The clouds were plump with rain as they pulled into the driveway of their modest home.
In the front yard, the giant weeping willow stirred in the breeze of the coming weather. Gary wasn’t too worried. He had heard on the radio on the way home it was to be a quick drizzle, so it shouldn’t affect them going out the following day. This kind of forecast was normal for them. Often they would still be out crabbing as long as it wasn’t a full-on storm.
On the way home Dusty seemed to be bouncing back and forth between her usual vibrant mood and her stoic aloofness. Maybe it was hormones, Gary thought to himself. He had heard of his friends' daughters beginning to flower early and that was a whole other kind of windstorm. But she wasn’t showing any signs of womanhood. She was nearly ten, so it might be a tad early for all of that.
Once inside, Gary took off his coat threw it on the hook by the door. Dusty did the same, placing her jacket on the peg below. They both kicked off their shoes and Gary checked the chili in the crockpot as Dusty made her way to the table and began to set it. Dinner was always their biggest meal. Nothing seemed to drive hunger like crabbing.
Satisfied, Gary set the pot of food on a large coaster center-table and ladled it in both of their bowls to give the piping hot fare time to cool. Dusty would often have a second helping and he would have a third, and sometimes a fourth. They worked hard today and he was ravenous.
Fishing out a beer, some chopped onions and some shredded cheese, he sat down in his chair and splayed the condiments out. Dusty grabbed a coke and took her seat across from him. Rubbing his hands together, he let out a deep breath to prep his mind and taste buds for the divine feast that was about to commence. The first bite was always the best. It seemed to tug at the salivary glands in his mouth, almost making them ache. Spoonful after spoonful he shoveled the delicious warmth into his mouth and moments later he was scrapping an empty bowl. Reaching up to load another hefty dollop into his dish, he could see that Dusty had hardly touched her food. She was lost in thought, jabbing her spoon methodically in and out, pulling the beans out and letting them drop and clutching her chest pocket with her free hand.
Gary tapped his spoon on the rim of his chili as if to make a toast. Dusty paid no mind.
Usually, he let her cue the latest story she had drummed up in her head, but today was different--she was different. He rapped again louder,”Alright, alright you got me. Tell me about this new thing you found. I’ve been waiting all day to hear about it.”
Shaken from her daze she looked up to her father and smiled, “Uh...oh...really?”
“Yes really. You know as well as I do that I like hearing your little stories at dinner.”
Genuinely surprised, she whipped out the statue and began to tell her father all about the experience--every juicy detail of her grand find, with the exception of her uncle’s spastic behavior.
“--and look right here, this looks just like uncle Richie!” She held the statue up, barely containing her excitement of her one-of-a-kind find.
Gary leaned over to grab the statue to take a closer look and Dusty snaked her hand back. With his fatherly gaze set flat upon her, she reluctantly passed the idol to her dad.
“Doesn’t look that old Dust, it really doesn’t. Not a speck of the grimy sea on it. To be honest, it looks as if it was lost the same day you found it. But I’ll be damned, that does look a hell of a lot like your uncle.”
“Okay sure,” she blurted. “How do you explain the warmth, and why did it float? I think it’s special dad. There is something really...really...special about it.”
Gary turned it over in his hands with skepticism clear on his face. “It feels warm sure, but you have had it in your front pocket for how long now?” He took a bite of chili and looked to his daughter. Dusty had the face of a pouncing tiger--the stone doll her prey. “You’ve hardly touched your food, I don’t know if this thing is worth all this attention” he paused noticing disappointment clear on her face; not in her prize, but in him. “Hey but what do I know, I am no expert in maritime archaeology. That’s one you may have to talk to your mom about. It’s a good find Dust, never seen anything like it. And that’s the truth.” Her face relaxed and she smiled, but her eyes never left the stone figure. Seeing his daughter’s calm brought Gary some peace as well. He handed her treasure back. She took it gratefully and stuffed it back in her pocket to be examined later.
“You really should eat Dust, we may be short a man tomorrow and that means more work for both of us. You need your strength. I’m starving, and I know you gotta be famished as well.” Gary took another hefty bite.
She forced a couple of full spoonfuls in her mouth. Dusty chewed it as if it was sawdust.
Seeing her displeasure, Gary remembered that he had picked up some fresh french bread yesterday specifically for the chili. “Hey, I got some of that bread you like. Your favorite!” Gary sliced some and popped open the toaster. He turned to see his daughter trailing down the hallway towards her bedroom. “You gotta eat Dust!”
“I ate some dad, besides, you can’t make a catch if the catch ain’t hungry. You always tell me that.”
This was one of Gary’s standard idioms he used almost daily, though he used it to ensure promptness in the morning not as a simile.
Dusty turned towards her father before entering her room,“Gonna go to bed dad, I’m really beat. I’ll shower and brush up in the morning.”
Exhausted, Gary let her win the battle. He was just too tired to be begging his more than capable daughter to finish her supper. She’ll be okay. Worst case, she’ll be so hungry tomorrow on the boat that she will regret her decision and learn from it the hard way. Hard ways are the best he thought. He gobbled down the rest of his chili plus one more helping. Utterly satiated, he took a hot shower and came back out to his daddy chair. Flicking on the animal channel, he relaxed and sipped his beer. In a couple of hours, he was asleep.