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Setting Friday Free (A Buzby Beach Novel) Chapter 36

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DW is a veteran, a father, a husband, and a teacher. He's published 9 YA/NA novels thus far. The story you're reading might be next.

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Garrison and Laurel ate their Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches at Kickback Jack's and then drove to Garrison's house, where they studied in the library until it was time for Laurel to go to work. She went up to her room to change while Garrison retrieved his fishing tackle from the garage. He found his spinning reel and graphite rod combination along with a box of mostly new tackle he'd acquired over the summer.

Garrison looked at his grandfather's F-150 and thought again about getting it running. He shook his head and put the decision off. He put his fishing gear in the Miata's trunk, dropped the top, and pulled the convertible up to the front porch.

Laurel was coming down the stairs in her Denver's Franks and Fries uniform when Garrison reentered the house.

"Are you going to come to the restaurant for dinner?" she asked when she spotted him in the front hall. "Or are you and your dad eating at the pier?"

"I imagine my father will have had his dinner by now," Garrison supposed. "I was thinking a hot dog, and maybe some onion rings might be good for supper."

Laurel smiled and smoothed her hair with one hand. "Good. I'll put your order in as soon as I sign in so you won't have to wait in line."

"Thanks," Garrison said as he admired the way her work uniform accentuated rather than hid her figure. "You do make a cute cowgirl."

"I'm glad my sister didn't decide to call her place Fish and Fries," Laurel joked. "If she had, I might have to dress like a mermaid."

Garrison waggled his eyebrows and said, "I wouldn't mind seeing you in a mermaid costume."

"I bet you wouldn't," Laurel said, smacking him on the arm as she walked by on her way to the door.

After a quick dinner at Denver's, Garrison parked his car in the lot by the Buzby Pier. The concrete and steel pier reached 1,500 feet into the ocean, making it one of the longest piers on the North Carolina coast.

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Garrison looked around the parking lot and saw no sign of his father's Mercedes. There was, however, a Coastal Towers Resort golf cart parked near the entrance ramp to the pier house. Garrison opened the Miata's trunk, gathered his fishing pole and tackle box, and headed up the ramp.

Mr. Kaylor was waiting inside near the bait counter where people who wished to fish on the pier bought their passes.

"Hi, Garrison," Mr. Kaylor called out as the door closed behind his son. He waited until Garrison drew closer and then asked, "What kind of bait do you think we should use?"

The girl behind the counter - wearing a handwritten name tag showing her name was Braelyn - told Garrison and his father, "They fish were hitting on squid and blood worms today."

Mr. Kaylor tilted his head and raised his brows. "Should we get squid, blood worms, or both?"

"Let's go with the squid," Garrison suggested. "I'm not a fan of blood worms."

"How much would you like?" Braelyn asked.

Garrison replied, "We'll start with a quarter-pound. If we use all of it, we can come to get some more."

Braelyn took a foam cup containing a quarter pound of frozen squid from the freezer beneath the counter. "I see you have an annual pass," she said to Garrison. Then she asked Mr. Kaylor if he had an annual pass, also.

"No, I'll need to buy a day pass," Mr. Kaylor responded. "How much will that be?"

"The pass is eight dollars, plus four for the squid, so twelve altogether."

Mr. Kaylor handed Braelyn a twenty-dollar bill. "Back when I was growing up on the island, this place only took cash. I see you've moved into the twenty-first century and take credit cards now."

"Yes, sir, we do," Braelyn acknowledged. "We always have since I've been working here."

"When did you start working here?" Mr. Kaylor asked.

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Braelyn smiled and said, "Ten whole days ago, when the guy who had the job over the summer left to go back to college up north. My best friend’s uncle is part owner of the pier. Owen told him I was looking for a job here on the island, and Mr. Lanier offered me this one."

"It's always good to know somebody who knows somebody," Mr. Kaylor remarked as Braelyn stapled his pass to the sleeve of his golf shirt.

"Yes, sir. I guess it is," Braelyn agreed. "You're all set. Good luck."

Mr. Kaylor took hold of the handle of what looked like a new pier cart loaded with an equally new looking cooler, tackle box, and rod and real combo.

"Did you buy all new gear, Dad?" Garrison asked.

Mr. Kaylor smiled proudly. "I sure did. The fellow at Dick's fixed me up with all the best stuff. Why don't you put your rod in one of the holders? I think there's room for your tackle box, too."

Garrison would have preferred to hang on to his gear but didn't want to dampen his father's enthusiasm, so he added his rod and tackle box to the items already on the cart.

Garrison picked out a spot for himself and his father three-fourths of the way to the end of the pier on the north side. The tide was running south to north. Being on the north side would keep their lines from being dragged under the pier by the current. Mr. Kaylor might have been long absent from going fishing, but he called up his old knowledge, and in less time than Garrison thought it would take, both men had their lines in the water waiting for a fish to find the squid impaled on the hooks attached to it.

Mr. Kaylor leaned his rod on the pier railing and reached into his cooler. He brought out two cans: one of Pepsi and one of Seltzer. The seltzer he handed to Garrison.

"I seem to remember you prefer this to soda," Mr. Kaylor said of the seltzer as Garrison took the can.

"I still do," Garrison said as he opened the top with a satisfying pop. "Thank you for remembering."

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Father and son sat side by side on the bench, watching their poles and waiting for the fish to bite. Neither seemed to know how to start a conversation. Despite the court-ordered visits Garrison made to see his father in Raleigh over the years, the two had never talked much or gotten to know each other. Even now, the only thing they had in common besides their last name was Friday.

"Have you decided what you're going to do about Friday, Dad?" Garrison asked after several silent minutes passed without any action on the part of the fish they were trying to catch.

"I haven't thought about much else since yesterday," Mr. Kaylor replied. "Last night, when you and I talked out there on the dune, I thought I knew what to do. Today, the whole idea seems crazy."

Garrison's reply was interrupted by his rod tip jabbing toward the water, indicating a fish was taking his bait. Before he could reel his catch all the way in, Mr. Kaylor's rod tip started to dance as he got a bite.

Both Kaylor men pulled in a decent-sized spot.

"Should we keep them?" Mr. Kaylor asked Garrison.

Garrison had been about to throw his fish back. "What are you going to do with them if you keep them?"

Mr. Kaylor shrugged. "I hadn't thought of what I'd do with the fish if I caught them."

Garrison glanced up and down the pier. "You could ask someone if they want the fish you catch, or you could throw them back. I always practice catch and release."

"Don't you like eating fish?" Mr. Kaylor asked as he dropped his catch over the side of the pier.

"I like seafood," Garrison admitted. "I don't like cleaning and cooking fish."

Mr. Kaylor wrinkled his nose and laughed. "I never did either."

"If we're not going to keep what we catch," Garrison said, letting his fish fall back t the water, "then what are we doing here, Dad?"

Friday's story continues in Chapter 37

© 2021 DW Davis