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  • "They pay you to do what?"
    Mick tipped back his cap
    popped another Busch
    drank half, wedged the can
    between a bag of wooden pegs,
    and half a ball of orange poly twine
    shook his head
    pulled on his gloves.

    We hauled the gear along the ledges and sea shattered cobbles
    down the northeast end of Ragged Island
    then bucked the cross chop in the channel
    the sou’west wind and the outgoing tide coming over the Bar
    made it some sloppy
    wind like that, whip the words right outa you
    you’re apt to hear what you thought before you thunk it through

    Wasn’t ‘til we got in under Gotts Island Head
    either one of us had the least inclination,
    or breath enough, to make what you might call conversation.
    Mick idled back, unbuttoned his sou’wester, dug out a smoke,
    leaned back against the wheel, one boot up on the rail.
    “God sakes, Benjoy, there ain't even a house on that island.”
    I finished plugging the lobsters in the plug box,
    baited up the pockets for the next string
    ”They want you to run out there couple, three times a month and take a look? “
    “Pay, to run over and take a look,” I said
    “I ‘magin,” he said. Though, to be honest,
    I wasn’t sure what he was imagining.

    We went round in January.
    Traps were up and stacked in the dooryard.
    Scallops were slow that year.
    Shrimp hadn’t come in yet.
    Islands ringed in ice
    Mick ran in slow through The Narrows,
    pancake ice jostling against the ice sheathing
    We anchored off Round Island and rowed ashore.
    Hauled the punt up on the one scrap of rough beach,
    stomped up through the frozen woods.
    A lone crow disputed our arrival,
    The waves slopped among the ice.
    sky as grey and hard as gunmetal,
    not a breath of wind.
    The spruce dark and sullen with the cold.
    Mick stopped and I stopped beside him,
    our breath hung in smoky plumes.
    A door stood open across the path.
    Open to realm of silence.

    ‘”You know,” said Mick,
    when we were back aboard, running for home.
    He stepped out of the cabin and looked back at the island.
    “You know, that door could be to anywhere.”

    Then he popped another beer.
    Tipped back his cap, grinned.
    “They pay you for that.”
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