Julia went to the fishing pole at the front of her skiff, The Lucky Cyclops, and slowly reeled in the line. She unhooked her bobber and tore off the worm.
“I hate to give you a free meal,” Julia joked, “but…” she tossed the worm into the water.
The Lucky Cyclops was her father’s attempt to make her feel better about the loss of her left eye ten years ago. At the time, his joke devastated her, but she had since grown used to the idea and learned that her sense of humor could save her life, but mostly it just helped her get through the day. She treasured the boat now. It was where she would come to talk with her dad since he passed away.
Julia noticed with regret that she talked to her dad more after he died than she ever did while he was alive. He didn’t seem so stern, and as she got older she would catch glimpses of his sense of humor in her memories that she hadn’t noticed the first time around. Maybe he just didn’t know how to talk to kids. Or maybe he just plain refused to talk down to anyone. Either way, she wished she had been more confident when he was around. He was the only person who found her special and interesting, and she wished she had thanked him for that.
A bell clanged from shore just as she finished locking off the line of her bobbing pole and she headed back to her casting rod. Everyone at the pier joked with her about coming out to this spot so often. She never caught a single fish in this small bay, and they knew it. But she welcomed the jokes. If people didn’t know the truth about this place then she could keep it to herself.
Just a few more long casts before heading back to the dock. She brought up the subject already, but she still had not landed an answer. Perhaps her specter father was angry with her. She knew he thought she was settling for Thomas. Her dad had told her several times that he’d rather see her alone forever than settle for someone who doesn’t deserve her. He didn’t want her to sell herself short because of her one eye, which maybe she was. But guys weren’t rushing to be with an uneducated, one-eyed girl with no future. And Thomas had been with her for a while now. Sure, he was a gin runner and hung with some unsavory types, but he was loyal and sometimes he was the only one who could make her feel better.
“I’m not getting any younger, pa. Please let me have this.”
“Even if it’s to end poor for me I want to at least have the ups; the dancin’, the cookin’, the stories. And what of my chance to raise a wee one of my own?”
The wind picked up and carried her lure much further than normal, dropping it in far deeper waters.
“You got to raise a wee one. Why can’t I know that? Let me try.”
Her pole bent.
Finally, some sort of answer.
She pulled and reeled, pulled and reeled. The drag on this one was pulling The Luck Cyclops backward in the water. She began to feel the first drops of rain break through her thin hair and tickle her head.
Whatever his response, it was heavy. Usually her snags were small. A corset, lacy and lovely, that she wore to her baby sister’s wedding. She found two shoes from different pairs but tied together anyhow. She began wearing them ten days later after her boot got stuck, suctioned in the mud and the sole ripped off. Even her powdered blue eye patch was a snag.
The Lucky Cyclops was finally directly above her catch-of-the-day with the line dropping straight down into the water below. Rain fell more freely now and it ran down her face and soaked through the back of her shirt.
Slowly, out of the shadows, a white figure began to ascend. Its big form lolled patiently towards her. It certainly couldn’t fit inside of her cooler. She’d be unable to hide it.
It looked like a body. Momentarily she panicked. Momentarily the white figure was Thomas. Then it was her father’s corpse. Why would he do that? His answers were usually obscure and undecipherable, but that would be cruel, and he never was that. Julia’s shoulders burned and her hands hurt on the reel, but she wanted his answer and she refused to give up.
Finally, after holding her breath from straining, the object surfaced and spread out on the top of the ripples. Julia caught her breath, and a tear hidden within rain fell from her eye, the eye that still allowed her to see and to feel. She put her pole down and cautiously crouched, reaching over the side. She pulled the sleeve, and as lightning lit up the world she raised her wedding dress out of the water.