The lure floated through the air thirty feet before landing with a plop in the water beside the cattails. It created little ripples that disturbed the calm surface of the water. The still air carried the sound a great distance.
Ray grinned upon seeing it land exactly where he had wanted to place it. He turned the crank to retrieve the lure while making jerking motions with the rod. He knew if there was a fish there that it wouldn't be able to resist it. It was approaching the magic hour when the fish would start biting.
This was his favorite time of the day made even more perfect by being his favorite time of the year. Late September brought mild temperatures, nights and days that were balanced in length, and animals actively seeking to gain the weight necessary to survive winter. This particular day was coming to a close with a sky filled with the colors of an approaching sunset.
"There you are!"
Ray nearly dropped his fishing rod on hearing the voice from behind him. He quit cranking the reel before turning slowly to look at the source of the voice. He didn't have to ask who it was. His wife had a sultry voice that sounded sexy even when she was angry.
Ray asked, "What are you doing here?"
Looking at his wife, he could see that recent events hadn't had much affect on her appearance. She was a very attractive woman still. She retained an hour glass figure complete with a substantial bust and perfect legs. The time she spent at the gym kept her trim without spoiling her softness. Her blond hair was immaculately styled in a perfect coiffure for the shape of her face. It must have required hours at the beauty salon. She was approaching fifty, but looked thirty.
"I'm here to get you to return home," his wife answered curtly.
"How did you find me?" Ray asked. The question that he really meant to ask was why she had bothered to find him.
"I asked the woman at the bait shop if she knew where your cabin was located. She told me that you were down here at the dock fishing," she answered.
"Why didn't you just call?" Ray asked puzzled by her presence this far from home. It has hard to believe she would drive all of the way out here to find him.
"Your cell phone doesn't work out here and you weren't at the number our son gave me," she answered while rolling her eyes.
She had called the number, but had reached Ray's Bait Shop rather than his cabin. She didn't want to leave a message with strangers. There was no telling if they would actually deliver it to him. Besides, she didn't want complete strangers gossiping about her wayward husband.
"You could have left a message at the bait shop," Ray said.
He wondered if she had correlated the name of the bait shop with his name. He rather doubted it.
"Well, I'm here. Now ... are you coming home?"
His reply took her by surprise. She was expecting him to pack up and leave with her. For a short period of time she was speechless. Finally, she asked, "What do you mean ... no?"
"I'm not coming home," Ray answered.
Assuming the conversation was over; he turned to face the lake and started cranking the reel on his fishing pole. He wished she would leave so he could resume fishing in peace. He was hoping this perfect day would end with catching a fish or three.
"You've had your little temper tantrum and it is time for you to come home and act like an adult," she said. She had no idea why he had left home to hide out at the cabin for the past few months.
"No thanks," Ray replied.
Ray stopped cranking on the reel and turned back to face his wife. He decided it was time to clear the air so he could get on with his life. Someone was going to be disappointed and he was pretty sure it wasn't going to be him.
Rather than answer her question, he asked, "When did you notice that I wasn't home?"
"It was pretty obvious when you didn't do the errands for the Fourth of July barbecue," she answered with a hint of anger in her voice.
The Fourth of July barbecue had been a social disaster. The night before the big shindig was to be held, she had discovered that he hadn't ordered the tables from the rental place, purchased the food and drinks, or taken care of the lawn. A hundred guests were coming over and nothing had been done. She had spent the night calling people to let them know she had canceled the barbecue. She cited a family emergency as the reason for the last minute change in plans.
After waiting a bit for him to respond, she said, "I kept leaving you notes on the kitchen table. After you failed to do any of them, I had to cancel the barbecue. I was never so embarrassed in my life."
"I wasn't there to get your notes. I left way back in May," Ray said.
It was kind of sad to think that he had been out of the house for two months and she hadn't noticed. Of course, she hadn't noticed him when he had been around the house. She had her activities and ... well ... she had her activities. There wasn't much else that could be said about the matter.
"In May?" she asked thinking she had seen him sometime in June. She was pretty sure she had seen him sometime in June.
"Yes. I walked out the house on May 3 and never returned," Ray said.
"You were around in June. I'm sure of it," his wife said.
"If there was a man around the house, it wasn't me," Ray said with a snort.
He knew there wasn't another man in her life. There had been several times when he had suspected her of having an affair and had hired an agency to investigate her. The private detective had given him a thick report containing an itinerary of back to back meetings in very public and visible places. She didn't have any time in her schedule for an affair. He wasn't sure whether he was pleased or disappointed to learn that she wasn't having an affair.
"You went to the Chinese Auction to raise money for the museum," she said.
"No I didn't. I was out here fishing," Ray replied.
She remembered people kept inquiring about him that night at the Chinese Auction. His absence explained why people had looked at her funny when she had told them that he was around somewhere. She hadn't thought anything of it at the time.
"It doesn't matter. You can come home now," his wife said willing to forgive him for his temporary lapses in meeting his social obligations.
"Why should I go there?" Ray asked confused.
"Because you belong there," his wife answered.
"I figure I belong out here," Ray said.
He turned back to face the lake and started turning the crank on his reel to retrieve his lure. All of this talk wasn't helping him to catch any fish. He quickly reeled in the lure. There was a log out there that would grab his lure if he didn't get it off the floor of the lake. He had lost a couple of lures hoping to catch the large fish that he was sure lived around it.
"You belong at home. What about the kids?" she asked.
The kids had always been a good lever to use on him. She knew he would do anything to help out the kids. Unlike a lot of men, he had always been a good father to the children. He attended all of their school plays, sporting events, and other activities. His involvement with their lives allowed her to keep her busy social schedule.
"What kids?" Ray asked without turning to look at her.
"Our kids," she answered wondering if he had suffered a stroke or something.
"They are away at college," Ray replied dismissing her suggestion he was needed around the house to be with the kids.
"They come home to visit," she said.
"If they want to see me, then they can come out here. Hell, I'll show them one of my favorite fishing spots," Ray said.
He didn't see any need to tell to her about how his son had actually visited him at the lake when the spring semester had ended. They had a great week of fishing. They fished all day and drank beer in the evening while cooking steaks on the barbecue. They had talked about women, working for a living, and supporting a family. He didn't remember having such a good time with his son.
"What about your job?"
Ray answered, "I quit my job back in April. I would have told you about quitting it, but you weren't around. I kept waiting for you to spend one evening at home so we could talk. After waiting three weeks, I decided to go fishing."
"That's not my fault. You know how much I have to do. I have community responsibilities. I'm a very busy woman. In fact, I had to cancel a meeting with the Fire Chief to come out here. We were to discuss how many trees to buy for the Christmas tree sale," she replied.
She wanted him to understand how she had disrupted her busy schedule to take the time necessary to come out here. She felt he should show a little appreciation for her sacrifice. She couldn't quite read the expression on his face, but it wasn't one of appreciation.
"You're still doing fund raising for the fire department?" Ray asked.
Ray said, "Don't you know I quit four years ago because of my back?"
"You did?" she asked surprised to hear he wasn't a volunteer fireman anymore.
"Yes. I couldn't pass the physical," Ray said.
That had been a very sad day for Ray. He had been a volunteer fireman since turning twenty one. Having to quit because of his health had forced him to realize he was getting old. It was one of those moments when he had to accept that he wasn't able to do the things he had done when he was a young man.
"Because of my back," Ray answered.
"What's wrong with your back?"
Ray turned to face his wife before he answered, "I had a herniated disk. I even had it operated on."
"When did you have an operation?" she asked.
This was the first that she had heard of it. She was pretty sure she would have taken notice of something so serious. Wives were supposed to notice things like that.
"Four years ago when I quit the fire department," Ray answered.
"You're lying to me. I would have known if you had an operation," she said.
Ray replied, "Now that you mention it, I did notice you never came to the hospital."
The kids had stopped by the hospital to visit him. When he had inquired about their mother, they had just rolled their eyes and shrugged their shoulders. They didn't need to say more. The woman didn't attend events unless she was involved in organizing them.
"You should have told me," she said with a frown on her face.
She wondered why he had kept something so important secret from her. She would have canceled a few meetings or taken a day off of her volunteer work to take care of him. Wives were supposed to do things to comfort their husbands and it bothered her that he had hidden his health problem from her.
"When? How? You weren't ever home. I think you were busy with putting together one of the kid's school events at the time," Ray said.
The fact they had separate bedrooms made it easy for her not to notice that he had spent almost a month in bed after returning from the hospital. He wondered if she even noticed the nurse who had been visiting during the day to check up on his progress. He figured that if she had, then she had probably mistaken her for one of the women who worked for the maid service.
"I'm a busy person. I have community obligations," she said defensively.
She wasn't going to let him blame her for his inability to communicate. Everyone else managed to get a hold of her when she was working on a project with them. Her cell phone was ringing practically all of the time. She would admit there were times when she tended to let his calls go to voice mail.
"Great. You can just toddle off to your community obligations and let me fish in peace," Ray said.
"You've got to come home," she said.
"Why?" Ray asked incredulously.
"I need you there," she answered.
She wasn't going to admit how embarrassing it was when people at her social events inquired about him and she couldn't answer their questions. He was supposed to be there by her side. Some people had even hinted their marriage might be in trouble.
"You aren't ever there. Why do you need me there?" Ray asked.
"The dishwasher is broken," she said.
"Call a repairman," Ray said.
He noticed that she didn't say that she missed him. He knew her well enough to know she would never tell him that she loved him. Giving attention to others was not in her nature. She only felt comfortable when she was the center of attention.
"That's your job," she said.
"Why is it my job?" Ray asked.