I can’t quite read the name of the boat. ENRY is all I can see, the rest blocked by the odd inboard/outboard engine protruding from the stern. Maybe it’s HENRY, but I’ve never heard of a boat named HENRY. Perhaps it’s, no, that must be it. Henry. That’s an odd name for a boat, unless I can’t see the Oh. Then it would make sense, like when he bought the boat and he drove it home to his driveway his wife said, Oh Henry. That would have been all he needed to make the name the same. Oh Henry, it’s a reasonable little name for that reasonable little boat.
It’s blue, but in this light I can’t tell what shade. It has a Tiffany coloration to it, but it’s probably not that blue. There’s cover over it, so I can’t see the inside from here, but I can see the outside and the engine and the down riggers. Henry fishes. He has a smaller engine next to the bigger engine, a “kicker” it’s called in fishing terms. The boat is’t more than 19 feet long, but it’s enough. He fishes lakes and rivers, mostly rivers but also lakes, and he’s pointed north at the gas station. Whether he’s heading north to fish or he’s just gassing up in that north facing lane, I cannot know.
The truck is a Ford. I’m nearly sure of it. It might be blue, but dark, not like the boat. The bumper hangs low, in part because of the boat on that trailer but also because of the large camper that he long ago bolted to the open bed of that pick up. The camper hasn’t been nice for decades, or more. It has a back door, and a back window, but you’d have to duck to get inside the back door, and if you were large around the middle you’d need to both suck in and turn sideways to enter. There are some side windows, a front area that protrudes over the cab of the truck, that’s where he sleeps. There’s a two tone stripe of paint wrapping around the entire thing holding it together.
I can’t make out his license plate, but he’s been in the gas station for a long time now, so he must not be from around here. He’s in there drinking coffee, eating donuts, washing his face in the washroom. Or maybe he’s still in the truck, frantically digging through the seat cushions looking for his wallet. To be this far from home without ones wallet would be a horrible imposition, whether you had a small boat named after you or not. He’s in that gas station and his truck, camper, boat, and trailer are resting under the covered roof of the Mobile station.
There are at least two stickers on the back window, bu there’s no time for that now. He’s walking back to the car. He’s a bit older, maybe 65, maybe 70, maybe 73. He walks quickly, like he spent too much time in the station and he’s ready to hit the road. He’s probably from Illinois, but downstate somewhere. Some place where campers are more in style, where light blue is the preferred boat color, where his buddies see him drive through town with that camper and that boat and they wish they were him. He fired up the truck and with a diesel rumble it came to life. The truck isn’t a Ford at all, but a Dodge. The trailer lights work, which means he’s driving somewhere far from here, and he’s already far from home.
When he gets to where he’s going he’s going to pull into the campground and pick the best spot. It won’t be difficult to do that, because it’s rainy today and it’s dark, and it looks like fall and no one camps when it’s like this. Not on Wednesday’s, anyway. He’ll get to where he’s doing and he’ll uncover the boat. It’s filled with rods and reels, life jackets mostly of orange. There’s an old Coleman cooler, old enough to be old but not old enough to be cool. He has beer in it, venison sausage, cheese and eggs. If I were driving that truck across this state and I reached my destination, I’d be sad to think that I had to then sleep in that horrible little camper. But he is not me, and so when he gets there he’ll unpack and he’ll eat and he’ll sleep. And in the morning, he’ll fish.
He’ll spend the week that way, maybe more. He’ll fish and he’ll camp and he’ll sit in that little musty camper and he’ll read a book. When the nights get cold he’ll turn on the propane heater, but he’ll turn it off when he gets a headache from the exhaust. When he wakes he’ll go fish, and when he catches something he’ll cook it over a dark black skillet that he’s had since, well, since forever. He’ll endure some rain, some cold, some fumes and plenty of solitude.
When he rides back into whatever town he’s from, his friends will see him and they’ll wish they, too, had been on a trip to somewhere far away. They’ll see his boat and trailer and they won’t think that it’s a shame that the boat is so small and such an odd color blue. They won’t think that the engine is old and the down riggers rusty. They won’t see his camper and think of how oddly musty it surely smells, or how his truck must be full of wrappers from the venison sticks and the gas station pastries. They’ll just think that he was lucky to have spent those days someplace else, living in a way that he can’t live in Sometown, Illinois.