The aluminum hull scraped across the gravel as Bob gave the vessel a shove. The squeaky, scratchy, nails down a chalkboard lasted for a moment and was replaced by the stillness of gliding across the water. He gave the trolling motor a few quick tugs and brought it to life. A small wake and a trail of smoke followed the boat. They set out.
Bob cracked a beer can and wiped its cool side across his forehead. His son trailed his fingers in the water from the bow. The glassy surface reflected the fire of the surrounding deciduous trees. They rounded a small bend and came to a place where the tree canopy offered up some shade. The small motor was silenced. The two of them fixed their poles, and Bob’s son fired off the first cast.
“Dad,” he said, “how do you know if a girl likes you?”
Bob emptied the beer into his mouth and threw the can. Water was already pooling by his feet. “You don’t need to know, son. Just assume they all do. They’ll tell you if they don’t.”
His son nodded and stared at a distant bobber. “Say she don’t like you. How do you change her mind?”
Bob smiled and opened another can. “Just give her butt a good grab. Not too hard, of course, but enough so she knows it wasn’t a mistake. Then, after she gives you a good slap, just smile and say it was worth it.”
A hawk hung in the sky and sent out a piercing call. A stern breeze pushed through the trees. Washboard ripples appeared and vanished across the still lake. Bob opened another beer.
“Can I have one?” his son asked. “I’ll be fifteen in two weeks.”
Bob nodded. “Fetch it out, there’s plenty.” His son opened the ice chest with a quack. Bob reeled in and tinkered with his bait a bit.
The sun settled out across the horizon and added its own flame to the autumn reflections. Warm thunderheads swelled in the distance. Canadian geese flew V’s overhead. Bob used his empty cans to drain their slowly sinking vessel.
“Can I have another?” his son asked.
Bob shook his head. “Not ’til you can handle that stick. You’re driving us home. You stall the engine enough as it is. Nope,” he said, watching sun sink below the hills, “not ’til you learn stick.” He gave his son a smile and his son smiled back.