a dense mass of unattractive weeds and ivy, so much so that the skinny sliver of sidewalk was clandestine under the overgrowth. The house, that so neatly sat atop the hill the garden led to, that was an accessory to the scene below, was now occupied by the ghosts of a happy childhood and proud founders.
Why did I go back? he pondered loudly in his mind. The water had become seized by celebrities and terrorized by their aquatic drag vehicle, abundance of litter, and disregard for a child's fondest memories. He was alone now. He couldn't rely on the memories that he had depended on for so long anymore. Regret set in. The thought of this lake promised escape and hope in his mind, the pressures of becoming a man without his father had become to unmanageable and the cloudiness of his future was a constant reminder of the murky emerald waters of his past that he longed for. The sound of the violent waves of the lake rebelling against it's invaders and the sound of the attacking engines roaring, sounded too similar the the urban ruckus he aimed to escape.
He stood up, his tall frame, pale city skin, and auburn hair was that not of his father's, but his cheeky spirit and manly robustness of character, was a trait transferred morally as only a father and son could. His father gave him the foundation to become a man, the rest was now up to him. The young adult thought that, just perhaps, seeing this effigy of his youth would spark something within him. But he only seemed to be even more distraught than previously. He strolled back up the pier, he couldn't force himself to stare at the water anymore. Now facing the garden, with his back to the lake, he began to march through the model jungle of carelessness. His eyes followed the edge of the ivy rope that framed the outline of the cement path that his grandfather poured when he was born. The walkway was severely cracked and was a dirty pepper color from the dirt and grime; it closely resembled the sidewalks of the city of which he came from.
There, in his grandparents abandoned garden, he saw what reminded him of the urban decay the streets from which he traveled so far to escape. The ivy danced around the cement chunks and snaked like veins throughout the yard. In the far corner there lay some rogue bushes that guarded the exit path. Atop of the mass of green shrubbery and disappointment that climbed the white wall that had been stained by the red Carolina soil, rested a single Iris. It lay daintily and remote from the unattractive mess that had become of the garden, it radiated an intense amethyst aura that was tipped by a flash of saffron, that excited the sun's attention. In the Iris he saw beauty; he saw the sole heir of the garden's meaning; he saw innocence and existence, a survivalist. And most true, he saw his mother.
That Iris was a fervent, delicate example that only could be mirrored to the determined elegance of his mother. The solitude of the flower disturbed him. The beauty was unoccupied and would most certainly be neglected. The young adult knew what he had to do, he plucked the flower, set it in his father's brown leather back book, filled with yellow pages that shimmered gold when closed, and marched out toward the road. He could hear the crash of the waves in the distance. He turned back to send his farewell, but they good-bye would not come. It was a long ways back to the city, he began to march up the road and toward the bus station. The river and the Iris were calling for his presence.
* * *
The man stood vertically and augustly, draped in a dark blue suit, before the calm evening water before him. The boats had finally given up trek in the absence of daylight, mostly due to the new enforcement of lake curfews. The sky was a florescent indigo, which highlighted the excitement of the water below. The pier's planks underneath his polished black loafers were of high quality, and were reinforced with the best modern materials available. He had the finest pier on this side of the water. He lit a cigarette and was cradled by the calm waves in the sun's absence.
“Sir, I will be leaving now,” a slightly foreign voice called out to the man. “I've finished tending to the garden sir.”
“Oh, yes,” the man turned around to see his gardener leave. “Mrs. Salvador, thank you for your service. I cannot fathom the talent your hands must have to create such botanic beauty from the red soil.”
She smiled proudly, confused by his extensive use of words, as always, she waved and nodded. “Sir, I will be leaving now. I finished tending...”
“Yes, very well then.”
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