Illustrated by Michael Ilkiw
The old man was alone in the cabin with a picture window over the water. He held a coffee cup and was humming. There was a radio playing songs and advertisements. After some moments, he moved to the sink and rinsed some forks and knives and dried them with a towel. His wife died over the winter, and he did activities he hadn’t before: dish washing, laundry, and gardening. He was sadder after his wife’s death. They had been coming to this cabin for twenty-three years. He asked his son to come this summer, but he couldn’t take the time away from home. He fished and walked in the woods, and split firewood, and spent hours in front of the picture window looking at the water and birds. It thrilled him to see a gull swoop into the water and come up with a catch. At night he looked into the fire. In the cot he and his wife shared, memories came to him out of the dark. He knew it wasn’t the same as it was, but he wanted to enjoy what was left. The priest told him to live in the present. His friend Saul told him to get a girlfriend. He had moments mostly in the woods when he felt serenity but they didn’t last. His daughter in law was pregnant and he wanted to look forward to that. He saw the shotgun on the wall.
“The shells are under the sink…or are they in the wood shed?”
He couldn’t remember, but he did remember his wife looking over the dinner table candle and saying to him,
“You know animals want to live too,” she’d say.
“That includes fish, I suppose?”
“We are all God’s Creatures,” she would say.
“Yeah, but I’m the one with the gun.”
That annoyed her, and at the time he thought he was clever, but now, it wasn’t so cute. He listened to the weather report from the radio. He saw the sky clouding up, and he wanted to fish, but the report said rain. The radio played a song from when he was a college student in Boston. He paused and listened to the words forty-five years later.
Boy did we believe it was possible. Peace, Justice for all, tolerance, he thought. He was still and listened to the words:
Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
He remembered the debates he waged, and the marches in Boston Common and Massachusetts Avenue. He cried and smiled together.
I so wanted to believe it was true, he thought. We’re all God’s Creatures Lillian used to say to me. That’s what I thought was possible too. What happened?
He looked out the window and saw the gull dive into the water and come up with a fish.