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  • “Benjoy, you wrote a fuckin' book.”

    I looked at the phone. Just a few hours into New Year's day. Long as it took me to be dragged from sleep, check the time and stumble downstairs, anyone else would have hung up and let it go.



    “Who is it Ben?”

    “Mickey.” I called back up the stairs.



    “Fuckin right. I’m Mickey flip, capin’ of the seven tuna seas.”

    He paused and shifted the receiver just enough to take a drink.

    I heard the glass bang on the counter in his trailer.

    “I left you a copy,” I said. “No one was home so I left it on the counter.”

    “Jaysus, Benjoy, you wrote a fuckin book.”

    I’d never seen him even pick up a book but I’d shifted dishes and empties, brushed off the crumbs and used the last paper towel on the roll to wipe up the crusty scabs of mayo and sticky puddles of spilled beer and left a copy by the remains of a six-pack where he’d be sure to see it.

    I heard a bottle rattle, then the gurgle and splash of another drink.

    “How’s the fishing?” I asked.

    “Fuckin January ain’t it. Blowin’ every goddam day. I been out some days even the old man wouldn’t go.”

    I waited and thought of the ice on the platform, the coils of rope frozen as they lay heaped on the deck, the gobs of ice on the end of the spindles on the buoys. The sea-smoke twining among the crests, the sudden tearing hiss of whitecaps breaking, the odd silence in the troughs deep enough to be out of the wind for a heartbeat before being tossed on high again. Thirty miles offshore and not another boat out.

    "You hear my boat sank on the goddam mooring. Only the friggin' antennae sticking up when I come down next morning. Good thing i wasn't sleeping off a drunk. Now the radar's all shot to hell. I'm fishing just like my grandfather, back in the stone age for fuck's sake."

    His glass hit the counter again and a bottle fell over.

    "Shit, I gotta get the other bottle outa the truck. Don't go nowhere Benjoy."

    I settled down on the stairs and waited. The door slammed, the new bottle gurgled.

    "Too bad I can't pour you one," said Mick. "Maybe I should drive down and pick you up, plenty of time for a six-pack patrol, be just like it used to be."

    “Jaysus Benjoy, didn’t we have some times. I didn’t think we’d make it that night. Weren’t we some fuckin lucky.”

    I waited again.

    “I read that part in your book and it was like I was back there.”

    I remembered his hood drawn tight around his face, just eyes wide staring out, bright in the moon glare. The mike in his hand calling mayday-mayday-mayday even though the radio was as dead as the engine and the wind so wild fierce I could barely hear him a yard away. The deck awash with lobsters and ice. The seas rising as high as the radio mast on top of the cabin.

    “But Jaysus, Benjoy, I’m Mickey flip not goddam JJ.”

    “It’s a story Mick,” I said.

    “A fuckin book. How many you sell?”

    I started to explain about small publishers and royalty percentage, about how I’d made more writing an article than for the book.

    “Jaysus, Benjoy, you wrote a book. You must be rich as Stephen fuckin’ King.”

    I laughed.


    "Wind's dropping out," Mick said. "I guess it'll be fit after all. I better hoot and drive her, I gotta put bait aboard."

    I thought of him driving through the silent towns to the wharf, rowing out in the dark, cranking the old engine until she caught. One hand on the wheel, the other under his arm for warmth. Bumping alongside the wharf, climbing the icy ladder to drag his buckets and trash cans of bait to the edge and then lower them down. Slowly out of the dark harbor until the engine warmed, checking his compass with his lighter and jamming the throttle down, running south-east where the sky just began to pale.



    "So, what did Mickey want?"


    "He asked about the book," I said.

    "He probably wanted money."

    "Maybe," I looked out the window and wondered about it.

    Twenty-five years later I realized a man who didn't read called me about a book I wrote. I felt rich as Stephen fucking King.
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