I need to start over, Ryan thought. Maybe a new job, a new city, new clothes. I’ll get a dog. No, can’t handle a dog. OK, a cat. No, can’t handle a cat. Rat? Yeah, that’s it; a kindred spirit.
Rat it is.
Ryan felt like a rat. He had sent Zöe a couple of emails but nothing from the heart, just business stuff and a few quips. Zöe had responded in kind, but added to the end “xxoo.”
Ryan had Googled “xxoo” only to receive a bunch of disturbing references to urban culture sites. Surely, Zöe was not implicating that … still …
Young Ryan sat on the dock holding his cane pole. A bobber was in the water and below that a hook holding a poor, unfortunate worm. Ryan worried about the worm. “Probably drowned,” he thought.
There was a movement behind him. Ryan turned to see Aunt Kay standing there in her long summer dress, big floppy hat and a cigarette in a holder. She always had the cigarette. She loved them.
“Any luck,” Aunt Kay asked?
“Nope,” Ryan replied, “I’m not much of a fisherman.”
Aunt Kay sat down on a bench, took a pull on her cigarette, blew a smoke ring and looked at Ryan as if making an important decision.
“What’s your problem, son,” she asked?
“Well,” young Ryan said, “I don’t think it’s so much the bait but how I’m using it. I’ve seen Uncle Bill pull fish out of this pond with the same worm, but I can’t do it. There must be a special way I could learn to do it right. I just need to figure it out.”
Aunt Kay took a long pull on her cigarette, eyed Ryan closely and said, “You’re a careful one, aren’t you? You take care. You care about things. Would you take care of me?”
Ryan felt somewhat alarmed at the question, expecting a catastrophe to descend upon him, but he answered, “Of course, Aunt Kay, I’d take care of you!” He added, “And your things and your house and this dock and the fish and everything!”
Ryan began to cry. “Everything, Aunt Kay, I’d never let you down.”
Aunt Kay arose from the bench, put her hand on Ryan’s shoulder and said, “I know you will. I know you will.”
Ten years later Aunt Kay died and left her entire fortune to Ryan, who in a moment of childish openness pledged his fidelity to her and her dock and fish.
Ryan missed Aunt Kay every day, a worthy woman. He had never fished since.