With a pinch of Lavender

Thesis segment 1

November 1, 2009
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I was sticky. The breeze came off the water and across The Beach. My mother poured the sunscreen on my back and rubbed it in. I looked at the overcast sky as she covered my neck. My eyes closed as her greasy hand wiped over my face. Chester crashed his pink tugboat into the sand, the dog watching.

“You’re done,” my mother said, “play in the tidal pool until I finish slathering your brother.” I stood up as she pushed the hair off my forehead. Over the wet sand to the long rock that broke up the beach, I climbed over the barnacles and into the cratered center. Squatted in the warm water hunkering my bottom to the rock, my knees were almost equal to my shoulders. I splashed the warm water over myself, trying to warm my skin against the late spring air. Chester stood so my mother could cover his knees and shins. His bushy brown hair already had sand in it. The dog smelled his back. Chester waved at me. Water squirted between my hands in his direction. Chester laughed. My mother zipped his red life preserver and stood up, pulling her long hair over her shoulder. She walked to my tidal pool with Chester.

“Boys, since this is a tradition, I think I should say something.” She took Chester’s hand and mine, pulling me up. The air met the water on my skin, causing my teeth to chatter. My mother continued.  “I am just so happy that every year, June first, we, as a family, go swimming in the ocean. It means so much that this is something we can accomplish every year, so that every other swim we take for the rest of the summer is warm as a pool in comparison.” She smiled down at us. My lips were probably bordering on purple. Chester climbed the rock and picked up a piece of light green kelp, pulling back my mother’s swimsuit strap. “Don’t you dare.” she said, not turning around. Chester giggled, trying to balance himself on the barnacles, his feet soft from a winter of shoes. “Don’t you do it Chester Arthur Sillman.” Chester let the kelp and straps go, pinching the slimy green leaf to her skin with a snap. My mother grabbed Chester around the middle, running to the water. She threw him in ahead of her. Chester bobbed in the water, kicking and splashing. My mother shouted up to me as I stood with my ankles in the tidal pool, shivering, “Come in TR, it’s not so bad.”

I wished she’d thrown me in too. Spring ocean water hurt to the marrow. Wading meant stepping further in, knowing that the feet that hurt would be joined by shins, and then knees. Wading was bones and skin and blood screaming, the body pleading, until numbness. Waiting for my knees to stop screaming, I submerged my thighs. Wading took hours, days. Chester splashed the dog’s back. Numbness reached my waist so I went under. Cold water on the face and head makes the lungs try to gasp. My eyes stayed open, the greenish darkness fuzzy with bits of sand and seaweed floating in front of me. I stood up, my lungs gasping, cold salt in my mouth. Chester doggy paddled towards the beach. Dragging my numb legs through the water, up The Beach, I made it to my towel. I didn’t understand how they could stay in so long. Small waves rose beneath my mother and Chester, big waves didn’t make it through the harbor. The dog jumped through the bits of foam, biting crustaceans.

When I warmed up and my mother and brother came out of the water, I took a green bough from the apple tree and tied my leather string to both ends. Like Robin Hood, I notched the outside of the points, locking the string in place. Because the wood was green it didn’t break apart when pulled. I made arrows with my leatherman, sharpening the points, notching the ends. I felt like a man, like my father, who went hunting in the fall with my uncles and his friends. I felt like a warrior, and a brave. I was going to kill, and bring home what I had killed. Other boys wouldn’t be men until their parents told them so, but I was.

Chester sat in the tidal pool, pouring water from a bucket and onto his boat. My mother sat in her beach chair, sunglasses on, her long hair hanging wet over the back, sand stuck to the ends. Her head was hanging over the back of her chair, air noisily coming in and out of her open mouth. Past the apple tree that hung over the sand, tiny and undernourished crabapples underfoot I went. I crouched in the grasses behind the tree where my mother took the dog to poop. The seagulls circled over the harbor, the tree, and the harbor master building. I took out my first arrow, firing it between the branches. It came back down. The gulls flew low, trying to get the mussels, clams and crabs at the low tide, finding old apples easier to pick up off the ground. One tried to land between me and the tree. I fired. The arrow hit it, bounding off. I notched another arrow as the gull started flying away. My arrow hit the gull between the wing and ribs. I didn’t it would actually work.

It squawked, wings not beating together, one fast, and one not completing the flap. I watched it hit the ground, further hurting the left wing. Blood colored the white feathers. The gull cried. The right wing kept trying to fly, but the left hung around the arrow sticking out of its side. I grabbed the gull. “I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry.” I kept saying it. “I’m sorry I’m sorry.”  I pulled the arrow out, the blood dripping off the feathers, onto my stomach. Blood came out of it’s beak, the gull opening its mouth all the way, its small tongue like a red worm. I held it to my body, it would get better, I would fix it. “I’m sorry I’m so sorry.” It screamed some more, as I hugged it tighter to me. I whispered my sorries to it like a chant. The right wing pushed against my chest. The gull’s head moved back and forth, crying and leaking. My mother called my name. I couldn’t stop sorrying. Chester ran up the path behind the tree.

“Is it ok?” he asked. He reached his hand out to touch it. I jerked away.

“I’m fixing it! You’ll ruin it!” I yelled. A couple of tears fell on the gull’s feathers. They would help, tears and sorries would help. It would be fine. It would be great. It would come home with us and live in my room. I would have a gull and name it Derek. The gull screamed again, this time panting. My stomach and swim trunks were red with bird blood, white and gray feathers sticking.  Chester reached his hand out again, and I screamed. The gull screamed with me. The blood was warm between the feathers and my stomach. Chester would break it. I needed to fix it. I was sorry. I squeezed harder, the pinned wing pushing against me. My mother stood at the bottom of the path. The dog sniffed the gull. “I’m Sorry!”

My mother asked me to let go. I couldn’t.

“I have to fix it.” I said. She had to understand.

“Sweetheart, let it go, it’s dying.” She put her hand on my shoulder. I had to save it. I had to get it clean, the blood was making it sick, there was too much blood. I walked down the path. Chester was crying and my mother picked him up. I walked down The Beach towards the water. It just had to be clean. The gull pushed its wing into my solar plexus. The cold water sunk itself into my skin, biting me. Blood and feathers mixed with the dark green. The gull would get better. It lived in the ocean, it needed the salt. We needed to go under, to be clean, for the salt to polish us bright. My mother came up behind me and lifted me around my middle. The gull drooped. It was warm against the water. My mother’s arms pulled me backwards towards The beach. Screaming. I wasn’t clean. I was bloodied and feathered. My mother dropped me on the sand. The gull’s eyes didn’t close when its head hit the rocky ground.


Riptide

February 3, 2009
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Mercer kept salt water in a jar next to the window over the sink. It wasn’t the same as the water she scooped it from. This was clear, with sand in the bottom and bits of seaweed or fish parts settled. Mercer liked the thick glass, with the smooth letters that spelled a cursive ‘mason.’ The jar was clear, and the water was clear, and it was wrong. Her mother Hannah kept old bits of china and sea glass. They were splayed with gray rocks that had white veins in them. They were wrong, sitting on wood instead of being polished and smoothed and worn down to bits of sand. Mercer thought of what should have been little piles of sand on her mother’s dresser.

Mercer secretly climbed a tree. She wanted to look over the pond, see where it met the ocean. Her grandmother’s house was mildew and pine. Hannah spent her summers there until an orphan burned it down along with five other houses near the beach. The fireplace was old; the rest was rebuilt while Hannah was in school. Mercer climbed down, the dry bark crackling. The beach was past the pond, but she had seen snapping turtles crawl onto the lawn. She climbed up the rock face instead of walking around the house to the lane, and closed the faulty screen door that let mosquitoes in. Lucas poked a snapping turtle with a stick on the front lawn, smiling up at the living room and reaching his foot toward the turtle’s mouth. She didn’t watch him taunt their mother.

The kitchen was connected to the living room by a slate pathway shouldered by windows. Her grandmother had jars with nothing in them. Mercer fit the jars into each other like Russian dolls. She slipped her sandals on in case her grandmother came into the kitchen. Her feet were dirty, and scratched between the light calluses.

Mercer went to the beach with Hannah, her grandparents stayed under the overhang of the clubhouse. Hannah told her about diving off the elephant with the boys, her swimsuit snapping when she hit the water, spending the entire summer with her bikinis held together with safety pins. Mercer wanted to climb the elephant. To see what the beach looked like from up there. To step around dried barnacles and touch the warm rock with her hands as she maneuvered up the tail and onto the back. To shoo the sea birds off, trying not to step in their droppings, thirty years of baked seagull scat.

* * *

She tried to swim to the elephant when she was little, with Lucas, both of them in life vests. Hers had dolphins on it. The undertow started, it was hurricane season, and the jellyfish were coming to the shoreline. The sign on the beach said that they were only allowed in the water if accompanied by at least one other person. Hannah held Mercer and Lucas by the nylon tethers on the backs of their life vests. They were floating on their stomachs, paddling, tipping right and left to crawl, necks sticking out as far as they could go to keep their chins out of the water. Lucas had a red life vest with yellow piping, she knew it was red, because Hannah’s feet got knocked by a wave, and she didn’t let go. Mercer saw Lucas’ red life vest through the sand and the seaweed. She saw Hannah’s blue swimsuit and her own white life vest with the pink and purple dolphins on it. They all looked darker under the water; the sand was between her and the sky. She saw legs and sand and sand again. When Mercer’s head came out of the water, Lucas was crying.

“Why do you want to kill me?” His cheek was already pink from where his knee hit.

“I didn’t try to kill you.” Hannah pulled her yellow hair out of her face.
“Yes you did! I saw! You went under and wouldn’t let go! I was going to die!” His other cheek was blushing, and his eyebrows arched in a ‘why?’
“If I let go, then you’d be dead. The riptide would pull you out far, far out to sea, and you’d be gone. You’d go one way and Mercer would go another way, and I’d lose you both. Would you prefer that?” Hannah turned them back to the shore.
“Yes! My head wouldn’t be underwater.”

* * *

Mercer left her sandals by the door, and closed it slowly. In the dark she almost couldn’t see where the tears were in the screen were. The dog stared at her, pacing. She hoped animals could receive telepathic messages, because she promised him a treat if he didn’t bark. Apparently he could, because he sat and tilted his smooshed face to the side to ask ‘now?’

Every pad of her toes slicked with the dew on the slate stairway. She walked in the grass until the driveway met the road, and took a right. The honeysuckle draped itself over the stonewalls like balloons filled with dough. She pulled the flowers and sucked the stamens clean, leaving empty petals. Her red brown hair was littered with leaves on the right side where it snagged twigs. She passed the sleeping beach houses with road bikes in the front yard. Mercer walked through the hurricane damage from before her grandmother was born, over the felled chimneys and sunken bathtubs. The fence on the dunes was missing a section where the pallets were stacked end to end around the clubhouse. She folded her shorts and shirt next to the lifeguard chair, the sand fine and cool, squeaking against her metatarsals. She retied her bikini with a double knot, the dark green matching the dune grass.

Mercer planted herself at the edge, the water sucking the sand from under her, leaving foot shaped pools, the pale and lacy foam ankleting. The elephant was between her and the lights from the harbor, glowing, the beached side black and wrinkled. She squatted, picking up a hollow green crab, flicking it onto the beach for the gulls. She climbed into the ocean, her arms sunk to her elbows, toes curling into the sand and shells at the shore. She gripped the bottom, the shells and old seaweed clinking against her bracelet, crawling.


Lightning Bugs

November 21, 2008
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When the child is filled with darkness, the lamps are too yellow, the couch is too brown, the carpet is dry and cracks under the child’s elbows. The sister of the child has her braids fraying in the middle. The knitting basket is full of sea mines, and the yellow glow of the ceiling light is puckered with the lightning bugs trapped inside for years. The turntable scratches over the warps. The piano in the corner bares its teeth, parted and widened, its feet hovering above the carpet. The layers of old wallpaper peer out where they meet the ceiling, whitecapped by putty and paint. The child’s skin is pink and raw from leaning against the carpet, and sings throbbing. The television is too loud, the colors jump at him. The child pulls himself on his elbows back towards the wall, away from the television and the piano. He inches towards the tiled bathroom, the tiles that are wet in the summer. His singing skin cooled, condensation on his hairs.

* * *

In the summer, the child’s family visits his cousins’ house, the one with the horses. The field out back is overgrown and full of horse droppings and blackberries. Paul and Dad pick blackberries and hand them to the child, and he fills his mouth and covers his face. He picks with both hands, ripe, overripe, green. Some leaves gum to his sticky fingers.

The grass is itchy against the child’s knees where his galoshes don’t meet his swim trunks. Dad tells Paul to look at something, and he holds out his hand and pops it in his mouth. Paul stares at the child as his eyes widen. Dad asks what the matter is, but Paul doesn’t open his mouth, can’t, won’t. He puffs out his cheeks and looks from the child to Dad, hoping they know what to do.

The slimy back of the frog touches the roof of his mouth, quietly waiting to be let go. The child could feel the little feet on his tongue. Dad laughs and tells Paul to spit. The little frog hops away quickly. He doesn’t stop spitting all the way home.

* * *

The child becomes used to being one of sleep’s discards. Tired of lying in bed, pretending the basement is not an ancient Native American burial ground, dug up so that the foundation could be poured. Pretending no one will grab him coming back from the bathroom to punish him for dishonoring their land. Pretending the waterfall into the window from that storm was just a freak of nature, and not a warning. The child turns a few lights on in the living room. The spiders, poisonous ones, crawl out from behind the television, and the thriller mystery novel Dad bought for plane rides has odd legs smooshed into unnatural positions on the back. The green goo from the big white spiders coats the wall and the book, like alien blood smear. The child doesn’t mind the little brown hairy ones, but the big white ones are unreasonable, always appearing in the middle of the day or the middle of the night.

At 1:30 am he has to kill two spiders. By three, there is another. The sticky trap behind the television is full of the hairy brown ones, most still twitching. He pretends that he is not living in a grave basement, and there are no angry spiders behind the television, in the laundry room, under the bookshelf, in the bathroom, under his bed with the hunter green comforter. Pretends there aren’t spider leaders planning their attack while he sleeps. Pretends the sticky pads will hold them, and that angry and deformed spiders are not coming for him. The child wonders how mad the dead Indians are compared to the sticky spiders.

* * *

Sometimes in the summer, his friend’s family visits. Dad makes a fire in the pit near the apple trees. The child and his friend light sparklers, and catch lightening bugs, and sleep in the yard. He and his friend dig for clay and make mud pots to sell, and wash their arms in the stream. They put green felt hats on and shoot twig arrows from bows made of sticks and rubber bands. They are both Robin Hood, and pick up apples under the trees, and eat them next to the stream, in the shade. They bite ants, and suck out their insides. The red ones are salty, the black ones are sweet. They spit the empty bodies back onto the ant hill, and pour baking soda and vinegar on them. It’s an experiment. When Dad goes inside, they spray WD40 on bigger ant hills, and watch them writhe before lighting the grease on fire.

The friend and the child paint the lilac trees with mud, to protect them from the sun. The trees turn white, and when it rains, only one side stays muddy. When it is time to go, they tell the parents that they are stuck together, and need medical experiments to take them apart. The friend gives back the green cape, and they separate which mud pot was made by whom. They stick together as the friend gets into the car. He gives the friend a collectable card that will be worth a lot if he keeps it in its sleeve. The car is on the road, and in the driveway the child finds the plastic eggs they caught the fireflies in that rattle like rice when he picks them up.

* * *

Just because he finds something, doesn’t make it his. Dad found the cat under his truck, the cat stayed with them for a year, and then the cat was gone. He still finds orange hairs everywhere even though they moved away. The cat had kittens once, when they thought the cat was a boy. Dad gave the kittens to a man who had a farm. Sometimes Dad hears crazy stories about the kittens, how they killed a wild hare together, or scare the horses. The cat’s probably hiding under someone else’s truck, or part of some orange owl coughings, like the ones the child had to dissect in third grade when he found a shrew skull. That wasn’t his either – it was the shrew’s, and then the owl borrowed it, and then he found it. He wanted to take it home with him, but it wasn’t his to keep, and Mrs. Greene said he had to leave it with the rest of the owl coughings on the paper towels – the brown ones that never got his hands dry – public school towels.

* * *

The child develops a coping mechanism called “the desert lizard” wherein he blends in with the environment until attacked, and leaves a piece of him behind for escape. Desert lizards are the same color as desert rocks and stay very still. They blink sometimes, but they become part of the rock. If a bird can see them, the lizard gets ready to run, but lets go of its tail if that means not being eaten. He lets go of his argument if someone gets mad, and smiles and pretends he never cared about anything. If the bird gets the tail, it leaves the lizard alone. When he gives them a concession, they leave him alone until the next time they get hungry for his surrender. They swallow his defeat like a tail, and break it down, making it part of them, adding it to all the other conceded arguments they’ve won, building themselves into a desert bird out of his lizard tails.

After a few arguments, their nose forms into a hooked beak and the feathers sprout out of their forearms. Their brow becomes a V, their mouth points downward, their bones hollow, and their toes become scaly and crooked. Soon, instead of yelling, they screech so that it can echo in canyons, off of the rocks he blends into, and up to the sun they can’t fly to. The child’s tail has no time to grow back, and they peck at his oozing stump, until they swallow him whole, his padded fingers sticking to the side of their beak. And they fly home, taking him with them to feed to their hook beaked chicks on the side of a canyon, in a nest built of the rocks he now hides under.

* * *

In the house the child used to live in, there were streams and a pond that filled itself in. He puts a plank over the stream, and calls it a bridge, and covers it with mud, so it is stronger. A piece of drift wood is his oar, and his fishing spear. He pretends there are fish in the stream, and brings home minnows he caught in the ocean, and puts them in the pond, so they can grow big. The pond will be full of fish, and he and Dad can catch them in their backyard. The minnows disappear under last years’ leaves. The child uses his driftwood to clear out the leaves, making the pond harder to see through. The minnows try to jump out of the pond, their silver sides through the murk. The fish, pushed back into the pond, stick their heads out of the brown water. He picks one up, sucking for air, and pokes its gills, covered in the mud. His dirty finger tries to squeeze some of the mud out, rinses the minnow off. He puts the minnow back into the pond, with its family; he figures swimming with their heads out of the water is a way of getting to know each other. He can hear it when their little lips smack together as they talk to each other. They turn brown as they smack their tails on the water, turning sideways, trying to unclog their gills. The child stirs the water, and they hide under the leaves, and know they are hibernating for next spring.

* * *

The child lives in a lighthouse seven miles outside the city. He reads a story about a little girl who lived in a lighthouse and wanted a garden, but it was so rocky, nothing would grow. So every spring she would buy new soil for her garden that would wash away in the winter swells. He wonders if he could plant a garden here, rocky on the cliff over the ocean. He decides to start with some window boxes.

Every night, in his lighthouse, he goes upstairs – he calls it the crow’s nest – to light the lamp. Tiny swallows live up there, but at night they sleep. The child wonders if swallows could cast bird shadows on the fall clouds outside if they woke up. He sits downstairs looking at the clouds for bird shadows. Dad goes into the city for oil for the lamp to refill the reservoir. He goes to a maritime shop, but sometimes they don’t have oil, so he has to buy it in a candle store. It doesn’t have the smoke or the smell. The child wonders how they get the oil out of the goose. He could have some geese, and squeeze the oil out of them like row from a fish, all pink and full of miniature clear globes that break under a fingernail with the tiniest pop.

* * *

The child brings food under the trees, and climbs into their branches. He pees around his fort, so the wolves will know it’s his. There are wolves in the woods, even if Dad says they’re deer, he hears them sometimes. The wolves know the fort is his, and stay in the woods, but he can hear them running on the brown pine needles and old twigs. They splash across the stream higher up. He hears them licking the water. He could catch one, and have it live with him in the fort. The wolf would be wild, but it would scare other things away from the fort.

The child wishes there was a willow tree, so he could swing from the vines, but there isn’t, so he ties ropes to the old apple trees. Sometimes he falls when the rope is wet. He puts metal bowls of fruit in the stream, and calls it a refrigerator. When it starts to rain, he pulls a tarp over a tree, and under a rock. He sits in the blue tarp, listening to the tapping. There is old glass in the leaves, and he hides it again. Sometimes he finds brown glass, but sometimes it’s green.

When he finds glass at the ocean, it’s smoother, and doesn’t have the raised letters. It’s frosty, and salty. At the ocean, he sits in warm tidal pools, and climbs the rocks, navigating the barnacles. Schools of tiny fish form a silver cloud, sprinting from his hands in odd directions until reforming their cloud. The child holds drift logs together for a raft, and paddles it out to where the cement docks end, and Dad tells him to come back.

He finds clusters of mussels and wants to take them home to cook, but can’t pry them from each other, pruning fingers tearing on the rims. Mussel shells become spades, and cups, and knives, and swords. His fingers bleed on razor clams. He banks the tidal pools with sand, the sand fleas hopping on his arms, tiny bites mixing with the itch of the salt water drying. He sits in the pools while Dad talks to the harbor master. Swimming alone is how children get pulled out to sea, where he would drift on his back farther and farther out, and sharks would teach him to breathe underwater. They would tell him to kill big fish with his teeth, and to dart quickly, and his eyes would move farther to the sides of his head, with his nose wide to smell blood in the water. That’s what happens to children at sea, and no one knows they’re children anymore.

The child sits waist deep in the pools, and sings to periwinkles until the tops of the masts are orange, and it is time to go. His hair holds the sand close to his scalp, which will stay for two weeks, sometimes three, and his pillow will smell like the ocean.


Crow Finished

November 10, 2008
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I asked my mother to dream about swans, and in the morning she would tell me about how beautiful they were. I told my mother about my dreams in the morning at breakfast. The dreams would be dreams until I made them stories at the end. I made my dreams about dancing in ballrooms, but I never dreamed about ballrooms. I usually dreamed about a mummy coming out of my radiator. My mother told me that if I couldn’t sleep, I could have worry dolls under my pillow. I had four, and they lived in an earrings box. I could feel the lump under my pillow, which made me a princess. My brother had worry dolls, but they lived in his nightstand.

If I grew corn on a deserted island, I would make smoke signals, the way my mother told me, with blankets over the fire up down hold hold up down up. I would wait for responses – I would wait with my corn, holding my blankets – my red, purple and blue blankets. My mother told me that special flowers were for the blue – and collected berries were for the red and purple. She told me a story about how crow brought the fire to earth, how beautiful crow was with his colors, and how the bringing of the fire covered his colors with soot. We drew pictures of crow with his colors and covered them in black crayon, so we could scratch the wax away, showing little lines of color underneath, like crow’s feathers in the sunshine. My mother told me that crow had a beautiful singing voice, but the smoke from the fire hurt his voice, all he could say was “caw.”

I wonder if crow would come to my corn and take and eat it. I told my mother that crow brought me corn, and I ate it. But I was very small. I wonder if crow would bring me anything. My mother told me that crow was the messenger between the human beings and the sky. My mother told me about his fire, and how it scattered seeds that made the blue flowers. My mother told me that the blue flowers were from a sacrifice of a doll with two jay feathers, and after it was burned, there were blue flowers everywhere, and there wasn’t any more drought. My mother told me the drought was ended with fire, because that is the way all droughts end. I wonder if crow would see my signals I made with his fire, in the corn he gave me. Up down hold hold up down up.

In the fall, the hills were black where the blueberries caught fire. My mother told me that blueberries can’t grow unless they are burned every two or three years. But every blueberry field owner had a different year to burn. One hill didn’t grow well at all, it was burned every year. The best blueberries were on a mountain, and my father and his family would climb the mountain every year, and wouldn’t leave until they filled their buckets. My grandmother fell off the mountain with her bucket. She rolled until she got to the bottom. My father and his family ran down the mountain, and she was waiting for them. My grandmother picked up her bucket and went home to pick the leaves and twigs out of all the blueberries. I tried to see my grandmother falling down a mountain, but I’d only seen her in a pink kitchen. My grandmother was very small, and I didn’t know that it was because she was Irish. I wonder if I’d be taller than her today. She was so small, in a cornfield, she would get very lost.

I got lost in the corn, because I was very small. I practiced in real mazes, but in real mazes there are footprints. There aren’t any footprints in corn, but there are hoof prints. I think we gave the corn to deer, he didn’t take it from us. We spent the summer tilling the field, and sowing the seeds. In the morning, I got up very early, and could see deer eating the corn and peas and beans. Deer could see me, but I didn’t bother him. My mother told me deer came at night too. My father built a scarecrow out of an old pair of pants and shirts. Crow sat on it and ate peas. My father shot his gun in the air to scare deer away, but deer came back. In the fall, we found three ears of corn left, deer had eaten some, but left those for us. My mother didn’t till the field, but made a tiny garden just for me and my brother to eat from. We could play outside, and eat tiny carrots, because we didn’t give them time to grow.

Dark pink ribbon was special. My mother only had a little bit, and I tied dried grass from our old house in it. When I picked it, I was Cinderella, because I had a blue dress on. I wanted to remember our old house when we moved, and I tried to fill my suitcase with grass from the yard, but my mother told me I shouldn’t. I started filling it when my mother told me we might move. I told my mother that I wanted to move, and I started packing the yard. When we got to the new house, I could take the yard out of my tiny suitcase, and it would be the same.

It snowed a lot the first winter in the new house. I didn’t live on a mountain anymore. The snow near the ocean was fat and sticky. It snowed to my waist. My mother told me it only snows that much every five years. I knew when I was nine it would snow deep again. We walked through the apple orchard next door. The snow was in the wind, so the neighbors couldn’t see us. The trees were old, I don’t think they had apples anymore. We had our scarves wrapped around our faces, my mother, my brother and me. We just wanted to see the apple trees. We had to walk through our part of the woods, where there was less snow, and I could still see the pine needles. I wonder if we ever met our neighbors with the apple orchard. My mother told me if I was in the woods, not to let the neighbors see me.

I tried to disappear when I was in the woods. My mother told me about Geronimo, how he was a medicine man who could disappear. He would escape the cavalry by disappearing, or by bringing the dust storms around his people. I saw a picture of Geronimo, with his rifle. My mother told me he became a great warrior because soldiers came and killed the women and children in his village. He wasn’t a warrior before. My mother told me it was proven that he was magic. His people stayed away from the cavalry for longer than any one thought they could, and the cavalry thought he was magic too. My mother told me that Geronimo knew first president Roosevelt, the one with the mustache. The cavalry didn’t catch Geronimo until he was very old, and they made him live in Oklahoma. After he surrendered, his hair was short. I asked my mother why he always looked angry, and she said that it took a long time to take a picture, he had to be serious. My mother told me that Geronimo wasn’t a chief, but he still had to lead. I tried to disappear in the woods, but Geronimo disappeared in a cave.

I didn’t have a cave, but we had a bat house. It was so they wouldn’t live in our barn. My mother told me woodpecker. She told me that my father was feeding the animals when woodpecker started looking for grubs in the roof of our barn. Woodpecker couldn’t peck through tin, but he didn’t know that. My father thought that someone was shooting at him and ran out of the barn. When he saw that there was no one there, he went back in. Woodpecker tried a second time to get grubs out of our roof, and a second time, my father thought someone was shooting at him. My mother told me that my father never ran as fast in his life. When he saw that it was woodpecker, my father went inside to get his gun, but woodpecker flew to a tree, and hid in the leaves. Owl is smarter than woodpecker, but I never get to see owl. My mother didn’t have any stories about owl, because owl is so quiet, and wise that she doesn’t get into trouble like the rest of the animals. I wanted to be like owl, but I was more like woodpecker. My cousin told me that when I was very small I would breathe in the middle of words, because I would forget. Owl wouldn’t forget.

Before summer started, my mother would tell us that it was hooky day, and we would go to the secret beach, and swim in the ocean. It was so cold that our bones hurt, but we wouldn’t forget the cold. Every time we went swimming for the rest of the year, the water was warm. There were tidal pools full in the rocks that were bath water warm. We sang to the periwinkles, asking them to come out. My mother would take our dog behind the beach by the crabapple trees, so no one could see her. It was our secret beach, so our dog was allowed. The secret beach was hidden behind the harbor master’s office and a marine salvage shop. There were no other people but us. My mother braided tall grass together to make crowns for us. Me and my brother would harvest the seaweed so we could sell it. We tried eating it, but it was salty and slimy. When we waded into the water, my brother would try to catch the minnows, but they were fast. My brother and me would go home and eat sardines and pretend we caught them. They were never as good as the fish we really caught. My father knew how to clean a fish with two rocks. I saw him using a Swiss army knife when I was disappearing in the woods. My brother and me caught our fish in the morning and had them for breakfast.

I dreamed about eating fish, in the winter, when the ice wasn’t thick enough to sit on. My mother told me that my father drove his jeep across ice that wasn’t thick enough, and it cracked behind him. If he had turned the wheel, his jeep would have sunk. I dreamed about our car rolling backwards up hills, down icy mountains, and across lakes that weren’t thick enough to sit on. My mother told me in the dreams to be patient, like a little doll. But I didn’t know how to be patient in a rolling car when my car seat was unbuckled. Crow would sit on the telephone lines and yell at me as I rolled past. I always woke up right before our neighbor saved us.

I told my mother about my dreams, and she said that maybe I was afraid of moving to our new house. I told my mother I wasn’t afraid of moving, because I wanted to live near the ocean, and pick blueberries. My mother would ask me what kind of story I wanted her to tell me. My father sold windows and doors, and I would ask my mother to tell me a story about windows. My mother would tell me about windows, and I would dream about flying.


Sea Bugs

October 31, 2008
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When I was a little geuhl, my fathah’d tell me I’d be a great lobstah fishamin. We’d be in thuh Marinah’s dinah’n he’d say when I got oldah, he’d take me on his boat, thuh Marie, named aftah my muthah. N he says when I get married, I’d name my boat aftah my wife. But I nevah thought a geuhl’d evah fit a boat. My muthah fit thuh boat. She was wicked lahge.

My fathah taught me tuh fish when I was only yeigh high. Yuh don’t know jack ‘till yu’ve bin on a boat in eight fuht swells. He puht me in chahge of wipin’ thuh winduh, yuh know, so he could see. N, yuh luhn nawt tuh stand in thuh wrong place pretty fahst. When yuh on thuh boat, and he tells yuh nawt to stand theyah, yuh don’t stand theyah. N if yuh stand theyah, yuh gonna get hit. And yuh know that yuh gonna get hit, cus he told yuh nawt to stand theyah. Theyahs so many things cin go wrong on a boat. Yuh could getcha leg in thuh winch rope, yuh could fall ovah boahd, n then yuh could git thuh hypo-theh-mia, yuh could getcha fingahs stuck in thuh pot, yuh could cutcha self when yuh ment tuh cut a line. N then yuh really up shit’s creek, cus yuh in thuh middle of thuh friggin ocean, no-body cept thuh radio cin help yuh out theyah, nossah. N thuh friggin coast gahd, theyah nevah wheah yuh want em, theyah always out savin some drownin’ puppy, oah some tourist couple, thought they’d rent a boat fah a weekind, end up floatin’ next tuh sum bouy, cus they thought “auto” meant auto poilit. Yessah, thaht’s nawt what auto means, nossah.

My lobstah boat, she’s a real beaut, Muthah thought I should name heuh aftah somethin impotahnt, yuh know, like my daughtah oah somethin, but I decided to name heuh aftah my fathah’s boat, so she’s thuh Marie II, fuh my muthah. Heuh name was Marie. My daughtah’s Meagan, Muthah thought that was pretty, heuh aunt was named Meagan. My Meagan, she’s somethin special though. She’s intah raisin chickens, and we go to thuh fayahs in thuh summah, n she wins prizes fuh them. Ouah back yahd looks like a friggin zoo, we got chickens everywheah, but we gotta keep m seprit, othahwise they fight I guess. Meagan, she’s got white ones, n black ones, and she keeps m real clean, feeds m, makes shuh they got watah, n don’t fight too much. Muthah says Meagan’s gonna be a vetruhnarin.

I’m nawt too shuh bout that, cus fishin aint what it used tuh be. Nossah. Thuh prices dropped this yeeah, so lostah’s only two dollahs a pound. Eauhliah this very summah, it was seven dollahs a pound. I’m thinkin bout pullin my pots till next yeeah, maybe thuh prices’ll be bettah then. Lots of my friends already done it, pulled theyah traps, done fuh thuh wintah. Plummah’s got a wife wuhks down at thuh Mic Mac genral stoah, yuh know, next tuh thuh campground. Sometimes Muthah n me bring thuh campah down theyah durrin thuh summah. They got a great setup theyah, they got lectricty, so yuh campah gits thuh powah. Yuh cin watch jepahdy in thuh woods, it’s a great setup, yessah.

But I’m ramblin agin. Anyhow, what me n Plummah figuh, if I go out a few moah times this yeeah, I might be able tuh skip thuh rest of this yeeah, yuh know, if I git a big nuff pot. Them viromentlists say weah ovah fishin thuh lobstah n thuh shrimp, so theyah tryin tuh git thuh govemint tuh step in n tell us howtah do ouah jobs. Does that sound fayah tuh you? Nossah, that’s whut I says. In my fathah’s day, nobody gave im that kind uh shit, he says so himself. Thuh problem is that thuh price fuh thuh gas is so friggin high that it costs moah to just go out, thin it does tuh sell thuh friggin things. Yuh gotta figuh in thuh gas foah thuh boat, powrin thuh winches, cus yuh can’t do that buy hand no moah, thuh bait, yuh have to buy frum thuh fishstick compnies, n then thuh retuhn trip back tuh habah, which is a summbitch, cus thuh lobstahs weigh a ton, if yuh got a good catch, n that means moah gas. So if it costs me a few hundred dollahs, and I git lessn that foah my catch, that don’t make no sense. Nossah.

But Plummah, he’s my deckhand, even though he’s oldah thin duht, he says hi’ll help me out. His fathah was a lobstahmin too, so he’s gabbin up thuh old timahs, findin out wheah thuh best places ah to drop ouah pots. Them old timahs, they know a thingah two, yuh know them old guys that looks like theyah a hundrid, but theyah sixty. Anyways so we says to m, we says, “Ifn yuh feel like makin a few dollahs, we could use suhm new spots to drop ouah pots.” N thuh old timahs, theyah just lienin up tuh tell us theyah most precious secret fishin spots. N Plummah, he’s got a cassette playah, just recohdin everythin them old timah’s is sayin. N me, I’m just sittin pretty, talkin tuh a few uf m.

Reminds me uf when my fathah used tuh talk with thuh old timahs when he was bout my age, n I couldn’t a bin moah thun nine, bout yeigh high, sittin theyah, listnin t’evrythin, N theyahd have a coupla beeahs, speshly f theyahd be stayin in that week-end. Now, thuh old timahs is askin me, “You John Milek’s boy? I knew yuh when yuhwer only bout yeigh high. How ah yuh doin these days? Yuh know, I usedtuh know youah muthah, God blessah. N Youah fathah, he used to fish with some of thuh boys n me. I heuhd yoowas lookin fra new fishin ground. I got just thuh spot.”

What none of thuh old timahs new was thet they all had thuh same secret fishin spot. So me n Plummah, we figahs that’s thuh ticket, so we git thuh pots ready, n pack up all ouah geah, n git the bait. Muthah hates it when I go out, thuh bait stinks up thuh garage, n that’s next tuh thuh house, so she’s nevah too happy bout that. But so me n Plummah, we gotta git thuh boat all checked out n so fohth, cus ouah inspecshon stickah got woahn out. So we drive down tah Bangoah, that’s Bangoah, nawt Bangah. N it’s a friggin pain in my ass tuh get thuh boat all thuh way down theyah, but Plummah’s got some buddies who wasn’t doin nawthin, n they helped git thuh Marie II onto heuh trailah.

So Plummah, he don’t talk too much, we’s sittin in my truck, n we figah, it’s nawt too fah’ve a drive, maybe we stop at thuh Wendy’s on thuh way back. So we get theyah, thuh boat just baily passes inspecshon, just baily. But it does, n we head back tuh Lincolnville. But we’s really lucky, yessah, if we hadn’t gone out tuh Bangoah, we woulda died, shuh’s I’m standin heah now. Yessah. One uh them freak stohms come outa thuh noath, came down, hit thuh hahbah pretty damn hahd, n my boat, she don’t do too well in nasty stohms like that. She’s one a them secondhand jobs. But it’s faily bad on thuh roads too, so weah swehvin, n we got thuh boat on thuh trailah, n that’s nawt doin so well, n we figah, if we stop at thuh dinah ovah theyah, we get a nice suppah, n ride thuh stohm out that way. Well, Plummah, he thinks it’s a good plan, so we stop. I tell yah, we had a great spread theyah. But so we get back tuh thuh hahbah, n it’s wicked bad. So instead, we put thuh boat in Plummah’s yahd, cus his wife’s nawt comin back foh a few days, n we go have a beeah with some a them old timahs.

That next day, we git up wicked eauhly, n we git all ouah shit togethah, n head outa thuh hahbah. Thuh day aftah a stohm, that’s a good day tuh fish. So Plummah’s makin shoah we headin twahds that secret fishin ground that them old timah’s told us bout. So we get theayah, n I shit you nawt, theyah was lobstahs friggin everywheyah. So we drop ouah pots theyah, n sit back n wait fah them. So we decided tuh have a couple a beeahs, n we git tuh gabbin n whatnawt. N so we figah, if we come back tommorrah, theyah’d be moahn a scrid a lobstahs, maybe we’d git a ton. So we head back tuh hahbah, n wouldn’t yuh know it, I stand in thuh wrong spot, n wouldn’t yuh know it, I fall ovahboahd. So there I is, bobbin in thuh watah, n Plummah, he don’t know how tuh tuhn thuh boat around. So he keeps tryin to tuhn thuh boat round, so he can get me outa the watah, but he’s gettin fathah n fathah out, n I’m nawt goin nowheah. N I’m thinkin, maybe this is impotahnt, since this was thuh thing my fathah told me nawt tuh do, I did it, n now I’m right wheah he said I’d be. So I says tuh myself, I says “Cahl, yuh knew yuh wasn’t sposed tuh be theyah, n now look wheah yuh ah.” So Plummah finally gits thuh boat goin in thuh right di-recshon, n he pulls me outa the watah just as fast as he could. So I’m back in thuh boat, n I figah, I’m a real lobstahmin now.

When I told my fathah bout it, he says tuh me, “Yuh’ah real lobstahmin now.” N I says to him “That’s what I thought.” N he says, “ Yuh stayed out theyah long nuff tuh show yuh ahnt afraid of low prices, oah a little cold watah.” N thuh old timahs said that was true, so I buhleived m, yessah.

My fathah always stahted out most of ‘is stories bout when he was bout yeigh high, he’d always staht it out with “When I was a little geuhl…” n his fathah’d staht his stories out thuh same way “When I was a little geuhl…” n I stahted my stories like that with Meagan, n heuh eyes’d git wicked wide, n she’d ask me at thuh end’f thuh story “where you really a little geuhl?” n I’d haveta say no deah, I wasn’t a little geuhl. But heuh grandfathah’d nevah say he wasn’t a little geuhl when he was young, bout yeigh high.


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