I got to the dock late, Gil had already started fishing for the eels, slid crushed horseshoe crab over calloused thumbs onto his hook and I wasn't hungry–who's fishing for eels, anyway? I see Kern but Massy isn't there, he's had domestic troubles; spirits depleted and women lining up his stairs shouting, shouting ‘til truth is told. I can't see so well, it's getting dark and the reeds are tall here, willowy reeds that slap your face when you climb down with your rake and cull and dreg the day. Then I think of that convict in Great Expectations and the thick drift of his body in the shallow waters towards shore but these fellows wouldn't get the reference and I wonder if I could talk about weekend bouts in hell, little deaths in back alleys of bars and stints in jail and all my days stumbling home, smelling like oysters, cause these oysters were the most famous oysters in the world but no more now, that was years before, in our grandfathers' tuxedo times, oysters on the half shell and consommé broths held up under tight chins but now me and these guys, we had a twelve pack of Molson between us and a bottle of Smirnoff and I wanted to go to the bar because often it pays to lay low and easy and not get into creative talk about misfortune and tricky tides and whose boat is king, but they weren't interested, more interested in the dusk light and air around them and the smell of the salt and eels and I wondered about them really, since when do these guys with their salty palms and silly cigarillos care about light and I thought, maybe they're done, maybe we can't hold on to any of this anymore—this one whale town and it's jiggery, sunken gait and sallow wooden fences, strewn with aged buoys and weak neighbors who walk the oyster shell driveways and brush the tips of beach plums with their soft fingertips—wasn't like them to miss an opportunity to gab on the broken curb, smoke pouring from gristled lips in front of the bar and we'd know who gutted Stripers that day–what ya got for dinner? What ya got for home? Or how many Quahogs were raked and whose girl had left or abandoned the day, left the mix of salt and sunshine dim, forgettable but heavy in the still tide. Now, there's Massy coming towards me, thin, ropey calves and shaded jaw, herring for bait in hand but a rash on the forehead, spreading towards his cheeks and Kern is whistling now, making fun of him, rashes from eating old shrimp bait and jabbing me with his elbow, nodding towards the old tackle box we all seem to share. Tonight, I want eels, cooked in butter and shallots with a risotto and I want Roan to swim up on the shore after dusk, in her striped bikini, throw a damp towel down in the watery, rocky sand and conch shells she's collected on my lap and we'd watch nothing on TV, nothing at all, after all summer is here and should remain, should remain forever, soaked in our skin and damp clothes. Breath deep, this night air—this dark rumored air that I pretend to know but I'm miserable now and can only think of broken men on jetties, poles sagging in elbows, cloudy water over ankles, and my poor cousin sifting the shore for bits of crab and sea glass and sometimes I just want to lie and drift with the ebb and flow of nothing less than this quick night.
published 15 September 2011