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  • We only visited Bucky and Solly once that I remember.

    My father told stories about boarding school and summers at their place on Beach Haven. He remembered sailing and fishing and crabbing but he didn’t talk about home. Home was a place he had left long ago and even with his stories I could never imagine him shirtless in white shorts, sun-browned with white rimes of Jersey sand and salt running up to the beach house for supper and Bucky waiting for him. We went to Beach Haven once when I was three but all I remember is a long driveway through dunes. I come close in my memory but never arrive. By the time I was old enough to remember more than scattered pieces of the puzzle, the house on Beach Haven was gone. When we visited them it was to their apartment high above the city. There were cut glass ashtrays on the low tables and chairs you weren’t supposed to sit in and candies in glass bowls that Bucky said to take but my mother eyes said don’t. We visited the way you visit a museum; stayed well behind the imaginary red velvet ropes, walked with careful steps and made sure our hands stayed close by our sides.

    One afternoon during the visit, Sol drove us to a restaurant. We sat in back of their gleaming Cadillac with my mother, my father sat in front with Bucky and Sol. Sol drove slowly, one elbow resting on the open window, fingers tapping to the music.

    “You’re lucky you don’t need a scarf dear,” Bucky said over the seat to my mother. “Your hair is beautifully short. What do you call that cut?”

    My mother shifted and looked out the window. In the reflection, her smile stayed but her hand reached up to brush back her bangs.

    “Careful with your feet,” my father said. I looked down to make sure my feet were well away from the seat and checked that Andy’s feet were still.

    In the restaurant I watched the adults and held the menu up.

    “What do you want?” asked Solly.

    My father started to order for us.

    “Let them decide,” said Sol. “Well, what would you like?”

    Andy looked to me. I looked between them trying to figure out what they wanted.

    “Well,” said Sol again.

    “Solly,” said my mother. “He can’t read. He’s only in first grade.”

    “First grade,” said Solly. “A boy should read.”

    “You like hamburgers, don’t you,” said my mother.

    “We want hamburgers,” said Andy.

    I nodded. Kat banged her spoon on the table.

    After lunch, Sol ordered drinks and lit a cigar. We squirmed.

    My mother took the three of us outside. We heard the stream before we saw it through the trees. My mother let us take off our shoes and we waded after the silver minnows and I found rocks flecked with gold.

    “Did you wash your hands, Benjy?” my father asked as we got ready to get in the car.

    I held them out.

    “Go back inside and wash them,” my father said.

    “What have you got there?” asked Sol.

    “Gold,” I said, holding out the rocks.

    “Mica,” said my father.

    Back at the apartment my father and mother perched on the edges of the sofa and talked. I wandered through rooms keeping my hands behind me until I found the fishing pictures. A whole wall of black and white photos in plain white and wooden frames. Groups of rough faced men. Eyes and smiles almost too bright in their sun-dark faces. These weren’t smile for the camera grins. These men with crossed arms and bare chests beside monster sailfish and tarpon and grouper with gaping mouths big enough to swallow me whole, were a sterner, grimmer, prouder tribe. Without thinking my hands reached out to them as though drawn to the fish standing taller than the men around them, numbers painted on their side much higher than I could count. I imagined the rush of waves along empty palm fringed coasts, the echo of boots on planks, the rumble of engines and the shouts of men as rough as the planks on the old Florida wharves.

    Solly came and stood beside me, his hand light on my shoulder. He steered me from picture to picture. Never said a word, just reached out to touch a fish or a face as we moved down the wall.

    “That’s me,” said Solly. “1937.” And there he was in white pants and almost slim, the same fringe of hair like a crown only darker then.

    He walked away and I wondered if I should have said something.

    He came back a moment later.

    In my memory he doesn’t stand a lot taller than the little boy with a painfully short fuzz of red hair and big eyes, shirt is tucked in tight and pants cuffed up to grow into, in front of him.

    The man with a fringe of white around his sun browned bald head. His arms are thick and his belly juts past his chest. His watch is gold and the hairs on his arm are black and gold from the sun. He holds his hands out, almost shyly; in one is a glittering fish scale bigger than the boy’s two hands together, in the other a small geologist’s hammer.

    Today, my shelves have rocks picked up from streams and deserts around the world. Each piece a hard reminder of a place and time. Some from yesteryear, some from centuries and millenniums past. I wish I had the tarpon’s scale but even a fish scale as big as a boy’s two hands can be lost, falling as wonders do, into time’s folds.

    Today, all I have is the memory of his gifting to me.
    .
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