Although she was not normally a morning person, Claire relished this time of day: dawn, in the “donzerly light” (as she used to call it as a little girl) and watching the sun rise, crest the tops of the baby green leaves on the tallest oaks and poplars by the river and see its climb to the high noon. It’s when she did her best thinking, her only thinking, really. She felt melancholy, but couldn’t understand why. She felt distracted but didn’t know by what. She felt unsettled but everything was in place in her world.
This is a fourth in a series; please go here for the first “chapter”: https://mollyfielddotcom.wordpress.com/2013/04/19/friday-fiction-friends-2-0-familiarity-breeds-fonder-over-greener-ponds/
She unlocked the boathouse door, walked inside, flipped on the light, unlocked the padlock and hoisted up the roller door to let out the barely lit into the darker. She saw her shell, “Claire-ity” sighed and said aloud, “Girl, it has been toooo long, it’s so good to see you.” The water had warmed just enough for single rowers could take out their shells and go it alone. She wouldn’t be alone though, she had her memories with her and the geese and cormorants and fish and frogs, her long-lost friends. Crickets were still chirping outside the boathouse. She turned to grab a dusting cloth from the musty racks and gently wiped down the shell’s periwinkle fiberglas hull.
“Oars first. With the water bottle, check,” she said quietly to herself. “Being off the water for several months, even though you mostly know what you’re doing, does not mean your first time out will be flawless. Perfect is the enemy of good. Perfect is impossible, clarity, yes. Perfect, no.” She said as she lifted the oars out of the rack, signed them out of the log and headed down to the docks, leaving her water bottle behind.
“How many times do I have to forget to learn?!” she whispered to herself. “Just one more time, Master Bruce,” she answered to herself as Michael Caine. She kept walking down the slope to the dock, she had decided that the water bottle would have to wait.
The dock was barely visible, save for the abrupt reflection of the water when it met its sides. Claire had been to the boathouse so many times though that she could walk to that ramp with her eyes closed.
“End of the dock, smoother push-off,” she said gently to herself. “It’s all coming back now…good,” she had learned to be kinder to herself and allow tiny moments of praise when she had figured things out. The concept of self-congratulation was foreign to her. She grew up in a world where adults abdicated their responsibilities to their children to desperately flee their reality. “If no one dies or winds up under the table with a bottle, we have achieved success. Today,” was how she encapsulated her life as a child, teenager and young adult.
The guilt from being unable to fix her mother and perform her father’s bidding to try to fix her mother was just too much at times. It hung around her neck on a 10-pound choker, like a 100-pound iron weight on a 50-pound chain and Claire weighed only 140-pounds so, it held her down from time to time even now, in her late 20s.
She placed her oars at the end of the dock and as she turned, the sun was lighting the sky although she still saw Venus behind her near the moon to the west. “Venus, you beautiful thing! Go to bed!” she shouted at the sky, laughing to herself and startling a heron perched on the water level sign about 12 feet off the shoreline. She jumped when the heron barked at her, “the feeling’s mutual, bird!” she said to the tail of the great gray bird who silently coasted above the water landing on a log floating on the surface.
“Looks like it’ll be a row in the cove today,” she said to herself, taking notice of the debris floating downriver from the recent rains. “Yup. Not going on that with no one else on the water.”
When she approached the shell, she squatted down to make sure the bolts and riggers were still in shape and to inspect for any signs of rust or bugs. A small red spider dropped down from inside the port hole cover on the bow of the boat as if to greet her. “Sorry chap, no free rides today,” she said to the spider and grabbed its web as she gently placed it on another rack. She checked her boat’s position to the other riggers and her riggers to the other hulls and mentally prepared to remove the shell.
On a mental count to three, she squatted back down, straightened her back, leaned in, shuffled her feet out and lifted the shell. Her bow ball tapped into the floor, sending a vibration through the shell and Claire overcorrected, slamming the stern into a rack. Crestfallen, she apologized to the shell and took a few deep breaths saying to herself, “Easy now. Do NOT let this get to you. First time out is always rusty.” She got her bearings straight and smoothly executed a “lower to the waist, water-side down” so she could exit the boat house with the riggers pointing up and down and narrowing her chances at hitting anything else in the boathouse. With the boat in her hands, she looked down and saw her water bottle, again, all by itself. “You will just have to wait,” she said.
The sky was much brighter now and rays of the sun’s telltale white glow were shining above the treetops. She was relieved that she was no longer in the dark. Carrying sculls is one thing, carrying a 25-foot, 31-pound racing shell in the dark was quite another. As she approached the dock, she saw a pair of slings ready and waiting for a shell like a cradle waiting for a baby. She put the boat in the slings and turned back to get her water bottle.
Once on the water, things started to click into place. She felt her muscles ease into their old motions and she thought actively about her form. “Press through the heels, straight back, left hand over right, straight back, square the blade, drop the blade, pull the handles, feather the blade, roll back up, press through the heels …” and on and on. Again and again, taking her to her zone, her place where she was most alive and free from the weight of the world. A fish jumped beside her shell leaving the water in ripples and her scull blades did the same. Down, whoosh, slide, up, back, down, whoosh, slide. She was warming up and felt a bead of sweat under her baseball cap. Her skin was cooled by the gentle breeze her rowing provided. She was at peace.
She decided to practice some balance drills.
Lay back, pull in the handles, hover the blades, hover … hover … skimming and shisshing is okay… shisshing is ok, hover … hover… shish…balaaaaance… hands together… silence! annnnd roll back up to the catch, repeat the drive and hover…. balance … balaaaaaaance… skim… roll back up to the catch…
“This. This is MY happy place,” she said with a mild swelling in her heart, a little tear in her eye and an effortless smile on her face. It had been a long winter for Claire and now it was spring and she was ready to begin anew.
© 2013 Molly Field :: All Rights Reserved.
Here is today’s prompt provided by the lovely World’s Worst Moms: “Let your characters work through the old saying, “Perfect is the enemy of good.”
That’s it. piece of cake. Cupcake.;)”
Check out the posts from our other Fiction writers today: