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  • "Heard you was leaving Benjoy," Old Morris eyed his cigarette and spat a fleck of tobacco off the edge of the wharf.

    "Yeah, this is the last time out." We watched Mick row out to the Mister Chris picking his way through the pancake ice coming in with the tide.

    "Be some old quiet out there without you," said Old Morris after a time. "I been used to looking out the window there where I knit pockets. Look out to the southward and wonder what the hell you're up to out on the island."

    I didn't reply and he wasn't asking for any answers. We watched Mick swing himself aboard, blow on his hands, turn her over until she caught, then slide along the icy deck forward to cast off. We heard the splash of the chain after he was already on his way back to the wheel.

    "You have a care out there Benjoy," Old Morris didn't turn to look at me and I wasn't sure if he was talking about us going offshore or he was talking about something bigger than that.

    "Mick, he don't have a drop of fear in him. Not a goddam drop." Morris took a drag, eyed the damp end of the cigarette and flicked it into the Harbor. "But a fella leaves home and you don't know what the hell you're like to find." He shook another out of the pack, dug a kitchen match out of his pant's pocket, lit it with his thumbnail. We watched the flame for a moment as though this one bright spot in the dark of a winter morning had some promise to make, something we'd be able to hold onto all the rest of the day.

    "They say, don't be afraid, like being afraid some kind of disease. Don't be afraid, what kind of fool advice is that? You listen to an old man Benjoy. When fears at your shoulder and your hearts in your throat and your balls not far behind, there's a reason and a damn good one. Fear's the world's way of making sure you're getting the message. You know what I mean Benjoy?"

    "In general," I asked, "or you talking about today in particular?"

    Mick slid in to the wharf and give her a touch of reverse to stop just below the ladder. The old squaws and eiders under the wharf protested as the wake disturbed their sleep. I kicked a bucket of bait over to the block and tackle and lowered it down to him.

    "They're giving thirty-five to forty outa the northwest," said Old Morris, loud enough for Mick to hear.

    "Weatherman," said Mick. "What the hell do they know up to Bangor? Ain't that right Benjoy?"

    I climbed down the ladder a rung at a time, clumsy in my hipboots. Morris wrapped an arm around the worn post and leaned out over the edge of the wharf.

    "You'll be the only boat out today I 'magin," he said.

    "Nothin new," said Mick.

    Morris nodded. Mick cast off, knocked the throttle forward and spun the wheel. I watched the spark of the old man's cigarette until we were out past the boats and Mick knocked her up to 2500. I knew he'd be at the window all day looking out to southward. Looking out to the island and where our lights would show on the way home.
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