Missy Burke

The hot Jameson’s rolls across my tongue and down my throat like a sip of heaven.

“Damn! That’s the ticket!”

Bundled against January’s chill in layers of down and my hunting gloves, a pleasant warmth spreads through my chest, in spite of the frosty January breeze slipping between the slim, bare trees. Sure, I might look crazy, at the dock’s edge, lying almost horizontal in a cold aluminum recliner, casting with a bamboo pole, but I don’t care. No one but me can hear the soft plop, repeated again and again, of my grandson’s home-made fly dropping in the water. Not a single soul can hear me whistle a leftover holiday tune.

But I am glad to be here – to be anywhere for that matter. Back in July, the ‘heart error’ as I like to call it, abruptly started a series of events that catapulted me through frightening hospital stays, self-impressed specialists and more medications than I like to admit to. Stress, they said. Too much pressure. Probably your job, they said, but for me, contracting had never been a choice, more like a legacy. My father, his father and his grandfather had all run the firm – Judson & Sons – with an iron fist – and great success. Building is in my blood and it’s certainly proven lucrative. The lake house behind me testifies to that. But the demands never stopped. All day, everyday, someone wanted a piece of me. Fixing. Planning. Painting. Building. Amazing how bricks and mortar can take so much out of a guy. When the paramedics slammed the door of the ambulance and slapped the oxygen mask on my face, I knew that if I didn’t die I definitely needed to slow down. The doctors just confirmed the message sent from my floundering heart.

So, I’m cutting back. I’ll hire a couple more foremen, stop working weekends, and start saying ‘no’ to all those family and friends who just want ‘one teeny little thing’ done. Christ, those favors stress me out the most. No pay, often no thanks, and always no regard for the other, ‘real’ deadlines that keep business booming. So, no more favors. It’s a promise. Hell, given the date today, I’m calling it a resolution – a New Year’s resolution! That’s right. Haven’t made one of those in years. Now, I can just relax . . . cast out the reel and watch that ball of fog roll across the calm, glassy lake. Where’d that bottle go?

“Judson. Judson.”

A voice? Can’t be? Am I dreaming? Wait. I must be imagining it. Too much Jameson’s.

“Judson Fletcher. Is that you?”

It’s a voice, alright. Coming from that huge heap of fog in the middle of the lake. What the hell, fog? I know there’s things called micro-climates, but this is ridiculous. It’s like a single puff of smoke from a giant’s pipe and – damn – it’s coming this way. How does that massive thing move? There’s so little wind.

“Judson Fletcher. Is that you?”

Wait. Is there something inside the fog? It’s, it’s . . . a piece of dock? It’s close enough to tangle my line.

“Judson. Judson Fletcher. I need help!”

The fog, stirred up from the surface of the lake, clears just enough for me to see her face.

“You certainly, do, Mrs. Brady. What in God’s name possessed you? The lake is freezing! You could have been killed!”

Did she really think an eighty-eight year old woman could commandeer a piece of dock? “What happened?”

“Well, I just got back from my daughter’s and couldn’t believe last week’s storm had nearly pulled off a piece of my new dock. When I saw you sitting here, doing nothing, I just knew you wouldn’t mind fixing it, but I haven’t got a car – this seemed like the best way to get to you. It’s just a teeny thing. Do you have time to help?”

“Of course, Mrs. Brady. Anything for you!”

So much for New Year’s resolutions.

Don’t tell my doctors.


Missy Burke has recently joined the ranks of creative writers after years of writing for professional publications, working as a magazine editor and creating promotional copy in the non-profit world.  She has just published her first novel, Gymrat, a middle grade adventure story about finding the strength to overcome bullies. she looks forward to growing her skills through the MWA with her fellow authors.