Fishing was the last piece of solace left to him.
The fish were incidental to the experience but two of them sat in the cooler already. Cleaned and gutted, with the guts tossed back into the water.
He would sit there, in the middle of the lake, line cast into the waters and think on what might have been. A tug on the line was met with a grunt and a small smile as he began to slowly reel it in. He was a good man, who in life’s poker game had folded early, and saw how it all had gone on without him. Sometimes, when he thought no one was looking at the office or in front of the television, an expression of pained disbelief would cross his face but it would pass and he would force it down like a bout of indigestion during an eating contest.
He brought the fish into the boat and moved the hook from it’s mouth, three in total and began to gut and clean it up.
He drove home, it was late enough that he had missed the rush hour and as he pulled into his street, his contemplative mood already starting to fray. Pulling into his driveway, he saw the lights on in the kitchen, and looking through with a grin and wave, was a face that he knew but still made him go pale with shock.
Jennifer’s affairs had been prosaic, perfunctory things. His best friend. The salesman at the car dealership with the pompadour. He had forgiven her each time, because his own sins, undiscovered had made him culpable in a way that rendered him unable to give judgement. That sin, smiled out at him from his kitchen window. She had been an image on a screen to him, online messages so pixellated that she looked like a cut scene from a video game. Furtive sessions of mutual masturbation when the gods of time and space were kind enough to allow them that. Thousands of miles and too much guilt to overcome for the both of them. Good people in bad circumstances.
He got out of the car, on legs that were rubbery with shock. Was Jennifer sat there with a cup of tea, plotting his castration but why would Rebecca at his kitchen window? He got the cooler from the back of the wagon and walked inside.
She came through, wiping her hands on a dishtowel. Rebecca, not Jennifer. He went to speak but as he looked around, he saw that there were none of their photos on the wall. Well, not of Jennifer, with her perpetual expression of being slightly above this situation.
She kissed him on the cheek and he whimpered with the cooler in his arms.
‘Are you okay? You look a bit put out. Did the agent call?’
He looked to his ‘den’ where four completed but unpublished books and about fifty rejection letters were filed like a paper graveyard, taunting him with their promise of a life unfulfilled.
‘No, the -, did you say agent?’
She giggled, a sound that he had never heard in person and it made his head swim with excited disbelief. He needed to google the symptoms of what was happening to him. Some beautiful riot of neurology.
‘Hey Huggy, what’s wrong, you look odd?’
He rushed to her, kissed her doubts into silence and blinked away the tears that came to his eyes. She was here, and when she touched his face, he felt the chill of the wedding band against his cheek. He kissed her over and over, already guiding her to the kitchen table, an aching and insistent erection taking charge of his personality. She put her hand to his chest. He used to thrill when she called him that.
Jennifer had no nickname for him. Well not one that he would have appreciated had he known.
‘Huggy. The boys will be home soon. I mean, we’ve got time but -‘
He stopped and stared at her.
‘You’re starting to worry me a bit here. What’s wrong? Did something happen at the lake?’
He turned and looked at the photographs on the walls. His eyes looking out from a pair of young faces, looking at Rebecca and seeing how her mouth and nose looked on infant faces, then toddlers and presumably, young men.
He dragged her into a tight hug. The cooler was sat in the doorway and he wondered what it all meant.
‘Yes, baby, something did. Something wonderful.’
She giggled and he wanted to pick her up and twirl her around with the fierce bear joy of it all.
‘I caught three fish.’