This child had the reddest hair you’ve ever seen. He’s scooping water out of the river, preparing for a long day of fishing on his granddaddy’s boat.
His grandaddy is a smallish man, with few teeth, who wears a Kubota tractor cap. And since I have a soft spot for men who rack up hours beneath the roll-bar, I pray this man catches God’s biggest fish.
And I told him as much.
“Thank ya, sir,” he answered. “But really, I hope my grandson has good fishing luck. He’s a nut, when it comes to this stuff.”
The boy puttered back and forth, busy. He never looked me in the eye, but kept himself on a tight checklist, inspecting live-bait, topping gasoline levels, opening coolers, throwing bags of ice against the concrete—to break up the clumps.
As a child, I had no idea why anyone hurled ice bags against the concrete. Males do this all over the world. It wasn’t until my late twenties that I realized the reason behind such a thing.
Because it makes us feel like men.
I hollered to the boy, “Good luck fishing!”
But it was as though he didn’t hear me. He just bent over and inspected the outboard.
“He don’t talk,” his grandaddy whispered. “He’s got… Oh I forget what they call it now. Some condition where he don’t look you in the eyes, won’t talk.”
The man’s wife nodded.
“My daughter treats him like he ain’t right, and I can’t stand it. Ain’t nothing wrong with that child. He’s SMARTER than you’n me. Who cares if he don’t talk? Hell, I wish more people were like that.”
He turned to his grandson and said, “Don’t forget the other bags of ice in the truck.”
Without acknowledging his granddaddy, the boy tended to the bags.
“He’s a good kid,” his grandaddy said. “No matter what nobody says, we love him to death, just the way he is. I wish other folks could see his spirit, like we do.”
The kid reached into the truck, and removed a bag of ice. He lifted it above his head, then slammed it down on the asphalt.
This startled his grandmother, who said, “Alan! Don’t do it so hard.”
“What do they call it, honey?” His grandaddy asked again. “What Alan got? What’s the name of it again?”
“Oh, now I remember,” he said. “They call it optimism or something like that.”
Something like that.
“Can you believe that?” He said. “I’ll tell you what I say, I call that boy beautiful.”
It must run in the family.
Good luck on the water, boys.