But as it filled through the floorboards
the rowboat sat lower in the water, almost on plane,
moved slower, glided less per stroke. Veins throbbed
on Jimmy’s forehead from the effort not to sink it.
He was going to have to swim ashore.
The leaks were insignificant, but suddenly
a dire problem. So far through the summer
he’d skim the bottom with a plastic gallon
several times per hour when fishing.
It seemed sufficient, compared to an onerous
full-hull scrape-down, sand-job, reseal,
caulk and marine tar clinging to skin and clothing.
A headache when bailing’s working. But wood shrinks,
crack-filling chinks of the last patching
chunk out gradually. Then it’s back to basic physics,
since Jimmy can’t row and bail in synchronicity.
He hails from an established line of first-person learners.
They survive such lessons in preventive maintenance.
Don’t try this if you don’t have to, a wiser Jimmy
would later advise. Take it from the guy
who swam to his sainted Grandma’s house,
puddled up her front hall, told her,
Guess I lost your boat.
TODD MERCER won the Dyer-Ives Kent County Prize for Poetry, the National Writers Series Poetry Prize and the Grand Rapids Festival Flash Fiction Award. His digital chapbook, Life-wish Maintenance, appeared at Right Hand Pointing. Recent work appears in 100 Word Story, Defenestration, Dime Show Review, Literary Orphans, Selections—Plum Tree Tavern, The Lake and The Magnolia Review. He’s writing from Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Other poems in the “Jimmy” series have appeared at:
Right Hand Pointing (Jimmy’s Dad Had to Snag a Ride)
The Magnolia Review [vol 4, issue 1, Spring 2018] (The Fire Chief’s Son’s Sensory Memories)
The Lake (Jimmy)