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  • On an island, feuds and building projects go together like popcorn and salt. In an island feud there are no neutral zones, no safe havens.

    Kimma decided his cottage down to the shore could use an upgrade. He hauled the old camp down and burnt it. Had quite the bonfire. The new place was going to be grand. When he put up the first pair of rafters and neighbors saw how grand, the measuring tapes came out and a two year orgy of charge and counter charge was let loose in a long regulatory chain reaction.

    He ended up building up on the hill across the Town Road from us. Named his place Phoenix Lodge. I stayed pretty well out of it. I had worked some with Kimma and was actually overseas for a good part of the whole affair but clan allegiances and island politics put me on the outs with Kimma. For two years Kimma wouldn’t even wave when we passed on the bay.

    Now, the thing about building on an island is getting materials to the site. When I built a second floor onto the house in town, I got home from work and there were all the 2x4s, 2x8s, 2x10s, sheets of plywood, nails, wallboard, everything all stacked inside and ready to go. Out on the island it is another story altogether. We had a barge come out and she powered in as close as she could get to the shore and with boom, swung the bundles onto the beach rock. They set the heavy beams and sills out first and then piled materials that needed to stay dry on top, out of the sea’s reach.

    Every bundle had to be broken and every stick and sheet carried up the shore to the beat up old pick-up truck, hauled up the hill one load at a time, and then handled once again to be sorted and stacked and covered. A whole house piece by piece.

    When it came time for the fireplace I figured it was time to make a new plan. Masonry materials are heavy, hard, and they can’t get wet, especially not with salt water. Salt water turns cement to crumbles.

    The year before my daughter was born, I had worked as a mason’s tender on a job with Kimma. Each day he brought out just exactly the materials we’d need for the day. He moored his boat off a beach near the job site. I’d mix a batch of mortar, load up the mason’s mortar board enough to keep him busy, then hustle down to the shore, row out to the boat, load the punt with cement or brick or block, row back, and carry it up to the site. It seemed like it was always low tide that summer. I was in my 20s then and even then I had figured this was a lame way to run a job.

    Twenty-two years later, older, wiser and more flush with cash, I researched options and found the ultimate Island delivery system. A captain down the coast who ran an World War II landing craft and 4-wheel drive forklift. Just the ticket.

    I arrived on the island in the late afternoon in early June of one of the wettest springs on record. There in front of the house were neat rows of bricks and blocks and chimney tile and cement all on their pallets. A dream come true.

    Kimma drove up on his four wheeler.

    Hope you got what you wanted asshole, he spat. You’ve ruined the road. I thought he was going to come off the 4-wheeler and get up on the porch. I got up out of my rocker, the captain of the landing craft and his helper set down their beers.

    Asshole, Kimma muttered and took off down the road.

    We settled down again.

    Ain’t he wound up tighter’n the bark on a tree the captain marvelled.

    The road out front looked fine to me. I figured he was jealous of all those neat piles of material.

    But, it niggled. So we walked along the road to where it ran down to the shore. It was a war zone. The little woods road scored with savagely deep ruts. Impassable, and the further we went the worse it got. I thought about getting a shovel but a mile of wrecked road was beyond shovel power.

    The next morning I went down to Kim’s place. He came out all tousled and barefoot in a tattered, white, terrycloth robe belted at the waist. A mug of coffee clenched in his fist

    I told him he was right and that I was going to call the Town Office and let them know and that I’d do whatever it took to repair the damage. He didn’t say a word.

    What it took was a visit by the Town Manager and a rep from the Environmental Protection Agency, a barge to bring out gravel and stone and machinery. Total cost: $7,000. The sticker price on this fireplace was beginning to add up.

    Carly and I worked inside on the fireplace and all that summer we hung our heads in shame as the ones who had wrecked the island.

    One foggy afternoon two years later I was working in the shed. Kim walked up.

    We stood stiff as a pair of edgy dogs.

    Guess you heard, he said.

    I said I’d been in the shed all day.

    You came to straight to me, he said. Man to man

    I had always figured it had more to do with us being neighbours than men but I wasn’t sure where he was going with all this.

    They’re all talking about how I landed a boat of people on the island. They’re saying I’m going to bring the tour boat here and wreck the island. I don’t care what they think but I wanted to make sure you knew it was only this once. It was foggy and I had a load of Japanese tourists and they’d come so far and I wanted them to see something.

    I nodded.

    I wanted you to know that, he said.

    The fog hung still in the meadow.

    The shed door swung open.

    Making a table, Kimma asked?

    Yeah, I answered. I had some scrap lying around.

    Legs look good.

    We nodded.
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