Saturday, September 4, 2010

There Goes Earl

It’s just before 4 PM on a Saturday in September and I’m intoxicated enough to be pretty sure what is important to me. I’m helped along in this understanding by what seemed to be taken away, and what I’m wanting to get back. You don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone and you decide you’re going to get it back again. I need to back up a few days, before Earl helped me understand.

Matinicus dirt roads are frequently decorated with bright red and yellow-pink lobster and crab shells, full of calcium to keep down the dust. Right now, I’m crushing my eyes closed to keep out that dust. My eyes should know, because my teeth are full of the dust not kept down by calcium, or any break in the relentless sunny and hot weather. Samantha, good soul, saw me dragging up the road with the exhausted look all over and offered me a ride on her four wheeler, having known that look from her own experience. I’m crushing my eyes closed to keep out the dust, jarring my way home on the back of the four wheeler. I’m also crushing them closed because it’s all been too much. How many different boats, figuring out how to keep captain and sternman happy, how many mornings up early, how many unexpected and generous offers of work? How many days rowing and hauling on my own boat worrying about what a joke it is, but also working hard and realizing at the end of the day that I made some decent pay?

It’s all a dazzling, sunstroked conveyor belt of work on the ocean. Until Earl comes calling. Then it’s an alternating current of yes I must and no I don’t need to take up my traps. It’s all over. No it isn’t. I go from Ground Hog Day, the same endlessly long day repeated again, to thinking my crazy dream is over and back around everywhere in between.

Then I’m on Biscuit’s boat wrenching my gear out of all the rocks and cleaves I’ve come to know so intimately. Traps are stacked, ropes coiled, buoys now lifeless on the deck, no longer bobbing along to show me the way toward the magic of pulling the next trap to see what’s there this time. It all happens so suddenly.

I’m in bargaining mode the next day, hoping Earl will pass by, until Wes stops in and he helps me decide I need to take most of the rest up. The next morning, I’m all the way to noon hauling traps from the wharf, untying, coiling, and stacking them in the yard. The rich smell of algae on the rope I normally associate with the holidays now permeates the yard at the beginning of September. I never expected to be done so soon.

The next day, Earl is feeble. Not only that, he’s feeble over by Nova Scotia somewhere. Traps are stacked in the yard instead of gathering lobsters around the island. Sweet Pea is up on the grass between the Centennial Building and the power plant. It’s close enough to the anticipated end of the season that maybe I should just get on Clayton’s boat full time and be ready for next year with all I’ve learned of lobsters, waves, rocks, tide, bait, rowing, sailing, solar technology, wiring, wooden boats and the fierce love of a supporting partner.

I'm not sure when, but Sweet Pea and my green traps and blue and orange buoys will be back in the water. Feeble or no, Earl helped me see how important all of this is to me.

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