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  • April was turning out to be a crap month. The big hauls of December and January were ancient history. The March gales had kept the Deborah-Jayne on her mooring for weeks. Dickie had neat stacks of new traps on the wharf waiting. We’d loaded as many more aboard the boat, ready to go the first day there was half a chance. His neatly bundled red and white bouys hung in clusters from the rafter in the bait shed. We had resalted all the old bait in the big greasy drums. We had patched every old trap that would hold a nail. The price at the wharf for lobsters was high. Days we did go out we hardly filled the bottom of a 5-gallon bucket. He was going behind with bait and diesel and my 15% before expenses. The wait for spring fishing to get going was killing him.

    April in general in Maine is a bitch. The crocuses along the south facing walls are up, and a brave blade of grass may show here or there. There may even be the odd robin appearing on the scene, figuring he got a jump on the competition. But sure enough every year along comes the last major snowstorm. The drifts erase the bold robins’ genetic contribution as well as any fragile hopes of an early spring.

    I had a little house perched out over the harbour. I could almost jump from the front door to the wharf parking lot. 50 dollars a month. Full moon high tides slopped icy dark water up through the floor boards if the wind was southerly. I didn’t have a phone but Dickie didn’t even have to get out of the truck to holler over to me.

    Benjy.

    I stepped out into the dooryard in my stocking feet.

    I guess I’ll go set those traps, he said.

    I’ll get my boots, I called back.

    No need. I’ll just set those few and maybe haul here and there where the bait don’t stay.

    I knew he didn’t want to have me to come out for nothing again. I had a heap of stove wood to split. It was fine by me.

    Late that afternoon he came in alongside the wharf with the tide. He stumped back and forth hauling bait aboard. Took the Deborah-Jayne back to her mooring. Spent an hour cleaning before he rowed ashore. Kneeling on the center thwart, practically shoving the stern of little fiberglass punt under with each stroke of the oars.

    I was down to my t-shirt. Picking and setting logs on the chopping block. Swinging the big, wide-bladed axe.

    Dickie came around the corner red faced, hands in knotted fists at his side.

    I am tall and rangy. Dickie is wide and thick armed. Got hands like hams.

    Once he told me about the time in basic training when a Texan gave him more shit than he felt he deserved. The Texan wrestled him down.

    I grabbed him right in the meat of his thigh, said Dickie. Muckled right on and squoze. He stopped his mouth right off quick. Dickie smiled then.

    Now Dickie was pissed.

    I leaned on the axe.

    I thought maybe you’d think to come down and give me a hand, he said. Arms across his chest now.

    I saw you come in, I told him. But you told me don’t bother. So I didn’t.

    He looked at me.

    I looked at him.

    He turned and left without another word.

    Next day out we idled in the lee of the Little Island, 12 miles offshore, for lunch.

    Dickie pushed his cap back. Squinted at the sun.

    Fella gets mad, he said. Don’t do any good. Just end up thrashing around. Gwennie made a cake last night. Sent a piece for you.

    He pulled the neatly wrapped wedge of cake out of his dinner pail and slid it across the bulkhead to me.

    Thanks, I said.

    April is a tough month, he said.
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