Dad with the Famous Red Canoe

The Boat

Dad with the Famous Red Canoe

When I was a kid we found a canoe. Now this wasn’t a symbol of a canoe. No tropes or anything like that. Just a red canoe, half-submerged in a little cove we were fishing in. I hate fishing, so I remember wondering if we were stealing it, imagining how angry they would be when they found us tugging it to our dock.

We had another boat. A ski boat. Actually we had lots of ski boats. One after another crapped out. Either the prop wasn’t strong enough to pull by brothers up, or the gas tank leaked… there was always something wrong with the ski boat. Most of the time, my dad would spend all weekend trying to fix it. In any event, most of the time, that crappy little boat was the only one that worked. It had two holes, I think. But they were small holes.

So we’d paddle out and mom would yell at us when we hid on the other side of the lake. Sometimes my brothers would tip us over.

That was then. And sometime, between puberty and cheerleading, that tiny red boat vanished. We hardly noticed. One day someone asked about it. Hmm. I guess someone took it. It’s not like we tied it down or anything. It could have just floated away. I liked to think that whoever we took it from had stolen it back.

In high school, the lake started shrinking because of the drought. By college, the dock was on dry land. I didn’t go to the lake much. Just didn’t have the time, I guess. During that interlude a tree fell on the house, the shed burned down, and our cove had turned into a swamp.

When I moved to New York, I started to think about that red boat again. There’s something lonely about that boat… and I’m not talking internal rhyme or poetic device. There’s something else… something more real than the writing…about that boat… In any event, (and you will have to excuse the extended metaphor, but it’s not really a metaphor exactly…) I liked the idea of being that red canoe that someone forgot to tie down. It felt beautiful. Like it was okay that I didn’t know the difference between tautological and ontological. After all, I’m just a boat. A broken little boat.

My parents talked about selling the lakehouse and moving closer to Atlanta. Buying some snazzy place off Lake Oconee. The fishing wasn’t as good, but at least that lake had water in it.

Then they found that red boat. It wasn’t stolen. Hadn’t floated away. It was right under the dock, filled with all sorts of brown fish. And right after they found it, the lake began to rise again. I’m not making this shit up, people. It rose really fast. Now the lake is the same water level I remember as a child. And both boat’s are there. My father fished from the canoe a couple weeks ago–because our ski boat’s broken again. Something with the bilge, he said. But it’ll be fixed before summer. When I get there.

Mom said I should take a month this summer to sit next to the lake. I’d be good for me, she said. Maybe. But I don’t know. I can’t stop thinking it was right underneath us the whole time

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