Saturday morning. I was so glad to have our boy at home and not off at school all day. He came up to me while I was playing chess and asked me to read him a story.
We wandered over to a bench in the Commons, and I pulled out one of the books I’d written.
“This is a story about my dad,” I told him.
“Did you live with your dad when you were a kid?” he asked.
“Yes, Berry and I both did. But this story is about when he was a boy, before he met my mom. Before he was my dad. It’s called ‘Crab-pot Willie.”
Charlie closed his eyes, and I began the story.
“Early every Saturday morning, Willie rowed his dinghy out to the fishing boats in the bay.
“‘Got any fish-heads for me?’ he called, and the fishermen hoisted down buckets of fish heads.”
“Fish heads?” Charlie asked.
“Willie said thanks and rowed out to a small blue and yellow buoy bobbing in the middle of the cove. Attached to the buoy was a line, and Willie pulled and pulled. Sometimes it was so much work, for seaweed would get tangled up in the line and to the wire box that was attached at the other end, and Willie would need to use all his strength to pull the wire box out of the water and hoist it into his rowboat. This wire box was the crab pot, and into it, Willie would pour some of the fish-heads, then down it goes! Back to the bottom of the bay. And off Willie rowed to the next blue and yellow buoy bouncing in the cove.”
“What do you do with crab pots?” Charlie asked.
“You catch crabs!” I said.
“For eating?” Charlie asked.
“Sure, or for selling. That’s what my dad did.”
I read the rest of the story, which told of a frightening day when a storm brewed up while my dad was out in the bay checking the crab pots. The story had a happy ending, though, for my dad was brave, like he always was, and he had such a good harvest that the family had money to buy brand new shoes for every family member that winter.
They even had enough left over to buy a pair of new shoes for Charlotte, their neighbor.
“When Willie and his family, and Charlotte, got home from Sears, each one wearing their new shoes on their feet, Charlotte said, ‘Willie, we’ll call these shoes Willie-shoes, and every squeak of the sole will be to thank you.'”
“‘Naw,’ said Willie. ‘Don’t thank me. Thank the crabs. And the restaurant chefs that bought them. And the fishermen who gave me the fish heads. And the fish whose heads they gave me. And don’t forget the machines that stitched the shoes, and the workers that packed them in boxes! There’s a whole world goes into our wearing these new shoes on our feet!'”
“I wish I could do something helpful for our family,” said Charlie, “like my grandpa Willie did for his.”
I thought for a moment about what Charlie could do.
“You know,” I said, “there is something that would be a big help! The other day, I had to put our groceries on the tab, because we didn’t have enough money to pay for them, but Berry sold some paintings to the gallery, so now we do have money! You could take some money to the store and pay our bill with Mr. Fennis.”
“Could I really?” Charlie asked.
“Sure,” I replied. “If you feel brave enough. It’s a big job, for you’d need to go all the way through the tunnel where the lower courtyard shops are. But it would be a big help, for me, for Berry, and for Mr. Fennis, too, who wants his money, surely!”
“I can do it,” Charlie said.
I gave him the bills to pay our tab and watched him run down the hill towards the lower courtyard.
Once he passed through that tunnel, he’d be out of earshot. I thought for a moment about all the adventures my dad had, even as a little boy of Charlie’s age. Times were different then, and Frank and Sylvia, my paternal grandparents, trusted the wide world to make a place for a small boy. They trusted, too, in my dad’s resilience, strength, and ingenuity.
I walked home, calculating how long it would take Charlie to make it to the store, how long he’d likely spend window shopping, talking to Mr. Fennis, and meeting new people.
He should be home in half-an-hour, I figured.
Thirty minutes passed, and each minute after, I worried. If he wasn’t home within the hour, Berry and I would head out and fetch him. But we had to give him that time. He needed to be able to have an adventure and to complete that task on his own.
After forty-two minutes, I saw Paolo and Charlie walking towards home. They were deep in conversation. Charlie looked so serious. Somethings, I guess, a boy saves up to talk about with his dad.