“I’m gonna walk to the ocean, Daddy!”
The boy thrust a spoon into his bowl of cereal.
“Didja hear, Daddy? I’m gonna walk clear to the ocean! Timmy says he’ll go with me!”
The mother took notice, standing by the sink. She cleared her throat.
“Tom?” The boy’s mother turned and chimed in.
“You hear our boy?”
The boy crunched on another mouthful of cereal, a drop of milk spilling out and making its way aggressively down the side of his chin.
“You cn go too ifff you wnnt!” he forced out.
“Chew your cereal,” the mother intoned.
More chewing noises. A slurp of milk from his cup.
“Can I, Daddy?”
The boy finished his mouthful, looking at his father.
“Can I go to the ocean?”
“When?” the father lifted his paper and turned a page.
“I don’t know… maybe tomorrow!” The boy thought hard. “Probably need to start early.”
Silence. A turn of another page.
The boy grabbed a piece of cereal with his fingers and held it up, squishing it.
“Would you look at that?” the father leaned in closer to the paper and squinted out over his glasses.
The mother took a napkin and wiped the boy’s face.
The boy continued, “Timmy says Union Creek joins up with Flat Creek…” He dropped his spoon on the floor, clambered almost upside down to pick it up, finishing his thought in the process, “…down by his uncle’s place.”
“Yep, it does. That it does.” Tom looked up, first at the mother and then to the boy.
“And I saw in school that Flat Creek joins up with the Soldier River!”
“So that’s gotta be getting close! I ain’t never been to the ocean before, have I?
“Nope,” the father’s gaze returned to his paper.
“Well, I will tomorrow! Timmy says the Soldier River joins up with the Mississippi River somewhere over there…. somewhere.”
The boy chewed another spoonful, thoughtfully.
“So we can just get there, and then that’s the last stop before we reach the ocean.”
“You have quite the imagination,” the mother said.
“I can’t remember which ocean it is. You got a map, Daddy?”
The boy chewed a final bite quietly, pushed his bowl away, and climbed down to go watch TV.
Originally published in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature
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