The waterway narrowed and they passed a dock with agricultural warehouses on the left side. At the end, the river opened wide. The father pulled the houseboat over to a dock on one of the islands, and tied it up. The island stood out on the horizon because it was one of the few places with tall trees. The two filled a backpack with sardines, crackers, apples, and two bottles of water. The boy followed his father as he took a familiar route up a slight hill to the grove of pine trees. At the base of one tree they ascended. The father pushed the boy up first with one hand. “That’s far enough,” the father said as the boy reached a clearing in the branches. They put their backs against the trunk and stretched out with a view of the mouth of Delta in front of them, and their houseboat docked off to the side.
“I don’t understand why you can’t just stay together?” the boy said.
“You are too young to understand.” The father looked at the boy, and continued: “It’s not about you.”
“But I’m the one who has to live in two different houses.”
They silently ate the sardines in thick olive oil dripping off the crackers, and then finished with tart green apples.
Back on the houseboat they set out further across the Delta with the sun going down. The father released the anchor off of Tinsley Island, and then set up the boat for the night. He rolled up his sleeves and started dinner while the boy positioned himself on a bunk bed and played with a Wolverine action figure. “His bones are metal.”
“Must be nice,” the father said flatly with his eyes fixed on the grill of the stove.
“He’s my favorite.”
Gary A. Berg has an MFA in Screenwriting from UCLA, and is the author/editor of eight non-fiction books.