The Shine Journal

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One Last Freedom




Rob Crandall




The old man untied the frayed rope from the old willow, and pulled the boat--as best as he could--toward the shore.  It was hard work when your muscles were withered away to nothing, and your joints creaked like old floorboards.  But he managed.


Being very careful, he stepped into the row boat, and waited for it to stop swaying.  He held his arms out at his side for balance, and soon, it stilled enough so that he could sit down.


The old floatation pillow wheezed as he lowered himself onto it.  It was flattened to a pancake from all of the old man’s trips out to the raft in the last fifteen years.  Of course, he used to just swim out to the raft, but those days were gone. 


He set the two unopened beers he had been holding down onto the floor of the boat by his feet, and grabbed the oars.  This was the really hard part.  He wasn’t looking forward to it, but it had to be done.  So he began the arduous task.


It took a good ten minutes for him to row out to the raft, and when he wasn’t thinking about the searing  pain in his biceps and forearms, he used that time to think about what Donnie and Tara were going to do to him.


Tomorrow, they were going to shut him away in that damn old folk’s home.  Put him away like an old hat that has seen better days, and forget about him.  Oh, they said that they would visit, but he knew that was a load of bull.  They might visit him, sure, but their eyes would be on their wristwatches, and they’re noses would be crinkled up in objection to the ubiquitous smell of urine.  They would stay for a half hour, perhaps, and then they would be on with their busy lives, glad to be gone from the depressing surroundings that they expected him to call home.


But there was nothing he could do about it.  It was true.  He couldn’t live alone anymore.  There were too many falls.  Too much sickness.  God, they would throw a tizzy if they saw him in this boat.  He could see Tara’s face right now--the picture of shock and disapproval.  And Donnie, shaking his head in tired condemnation.  Had Donnie forgotten about the long ago summer that the old man had taught him how to swim in Higgin’s Lake?  Had he forgotten how the old man had held him by the stomach as he kicked his feet? 


The stern of the boat nudged the raft, and the old man painstakingly made his way to the front of the vessel, and tossed the rope over one of the corner posts, tying it in a knot that he still remembered from The Boy Scouts.  With the boat secured, he stepped out onto the raft--beers in hand-- with shaky legs, and it bobbed just slightly in the calm water.  After a moment it settled.


The old man set the beers down and took his shirt and his shoes off.  Now he was in his swim trunks and nothing else.  His body sagged with old age, but it was deeply tanned, from his extensive time spent outside. 


The sun beat down on him, and it felt good.  He shielded his eyes, and gazed across the lake.  Then, after a moment, he sat down, and let his feet dangle over the edge, and into the water.  The water was cool, but not cold.  A comfortable temperature.


He reached over and set one cold can of Budweiser next to him.  The other he cracked open.  He tipped it up and took a long swig, swallowing deeply four or five times.  When he pulled it away, it was more than half gone.  It tasted sweet.  Perfect on a day like this one.


They would probably have a pool at “Verdant Pines,” but it wouldn’t be the same as out here.  Nothing would be the same.  Never again.


The old man killed the beer, dented it with his fingers, and tossed it into the boat.  It made a loud ting, and then all was quiet again, save for the birds chirping in the distance.


He swished his feet, and liked the feeling of the water in between his toes.  He could already feel the beginnings of a buzz, and it was nice, so he opened the other beer, and gulped it down too.


When he finished, he set the second can down in the water, and watched it drift away like a diminutive aluminum canoe.  The sun glistened brilliantly against the metal, and the man finally had to look away until it got far enough away so that it was merely a glint on the horizon.


His head was feeling pleasantly fuzzy now, like his brain was coated in cotton candy.  He watched the row boat sway and watched tiny waves of water lap against it.


He supposed that he would make friends at “Verdant Pines.”  But they wouldn’t compare to his boyhood friends, or to Thelma, rest her soul.  They would be old and worn out.  Just like him.  Through with all of that nonsense.


The old man stood up, and took a moment to catch his bearings.  He bent his toes over the edge of the raft, put his palms together, as if in prayer.  And he dove.              


ROB CRANDALL shares...


ROB CRANDALL lives in Michigan with his wonderful girlfriend, Sara, and their two pups.  He enjoys reading, art, guitar, and loves to write.


"One Last Freedom is basically about my grandpa.  At the time of this writing, my grandfather was wrestling with physical issues, and the loss of independence that came with them.  During his younger years, he did a lot of fishing on his boat, and was very active in the outdoors.  So, it was really sad to see him slowly lose these privileges.  The story is sort of a fantasy that my mind constructed to help deal with this.  My grandpa has since died.  God bless him."  

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Editor: Pamela Tyree Griffin

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