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  • “Christ sakes Benjoy, I don’t know how you stand it.” Mick had come out to the island for a weekend during deer season that year. We’d come back from hunting Black Island, made up a fire in the woodstove, cooked supper and drank everything he thought to bring out with him. It wasn’t yet six but it felt like half past midnight.

    It had been a long day, no doubt about that. We’d left the island in the bitter chill before dawn to arrive on Black Island for a sunrise start.

    That morning, after Bal took off for the tree stand down in the Point Field, I’d listened to Mick thrash off through the blow-downs, cursing and snapping branches and gone quietly south to his north.

    I climbed to the southern end of Black, past the heaps of quarry tailings, past the stacked block along the remnants of the little rail system, through the moss hung apple trees in the old orchards, down by the cellar holes and scatter of brick and glass that marked the little town. I saw a few does and a couple little bucks no bigger than dogs. Wondered at the spruce along the shore they’d nibbled to bonsai. Mostly tried to be still enough to let the forest creep up on me until the chill of the lowering sun set my feet on the way back again.

    The plan was to meet up at the edge of dark in the little cove by the tumble down granite blocks of the old quarry wharf. It was still a couple of hours till moonrise and the water was velvet black in the shadows under the huge square cut stone blocks of the wharf.

    Bal was back already, sunk deep in his winter coat, half asleep.

    He and I shared a joint and listened for Mick.

    Bal grinned.

    It was the same whip snap of bramble and blowdown and heavy footed shuffle crunch through the dead branch and needle litter only instead of curses there was a lot of heavy breathing.

    “Mick sounds like a herd,” I said.

    Bal giggled and flicked on his lantern.

    Mick blinked in the sudden glare, scratched a crusty trail of blood off one cheek and picked brambles out of his hair.

    “Who won?” I asked.

    “Fuckin’ forest,” he muttered, “full of trees and not one fuckin deer. ”

    Now he paced to the dark window and pressed his nose against the glass.

    “I mean not even one fuckin light out there,” he said. “I don’t know how you fuckin stand it.”

    “Remember when we used to watch the moonlight at night down at the shore,” said Bal.

    “Like a silver highway,” I said.

    “Oh, don’t,” said Mick without turning. “But what the fuck, let’s go down to the Pool and check the boat. Something to do anyway. When the hell you going to get a four-wheeler anyway. This walking shit’ll kill you.”

    We walked down to the shore and stood by the punt. Mick checked her anchor, settled the oars under the thwart, kicked a scatter of beach stone into the waves. The tide was just turning. The wind just a whisper. We could hear the tide slap against the hull of the boats out on the moorings as they swung in the current and the surge making further out on the ledges between the islands but we couldn’t see a hand in front of our face except where it blacked out a star or two.

    “Jaysus,” said Mick. “It’s,”

    He didn’t finish. He didn’t have to.

    We stood as in front of a doorway. Alone in an immensity framed in silence. Surveying a landscape without bearings or reference. Alone on a single point so that we might be connected to any place, any time. Alone with all of space towering above us and below only the constant shift of stone and water and branch.

    We turned without speaking and followed the hill up to the cabin. We were halfway through the village before we could see the candle Bal left in the window .

    “I am some fucking glad to see that candle,” said Mick. “We gotta get you a TV out here Benjoy. I don’t see how you can stand it.”
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