Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Prompt: Spring Break

Billy leaned back on the sun-warmed lawn chair and idly waved his fishing pole side to side, hoping to catch a couple of snapper from under the dock for Grandmom to cook up for supper. He reached down without opening his eyes and found his Coke bottle. Tipping it up for the last few cold drops, he smacked his lips and sighed in appreciation.

“This is the life, huh, Billy Boy?” said Grandpop in the chair next to his. Billy looked over and grinned, and they clinked their Coke bottles together before settling back into their lazy afternoon fishing. This was Billy’s fourth Spring Break visiting his grandparents in the Florida Keys, and he couldn’t imagine doing anything better.

He was in 6th grade the first year that he could fly solo. Mom drove him through the snowy mountains in Tennessee down to the Atlanta airport, the closest one with a direct flight to Miami. The airport and flight staff had all treated him like a prince, and he had jumped in Grandpop’s arms in excitement when he saw him waiting at the gate.

It felt pretty much the same four years later, although he settled for a fist bump and quick shoulder hug when he saw Grandpop this year. Once they collected his bags, and negotiated through the airport traffic, Grandpop drove their red pickup truck like a maniac on US 1, heading south all the way to the Keys. Billy kept a keen eye out for gators, pelicans, egrets and osprey, his favorite animals in Florida. They crossed the sound and he started lining the keys up in his mind’s eye, naming each one before they reached the highway marker signs. Key Largo, Islamadora, the Matecumbes, and there was Teatable.

Grandpop yelled, “Hold on to your hat, Billy Boy!” as he made a wild left swing that had Billy leaning into his door for support. “Can’t do that with your Mam in the truck. She gives me The Look,” Grandpop said, grinning conspiratorially over at Billy. “Pop the gate, will you? My trick knee will thank you for it.”

Billy loved the old laminated sign on the gate crossbar:

Come in and close the gate.
Honk and do not exit car if dogs are loose.

He had been so disappointed the first time he came to learn that there were no dogs.

They drove past the tennis courts and up to the house. Grandmom came out to give him hugs. “I’m neck deep in editing a law thesis, dear, but I already have a key lime pie cooling for dessert. Grandpop caught a good size tarpon off the bridge yesterday, so we’ll fry that up with corn fritters for supper. Get yourself settled and have a swim, why don’t you? I’ll finish up in a couple of hours.” With another quick hug, she was gone back to her office. Billy and Grandpop carried in his bags and he grabbed a Coke from the fridge to take back to his room.

A swim sounded just about perfect, but first, he wanted to explore the island for new treasures. He dug out his binoculars and headed out. The house and its three outbuildings nestled on the leeward side of the island. Exposed as they were, this had proven sufficient protection from many a storm, even hurricanes. The pool stretched between the house and the ocean side. Billy was impressed to see a new hot tub on the side. It would be fun to soak and stargaze after supper.

He looked across the island and felt the tension flow out of his body. Seven acres of heaven, and it was all his for the week. He wandered along the beach side until he reached the mangroves, then he cut inland. There was an osprey “dining tree” where he often found fish heads and tails left by discerning birds of prey. And farther in was a great horned owl nest tree, where Billy collected owl pellets to dissect for tiny bone treasures later that night. Over the years he had found six mouse skulls, still displayed on the shelf over the bed in his room.

Dogs in house:
Houdini, Brindle

Jesse Cook, Free Fall

February word count:

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