Seeing Over the Side of the Boat

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
January/February 2016

Benjamin Halperin

I don’t like my parents. Actually, that’s not true. I love my parents, but they are so stressful. Everything has to be a fight. They fight over who is driving me to baseball practice. They fight over who gets to spend the weekend with me. Like two days ago I missed my baseball game because they were fighting over the mortgage. I don’t know what the mortgage is, but it sounds important. That game was our baseball team’s first loss. I am the starting shortstop and the fastest kid on the team. A few days ago I overheard them fighting over who gets to keep me. That is what I don’t understand. Why would one parent get to keep me? The whole point of being parents is sticking together and taking care of me. So what is this talk of only one parent taking me? I found out yesterday after school. Mom and Dad sat me down in the kitchen.

It was the first time they have been in the same room and not been yelling at each other in a long time. Dad’s long, bony fingers were trembling. I had no idea of what was to come. Dad started to speak, but Mom cut him off. It was quite easy to feel the nervousness in the room. The air was stagnant, and nobody was breathing. Mom mumbled, “Tobey, your father and I are getting a divorce.”

“A divorce!” I blurted, shocked. I had heard about divorces but I never thought it would happen to this family. It was clearly important because Lucky, my golden retriever, was sitting very still at my feet. She is very good at sensing feelings around her.

Seeing Over the Side of the Boat child with a dog

I felt that she was the only one who cared about me anymore

“Well, your mother and I both agree that it would be best for the two of us to no longer live together. That means we won’t be fighting,” my Dad stated.

“I know what a divorce is, but why?”

Neither of my parents answered. That was the end of the conversation, and both of my parents got up to do their own separate things. They both love me, but they didn’t know what to do to comfort me. Comforting people wasn’t either of my parents’ strong suit, and this was really hard on them. It was the first time in what feels like forever that they finally agreed on something. But I didn’t agree. I wanted them to stay together no matter what. The last three months finally made sense, like gears clicking into place. I should have seen it coming. My parents fought at every chance they had.

I was left alone in the kitchen, just staring out the window. I started to realize that this divorce isn’t a good thing. It means that I won’t be around both my parents at the same time. Lucky came up to me and licked my hand. I felt that she was the only one who cared about me anymore. I got her just last year and she was a rescue. One of her ears is much shorter than the other, and her tail is crooked. Her soft furry ears on her head always gave me comfort. I gave her a pat on the head and whispered to her. I told her that it would all work out in the end. As I sat there, the cold winter air blew through the door as my mom left to go out to dinner. The sun was still just peaking over the horizon. I felt a tear drop onto my lap, when I realized that my dad tried to sugarcoat it by saying that they won’t fight anymore. But I could care less about that; I just wanted my parents to live together.

My dad came into my kitchen to get dinner started. Mom went to her friends for dinner and to stay the night. She was doing that more and more now. I asked him, “Will I get to see both you and Mom after you get this divorce?”

Dad said, “Well, we will work it out, maybe.” He said it in a way so he was hard to understand. I think he was trying to block out this divorce in his head and move on. The house was shockingly quiet. All that you could hear was the sausage sizzling in the pan and my dad whistling as he cooked dinner. He truly loved to cook. The smell made my mouth water and I could tell that Lucky would much rather have what we were having for dinner, not her dry pellets.

After dinner, I bawled in my room. It finally set in: Mom and Dad don’t love each other anymore. Did they ever love each other? Do they still care about and love me? How could they leave me to fend on my own? At least I would have Lucky. She stuck by my side through everything. She licked my hot, red face, and I patted her head. She was the only dog I could ever hope for. Her golden fur kept me warm, and she was always there when I needed her to calm me down. I could hear her breathe deep, as she fell asleep on my lap, and I tickled her under her ear, her favorite spot.

“We won’t ever get a divorce, will we, Lucky,” I whispered to her, as I drifted off to sleep. She smiled, as if to say, “No. We won’t.”

*          *          *

Last night I had the worst nightmare I’d ever had. Our family was going on a vacation to a tropical island. The boat ride over was pleasant and stunningly gorgeous. I could just barely see the white sand on the picture-perfect beaches over the sides of the boat as we approached. I could never see anything coming, being so short. When we got to the island, we played on the beach with Lucky. The warm sand under my toes was pleasant and soothing. The next morning, I woke up and my parents were no where to be seen. Lucky was still on the foot of my bed, snoring away. I had been abandoned on an island. I came with both my parents. Then they left me, left me alone. That’s all I remember from the dream.

*          *          *

When I woke up, the new day’s sun was poking through the window. Lucky was still there, her face lying across my lap. “Hey, girl,” I whispered. Her eyes cracked open, and she looked at me.

I could tell that she smiled and put her head back down as if to say, “Ten more minutes,” if she could speak. I picked up my book.

I was reading The Big Field, by Mike Lupica, about a baseball team. All of his books are amazing. There hasn’t been a bad one yet. The stories are great, and I can imagine myself being each and every one of the characters. Mike Lupica can take me to another world. A world where parents don’t get divorced. Where sports are the problem, not family.

Just before lunch, my mom came home to drive me to the baseball game. It was the weekend, and I was going to see the San Francisco Giants with my best friend, Eli, and his dad. This would be my first time inside of AT&T Park, and I was almost jumping-off-the-walls excited. It was opening day, and somehow Danny, Eli’s dad, had gotten tickets. I know how hard that is because for the last three years I had been trying to get tickets, but my dad always said, “They’re too expensive,” or, “They are already sold out.” The Giants were playing the Arizona D-Backs. When we entered the stadium, I got to see the fresh-cut green grass and smell the popcorn and hot dogs.

The players were warming up in their crisp, white uniforms. In these moments, before the game started, anything could happen. The air felt different. It was filled with joy and excitement for our defending World Champions. I could feel the hot rays of the sun on my pale skin. Normally, I’d be worried about burning, but today, today I was going to bask in the sun of this magical place. This is what I wanted to do. I wanted to live here in this world, where my troubles had vanished, where I didn’t need books to be transported to Mike Lupica’s world. I was in his world, right then, and there were no troubles of family. In this world, there was no such thing as divorce.

Seeing Over the Side of the Boat Benjamin Halperin

Benjamin Halperin, 13
Hastings-on-Hudson, New York

Seeing Over the Side of the Boat Kyle Trefny

Kyle Trefny, 13
San Francisco, California

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One Comment
  1. Miriam MacCarthy January 1, 2018 at 5:19 am Reply

    So far I’ve read just one story, about divorce, and it seems that these stories may be for the grownups — messages from children to the people in their world, which is pretty messed up. I’ll be reading more and hoping to get my grandson interested and involved. Thank you!

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