Cross-posted to Daily Kos and Omir the Storyteller

Good morning! And welcome to Sunday Griot! Here it is Father’s Day, and the first day of summer is this week, so I thought I’d combine Father’s Day with a traditional summer activity, for a story called . . . The Perfect Father’s Day Present.

Once upon a time, but not really all that long ago, there was a little boy with a big problem. OK, he wasn’t all that little, and his problem wasn’t all that big, but to him it seemed like a big problem.

“Mom,” he said to his mother, “I don’t know what to get Dad for Father’s Day.”

“Bud, he’ll like anything you get him,” she said as she put the dishes away.

“I know,” he replied, “but I want it to be something special.”

She turned and looked at him. “You’re a smart boy,” she said, “and you’re a good son. Give it some thought. You’ll come up with something really good.”

He thought about it for a couple of days, but everything Bud could think of was either too expensive, or his father already had.

Then on the Friday just before Father’s Day, while his mind was otherwise occupied with trying to take the square root of 2411809, he had an idea. It wasn’t a Father’s Day present, but it might give him an idea about what to get.

“Dad?” he asked his father that night while his father helped set the table. “Can we go fishing tomorrow?”

His father looked at him oddly, then started looking around the room. “Where’s my son?” he asked, looking in the cupboard under the sink. “What have you done with him?”

Dad,” he protested in that voice.

“But my real son hates fishing,” his father said. “Any time we go he can’t wait to get back to his books and his Nintendo.”

“Dad, I mean it,” he said. “Can we go fishing tomorrow?”

His father looked at him. “Sure, if you want to,” he said. “What’s the catch?”

“No catch,” he said. “I just want to go.”

So that evening after supper they got out the fishing gear, found Bud a spare pole he could use, made sure the tackle was all in order, and got everything ready to go. Bud’s mother made them some sandwiches for their lunch.

“Why the sudden interest in fishing?” she asked him later when they were alone.

“I know Dad likes to fish,” Bud said. “I figure when we go out I can take a look at his gear and find something he needs, and then we can get him that for Father’s Day.”

His mother agreed that that was a good plan

Early the next morning they got in the car and set out for a lake about an hour away. Along the way Bud’s dad asked him about school and the books he’d been reading lately. Bud spent most of the trip summarizing a Robert Heinlein juvenile he’d checked out of the library, pausing only when they stopped along the way for some bait and soda pop.

They got to the stream, unpacked their gear and toted it down to the edge of the stream. It was a slow-moving stream, and clear toward the shore. Bud could see the rocks and sand at the bottom of the stream.

Bud’s dad sat in one of the camp chairs they had brought. He opened a white plastic box and produced a battered cloth hat. It was frayed around the edges, with a band that once might have been described as “festive” but now just came across as sad. Several lures were poked into the band. Bud’s dad started removing the lures from the hat and replacing them with others.

“That is one ugly hat,” Bud said, thinking a new hat might be a good Father’s Day present.

“Yeah, isn’t it?” his father laughed. “Your mother hates it. She makes me keep it in this box and stow it in the garage.”

“Do you think you’d like a new one?” Bud asked, hoping he wasn’t being terribly obvious.

His father took the hat off and rested it on his fist. “This is my lucky fishing hat,” he eventually said. “When I was about your age we went to visit my Grandpa and Grandma in Idaho. They were having a trout derby that weekend, and I caught a beaut. I won this hat as a prize. Your grandpa hated it as much as your mother does, and it was brand new back then. Great-grandpa loved it, though. Said somehow it suited me.” He put the hat back on. “Every time I wear this hat I think of great-grandpa. He loved to fish, you know. They moved to Idaho when he retired from the railroad so he could fish anytime he wanted.”

Somehow a hat seemed out of the question as a Father’s Day present.

Once he was done fiddling with the lures on his lucky fishing hat he took the hat off, studied it for a moment, chose one of the lures, picked it out of the band and started fastening it to his fishing line. Bud perked up again. Maybe a lure would be a good present! They were small enough that you could probably buy several of them for what you’d pay for a hat.

“Where do you buy those lures?” Bud asked.

“Buy them?” his father snorted. “You don’t buy a good lure. You have to make it. I learned how to make this one from a guy I served with in the Navy. His name was Sal,” he continued, fastening the lure to his line with a clove hitch, but Bud was only half listening. Another opportunity to buy a Father’s Day present seemed to be closed to him.

Then Bud noticed his father’s fishing pole. Bud had his mother’s pole, which looked almost new, but his father’s had clearly seen better days. It was a wooden pole, with peeling varnish and a worn handle.

Bud’s father showed him how to fasten a lure to his line, and then they baited their hooks. “How come you don’t get a new pole like Mom’s?” Bud asked.

His father stopped for a second, then said, “Let me show you something.” He raised his pole, cocked it over his shoulder, and flipped it, releasing the button on the spool. The lure sailed about sixty yards and landed in the water with a soft plop.

“I’ve never found another pole that could cast that well,” he said. “I suppose someday this will get ratty and worn enough that I’ll let your mother give it to Goodwill, and then I’ll have to buy a new pole and learn how to cast with that one. Maybe I’m just superstitious, but I think the pole makes a big difference in how you cast.”

They sat in their camp chairs, with the water gurgling by and birds singing and the drone of insects filling the air. Bud hadn’t tried very hard to cast his line, and the float was only about five yards into the water.

“You’re going to have a hard time catching anything if you don’t do some fishing,” his father said.

Bud didn’t say anything.

“This was your idea, you know,” his father said.

“I know,” Bud said at last, and then the words came tumbling out. “I know you like fishing. I wanted to find something I could get you for Father’s Day, and I thought maybe something you could use when you’re fishing would be good. But everything I think I can buy for you, you already have and you don’t want a new one.” He slouched in his chair.

They were silent for a few minutes. “I know you don’t like to fish,” his father said. “You’re the kind of kid who’d rather be reading or playing chess on the Internet or something than go outside and get your hands dirty and gut fish and build a campfire and stuff like that. I know that. And I’ve never pressured you to pretend to like something I knew you didn’t like.

“But let me tell you something else. I like to fish. No, I love to fish. I love fishing as much as you love that computer of yours. As far as I’m concerned there’s nothing better than going outside and sitting by the stream and just listening to the birds and the water and the wind rustling in the leaves and seeing the chipmunks and the skunks and the sunset. So when you offered to go fishing with me, and I got a chance to spend some time with my son and talk about great-grandpa and Sal and fishing . . . well, that was the best Father’s Day present I could have imagined.”

“Really?” Bud asked.


And then Bud’s mother’s fishing pole almost jerked out of Bud’s hands as something started jumping and flailing at the other end.

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