Every Saturday morning at four o'clock Billy drove his beat up van forty kilometres to the little Harbour and went fishing. He had been doing this for twenty years.
Today was special however. He was taking his ten year old son with him and his mother had fought against it from the beginning.
"I'm not having my beautiful boy turning out to be a smelly fisherman like his father." was always her last words in the argument but Tommy, his son, had the final say, "I want to go with my dad."
Not even the maternal power invested in her could change his mind.
Billy quietly crept into Tommy's room and woke the boy.
"Shh" he said, "don't wake your mother."
The two gathered their stuff and headed outside. Waiting for them was the van with a battered old tinny strapped to the roof. It was named "Hopeful". In the back was his faithful six horsepower outboard motor. He lavished more attention on this motor than he did his wife.
"I depend on that motor" he would tell his fishing buddies down at the pub, "it could save my life and that's more than I could say about the missus" looking around to make sure she wasn't in earshot.
Around five they entered the water just as the first light of dawn appeared and were soon fishing at Billy's secret spot. He gave the boy some hot soup from the Thermos and visually checked that he was warm and safe. "Put your life jacket on, son"
He showed him how as he put his own on and was quite proud when the boy had no trouble doing it. His chest swelled even more when the boy effortlessly baited a prawn on his hook and sent it flying in a long graceful arc before it plopped into the quiet motionless ocean.
It is perhaps, one of the most peaceful places on this planet. Floating in an aluminium boat, in the early morning, in the middle of a gently rocking ocean. The only noise was the occasional slapping from an over enthusiastic wave. It is the sort of quietness that seems to draw out the thoughts of the fishermen in it and it had its effect on Tommy.
"Dad," he said, "mums going to have a baby"
Now this is not the sort of news a fishermen wants to hear when he is trying to re-bait his hook. Slowly he lifted his eyes to the boy but just then Tommy's rod bent viscously downward.
"Quick. Give him some line" yelled Billy all thoughts of pending parenthood dismissed from his mind.
Tommy showed outstanding skill playing the fish. Reeling the line in or letting it out if there was risk of breaking the line. A test between the patience of the fishermen and the strength of the fish. Slowly though the boy won.
"Quick dad. The net"
"I've got it boy. I've got it. You concentrate on reeling it in."
The fish became visible. Smashing through the surface of the water in one last fight for survival then subdued, letting itself hauled in to the net.
"My god its a big one Tommy. I can't wait till I tell the lads in the pub. "
Tommy stood glowing with happiness while his dad put the fish out of its misery and into the Esky and peace settled down once again in the little boat. Billy got a sandwich out of the hamper and gave it to Tommy.
"Why do you think your mother is pregnant? " he asked.
"I heard her talking to aunt Shelley. I don't think she is happy about it. "
That would have to be a big understatement. Billy had a vasectomy soon after Tommy was born. She had a very bad time of it and both decided to have no more and Billy agreed to a vasectomy. He loved his wife so a couple of snips meant nothing.
He cast his line in the water. The peaceful scene slowly settled on his troubled mind but was broken by a hit on his line. He fought with it, supported with Tommy's cries of encouragement.
"I've got the net dad. I've got the net. "
They landed the fish. It was not as big as Tommy's but still something to boast about.
Quietness settled down again broken only by the powerful sound of a cruiser engine some distance away. Father and son sat in silence then Billy asked, "Tommy, do you wish you had a brother or sister."
"Sometimes. A brother would be good. A sister would be nice also but not as useful as a brother.”
The boy, sensing his father's mood, said, "I don't think she is seeing him any more."
Billy digested this bit of news. He knew his wife had an affair. He found out about a month ago. He discovered them together in a restaurant by accident one day and confronted her with it. They had been having the affair for three months and the meeting he had discovered was to be the final one. The man's wife had discovered the affair and gave him an ultimatum. His wife's lover couldn't leave his wife and children so thought it best to end it now before more damage is done.
She had not gone out to have an affair. It all happened by accident. They met in her art class and would talk about their paintings then she realised he began noticing all the little things about her that her husband had long since forgotten about.
"It made me think I was just a cuddly toy to you. Something to play with but not to notice. I began to feel wanted and valued for myself and not just a fisherman's wife."
Billy asked, "If he had decided to leave his wife would you have left me?".
She didn't answer the question. Instead said, "I won't ask for your forgiveness but I would really appreciate, beg for, a second chance."
They spent all night pouring out the painful truths to each other then retired to separate beds in separate rooms. The next few weeks his wife done everything humanly possible to show that she still wanted to be in the marriage. Billy never gave her an answer but now his heart went out to her. He could imagine the shock of discovering she was pregnant while desperately trying to save her marriage. The question was though, did he want to be a father to some other man's child. Living proof of his wife's betrayal. He stared at the point where his line entered the water as it gave off little ripples.
Just then the calm was shattered as Tommy's reel started screaming. Tommy almost lost his grip. All marital problems vanished in the face of this fishing challenge. Shouting out, "Hold on Tommy" Billy lunged for the rod but Tommy cried out, "no dad, I've got it. I want to bring it in myself"
Forcing himself to sit down, he anxiously watched Tommy.
The fish fought. For one hour it fought. Then eventually Tommy brought it to the side of the boat and Billy netted and brought it aboard. Father and son looked down at the fish with pride and Billy reached out for the mallet.
"No dad." said Tommy, "don't kill him. He doesn't deserve to be eaten. Let's release him. "
Billy looked at the boy and said, "Its your fish you can do what you want with him."
He cut the hook from its mouth and father and son grabbed each end of the fish and heaved it over board. It splashed a bit on the surface then disappeared below.
As they watched it swim away the boy asked his father, "If it's a brother can we take him fishing" and in that question Billy knew what his answer was going to be.
"Come on, " he said, "stow your gear. Let's go find out about this little brother or sister we're going to have." He started his trusty outboard motor and headed back to shore.
"What if it's a girl dad. "
"She can bait the hooks. " was his reply.
The (happy) end.