Saturday, April 21, 2012

"Finally with the Kids" by Chelsea Phillips


It is a beautiful evening in April to go fishing and to watch the sunset. The mix of rain and flowers filled the air with a typical Spring smell. The weather was just right. I’ve been working a lot lately and my ex-wife has the kids every other week so I don’t have a great deal of time to spend with them or even to be outside.

I try to do something fun and exciting with them because I hardly get to see them. Usually, I like to do something outside with them because I love to be outdoors and I want to share that interest with them as well. When they are with their mother, Cynthia, they spend time doing crafts or she’s helping them with their schoolwork. She is an elementary school teacher and teaches at the school our children both attend so she sees them constantly. However, I live a distance away for my job so I rarely get to see our kids. We have the oldest, Avery, who is seven, and the youngest, Rhett, who is five and just started kindergarten.

I don’t even understand why we got a divorce. It happened a year or so ago when she decided to end our marriage. Her reasons are because of trust and our distance. She doesn’t trust me because I’m not always there for Rhett and Avery because of my job and its location. I’m an accountant an hour an a half away where the next biggest city is. I am constantly working, but now that tax season is over, I have some time to spend with my children.

I decided to take them to the town’s local park so that we could fish in the pond. The sun was already making its way down to the west and hitting the tops of the trees so that it cast shadows on the pond. The pond was only about the size of a football field. I finally stopped at the place I wanted to fish. This was where most fish were caught and it was also shady. I told the kids, “Now be quiet, or you’ll scare the fish away and you won’t be able to catch one.” They nodded their little heads in agreement.

They stood close to me, carefully watching how I put the bait on. Beforehand, I had stopped by the local gas station in town to get some crickets. As I carefully hooked the cricket on, they were in awe by how cool it was to be using crickets as bait. The cricket was squirming every which way and the legs constantly moved till I pierced the hook into the middle, and finally, the cricket twitched from the nerves.

Avery said, “Daddy, please hook mine next.” She looked so cute holding her Barbie fishing pole and I could not refuse. She looked just like her mother with her blonde hair and big green eyes. She had her mom’s eyelashes and they were so long, they fluttered in the wind.

Of course, Rhett started throwing a fit and I told him, “Rhett, I’ll do yours here in a minute. Ladies should come first, then the gentleman.” He dropped his head down and he waited impatiently with his Buzz LightYear fishing pole.

After putting the bait on, we were ready to go. The bridge went through the middle of the pond where we can fish right in the middle. It was only a foot above the pond so when the children dangled their feet, they could barely skim the top of the water. Of course, Rhett ran out towards the middle first, then Avery followed. I hollered, “The fish are going to swim away if they hear you two!” Both of them just giggled uncontrollably. I caught up with them and grabbed their poles and cast both their reels because they were too young to do that. There short stubby arms aren’t able to make a cast big enough to go very far into the water. “Be careful, you two; we don’t want to get to close to the water where you might fall in.”

The city’s pond is where Susan and I had our first date a few years ago. She was wearing a sundress with her long hair gleaming in the sun and I had my Levi’s and boots on. That was before we had a care in the world, in our college days. We stayed down at the pond that whole night star-gazing in the back of my old Chevy. I wish she could be here now to see how cute our two wonderful children are.

After waiting for a couple minutes, Avery turned to me and said, “Daddy, are you and Mommy going to get back together?” I wondered that myself for the past couple of months. We’ve gotten in a tremendous amount of arguments over me not spending enough time with the children. We finally ended it because we were both tired of the fighting.

“I hope so, Avery bug. We just need to work out some problems.” Avery knew we have been having problems because she would hear us in the middle of the night, bickering, and come tell us we needed to quit yelling because it scared her. I hate putting my children through this argument so hopefully it will work out in the future. In the meantime, I’ll try to keep focusing more on my kids.

“I caught one!” Avery announced excitedly. “I caught one before you, Rhett. In your face!” She smirked at Rhett as she lifted the pole and dangled the fish in his face. He slapped it and said, “I’ll catch one that could eat yours.” Avery gave a frightful glare and invited him to “Bring it”.

Avery asked, “Daddy! Can we keep it so we can eat it tonight, PLEASE?”

 I said to her, “Avery, don’t you want the fishy to get bigger so we’ll have more to eat once we catch him again?”

She nodded her head and said, “Okayyyy”. I pulled the hook out of the fish’s mouth and put the fish into the palms of her hands where she threw it back into the pond.

Avery seemed to think that she could cast her fishing line out with my help so I acted like I wasn’t paying attention. Rhett was on her right side and I was on her left. As she swung back to cast the line, she hit Rhett with the fishing pole and pushed him into the water! I looked over to see a splash of water come up and Avery just standing there like she’d seen a UFO. “Daddy, Save him! Save him!” My mind was thinking of a million different things and my heart was pounding faster than it ever had before. I knew what I had to do so I jumped into the pond to save Rhett. I couldn’t see underwater because the water was so murky, but I knew it wasn’t that deep. I knew this because my friends and I used to come swimming here when we were younger and when we jumped in, you could feel the ground on your feet. I could easily reach the bottom and felt all around for his little body. I felt his leg kicking my back so I quickly turned around and grabbed him and raced for air. I came up as fast as I could to see Avery sitting on the bridge, wondering if she’d ever see her dad and brother again. Rhett could breathe, but it was short breaths. He was perfectly fine and that’s all that mattered.

I heard a huge gasp so I quickly turned around to see a blonde woman in khaki shorts and a red tank top that I used to call my wife....my life. I didn’t know what to do so she quickly yanked him from my grasp and held him like a baby. “WHAT HAPPENED?” she screamed as her eyes became fierce with disgust.

Avery said, “I accidently hit him with my fishing pole when I was casting out and he went flyin’ into the water!” As she was saying this, her eyes got very big and she was reenacting exactly what happened using her arms.

“Why didn’t you ask Daddy to cast for you?” Cynthia said

Avery replied, “Because I wanted to do it by myself and I wouldn’t let him. I wanted to show Daddy I could do it on my own and didn’t need his help.”

I just looked down at Avery and to Cynthia to see her reactions. Cynthia just started bursting out in laughter, imagining the sight of what had happened. “I’m so glad my little Rhett is okay and I’m glad you two had a good time with Daddy.”

She turned towards me and said, “I’m thrilled you finally spent time with your children and can do things that I can’t do with them.” She glared at with a small smile and I didn’t know how I could reply. I shrugged my shoulders, waiting for her to say something else. Right where we were standing, at that very exact place, was where we had had our first kiss and I remember that night like it just happened. I knew she was reminiscing on that same memory.

The bullfrogs were making their deep calls to one another and the crickets were chirping. It was almost dark. We could only see our faces and the moonlight was our only source of light.

I said, “Let’s go get something to eat. I’m sure y’all are hungry.” The kids jumped up and down. “Cynthia, would you like to come along?” I asked while she was holding our two kids tightly.

“No, I have a ton of papers to grade tonight”. She looked at me uncertainly. It was a Friday.

“Are you sure? You have all weekend to grade them.”

She hesitated for a moment and then replied, “Okay, I can go for some food right now”.

On the way back up to the vehicles, she said that she got a teaching job at the public elementary school in the city I work at so our jobs will be close together and we could be able to see each other more often.

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