Harriette was surprized to see her husband back so early. From the bedroom window she saw the car swing into the driveway, and she wondered what had happened. The weather had not changed, and John would never cut short his fishing for just anything! “Something’s up,” she sighed, as she headed downstairs.
John Harding seized every opportunity to run off fishing. In the beginning his wife used to go with him, sometimes, in an attempt to share his interest. She enjoyed the outdoors, but hated the bugs and the sunburn. So, when the first baby came, she had reason to say goodbye to the ants, flies, and mosquitoes. She became an always-at-home mom, except for Sunday mornings, when she went to church.
With John working so hard during the week, and his fishing so important to him over weekends, their marriage had settled into a comfortable arrangement. After all, John was the one putting the food on the table; even fish, at times. But the arrangement was working estrangement, and she was lonely and unhappy. To fill the emptiness, Mrs. Harding had turned to religion for comfort. “Pray for your husband,” was all she got.
So she tried. Whenever John posted his “Gone Fishing” sign on the garage door--to notify his buddies of his absence, so that they would not knock at the door to ask his wife whether he was home---she would pray for their marriage. “John has become so remote,” she thought as she reached downstairs, “I wonder if he’ll tell me the real reason why he’s home.”
She waited for John to come in. “Couldn’t be too serious,” she speculated, “’cause he’s sure taking his time putting his gear away.” When she saw John, however, a sense of alarm rushed through her. It was obvious that he had been crying—something John never does. His eyes were red and swollen, and he looked at her in a way that seemed to simultaneously express pain, guilt, and shame.
“Honey, what’s wrong? What happened?” she asked urgently, her hands shooting up to her chest, as if to cover her heart from an impending blow.
“We need to talk. Please sit down.”
Harriette sat down, and took a deep breath.
“And don’t look so worried!” he continued, placing an object, covered by his folded jacket, gently on the table. “I’m fine. I want to show you something.”
John Harding pulled up a chair and sat opposite his wife. He leaned forward and took her hands. “Harri Harding, I love you, and…I’m so sorry…,” he started bravely, but overwhelmed by emotion, his voice broke.
John shook his head. “I don’t know what happened, Harri, Honey,” he said, smiling feintly, his eyes swimming in tears. “I think God spoke to me; He must have heard your prayers.”
Harriette sat stunned. She had not expected anything like that. There was tenderness in his voice that had been missing for years. She waited, in awe, her eyes drawn wide in anticipation.
“You know, Honey, all these years I’ve been off fishing? Well, I keep telling myself I’m going to get that big one, my real big catch.” Excitement had now taken hold of him. “You know that pocket Bible you had slipped into my bag? I took it out for the first time today, and I just opened it---to a place where it says, ‘Husbands, love your wives.’ It then dawn on me, sorta supernaturally: there I was, while my biggest catch ever was sittin’ at home.”
“Your’e the catch of my life, Harri,” he exclaimed as he jumped up to grab the object on the table, “and this is my gift to you!” He uncovered it, and held it up for her to see.
It was his “Gone Fishing” sign. John had drawn a line through the “G,” and had written a large “D” across it. It now read: DONE FISHING!
Harriette found herself in her husband’s arms. Tears flowed liberally, and between sobs and kisses, joy found expression, and pain its release. “You’re home, John Harding ….you’re home,” was all she could say.
That morning the “Done Fishing” sign found its way upstairs for the first time, where it was hung on the outside of the closed bedroom door. In the years to come, it would appear there whenever Mr. and Mrs. Harding wished to inform the rest of their household that they wished not to be disturbed.
Word count: 739
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