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  • Hauling Traps


    Seems like just the other day I'd stop at the back door and tap for him in the early dark and the grass all wet with dew and him excited about what we might get and me carrying lunch for two.

    I had the skiff then and for a summer or two Stephen went out with me as a sort of reverse sternman. There wasn’t room for us both to work so I hauled the traps and tended them and he ran the boat. She was only 16 feet and it wasn’t like I really needed anyone to run her while I hauled traps. But it was summer and he was my brother and 16 years younger than me.

    I pointed out the next buoys in the string, explained, again, how the tide ran where the ledges lay, how the wind swapped the buoys round, and which way to come up on one so I had the slack to take up easy and only a short length when I actually had the weight of it.

    All my gear was wooden traps and by July they had soaked up plenty. The rope was slimed with grass and weed and when he came in too fast or wide I got my arms stretched out in good shape.

    Stephen, I’d say.

    And he’d grin.

    And I grunted them up with the wide arm-swinging heave, heave, heave on the warp and then flip the trap up and out of the water so it lay on the gunnel streaming water. A full meter of oak and cement and twine full of flapping lobsters when the day went well and nothing but the water to change when the days went poor.

    He'd step away from the wheel to hold a baby flounder, or catch a wandering hermit crap, or puzzle at the odd habits of spider crabs when they decorated their backs with bits of shell and sand and coral.

    I paid him a percentage off the top. He counted the lobsters as they came in. After a few days he knew the weight within a pound or two and did the calculations in his head. I couldn’t really afford to pay him but he was my brother and it was summer. I wondered on the runs between strings how the hell I planned to make ends meet. My equation included bait and gas and what if the friggin engine goes again. Bouy paint and rope and laths and nails to build and patch my gear. But I wouldn't, couldn't bear to forgo his enthusiasm and delight.




    And Sunday Mornings


    My compound was just a twisty path through a fringe of woods from my parents. Tipi on a platform. Little leaning log shack. Tiny sauna made of scrap with a metal chimney coming out delightfully askew. Patchwork of garden beds dug out of the old field. Projects in stages. Stacks of materials. Claire and I were fresh from our first winter alone on the island and the world was wild with possibility.

    Stephen came over to hang out in the one ragged armchair in the cabin kitchen or to sit in a row on the edge of the platform every chance he could.

    During June, July and August we couldn’t haul our lobster traps on Sunday. Most fellas used the law as a good reason to sleep in a little. Poverty breeds its own restlessness and I figured there had to be an opportunity instead of an idling day.

    One afternoon, two tokes to the wind and feeling a bit peckish, I thought of doughnuts. Entirely natural stream of thought. And then it occurred to me that now that we had the little log cabin set up as a kitchen with a gas stove with an oven and 4 burners instead of just the little two-burner in the middle of the tipi that we had, if you squinted a bit, a bakery.

    I’ll make doughnuts, I announced. Sunday morning doughnuts.

    There was a long pause. I scratched a wooden kitchen match on an old foundation block and made it three. Watched the smoke spill through the little meadow all ringed with jagged spruce, forming dreams and fantasies. Benjoy’s most amazing doughnuts and all the world beating a path to the little log shack in the shaggy meadow grasses.

    We’ll take orders.

    I’ll deliver them, said Stephen. They’ll give me tips.

    I wondered what books he’d been reading. We seemed to be on the same page.

    The little log cabin was exactly that, little. There was room for a table for two, a chair for whoever wasn’t working, the stove and just enough space to turn around in. It was handy. I could mix, cut, fry, and set out the finished rings without taking a step.

    I was up at 3:00 and ready for Stephen to make his first round of deliveries before 7. The production was finished by 9:00.

    How much do you think we made, asked Claire.

    Cash flow in those days was basic in pocket or out.

    I gave my pocket a jingle, Like almost 20 bucks I guess.

    Maybe you could make chocolate ones too, said Stephen. I bet they’ll like that.

    I moved slowly doing the chores, slowly tending the garden. By afternoon the little meadow was quiet.

    Maybe we could put up a sign down at the mail, said Stephen. Then people would know.

    I nodded, slowly.

    That summer it was almost a relief to get up at 4 on Monday and go hauling.
    Yeah and all the while the wind swept back his blonde and curly hair
    and I watched him grow,
    me in t-shirt,
    salt stained arms,
    face all red and rough from wind and sun and sea,
    and I loved him as the little brother
    me in my 20’s then and him almost young enough to be a son.
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