Abby watched her husband Mike drive off on his way fishing again. The sun’s rays warmed her through the living room window. Abby turned to go out the back door and caught a glimpse of the wicker picnic basket in the hall closet. She slammed the closet door shut. “Why doesn’t Mike want us to do anything together?” Abby muttered to herself as she went outside.
The backyard must have grown two inches since yesterday. Even the dandelions seemed to be laughing, their little yellow heads bobbing. Abby looked over the fence at Grant and Melody’s yard. The dark green shrubs were trimmed to perfection. A rainbow of flowers bordered a walkway, a fence, and around trees. In disgust she stomped back into the house. Mike had promised to plant some flowers. Now I’ll be lucky if he mows the grass before the bar-b-cue, Abby thought.
On Saturday, Abby looked about, satisfied her friends were enjoying themselves with burgers, chips, and salads. They all sat on lawn chairs or the grass visiting when Abby noticed Mike and Scott get up.
“Mike, where are you going?” she asked.
“Scott and I are going fishing.”
Abby tried to keep her cool and talk quietly. “But Mike, this is our party. You can’t leave,” she said.
“We want to do some bass fishing,” Mike said.
Abby heard the brittleness in his voice. “This is pretty sudden, why do you have to leave now? And what about Grant?”
“Why not? You’re handling things fine here. As for Grant he doesn’t like to fish that much anyway and told us to ahead. Maybe you could get some lawn tips from him.”
Abby watched open-mouthed as Mike and Scott left.
A couple days later, Abby stopped in to visit her grandma. “It was awful. I don’t know what I did. One minute we were all talking and laughing and the next Mike and Scott go fishing.”
“What were you talking about?” Grandma asked as she handed Abby a fresh baked ginger snap.
Abby munched on the cookie. “Oh, let’s see, just this and that kind of stuff. I think we were talking about our yards. Grant and Melody who live next door were showing us their flowers. Scott and his wife Sheri were telling us about their Chinese tree they had planted. I was just glad Mike had mowed our lawn.”
“Did you say that in front of Mike?”
“Well, yes he was there.”
“Abby, is it possible that Mike is feeling like he’s not up to your standards? He may think you could do some of the yard work too.”
“I suppose I could. It’s just that Mike is much better at it, or at least he is when he does it.”
Grandma sat still for a few minutes. Abby knew her grandma was going to tell her something wise and she should listen to it even if she didn’t want to.
“A husband likes to be respected, admired. Your grandpa was the same as Mike in a lot of ways. I’ve been known to say my mind without thinking at times. It was pointed out to me about admiration and such. I started admiring your grandpa and he’d puff up like a peacock and do all sorts of things for me and for our place.”
Abby looked thoughtful. “I did make an unnecessary smart remark, but I don’t think Mike cares about being admired. I talk like that all…” Abby fell silent.
Grandma smiled, but didn’t say anything. Abby sat staring out the kitchen window, her chin resting on her hands. She sighed heavily. “He does get kind of quiet at the time and then he leaves. What can I do?”
“Try admiring him. I’m sure he’ll come around. You might even try going fishing with him.”
“He won’t want to go fishing with me,” Abby said quietly.
Abby remembered fishing trips with her parents. They had tried to interest her in their own way. They’d made her bait her own hook and even though she’d never caught a fish, her dad taught her to clean fish. It had made her sick. She loved Mike, but why did it have to be fishing?
Suddenly Abby was hit with an idea. Maybe she wouldn’t have to fish after all. She couldn’t wait to get started. She kissed her grandma good-bye. She’d have to make a stop on the way home and get started as soon as Mike left for work in the morning.
When Mike got home from the saw mill the following afternoon, Abby met him at the door with a kiss and hug.
“Are you trying to get on my good side or something?” he grinned and returned the kiss.
“I have a surprise for you,” Abby said as she motioned for him to follow her out the back door.
Abby watched with pleasure as an astonished look crossed Mike’s face. She watched as he took in the petunias and marigolds in their weedless beds and how neatly trimmed the grass was all around the edges.
“I don’t believe this, Abby. I said I’d plant the flowers. How could you have Grant come over and do all this?”
Abby stared dumbfounded for a second as she saw Mike’s stunned look turn into red anger. “But he didn’t, I did…”
“Don’t tell me that!” Mike shouted as he slammed through the house.
Abby ran after him. “Mike, I did it myself as a surprise so you can go fishing with Scott tomorrow.”
But Mike had stalked out the door and was gone.
A few hours later Mike walked in the house. Abby sat in her rocking chair in the living room. “I saved your supper in the oven. I’ll set it out for you,” she said.
“Abby, did you really do the yard work?”
“Yes, I wanted to surprise you. I’ve been nasty to you. No wonder you don’t want to be with me. I’m always saying mean things. I’m sorry. I wanted to do something for you so you wouldn’t have to and then you could do what you like to do, like fishing.”
“I’m sorry too. I just didn’t believe you could do it all by yourself.”
Abby smiled and went into his open arms. “I haven’t done much of that kind of work, but I watched my dad a lot.”
“I used to have to do it as part of my chores.”
Just then the phone rang. After Mike hung up he came up behind Abby at the kitchen sink and put his arms around her waist. “That was Scott. Seems he wanted to confirm the time for our fishing trip tomorrow.”
“Then you’re going?”
“Sure, after all the trouble you’ve gone to how can I not go? Thanks, Abby.”
One day the following week Mike surprised Abby with a new fishing rod. “I know you didn’t like fishing much with your parents, but how about giving it another try with me?”
Abby looked at the pole apprehensively. “Well, I guess I could try.” Oh boy, thought Abby. I’m going to have to like fishing even if I don’t. And she didn’t.
The sun sent shimmering beams across the lake the day Mike and Abby chose for their fishing trip. Abby was ready for the weather in shorts and tank top and a bottle of suntan lotion.
Out in the ten foot boat, Abby tried to get comfortable on the hard seat. Mike put a black water dog on her hook and showed her how to cast the line out. The first thing Abby did was get her line tangled in the weeds on the shore.
“Cast your line close to the bank, but not on it,” he instructed her.
Abby watched Mike. She decided to stand like him. She lifted her pole and cast the line out. She leaned too far forward and the next thing she knew was tea-colored lake water enveloping her. She came up sputtering with all kinds of harsh words to spit at her husband. But when she saw his look of concern and heard his gentle, “Abby, are you okay?” She melted.
“Yeah, I’m okay,” she said as he pulled her out. “I’m just wet.” She burst out laughing. “I must look real good.”
“Do you want to go home?”
“Oh, I guess not. I’ll dry. Besides I haven’t got this fishing down yet.”
Mike kissed her full on the lips. “You’re great, Abby.”
A breeze blew across the lake like a soft whisper. The sun dried Abby out in no time and she was comfortably sitting on a piece of foam Mike found under the seat. A short time later Mike got the first bite.
“Watch, Abby. See, when you feel that little tug, set the hook. Give the tip a quick snap like I did. Then start reeling.”
It wasn’t long before Mike had caught another bass and Abby hadn’t had a bite. She looked at Mike and shrugged.
“Be patient, it takes time to learn how to catch bass.
Suddenly Abby felt a little pull. “Mike!”
“That’s it. Set the hook. Now start bringing him in.”
Abby held her breath and reeled. “He’s going to get snagged in the lily pads.”
“Keep your pole up. Get the slack out of your line.”
The fish flipped out of the water and back again. It zigzagged through the water and Abby kept slowly reeling. At last she landed the bass in the boat.
“Nice fish, Abby. What do you think?”
Abby couldn’t hide the excitement in her voice. “I don’t know. How big is it? Can we keep it?”
Mike weighed it. “Four pounds.”
“This is fun. How many can we catch?” she asked.
“You’re having a good time aren’t you?” Mike said with a satisfied smile.
“Yes, I am.” Abby smiled shyly.
Mike put his arms around her. “I’m having a great time with you.”
They were quiet for a bit. Then Mike said, “Do you want to fish for a while longer, or maybe we should go home. I have a couple of ideas on how we could fix up the front yard.”
“Let’s fish a while longer. The yard will still be there,” Abby said as she cast her water dog towards the bank.
First appeared in Dusk & Dawn 1997
© 1997 Judy Blackburn
Images courtesy of Pixabay.com