Summery- (1985) The story of a New England fisherman struggling to make a living despite the depletion of fish stocks, and environmentalist regulations; even as community planning threatens to turn his island home into a wealthy "summer colony". I know it's quite a bit different than the stuff usually seen on Fictionpress but it's good, I promise, PLEASE R&R!!
I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking…
-"Sea-Fever" John Masefield
I didn't understand then. I'm not sure I fully understand now, even nearly thirty years later…maybe I never will. My father was in the prime of his life, young; young to have three kids and a mortgage, young to know that he'd never retire, that he would work hard all his life and never get any further up the food-chain than he was now. Too young for that kind of hopelessness, for that kind of surrender, and far too young to die.
My father was a proud man, stubborn, strong, he relied on only one thing for sure, himself; that bothered my mother sometimes. He wasn't what you'd call a religious man. He said religion was what you found when you hit rock bottom, when you'd dug yourself in so deep that there was no way out--he said it was between you and God and no one else. He'd come to church on Christmas and Easter, and that was alright, Mamma took us every week, and we prayed for him, and that was alright too, but that was as far as Daddy would go into "organized religion".
He was like that about a lot of things though, he was what you might call reserved, preferring to show his feelings through small acts, rather than flowery words or tremendous deeds. Yet I knew, I knew, my father loved me; he was gruff sometimes, distant, but somehow I never could, never dared to doubt it. If I had, I'm sure it would have hurt him deeply. A man doesn't work the way Daddy did, pushing himself to his very limit every day, day-in and day-out, working himself into an early grave, unless he really loves what he's working for. Daddy worked to put clothes on our backs and food on the table, to keep a roof over our heads. So I know he loved us.
He loved the sea too. Not more, maybe not even as much, as us, but in a different way…the sea was part of him, or he was part of it, in the way that your blood or your bones are a part of you, I think he must have had salt water in his veins. My father couldn't leave the sea, it would kill him, as sure as a knife in the heart…I knew that as surely as I knew anything.
It happened in the Fall of 1986, but I'll start before that, a year before that. Back then we lived on Mikinàk Isle, a little patch of land off the coast of Long Island, separated from Montauk by a narrow channel, maybe a quarter of a mile at it's widest point, and you could only get there by boat or a small plane. Mikinàk is the Algonquin word for Turtle, and our island was rather infested with them, not that anyone minded really. The Island runs about 6.145 sq miles and at the time boasted 152 year-round residents--you can bet we were all pretty close-knit. I was born there, as were both my parents, and their parents and so on, back to who knows when.
We lived in a Cape Cod style house built probably in the 30's, my parent's bought it after their wedding, instead of going on a honeymoon. It really was charming with its one-and-a-half stories of blue-gray clapboard siding and white shuttered windows. Daddy had added a sun porch sometime in the late 60's, facing eastward toward the open sea. It was Momma's room, that's what we all called it and I can still picture her clearly in my mind's eye. Curled up in the old wicker chair with a blanket, completely engrossed in some book or another, sunlight spilling lazily over her, making her hair shine in soft golden waves, illuminating her features till she looked for the world like an angel. Daddy used to sit and watch her sometimes, when she was like that, just watch her, so did I.
The position of the house added a great deal to its charm. We lived on the southeast corner of the Island, at the top of a small hill so that our back yard sloped gently like a dune, down into the ocean. From my room in the east gable I could watch the sun rising over the vast Atlantic, the waves crashing against the shore-line, the sea-birds hunting in the foam… There was no greater feeling than to race down the stairs at first light, forgetting your sweater in your haste as you charged from the house, letting the screen door slam behind you as you sprinted, feet stinging against the cold ground, down, down, down, to the edge of the sea, and there stopping, your feet sinking into the wet sand, as the water lapped up, licking your toes. I would suck in a long deep breath, filling my lungs with the scent of salt and sea, there was nothing more lovely, nothing that could make you feel more alive--I guess I am like my father in that way, in love with the sea.
Daddy was a fisherman, the old kind, they call them "small-timers" to be kind, "artisan fishermen" in official documents and "fools" the rest of the time. He owned a stern trawler with the very pretentious name of Calypso, which I only recently discovered was also his pet name for my mother. He was Captain of the Calypso and her five man crew, a job I never saw him take lightly. They would leave in the early hours of the morning, driving down to the wharf and loading up, gone before first light, disappearing like phantoms into the cool mist. They had provisions for a ten-day trip but the depletion in fish, and competition from factory trawlers, drove them further from home. Sometimes out to sea, sometimes north, to the more plentiful waters of the Cape. They would make port, usually in Hyannis, to deliver their catch to the processing plant up there and take on supplies. In this way they could double even triple their trips, which in turn usually doubled or tripled their catch, and so their profit.
In the mid 70's, in an attempt to appease the environmentalists, he had converted from bottom trawling to midwater trawling, but it hadn't helped much, and he got a lot of flack from them…but then a trawler Captain got flack from just about everybody those days, from the factory fleets to the local fishery, the latter irked that he often took his catch elsewhere for processing.
I don't remember exactly when things got bad, just that people always said they were, they were the only times I'd known and they seemed alright to me...Maybe it was DEC putting a ban on Striper Bass, once the most prized fish in those waters, one more blow to the already hurting small-time fishermen. Maybe it was Community Planning, buying up all the property from those hurting fishermen, trying to turn our little island into a Summer Colony like Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard. Maybe it was Grandpa dying that year, when Daddy needed his advice most. Maybe it was a combination of everything--or maybe it was what happened next. I can't say for sure, and I don't know how we ever got through it.
A.N.- I hope this got your interest in the story, I was trying to be just a little cryptic about the "big event" of the story, but let me know if it's too much so. The first chapter should be up pretty soon. FYI, the rest of the story is in third person. PLEASE R&R!!