The fog always seemed to roll in the morning of Thanksgiving each year. When it arrived, the family would take a pilgrimage out to the island in the center of the lake. This year, Charlie was at the helm of the little ferry they used. It was his first year in the position of captain, and for the first time in his life, he was nervous about being on a boat. He knew the fog made the trip treacherous, so he was being as careful as possible to avoid the rocks, shallows, and other obstacles between the mainland and the island.
“Joey,” he called out.
A boy five or six years younger than his own twenty-two lifted his head in acknowledgment. “Yeah Charlie, what’s up?”
“Can you make sure we tied things down on the lower deck? Looks like it’s going to be a rough one this year,” he said, the current trying to pull the little ferry off course and towards the sandbar.
“Will do. I’ll also check on your mom. This must be a rough year for her too,” Joey said.
Charlie nodded, but said nothing else. He didn’t think thoughts of his father were going to do him any good while sailing. He pushed them aside and redoubled his focus on keeping the ferry under control. The current pushed the ferry off course and Charlie forced it back into the deeper water.
He could hear the people on the lower decks moving around and going about their normal business. The sound was oddly comforting as the ferry made its way across the lake. A few hundred yards from the dock on the island, Charlie once again called out to his friend. “Hey Joey. You going to tie us off?”
Joey’s voice came from behind and below him. “Sure will.”
Charlie watched out of the corner of his eye as his friend moved along the deck of the ferry to the front where the tie offs were. He pushed the ferry along the dock and into its spot. Joey tied it to the dock, stepped back, and walked to the back of the boat. He tied the back end to the dock before calling up to Charlie. “All good.”
Charlie shut down the engines and locked the wheel. He went down to the deck, arriving as Joey tipped the plank of wood down so people could step easily from the ferry. His mother’s voice came from behind him. “Good job, young man,” she said, putting her wrinkled hand onto his shoulder.
He looked down at his mother. “Thanks, Mom. Wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, but I still wish dad was the one captaining the ferry for a few more years,” he said. The memories of his father flooding his mind.
The man had been kind and helpful. He always stepped up when someone needed him. That was in the end what cost him his life the summer before. He had been helping a stranger with an auto repair when a drunk driver hit both him and the stranger’s car. The authorities told Charlie and his mother that he hadn’t felt a thing and had, in fact, died instantly. He shook his head, clearing it and focusing his attention on his mother as she was talking to him. “…am proud of you. I will take the responsibility for the ritual tonight. I’ve been doing it long enough that they will expect me to continue until you get married.” She was saying.
He sighed at the word. “I don’t even want to think about that.”
His mother smiled. “I’m not expecting you to get married in the next few weeks. But I know you will marry in time,” she said. The two of them walked off the ferry and across to a large log cabin.
The cabin had been built by his grandfather in the years before world war two. He grinned. “Just don’t go trying to set me up with any more of your friend’s kids. It gets awkward.” he said.
She had the courtesy to blush. “I will do my best.” She walked away, off into the crowd.
Charlie stood at the edge of the porch watching the large number of his family members walk past him into the cabin.
He closed his eyes for a moment. The island and everyone on it seemed to disappear in an instant. “Hey, Charlie,” Joey’s voice cut through the quiet in his mind. He opened his eyes.
“Hey, Joey. I’m taking it. We got everyone over here in one piece tonight.” he joked.
“Yea, everyone was good. Heard your mother say she was still doing the ritual tonight. Do you want help tomorrow with the closing?” Joey asked.
Charlie watched his cousin shake as he spoke. “Looks like you are as nervous as I am about it. Do you really want to work as my second? I’ve never done it as the lead.”
Joey grinned. “I trust you.”
Charlie smiled. “Thanks.” He tossed his arm over Joey’s shoulder. “Let’s go deal with the family.”