Father’s Day, a short short story

Photo of two people fishing from a canoe

Welcome to Brighton Bits, short short stories about the people, places and things in and around the fictional village of Brighton, New Hampshire. The first Father’s Day without the man who’d been the most important person in her life, takes a woman to the treasured place they shared.

Happy Father’s Day

Father’s Day has always been special to me. My older sister had no desire to spend time doing dirty things like hiking or fishing. My younger brother was all-in with sports, so his weekends and vacations were already full. And Mom split herself between all of us. These early summer days alone with my dad were a treasure. He was mine, all mine.

Every Father’s Day, we’d head out to Brighton Lake and paddle the red canoe to our favorite cove. In silence, he’d bait my hook. We’d dangle our lines over the canoe’s edge, watching the morning rise over the horizon. I especially liked those days when a thin fog shrouded the lake so that when the sun burned through it, the golden light danced across the water making it seem magical.

A cooler filled with sandwiches and cookies and a thermos of hot chocolate sat between us. Cam would have hated that silence and tried to fill it with sound. Remy would fidget and most likely end up tipping over the canoe. But to me, that silence was comfort, a blanket, a quilt.

Eventually, as if a thaw happened, Dad would start to talk, telling me stories about his youth, how he met my mother, all the yahoos he met on patrol. That thaw, those stories made me feel special, as if he could trust me with the secrets he didn’t ordinarily share.

I knew how the lost haunted him, those people who’d gone hiking into the woods and never come home.

“I’ll look with you,” I’d said one day when I was twelve.

“You’re a sweet kid.”

We’d spent weekends traipsing through the woods, off trail, looking for signs of the lost. I remember the elation and the soul-deep sorrow when we did find an old man who’d wandered away from the memory-care home. Elation that he wasn’t lost anymore. Sorrow that we’d found him too late.

Dad had gone home and taken the man’s file from the Lost drawer and switched him to the Found. And it felt like a ritual as sacred as any church service.

This year, I took the canoe out. I placed the cooler of sandwiches and cookies and the thermos of hot chocolate at my feet. With a wince, I baited my own hook and dangled it over the side.

As the sun rose over the horizon and slowly burned through the clouds, I talked, telling him the stories of my life.

But it wasn’t the same. Not without him.

Now it was my turn to feel cold, lost, adrift.

I cursed the angry man who’d taken his life. I raged against the unfairness of losing such a good man, while an idiot got to live. I didn’t stop until my throat was raw and my voice all but gone.

He’d been my rock when Owen died, and now there was no one who understood that sometimes you could share more with silence than with words. That being there was what mattered most.

I shed a river of silent tears and watched them ripple out onto the lake’s surface, farther and farther away.

“I miss you, Dad,” I croaked. “So much.”

The clouds had disappeared. The sun sparkled over the water, warm like a hug, and the shimmer reminded me of his laughter.

Want more?

If you want to read more about Brighton, pick up a copy of Christmas by Candlelight, Christmas in Brighton and Summer’s Sweet Spot, or the cozy mystery, Of Books and Bones. Or sign up for my newsletter.

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