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GONE FISHING

Phil-bee woke up early. Before his mom. “Before the roosters”, like his grandpa used to tease. Actually, it was thoughts of his grandfather that enticed him to carry out this quest.

Philbin Barrett, Phil-bee for short, was grandpa’s pride and joy. Gramps was the only father Phil-bee knew, his own “a flash in the pan” as he heard his mother mention on the phone when she thought Philbin was out of the room. A mistake. A one-night stand, mom spoke in confession. Until then, Phil-bee had thought his father had died when the boy was three.

“The only redeeming quality of that man, was the little guy in the back bedroom” she was heard to interject.

So Phil-bee’s grandfather assumed the part as role model and teacher. A creature of habit was Jackson Barrett, and he taught his grandson the things Jack felt Phil-bee needed to learn in this life if he expected to go far.

All that changed as grandfather’s memory started to fade. Mom blamed some guy, an Al Shimer, for that. Ever since this Al showed up, grandpa just wasn’t the same. It was hard for Philbin to watch the only man who mattered in his life slowly become someone else. As Jack deteriorated, Phil-bee had to rely on the lessons learned from this good man. He tried to remember that man more than the person who did not recognize him any longer. Mom called it a “blessing” when Jackson Barrett had passed away.

“Gramps isn’t suffering any longer” she tried to explain to a tearful Phil-bee.

Phil-bee knew that along with being his grandfather and his teacher, Papa Jack was his friend. Phil-bee lost his BEST friend. If there was anything good in that revelation, it was that grandpa would live in his memory as long as Phil-bee kept him there.

The young boy’s mind was elsewhere as he stood next to his mom at Jack’s graveside. Philbin stared at the pile of dirt behind the square hole, watching the worms peek out and scurry back into the soil. The crowd of people that came to pay their respects was small. A few cousins, a couple of Jack’s friends from the service, Mrs. Burgess from their old apartment and the undertaker were Papa Jack’s only mourners.

Phil-bee remembered the talks he had with Jack as they sat at lakeside with their fishing line in the mossy green water. This was their classroom; where they had their best talks. Philbin needed to talk to Jack. But Jack was no longer there.

worms

“he reached into the tin can that held the wiggly worms”
(Photobucket)

Phil-bee dressed quietly, slipping his blue jeans over his spindly legs. He zipped his jacket right up to his chin and grabbed his ball cap. He gave the doorknob a soft turn and stepped out onto the back deck. Reaching down behind the deck chair, Philbin took the dented tin can that he had placed there last night.

The sun was coming up over the treetops as Phil-bee settled on the shore at their favorite fishing spot. The boy nestled into the moist grass as he reached into the tin can that held the wiggly worms that were distracting him at Grandpa’s funeral. With a shaky finger, Phil-bee hooked a fat worm. As he baited his hook (just like grandpa had taught him) Philbin started to talk out loud.

“Hey Grandpa Jack. It’s a good morning for fishing. I saved your spot…” Phil-bee started his long monologue.

In the early morning mist, a boy and his grandfather shared another moment discussing life and the future. Well, Phil-bee talked, and he was sure grandpa was listening. He had cast his line into the water a few times, but wasn’t having any luck. But it didn’t matter. Jack always said a bad day of fishing was better that anything he could think of.

Phil-be had talked himself out. He had told Grandpa Jack all he needed to say. He thanked Jack for being his Gramps and for teaching him stuff; for not being “a flash in the pan”. Phil-bee was honored to have been given time to be with Jack Barrett. He found peace there. Phil-bee forgave Al for taking Jack so soon.

“I love you, Grandpa!” Phil-bee tearfully whispered.

Philbin felt the tug on his line. He knew his grandfather loved him too.

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EXTRAORDINARY

Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.” ~Lao-Tze
 

Philbin was a strange kid.

Called “Phil-bee” for not much shorter than his real name, he was always in the way. At least that’s how it felt to the most curious boy.

Phil-bee was the only child of a widowed mother; they were each others one-and-only, at least until Phil-bee took an interest in girls.

He was nine, a sort of awkward pre-teenie weenie, who had an interest in science and movies and a secret place under the attic stairs. Phil-bee liked to explore, and what’s more, he was darn good at it.

One afternoon after school, Phil-bee took a detour through the park (disobeying his mother’s orders to come straight to their apartment). But he had “discovered” everything he could under the beds and in the closets and was bored as all get-out at home. Phil-bee needed adventure.

And so the park became his new proving ground. Phil-bee saw a group of older boys playing ball on the south diamond. He watched them for a brief moment, but continued on his way. The trails wound between trees and shrubs and circled the picnic area. He saw a couple of old people on a paddle boat in the lake. They had to be old, the woman looked like his mother. She was probably 29-30 years old as Phil-bee could figure.

There were park benches in the distance. And there appeared to be an elderly gentleman on the last bench. As Phil-bee strolled the trail, looking at the birds in the tree and the geese on the lake, the old man had gotten up and shuffled down the path.

The boy tried to imitate the bird in the nearest tree, having found a new sounding whistle. Pursing his lip, Phil-bee blew, but couldn’t repeat the noise. He headed for that last bench to rest a few moments before heading for home.

But before he could sit down, Philbin felt something bounce off of his foot and skitter across the leaf covered ground. A brown wallet peered out from under the dead foliage, which Phil-bee quickly retrieved from the dirt.

Upon opening the wallet, the boy saw a photo identification card of an older man. Phil-bee couldn’t be sure, but it looked like the man that had been sitting just before him. He looked down the trail and called after the man.

“Hey, Mister! Guy from the bench…” Phil-bee squeaked.

But the man was nowhere to be seen. He was gone.
Phil-bee saw that there were dollar bills and credit cards in the appropriate slots, and photographs of a boy Phil-bee’s age. Maybe it was a grandson, the boy fantasized. Phil-bee knew a few things that his mother had taught him well. And sometimes a boy figures thing out on his own.

Phil-bee knew that if someone had found his grandfather’s wallet he would want it returned. His grandfather had gotten very forgetful lately and Phil-bee knew how important his information would be to grandpa. Besides, mom always told him that it wasn’t proper to take something that wasn’t his. They both agreed that those were the right things to believe.

Phil-bee tucked the wallet into his back pack and headed straight home. His mother wasn’t due home for a couple hours yet, but he let Mrs. Burgess in 1B know he was home. She kept an eye on Phil-bee.

The young man went over to the kitchen table with the brown billfold and opened it before him. The face on the card had an important look to it. Older people always looked important to Phil-bee. He had no need to count the dollars in the wallet, and the numbers on those plastic cards meant absolutely nothing either.

Only one number concerned Phil-bee. It was on line 3 on the identification card. “If found call: 555-7823” He headed for the telephone on the counter, dialing carefully to get the numbers right. Phil-bee heard a voice.

“Hello, who is this?” the shaky voice asked.

“Hello sir,” Phil-bee started. “I was at the park and found something that might be yours. Is this Mister Will…William Johns…Johnson?” Phil-bee struggled with the name.

“Yes. Yes it is.” the man sounded relieved. “You found my wallet?” the man asked.

“Yes. Mr Johnson. I have it here and I didn’t take anything or nothing. I just knew you’d want it back.” Phil-bee sounded older than his years at that moment.

“Is there someone there with you?” Mr. Johnson asked.

“Mom will be home soon. My dad died when I was three” Phil-bee offered too much information.

“When your mother comes home, please have her call me back so I can come for my wallet. Can you do that… uh, what was your name?”

“Philbin. But people call me Phil-bee” he said proudly.

“Thank you, Phil-bee” the man said softly.

Mom and Phil-bee and Mrs. Burgess were waiting in 1B when they heard the buzzer. Mrs. Burgess answered the door to the distinguished older man.

“I’m William Johnson” he said as Phil-bee approached the two people. “And you must be, Phil-bee?” he asked.

Phil-bee smiled as he held up the brown wallet, watching the man’s face light up. Taking it in his wrinkled hands, Phil-bee noticed how they shook just like his grandpa’s did. William reached into the wallet and took out the dollar bills handing them to Phil-bee.

“Here, this is for you. A reward for finding my wallet.” Johnson smiled.

“Mr. Johnson, I don’t need no award for finding your wallet. It was just the right thing to do!”

Phil-bee looked over toward his mother and saw the smile spreading across her face. Mr. Johnson smiled too.

“You have an extraordinary young man here” Johnson told Phil-bee’s mom.

Mom just smiled more brightly.

“Yes, I certainly do!”

SUNDAYS IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE (AND GEORGETTE)

He sees; She sees

He Sees:

“Hell-o Mamma!” George thinks to himself. A young mother walking with her young daughter.

“Hmmm, I wonder how old?” he muses. “Thirty-two, thirty-three?” never a passing thought to the young girl whose hand she clutches.

Pretty. Dark eyes and an innocent smile, and a body… Again, the daughter becomes invisible. He ogles and ruminates and waits for the right MILF to come along. A perfect stranger takes the seat next to him.

“She IS perfect!” George inwardly notes.

Dark eyes and a curious smile. Pretty. Just like…

“Ahhh! That’s it. Over by the swings.” His attention diverts.

Always the man who notices the skirts and flirts (in his mind) but can never find someone to call his own. And as it always happens, he’ll be going home alone.

She Sees:

“The only empty seat under a tree” Georgette notices. “I hope he doesn’t mind.” she finds herself considerate of the dark haired stranger.

“May I?” she queries.

“Umhph, oh…yeah, sure” George replies distracted.

She scans the park. A serene place, here near the lake. Geese swimming. Bobbing and weaving in the ripples, making more. The elderly gentlemen playing checkers near the walk bridge, breaking the silence with an occasional argument…er, disagreement over a move. And there…

“How sweet” she thinks, “what a beautiful pair! She has her mother’s eyes and smile!”

She thinks about her life, and envisions herself as the mother. Loving, protective, playful… everything her daughter needs at that moment. A perfect place to do it.

“Hmmm, a stay at home mom, perhaps, or a well spent vacation day – the way I would spend it!”

And a wisp of sadness befalls Georgette. She was that mother briefly, in the anticipation of her full term blessing. A blessing turned to a curse. Complications never imagined. Never crossing her mind.

She sees George preoccupied by the couple engaged in their bonding ritual. The old man pounds a fist onto the board sending checker skittering off of the table. She sees her life in flux; indeed of a redux but not on the list of recipients. But, Georgette remains hopeful.
Living vicariously through that special union, accepting their tender smiles as signs that her time would come.

Georgette watches the mother and daughter continue on their way. No tears this time. She is more accepting. It was a good day.

He sees if there are anymore “flowers to pluck”.

She sees that her dreams are alive; a someday mother-to-be holding hope.