Thursday, February 10, 2005


1 Before retiring I phoned home to tell my parents of the latest turn of events in our semi-saga. Though for the first time in a long while, during my to then short stint in this life, I had hours of free time on my hands - no daily routine of chores and pastimes outside of my less than steady appearances at the docks - I had somehow neglected to keep the home front well apprised of our travails. Even at Princeton, with the daily schedule brimming with academics, after class sports, supper clubbing etc., I still managed to phone or write home at least once per week. Perhaps it was that at Princeton phoneing Ithaca was a pleasurable jaunt from the essentially repetitious and mundane rigors of team sport practices and daily studies. And in Seattle, basking in the relative playful fun and loaf of our adventure, such prosaic seeming responsibilities as phoning home smacked of just that - a responsibility - a chore rather, an employment; a remnant of, and reminder that there still existed, that settling down place, that pleasant hearth. Where - at the end of all crusades and wonderlusts, quests for grails, fountains, albino whales, promised lands, moon's and such - the Sinbad's and Phineas Foggs, the Armstrongs and Drakes and Perrys - would eventually end up to carve their niche in the matrix, furrow their plot for the long haul, join the long winter's nap as a solid constructive nine-to-fiver; a professional. Where, in that place, their Hooterville, they would settle themselves and learn, like the rest of us, to sow and reap; that lovely place which is at the end of all Broadways and ticker tape parades, where there is no place like, but yet like all things, has it's percieved shortcomings, where the comforts are creature and though filled with recliner chairs, slippers, color TV, pets, bratty kids, coziness and comfort - it all still reeked, to our youthful and energetic and pioneering Kit Carson selves, of blah boredom. From our gaze it was a placid prairie, all flat and dull, a retiring picture – an afternoon of tea and Cricket, the doldrums to be sure. After the usual rundown of the family business - sisters with boyfriends dumped, new ones acquired, mother on some new fund raising - a matrix grounded venture - a committee for some new addition to the college - a sculpture garden I think it was - dad well into a new book - I then quickly gave my overview of events to date, then patiently endured the be careful's and watch out for yourself's. Still as regular as it all was, the strong clear husky voice of my father, and the almost reedy but always nicely intoned voice of my mother, were good to hear, and they did twang some sentimental cords somewhere in my prodigal son fiber. It was good to hear these more than familiar voices coming over Bell's wire assuring they were still there and safe - and, frankly, filling a need surely primordial, subtly reaffirming, that the road is better traveled under a company of family good and caring, though distant.

After the call, I lay me down to sleep but slept fitfully at best. My nerves were abuzz from my anticipating the adventure to come, our raidering for lost arks, just what was to occur was unspecific, quite vague in my imagination. I was still adrift or roaming the woods it seemed, an apple of inner discord was small in my eye. I was both anxious, yet in the underlying was a doubt, a wondering, if perhaps I was Gallahad trotting forward in my Fruit of the Looms. I was still filled with pleasant esteem, like a tourist in the Louve, of what up to then had filled my eye. Just seeing the changes in the landscape, it occurred to me, had made the jaunt northward well worth it, a pleasant surprise really - and this without considering the landscape to come. The specter of the big northern land and its prodigious vistas had been ill considered, I had left northward really to experience an otherness - other people, in other locales, in other lifestyles and cultures that, though American, were still unique to the sedate and serene life at home in Claremont. And of course I wanted to experience that other occupation, this crab fishing thing, that had struck my fancy beyond the mere monetary gain, struck as a trial truly Captain Marvelous, one of those other things to do and then later tell about to the children and grand children as they sat at the knee. And, I suppose, I just wanted out and away, a wandering Jew taunting my Andy Hardy upbringing and it's delux. But the landscape had been trim on the iceing, a frivolous yet heartfully appreciated perk. And it occurred to me how, in Claremont, I had really no idea of the majestic immensity and magnitude I had seen, and no idea of what was to come. Indeed I had left for Alaska without even so much as purchasing a Frommer's with photos, or looked up the state's bio in the Britannica, that was how woefully an accidental tourist I was. Just how prepared was I?

Sometime near the early morn I finally managed to doze then slumber off into a good sleep - near that ren condition. Then, coming much too soon, that yellow red glow came instantly over my eyelids, and in my ears rang the click of the light switch, and straight away I came out of that roaming state of lullaby back into the real energy expending world where consciousness is wielded well or otherwise. I heard Nate say in his drawled manner with only a hint of urgency, "Alright it's time - we should get goin."

Though the white light was pressing on my eyelids I had kept them closed. Having taken most of the night to finally fall a slumber I was reluctant to split with my hard earned snoozing. Then I heard Nate once more, "You just gonna lay there?"

I blinked open my eyes, Nate was looking down at me from next to my bunk. He then gave a censorious slight shake of his head with a pursed lip, and stepped away. I blinked a few times, stretched my arms, and roused myself out of the bed. Once up, my energy and will was easily summoned. I guess I was actually ready for this, this next phase, my road to Damascus, this departure from our humble fraternity house to the land of tundra. After quickly showering and dressing, we rounded and roused up Mel, then drove through the darkened and vacant city streets to our appointment with this protean destiny we had gotten ourselves into. And we three seemed to be meeting it spiritedly compared to Mel who was groggy, sleepworn looking, and hardly talking. We were live wires. Mel had simply been roused from warmed bedclothes, from just another night's sleep - he was not frothing over with anticipation and delight over actually going to do a thing he had set out so whimsically and oddly to do only a few months previous. Mel was simply doing a duty, carrying out a lousy chore - the stipulations of a promise, a favor, likely now regretted, made when wide awake and glib.

Like the city streets, the fisherman's wharf was darkened and empty of life. The many boats parked next to the docks appeared like black slanted shadows spreading out into the lake. Beyond the shadows the water was a smooth sheened indigo pool, a Loch Ness depth. Across the lake the city lights shimmered over the shiny black. We parked near the dock and Mel asked, "Sure you guys are leaving this morning?

Nate said simply, "Yep."

We climbed out of the bus, and Mel seemed to come more awake as he stepped over to the side of the seawall to look at the boat, "It's pretty good size I guess."

"Whatcha expect - a canoe?" Nate said.

Mel smiled, his hair was matted and flat in spots, "No - but I thought you were in one of those smaller boats."

"Nope. And even this one's not one of the bigger crabbers," Nate said.

Mel nodded then moved his head pointedly toward the car in the rear deck, "How'd you get the car in there?"

"The crane," Nate said, and gave a half-harted gesture with his arm toward the mast.

Then we heard a car engine rumbling nearby coming closer. Soon an older model sedan came onto the tarmac moving toward us, we were bathed in headlamps as it pulled up and stopped, and the passenger's side door creaked opened. Jake stepped out and stood up behind the door. He was dressed in a well-worn flannel shirt and khaki trousers that, I could see below the door, fit a little short – showing too much sock; and he wore a fanciful long billed fishing cap with a couple lures attached. He seemed unusually perked; he even smiled as he said loudly over the car engine, "Art not here yet?"

"Nope," Nate answered.

He nodded, then again flashed a quick smile and asked with odd enthusiasm, "So you boys all ready?"

We all nodded, save Mel, and said a couple, yes sirs and you bets.

Jake nodded and said, "Okay that's good." Then he sat back down into the car and closed the door. When the door was open the dome light had gone on inside the car and I could see a gray haired older lady behind the wheel. Likely his wife - here for yet another departure - probably a ritual of sorts they had likely repeated time and again over the years. For us it was a great moment, for them just another year, another solstice, the start of just another recess for each from the other, like another workaday.

A pickup truck soon pulled up and parked, Art and Dean got out and they walked quickly over. Art in his anxious demeanor said, "Good, everybody here. We gotta go - let's go - let's go."

Jake came out of his car and Dean, wearing a faded worn green army fatigue coat, and his hat, asked us, "So you guys all set for the mission?" The word mission, no doubt, a throwback to his Marine service days.

"I'd say so," Nate said.

We said our farewells to Mel who told us not to fall overboard and to drop a post card. He then strolled back to the bus and drove off up the pavement into the morning light. That was the extent of our fairwell, our leaving of the docks and departing from those familiar. No streamers or shouted hearty gushy bye-bye's or bon voyages. I did note, that we all three watched the bus depart - some subliminal response probably - watching that tin contraption, our landed Beagle, our clipity clapity Pegasus, which dependably brought us there from home, from far southward, and then as it rolled away, representing the last residuum of our life that was past. And it was a life that would be past I thought; or rather conjectured - and this, I think, though true or not, we sensed. That as soon as we were aboard and the boat left the seawall, we then would be truly embarking on a radical turn, a liberal idea, and even in some way so radical as to make this moment in the passing be seminal, perhaps. I elucidated it in my mind that we were likely about to skip through a door, a kind of looking glass, a warp in time, into that which was to come and to where there was no exact or even similar reversal in the return. From above us, at the rear of the pilothouse, the port door opened and Art appeared and shouted, "Hey Dean tanks for de ride - see ya in a few months. Okay Jake, you and dos boys get the lines - we go, huh?"

"Sure thing Art," Jake said, and offered a firm half wave and salute as he stepped lively to the bollard atop the seawall and slipped off the thick rope and instructed us, "Hey one a you get the other line - rest a you get on board - we're shovin' off." He seemed much more lively than he had been the last few days, apparently even Jake, who had done this apparently year upon year was lit up for it. Nate got the line and Klug and I quickly stepped onto the top of the seawall then over the ships rail onto the lower deck. Lights went on over the boat. A couple white jar lamps on the rear wall of the cabin dimly alit the rear deck adjacent to the cabin. Atop the mast, over the crane, a cluster of square halogen lamps hung, three small and three larger - two small faced forward, one to port and one to starboard, then one large and one small faced to the stern. Just the small ones came on bathing the rear and the sides of our little steel floating Midway atoll in a bluish fluorescent white glow which seemed to press out against the dark. Then the engine turned over spitting a couple times from below, rumbling and vibrating the deck; then after a sputter and gurgle it went on. Like a true domesticate, I thought of the Jungle Boat ride at Disneyland, how the little African Queen grumbles on as it departs the dock into the mock fauna and chlorined Congo for a five-minute foray into the Heart of Darkness. At the stern I could hear the water churn and bubble and soon we slid slowly away from the seawall, then picked up speed as we slipped through the still waters out into the lake. Dean stayed standing at the seawall watching us, his dark silhouette topped with his flat top Marine cap; I saw his arm go up to give us a wave. I looked away from the shore and turned and saw Jake smiling, still so chipper and cordial. He said, smiling and almost giddy seeming, "Well - here we go! Sailing to Byzantium, huh boys?!" Then he walked past me through the galley bulkhead.

His liveliness startled me some, as did his line from Yeats. He was filled with a spirit from St. Louis; it was as if we were off to Cabo for marlin hunting - for a sports fishing jaunt. Though it was work, his career, that by which he came about his livelihood, Jake was no accountant, branch or middle manager, or franchisee, off to another commute to pilot a desk; as I saw it - he was like Art, old men of the sea, off on a voyage truly. And though a yearly repetition - it was obviously for him an event nonetheless; hence his current gaga; like a kid when the Circus comes to town. I surmised it would be a voyage into the Bering Sea full of grand country and risk - potential pitfalls and pratfalls, with Puck, Pelion, and Ossa piling it on, with even possible total loss; where stamina, pluck, and cunning would be tested – like Nobody with Polyphemus. Moreover, this was no parlor game of the political and beurocratic, or the competition of capitalist enterprise, or the law’s delay – but a contest with the most ruthless adversary of all - the physical world, Mother Nature - what was outside. Of course, likely to come into play as well - the nature in ourselves, the interiors, what was inside. I imagined real moxie would come on line where screw-ups could not be skirted through a sly massage of a balance sheet, or mendacious memo, or diplomatic doublespeak. No, here the accountability was to nature; to her generosity - when a lady bountiful; or to her shrew indiscriminateness, to her harsh carelessness and nilistic non-sentimentality, to her Gorgon reality, which was powerful and glorious, yet horrific; she was both Beauty and Beast, a Duessa; way beyond the egoistic, cowardly, deluded, and creepy and sissy machinations fraught within the daily matrix. On our quest we would be courting the lady, but we were fearful girlers - this to what extent I really had no idea. Jake likely knew. Knew how oblivious she was to charm, how no suitor would suit her. A true shrew; the hag. Like Dante with his Virgil, we hoped our guides were able. Able to entice the lady with the knowledge gleaned from their experience with her, and hoping she was not too moody, and would stay at bay, that their strength and guile would hold, were still up to her rascality, that her meaness could be tamed by the steel of the boat and knowledge and wisdom of her ways.

Nate had gone up to the pilothouse. Klug and I stayed in the open deck area watching the city along the banks passing. Among the triangular and boxlike shadows of the darkened buildings and houses, and the dark oval and triangular trees, was a Magelanic Cloud of glowing street lamps. Over a few of the houses glowed insomnolent yellowish lights behind square windows. The only sound was the mechanical winding and puttering din of the engine - a sound which was to be ever present and all but ignored. We passed under the viaduct bridge then the 5th Street drawbridge. I could see from below, the streetlights radiating over the elevated thoroughfares. Of the underside I could only see a shadowy, almost blackened steel girdered super-structure somehow resembling the darkened nave of an ancient cathedral.

Over the rail I could see ahead down toward the locks. A red light went on, then went black. As we came closer I could see that the light was atop a bell buoy marking where the canal widened into a basin before the lock approach. The bell of the buoy rang with a slow tinny lanquid clang as the buoy bobbed sluggishly in the almost still waters. The engine cooed into a lower pitch, almost an indistinct gurgling and vibration and the boat slowed and drifted in the lay-by basin toward the locks. Ahead I could see in the dark the system of lock chambers, a simple large chamber with steel gates at each end and concrete revetment along the sides. A concrete walled control hut with a pitched red tiled roof stood along the lock side. Dimly glowing lamps atop poles stood intermittently along one side of the chamber. I could see the water rising in the chamber reaching a level with the water in the far bay on the other side of the gates. We were drifting slowly toward the far bay. An oversized traffic signal light with two colors stood facing us on the lockside next to the gates, it glowed red. Soon the water was all up in the chamber and a horn blared a short shrill whoop. The big steel gates, I imagined like those in front of Jericho or Troy or Bahgadad, slowly split and each leaf came toward us; open sesame.

Once the gates were open, the light changed to green, and our engine revved slightly for a short bubbling burst and we drifted into the tub – Falstaff's bath. Owing I figured to the hour of the morning we were the only boat in the chamber which was almost twice and a half the length, and four times the Snark's width. After we were well inside, the horn went off again, and the gates slowly came back into place in the locked and sealed position. We were in; like the astronauts when they sealed the hatch. Then the water around the boat began to swirl and bubble and, like a car on a lube rack, we lowered in the tank. I watched the concrete revetment appear to rise. The concrete throughout the locks was a sandy brown color in the dull light and rough over the surface as if sandblasted. It looked as if the concrete batch mix had been blended with a special extra large aggregate, I could see the rocks in the wall looked almost an inch across. When the walls had risen a few feet above, the water stilled, and the steel doors in front us split slowly opening. As the dark doors spread, I could see expanding before us a dark open sea. But the sea a lighter dark and luminous rather, under the black still night sky. I then noticed another light next to these doors atop the revetment, and when the doors were fully opened, it showed green. There was another siren whoop and our engines were again revved and we slowly emerged out of that man induced tidal flux, his minuscule mimic of a godly parting of seas, allowing our exodus, and we left the fresh water of the Union Lake into the brine of the Puget Sound.

The canal stayed narrow a half mile or so beyond the locks. The engine was revved again back to a winding steely hum and we sailed past more darkened banks of houses and along the shore fisheries and warehouse buildings. Ahead where the channel opened into the Sound I could see a white light atop another bell buoy. The light went on and off and shone brightly marking the entrance, and the ring of the bell was like the previous buoy, a dim slow clang, a tired tolling as if marking time. As we came into the wide expanse of the Sound the night was still abundant. The Seattle downtown was off a few miles beyond the portside. The checkerboard lights of the skyscrapers and the Space Needle lay against a black sky and shimmered in the placid black water. Beyond the city the rounded summits of the Cascade Mountains with the volcanic lone summit Mt. Rainier rising highest and dominate, a lone Mt. Fuji behind the cityscape, the outline of its rounded peak outlined by an early morning luminous blue light radiating from below the horizen, the sun also rising. Ahead of the bow on the distant horizon were the pyramidal and ruggedly alpine pinnacles of the Olympic Mountains, barely visible as the early morning sky there bathed the range and became a glowing backdrop of a refulgent azure blue. I thought how it was such mornings that likely enthused the devine and apt appellation. Low on the near horizon, ahead in the dark Sound, islands swelled like dark hummocks out of the black shiny pool. We sailed, skimmed it seemed, over the blackness with fluidity, with hardly a noticeable shift in the boats stability. It was a calm docile sea. I stayed on the deck and watched the city fall farther behind until it became just a twinkling trove, a Barbarossa treasure on the shadowy horizon.

Then I went inside and up the spiral stairs into the pilothouse. Art and Nate were sitting quietly in the pilot chairs. Art gripped a Budweiser can in hand and was staring ahead. He was staring with the apparent intensity of one driving a car. He had given me, what I perceived as a curmudgeonly fleeting side glance when I came in, as if somehow irked by my presence. I looked at Nate, he didn't say anything either, just acknowledged me with a look and a nod, perhaps taking a que in social grace from Art. Ahead was a dark expanse of water sided by shadowy uplands to the starboard side and the islands to the port side. I could see that all was covered with thick groves of forest, and lined on the shorelines were small cottages and houses peekabooing out of the foliage, most with small boat docks extending over the water, some extended from small boat houses. I stayed on the bridge awhile, fifteen minutes or so, then went back downstairs.

Klug was at the galley table reading a Playboy magazine. I recognized the issue as the current months - and one I had seen him pondering over before.

I said, "Haven't you looked that over enough?"

"Yeah - I'm read'n it now though." Then he looked up, "Gettin' tired though."

"Where's Jake?"

"Sleepin' in one a the rooms. Think I'll go in one too and get some shut eye."

"Probably a good idea - wonder which one's we're suppose to be in?"

"The one where you guys put your stuff I figure. Jake's in the other one."

I wasn't all that tired. I decided to go out to the deck again. When I went back out, after being in the warmth of the inside, I now noticed the air cool and moist on my face. The scenery was basically the same, dark waters and the sylvan covered land, near and distant shores, all dark, with the sky just bluing down low. Standing out there though, with the din of the engine and the still waters all around, the realization came over me of what a departure this was. I looked over the rail down the side of the boat toward the stern, saw the water churn and split sudsy and white and phosphorescent off the bow, then I looked back up along the side toward the stern, up the cabin to the tower, then up past the cluster of the halogen lights into the dark starry sky above. The morning star shown bright lower in the sky; the stars were becoming faint. I thought what did it matter really? This compared to all that? Then I looked down and into the distant east, toward Rainier, where the sky was bluing more now, and the white snow still draped on the summit was starting to be visible, a pale bluish glowing, announcing the end of the night and the coming morning. Then I looked to port and what a blue it was around the Olympic peaks – so luminous. Rugged like the Patagonias; I imagined somewhere in their high reaches a Mauchu Pichu and the highest triangle in the range an Aconcagua. I remembered an old movie with Spencer Tracy called The Mountain. Tracy plays an old sheephearding kute living in a village in the alps, who was once a renowned mountain climber, and Robert Wagner plays his weakling little brother who talks him into one last climb - to rifle dead passengers of their purse money after a plane crashes on the great mountain. Another grab for cash. That started me thinking about mountains and climbing and Mallory's plain retort came to mind – because it was there. Then I wondered what was there after all. I imagined those great peaks in the distance was Olympus itself, and on the highest, positioned on a high ledge, an ethereal adornment, a gleaming marble cased temple, like the Parthenon when Pericles walked its peristyle, where the Sky God and the gang were loafing around like they was on salary until another whim grabbed their fancy, or pricked their ire.

I stared and imagined a while more; this effected a lulling over me, settling my fervor, a tiredness came into me; I then decided perhaps Klug was right, a little shut eye might be in order. When I went back into the cabin Klug had all ready made himself at home in the bottom bunk of the cramped stateroom just off the galley. He had thrown our bags on the top bunk; clearing these to the floor, I then unfurled my sleeping bag and climbed up and laid on top of it. I laid there on the narrow bunk and stared at the ceiling - a white vinyl covered panel. The engine din hovered incessantly around and into my ears and I thought how Nate had really done it - gotten a job on this boat. Then got us here. That was something really. Really something. I then closed my eyes and fell quickly to sleep.

2 In my sleep I felt a shove to my shoulder and I awoke. Soon as my eyes opened the vibrating din of the engine once again filled my head.

I looked over and saw Nate, he said, "Want some food? Breakfast is up."

I rolled out of the bunk and stepped over to the galley. Klug was already at the table eating. I noticed the boat was rocking slowly, gently, a subtle swaying - hardly enough to effect walking or standing. I slid into the booth next to Klug and Nate placed in front of me a plate of bacon and scrambled eggs.

"Want some milk or orange juice?" he asked.

I nodded. "Sure."

While eating I realized I was more than groggy, still rather tired from the mostly sleepless night. I decided to get over the meal quick and get back to the bunk. The food was not bad at all, and I said, "This is pretty good - not bad for a sham chef."

Klug shook his head and still chewing on his eggs said, "He didn't cook it."

And Nate admitted, "Yeah Jake cooked it up. He's gonna be cookin' until we get up North."

I nodded, "Oh - no wonder."

Klug said, "Yeah - he just gets to wash the dishes - and play waiter."

"On a boat I don't think it's called a waiter," I said. I think it's a stewart."

At that Nate looked over at Klug with a stern eye. Then feigning accidental imbecility he poured a half full glass of orange juice he poured for me into my lap.

I slid quickly over trying to escape the modest dousing and shouted sharply, "Geeze!"

Nate said impartially, "Oops."

I said sharply, wiping off my pants with a napkin, "Just havin' some fun here Nate."

He just shrugged and walked stepped back to the stove.

Klug chuckled some as he said, "Nate man, the Rhino."

After eating I immediately rejoined my bunk and slumbered off again - a pleasant dreamless black sleep.

When I awoke it was toward noon. I climbed out of the bunk, and when I stood on the floor I noticed the boat was heaving more - enough to make keeping balance a deliberate act – especially for us yeoman so green to the boating arts. Klug was asleep on the bottom bunk, snoring away. I stepped over into the galley then to the head. As I walked across the floor my steps faltered slightly with the heave ho, and in the head I had to hold onto the sink next to the toilet as I went. It was a kind of Coney Island fun room. I saw through the porthole in the bathroom wall that outside the day was bright, sun filled. After I finished I splashed some cold water over my face and dried off with a towel hanging on a stainless steal rod above the sink. Next to the door was the shower, a smallish space with the typical plumbing, stainless steel sheeting was over the wall - all the comforts of home just cramped together into a smaller space.

I went back into the galley, where again I walked slightly oafish not quite used to the rolling floor. Then I went out the door and then through the bulkhead, onto the outside deck and into the bright sunshine. What a captivating day. As the deck lunged an occasional splash sounded from below the hull. Behind the stern we trailed a white frothy beard of churning water for a couple dozen or so yards.

I found myself amidst a day so clear, clean, and crisp I could see nothing vaguely, or otherwise, in the air to veil the color of this large land and the big sky all around. Water splashed from the slowly rising and falling, teetertotering bow, came up misting over the side rail. Wind and mist and the scene banged into me. We were sailing it seemed like the Valkyrie's riding and had come into the Strait of Georgia, thirty or so miles north of Vancouver B.C. We had come into a huge breach of scenery, and it was here that I was first hit by it - the power and glory of this high northern land - the Xanadu, the grandfather, the room 315 of lands; the land of kings, the Keeneland. A vista which seemed to open up, pray tell on the bounds of any previous experience. The consonance of color around me was distinct, crisp, multifarious and vivid. It was an Aegean day, with that spectral clarity that likely stirred Plato to his theory of transendant essential forms. It was Motzart - a movement on blue. It was a vista bringing miles and miles into the eye. The sea had become a great darkening blue playful waveleted expanse, a vast blue that was like the color of twilight just before the falling of a still night – the cobalt blue of a Florence mosaic - and within it's depths a spectral radiant turquoise blue shimmering. The mountains rose abruptly, and though the ridgeline was miles away, the immensity and height of the mountains pulled them apparently near to the eye, to loom high, as if upon us - as Atlas would appear mortal if seen with distance in the perspective. The horizon line of the sea was low in the view, with the mountains looking as if plunging hugely down into it, as if a baseline for the ranges was leagues underwater. The surface details were so distant that my eye could only see generalized patterns and colors. The upper mountains were a melding congress of flat topped pyramids, all lavender and gray, naked and eroded, a Himalaya of exposed rock, with ridges and falling angles and aspects that appeared sharp and jagged. In the highest regions, over serine summits, in the folds were snow fields that looked like a white brushing. Lower down were vast lush green forested regions flowing upward from the sea, a conifer tide awashing over vast valleys and splashing upward into the mid regions of the lapped mountains. The sea appeared a colossal cobalt-blue tub hemmed by the ranges. The rising and falling full shoulders of the summits made a toothy ridgeline. In the clean air a crisp lineation was drawn between land and the sky, high in the dome above. It was a lustrous Ming-blue sky, and was so absolute in the color it glistened like an opaque glass; a sky which I saw as a dome as that over the Pantheon, yet which I knew was mere shade over the eternal, that mostly undiscovered frontier. White clouds hung in the dome, heavenly landscapes; Camelot's in the firmament; and to my eye, in the clearness of the day, I saw what looked like distinct fibers along the fringe of these pure white platforms. It was that clear, as if these were cotton globs hung in the blue. I recalled my Faust and had to wonder, so if this was hell, just what the hell was heaven.

It all inspired me to consider here perhaps was a distant lair for Neptune, his Bertsgarden and somewhere was his Del Coronado and atop the mountains his Eagles Nest; but then I saw also the mountains as a kind of battlement, a defense. I imagined Orian standing sentry somewhere behind the puple ramparts, and with a prodigious Egyptian eye peaking impishly at us though an embrasure along the ridgelines, at our tiny intrusion, like an Apache, nestled in some high boulders, warily spying a praire schooner, as if we where about to sail and trespass into sacred and treacherous waters, four black horses pulling us over the churly sea, to the crab and the fish, to the seas pure maidens. And I thought how it was a feeble stand really, by these notional deities, more a Magino Line and we were coming with our rumbling floating Panzers, and the seas bounty like the Sicarii of Masada to eventually fall prey to their fate; Andromeda without Persues persueing, Lois without her Clark, Geronimo sans horse, sans warriors, sans everything. Of course, I was an arrogant human, confident in my vessels, the one floating, the other thinking.

Over the water in the far distance, several miles away, were two long jumbo class ferry ships. Toys in the near sight because of the real distance - but I could definitely estimate the ships were of titanic like dimension – White Star Liners with three parking decks stacked over a length of at least a football field - all white with blue sleek stylish trimlines, long flat matchboxes atop the wavelets, skimming over the dark blue slate, playthings in our cyclopian tub. Behind us, falling away, mild uplands densely wooded and all evergreen swelled from the blue like earth lodges. And miles away, beyond the green hilly distance, were the fading shades of the Vancouver B.C. skyline, grayish tall images on the sky, human architectures rising over elemental green dunes, lineated vaguely from behind a screen of what was no doubt matrix manufactured haze, right angled shadows redolent of another isle of symmetry and four-squarness. Indeed we had left all that behind, and had arrived. As I looked, Klug came up to me and said loud over the engine noise and the sheets of air shushing with a muffled banging in our ears, "Look at it man - the blue and so clear, so big - it's lordly."

I nodded still looking around me at it all and said, "It is big. Is it ever."

"Go big or go home, huh man?"

"That's right Klug."

We had come upon an altogether new stage. A brave new world of sorts. One of the remaining frontier's. I don't believe any reading or cinema, painting or even photograph thus removed could adequately prepare for it. In the here and now, once removed only by the conduit of the senses, that was the only way to get at it and live in its grandeur. My senses were trilling with receptivity. The awe the vista had conjured had galvanized me, opened my indolent inhibited insular doors. This was the Titan's Notre Dame, their Hermitage, a place to behold, I consciously set about to drink in the scene, taste it, smell it, see it, listen to it, feel it, be in it as much as humanly possible, let it shower and reign over me. I stayed out on the deck a couple of hours at least as we cut through and heaved over the wavelets crossing that immense basin. For a few minutes a team of dolphins, sea nymphs, black with a gay blade's white mask around the eyes, jetted along with the boat and arching the horizon playfully over the surface waves, in and out of Senda's flowing mane, befriending our lubberly steel hulk trespassing through their aquamarine playground.

As we began coming out of the big basin, up into the Strait of Georgia, abeam to each side of the boat, in the distance, rose the mountain range. It appeared as if we were coming into a great and prodigious alleyway, a fjord, for soon the mountains closed in and the waters narrowed. Occasionally nearby passed a lone sylvan covered island, more mounds, something out of Huck Finn, or burial mounds.

To the port side coming in the opposite direction was a kind – more than kin less than kind – of a cargo ship. Probably a mid-size of the class, bigger than a Liberty Ship and smaller than the kin to the Exxon Valdez. It was retrofitted for an apparently singular – and from what I thought in assessing the site – a dire task. It passed nearby - only half a hundred yards or so. I had never seen a ship with such a construction over its main deck. At the mid section, several yards in front of the deck house and flying bridge, and several yards behind the forecastle, the rails curved down so that the toprail was at main deck height. On each side where the rails came down were huge steel square columns, rising out of the deck forty or so feet high – four of them making a steel superstructure - a huge steel containing bracket. A tri-pod mast with a derrick crane stood like the skeleton for a preying mantis on the forecastle area of the deck. Between the brackets were laid and stacked perpendicular to the ships keel long logs, all stripped of boughs and crowns leaving only the couple inch auburn crust of meandering fluted bark, the royal trees usurped and defiled. There appeared to be hundreds of them, piled like tooth picks or staffs, stacked almost to the top of the brackets, the smoothly sawed round pale dead ends pointing outward to each side, like cord wood. The deckhouse was like a midrise, elevating the bridge six or seven decks to sit above and look over the cargo and the steel superstructure; it was painted black and had the look of a high peaked hat laid at the aft; the low slung broadsides were brick red. The ship and its cargo towered above the Snark; it was an almost awesome and awful huge Typhonous, Mile High Illinois of a site. As it passed I saw over it's swelled stern, above its Alaskan registery the ship's moniker, the Koon Loon.

In considering the logs, the hundreds of them, I thought how each stick represented how many hundred years of sylvan growth? And from that great ship, their years of annulus would travel to a mill where the bark would be stripped and grounded into news, or toilet, or typing paper, the naked logs sliced into lumber, and any scrap saved would be glued into plywood sheets. Then in whatever its newfangled manufactured form, the sylvan years would be shipped again on another boat, or truck, or boxcar, and likely end up another implement of the puzzle, more condiments for the alchemy - bones likely in skeletons for yet more stuccoed monuments to the ever invasive matrix.

An hour or so into the strait, well north of Vancouver, we were in it - the mountainous land had closed in, radically narrowing the vista until we were within deep fiords, until the sea had become a narrow channel, a Wiltshire Boulevard, between mountain ranges that rose steeply. The Inside Passage. I had to crane my neck to see the summits inclining high above; on some were patches, fields, and veins of snow gleaming white in the sun. Within some of the deeper folds of the slopes or within the aspects and gullies were slight streams of runoff; some had carved a pebbly crooked path down the mountainsides.

We went around a bend, and from a densely sylvan covered gorge, between the descents of two plunging summits, came into the channel a substantial stream as a thick frothy cascade, an abridged Niagara, several feet wide, the water felling and splashing several yards over a precipitous wall of gray-brown slate. The crashing and frothing of the falling water sent a fog of spray out into the channel and I could feel the mist cool and moist on my face as we passed. We were well beyond the gorge before the onrushing sound of the fall faded. Over the mountains grew groves of conifers, more sylvan densities, thousands, whole populations of long straight trunks and lean triangular crowns. Over the mountainsides the tops pointed directly skyward, the trunks rising at an angle to the steep slopes - as if the trees were marching upward out of the sea. From a distance it looked like a packed uniform multitude of green arrowheads. Occasionally we passed a barren patch, a rectangular clearing, beginning at the shoreline and going up high on the slopes, a swipe over the lush green beard, where lumberjacks had once encroached leaving a smooth grassy verdurous stubble. Along the shore I could see at the base of the trees over the land was a wild lush undergrowth, a gnomish Rangoon of high grass and low emergent plants of various leaf - palmate and pinnatifid, linear and ovate; all a snot yellow-green botanical, vivid under the lush pall of the evergreen above which was greener than grass.

We floated by a couple lone log cabins pressing into the forest and undergreenery along the shore. The logs had gone gray from years of weather, and were primitively connected with axed end cuts and what looked like a brown mud mixture filling gaps between the logs. The roof lines came low to the ground, and in front of each was a short narrow stick and plank pier fingering frail looking out into the channel. A couple mountain men likely, hermits banished, losing the paradise of modern times and delivered a primitive paradise regained. Though the afternoon had spent its final hours into early evening, the sun, an orange wafer, still brightly soared over the horizon. At home in Claremont, pushing the equatorial, barely a post noon sun; but there, at the topgallant reaches of the hemisphere, the days go long - the sun, during those dog days, setting close to midnight. It seemed somehow we were chasing the daylight.

I decided to leave the deck and stroll up to the pilothouse and sit awhile with Jake who was at the helm, taking over the controls for Art. He was still more friendly and talkative, perhaps he had become used to us now, grown accustom to our face, or perhaps simply appreciated the fellowship. He explained the maps, how he navigated and steered - manually and with the autopilot; how the radar and the LORAN navigation systems operated. Apparently the autopilot was always engaged - the gyroscopes directed toward a specific point on the compass. Atop the cabinetry along the front of the bridge at the center was a small black box. Atop the box was a small round palm sized knob - this was the rather unimpressive control for the autopilot. A simple turn of the small knob with the fingers would steer the ship and set the autopilot in a new direction. All Jake or Art or anyone steering had to do was turn the knob; this would turn the boat toward a certain point on the horizon; and the autopilot would maintain the course. It appeared too easy, a shell game of sorts. They would essentially sit back and simply sentry that the autopilot functioned properly, and try and spot logs or rocks or other shipping traffic that may invade the course and pose a hazard.

Jake explained, "See that light flashing in the distance - that's this lighthouse here on the map, this Sandycove Point house. I'm aimin' the autopilot to steer just to the side of the house - away from it sorta. Soon as we get to the house I'll find another point here on the map."

He showed me that on the map were marked lighthouses, lighted buoys, and lighted range and fairway markings. We were traveling along what was referred to as the Alaskan Marine Highway. The western coastline along Alaska and Canada is well marked and mapped, thus ship navigation is made a simple means of going from mark to mark, from a land point, to a buoy or range marker, to a lighthouse. The route between the marks comprised the highway. The maps Jake showed me were all topographic types with tiny numbers freckled over the water areas. The numbers represented sounding locations and the depth at that point in fathoms. Triangles, squares, and circles signified the various types of markers; black diamonds were buoys, white diamonds lighted buoys, long triangles were lighthouses. Thin faint parallel running contour lines throughout the water areas showed the underwater landscape. Small circles and odd closed shapes drawn with thin lines were underwater rocks. I noticed that many of the channels were quite deep, others shallow to the point where a close vigil had to be kept to keep the boat from coming too close in to a shallow depth.

As we came closer to the flashing light in the distant horizon, we came out of a narrow fiord into a wider channel and where on each side the land had quieted from the mountainous plunging cliffs. The channel had widened considerably to a few hundred yards, and the land now only swelled from the water in brown banks overspread with grass and bush that was a creamy gold, a dry tundra – a north Texas landscape. The smooth swelling land progressed into a shelf of uplands in the distance of about a mile, then some broad quietly folding brown hills, caramel hemispheres foothilling a new range of gray-lavender and dark-green mountains began. Next to the shore grew groves of white trunked trees with a broad brown and cinnamon-red cordate leaves. I guessed they were some sort of ash. Thickets of bulrush like plants with tall reeds were all along the shore and entangled with the trees.

Soon I could see the lighthouse approaching. Set on the bank out slightly into the channel it was a white tall column, about fifty feet, capped with a giant glass jar, maybe ten foot high and twice that in circumference; the glass walls were thick and horizontally ribbed at the center. Atop the jar was a red almost flat conical roof. The flashing light we had seen was not from the large jar like housing, but from a small strobe light atop the roof. Apparently, according to Jake, the light in the jar was used only in time of inclement weather. The tower stood founded atop a concrete slab that was incorporated within a natural shelf of rock laying out into the channel, and this was surrounded with a corset of huge gray boulders. The tower itself was constructed of concrete, which was painted a pristine white; the window panes appeared to be deeply recessed in the wall at least a foot, thus I figured the walls of the tower were likely a couple feet thick. The windows were small, about a foot square, and spiraled up the tower at even intervals - obviously following the path of an inner spiraling staircase. It struck me how rising out of the rock and concrete foundation, so white and clean, there in the midst of nowhere, was an elegant indomitableness about the tower. A true grit. A small wonder against the one that marked Alexandria. At the far fringes of the matrix a tall white steadfast mark.

Ahead, beyond the lighthouse, I could see a few miles distant what looked like a lone mountain – but what I guessed was the end view of a mountain range rising; and looking to the map, my guess was confirmed. To one side of the coming range the sea appeared to open up to its vastness, and on the map I saw that indeed beyond was the open Pacific. On the other side of the range, the water again narrowed and ran between ranges. A flashing light came from just to the port side of the channel opening. On the map I saw that it was a lighted buoy. A descendant of burning torches and bowls of oil that likely rimmed the Mediterranean. I saw that Jake lined up the autopilot to sail just to the starboard side of the light. He pointed to where we were going on the map and said, "This is a marker light on the outside point of this mountain just where the channel starts here. We're goin' right for the channel."

"Nothin' to it huh," I said.

"Naw pretty easy really. Seems like. Still you'd be surprised how many boats get screwed up down here."

"This can't be easy in foul weather."

"Nope. But that's what radars for. Still best to avoid travelin' through here in bad weather. It can be a real mess and the lands just too close in. It can come on ya real fast if you get caught in a fog and just goin' by the radar. You hear 'bout boats gettin' up on the rocks down here all the time in the storm season. Goin' through here this time a years not so bad. Couple months from now forget it."

"You've been down here in bad weather?"

"Sure. Plenty a times. Can get hairy. Best just to avoid it. Hell boats sink down here even in the best of weather. Last year a brand new crabber - the Northern Star sunk down here when it ran aground into some shore rocks. They had some kid on the bridge in the middle a the night and he fell asleep - boat went right up into it - and sunk in five seconds. Most everybody aboard drowned."

"They couldn't get out?"

"Nope. It depends – sometimes you hit somethin' and it's just a slow leak, you know. Other times if the gash is big enough - whoosh - you go down - in seconds. Guys in the Star were down below asleep - couldn't get out - water was just on 'em too fast. That's the thing of it up here - somethin' happens you generally don't got much time - the waters too cold. Fall overboard or get caught below and hypothermia sets in real quick - only after a couple minutes - if that."

As we neared the channel opening Jake took a couple of glances at the radar screen, through the rubber viewing saddle. I asked him if I could look and after he assented I stepped over and placed my face on the saddle. My eyes saw the screen, round with radiant orange lines over a black field. A feint gray lined grid pattern was over the screen. The orange outlined the contour of the land around; contained within the viewing circle was a radius of three or four miles of what was around the boat. A small dot at the center of the screen represented the Snark. Going from the dot at center to the screen perimeter, an invisible line would sweep around the screen every few seconds erasing the picture, then creating a new one representing the movement of the boat, and the change of the surrounding scene per that movement. I figured the sweeping of the screen corresponded to the gyrations of the radar reflector antenna on the outside atop the roof. I could see the outline of the range ahead and the land behind, the opening of the channel, and the wide opening to the sea on the other side of the mountains. I saw another small orange dot ahead of us where the channel opened. As the screen flashed I saw the dot moving toward us - another vessel no doubt. Yet when I looked up and scanned the horizon toward the channel I could not see the boat. Jake guessed what I was looking for and said, "Can't see that boat can ya."

"Seen it comin' on the screen though."

"Yeah, its on the other side of the mountain there - it'll come out in a second."

I said, "I can see how this is mandatory in the fog."

"Yep - gotta have it."

"What if you're in a fog and it breaks down."

"Then you're screwed. Better tie up somewhere."

I smiled and nodded.

"That's a good point though," he said. "When I was a kid – 'bout your age - when I started into this fishin', there weren’t no radar or LORAN, none a this 'lectronic crap. Hell radio wasn't even much good. We navigated by stars and seat of our pants – and the maps – lookin' out for known land points. Just dead reckonin'. We got caught in a storm - we figured it out. That was it. Nowadays with radio we know when storms comin'. Didn't have that luxury back when. We'd be out trawlin' and next thing ya know we're up to our asses in a fog or a squall. We'd be right around here in these fiords. Gawd that was a mess."

He slowly nodded his head and his eyes seemed to go distant, visiting his life past no doubt. "Lot more guys went down back then. Those were harder days."

We sailed through the channel awhile. I went down below and used the bathroom. I saw Nate was asleep on a bunk in one of the staterooms. Klug was not in sight and I figured he must be outside. After I finished and went back up on the bridge I saw that ahead the mountain range appeared to take a turn and elbow across the channel, appearing to create a dead end. On the map I saw where ahead the channel actually took an abrupt turn and at that point we would have to traverse some narrows that snaked through low points in the range. On the map this area was called Scarecrow's Bend. Within the areas showing water were circular pinwheel designs and short squiggly lines; and in bold letters was the word CAUTION.

I asked Jake, "What's this here?"

Jake glanced over, "Whirlpools and rapids," and then in a glib sardonic tone said, "big danger there."

As we approached the mountains perpendicular to us, and as the channel started to bend, it also narrowed. Soon we were turning, and ahead I could see the surface trilling and bubbling and swirling circular in spots. Around these narrows the mountains had fallen further in the distance behind hills, and next to the narrows was marshland, more of the groves of white trunked trees, and the bulrush. The hills in the distance were covered with a tundra that was a celadon-green, and in the wind the grass would move and the color would appear to shimmer over the hillsides like a grounded aurora. I looked over at Jake as we floated through the narrows, over the foaming and swirling water as if it was nothing – which apparently it was – mere surface irregularities - a Brane wafer of mild dimension. Indeed at one point Jake tapped my shoulder and pointed to the starboard side, to the shore where an tall old tree that had likely been felled by lightening strike – a temperamental zap from Jupiter; the bottom end of the upper felled part was still attached to a lower stump. Jake said, looking through binoculars, "On top of that busted ol' trunks a bald eagle," and handing me the glasses, "here look."

I looked through and sure enough magnified before me was a magnificent long almond shaped maple-brown feathered body and a white head with a yellow hooked beak, shaped like the handle of a swank walking stick, just like what is on the Great Seal.

I was expecting more excitement out of the narrows after seeing the warning labels on the map. The worst peril I saw that detained Jake's attention were a couple rock formations periscoping through the surface over near the shore. As we cleared the narrows and entered into another wide channel between mountains Jake deadpanned, "Well that was real hazardous."

"That was nothing," I said. "How come they label it like that on the map?"

"Durin' a storm it can get treacherous there - don't let it fool ya. We're sailin' in perfect conditions."

About ten minutes up this new channel and we came to the end of a mountain range and an area again opened up to just sky and sea to the port side vista. Jake went through the maps and pulled out one that was less detailed but showed the entire northeastern coastline from Seattle to the Aleutian Islands. On it he showed me how we had just left Queen Charlotte Strait into the Queen Charlotte Sound.

He explained, "This is the open sea here - or out there where you just see nothin'. We'll hug the shoreline here and go back inside here at this point. We gotta aim right toward that mountain there in the distance."

He was looking straight ahead toward a peak that rose out of the water and was offset against the mountains to the east that we were staying close into. I looked at the radar and all I could see was the outline of the shoreline to starboard which was now about a mile abeam of us. In the big open waters the boat seemed to rock more as it had earlier in the day back in the basin just outside Vancouver. The sea here was now less blue, shaded over with a grayish tint. The sun was still well skyward, but the great dome had become in its atmosphere yellowish toward the west. Evening had come, but though my watch showed quarter past eight, the height of the sun indicated the night was still a few hours off. The peak that we were chasing appeared close ahead, seemed to loom near on the horizon. But as we sailed longer I saw that the peak was actually way off in the distance, another near site illusion - its immensity had made it look close though it was quite far.

While sitting there I looked over the maps, each was a segment of the Alaska, Canadian, and Aleutian Island shorelines; then there was the one overview map of the entire coastline. It occurred to me, looking on the larger scaled map, how inferior man's occupation of the land was compared to the extent of the land; yet somehow I thought how man continues to devour and dominate the land. I had read about ravaged and depleting rain forests, contaminated lakes and rivers, thinning ozone's; but at home in Claremont, save the L.A. smog, such Sierra Club whining and Green Peace propaganda went scarcely and begrudgingly noted but largely disregarded. Life was good after all; such dissentions were water over a duck, mostly lost in the modern media's continuous Missouri of cacophony, distant thunder in a summer of storms. Man, somehow being like a tumor, and from which does a cancer grow, was still a vague, mostly radical idea to me. I passed it to my intellectual dustbin as the party line by fringe scientific types, like the Beatniks who bitched before the Hippies. The cleared swatches of mountainside and the great cargo ship stacked with felled trunks I saw as paradigmatic of the extent of man's cunning and enterprise and his freewheeling dominance over nature and the environment – and I realized they were but miniscule efforts compared to the global effort. These were first big impressions – I wondered if they were also paradigmatic of man's inability to dominate himself and that cunning and enterprise.

It was occurring to me how man singularly was impressive enough; yet in his totality, was a most superior form, the viable earthly power to be reckoned with. But like the deities on Olympus with their supernatural powers, man’s power was displayed with such unchecked and unschooled whimsy. I began wondering, if perhaps, I was seeing revelations, Delphic foreshadowing's and musing's, with apocalyptic echoes, intimations; if signs were being posted for my apprehension. And I began to think how it was aptly so that the tales of yore were so chock full of nuts; those Olympians, high and mighty they may have been, still operated low and seemly; so much soap opera in Hesiod's fables. Perhaps in their story's that is the greatest lesson. Perhaps, like Rome with her Emperor's made godly, the Titan's had somewhere in some lost attic of human existence, as per the speculations of Enemeros, beginnings that were human and heroic, charismatic, the stuff of a good yarn, but also were all too humanly real.

On that map Seattle was the size of a thumbprint, the peninsula carrying the Olympic mountains could be covered by a small finger, yet standing in the city, at a high point, the city spread far and wide seeming over the hills, and the Olympics were a far off magnificent jagged peaked view. And the Puget Sound from shore appeared a wide sea like expanse; yet on the map was but the width of a couple pencils. A few men in their little boat were small potatoes indeed amidst the big country. But a lot of little men, doing their little things could like termites to a once firmly built and well crafted house, leave but a feeble and honeycombed shell.

It was taking quite awhile to cross the Sound. Jake turned up the short-wave and I sat awhile longer and listened. Mostly we heard conversations between boaters, most of it laced with countrified twang.

Jake said, "I try and keep the radio down, should always keep it on, especially if the weather looks like it's gonna turn. But so much blabbin' on it, drives ya nuts. Art likes it always on so I sorta keep it on."

He was right about the chatter, it was like a party line open to all comers who could dial in a frequency. We listened, a man's voice was coming over the speaker intermixed with a static fuzz and an occasional humming whine: "Heard the Shirer's were comin' down from Anchorage next Thursdee, that correct - over?"

"That’s a ten - four - over."

Then another voice broke in, "Boater off Audubon Point needs tow. Any available assistance would be surely appreciated - over."

A pause - just a light hissing sound.

Then the same voice: "Once again boater off Audubon Point needs tow - any available assistance would surely be appreciated - over."

Another voice: "Hey Eddie - go help that guy - over."

Another pause, then same voice: "Ed - I know you're out there Eddie - that's your secret spot - over."

The voice in need: "We'd sure appreciate it Ed if you're there - over."

Jake then reached up and turned a knob which was on the radio box attached to the ceiling above his head. As the knob clicked into other channels static and more hum whining would come over the speaker. Finally one channel conversation tuned in:

"Magi here - over."

A ladies voice: "You get the black spray paint? And Don't forget the pickles. Did you pick up pickles – over?"

"No gosh dang it - you didn't say anything about pickles - over."

Another mans voice broke in, "Well you're in a pickle now - over."

The voice with no pickles: "No kidding - hey you need a wife who likes pickles - over."

The other voice: "She chews these pickles or lick em? Over."

Jake and I chuckled over that corn pun exchange.

He said, "Not supposed ta use the radio for personal talk, but up here people stretch it." Then he turned the sound down way low to where the voices could barely be heard over the engine noise.

Later I heard a "Mayday - mayday - over," coming over the speakers.

I looked at Jake and pointed to the radio, he nodded complacently and said, "Yeah I know - ya hear that all the time. Probably another boat needs a jump start."

"Thought a may-day was just for real emergencies?"

"One guy's 'mergency's 'nothers pain in the ass."

I nodded.

Then he said, "This time a the year most of it's minor - let the Coast Guard worry bout it."

The scenery had now become repetitious and dulled - the open water, the peak ahead, and the mountainous shore to starboard. I decided to stretch my legs and take a walk around the boat. Downstairs I saw Nate was still snoozing in one of the bunks. I didn't see Klug and guessed he was probably outside. Art was likely still asleep in the forward stateroom. The boat was rocking well and steadily, almost a constant cadence that I tried to get in sync with as I walked; occasionally the floor would take a strange dip to the side and I would have to catch balance. I went outside and the air blew cool and moist into me as I stepped out of the bulkhead. We seemed to be moving along at quite a clip for behind the boat the water was churning and foaming; and when I stepped to the rail and looked ahead at the bow, water would splash and spray back as the bow cut into a new swell. As we cut through the wavelets and swells, I could hear the water splashing on the bow over the cadenced sounding din of the engine. I stayed at the rail looking out over the sea awhile. The sea had again found its blue luster, it was a deep brilliant blueness, much darker than the sky, at once dark and deep and yet radiant, and it seemed to me as if there was something almost unreal about it, it glowed so. And near and around the boat the sea seemed to glow lighter, more turquoise-green. After a few moments of basking in the blueness it occurred to me how I hadn't seen Klug out on the deck. I looked around and over the rear deck and still didn't see him. I thought how he couldn't be in the pilothouse, or the galley, I hadn't seen him in any of the staterooms. I wondered, and a slight worry fell over me - could he have fallen overboard? Could he be that stupid? Then I saw something moving in the car and I stepped over. Klug was laying in the back seat reading a book. I tapped on the window, he sat up and rolled the window down.

"What are you reading?" I asked.

He held up the book, it was Brideshead Revisited.

"You still reading that?"

"Yeah - almost done man. Gettin' real weird though. I'm where the old lord kute comes home and they stick him in the China room and he croaks. Charley's movin' in on Julia, the other girls got fat, Rex is scamin', and Sebastian’s a mess in Bangkok or some place - and I think he's back doorin’ some guy with a hurt foot."

"Sounds like your getting near the denouement."

"The what?"

"The big finish."

"Yeah, well there's only a few pages left and I don't think anything big's gonna happen here. In fact I'm beginnin' to wonder man - what's the point in this thing - sides just the coolness of it?"

I shrugged my shoulders then opened the front passenger side door and sat down in the front seat. When I closed the door I noticed immediately the quiet in the car from shutting out the wind and the din of the engine. The movement of the boat made it seem as if the car was rolling along a mildly rough highway with some rises and shallows. I said, "Its not bad in here - no noise."

"I know man - peaceful - that's why I came in here, and the seats are plush. A good call I'd say."

"Yeah it is comfy."

"So I don't get it man - what's the deal with this book? You know Charley keeps slammin' Rex, as if Rex doesn't got a clue. And Julia rags all over the guy. Be honest with ya - Rex is the guy I kinda liked. The others were cool no doubt - but gawd what a bunch a sissy's. Sebastian's just a drunk; Julia can never make up her mind; her fat sisters got a Mother Teresa complex; the Lords Mr. Negativo - gripes all the time; then his kid Brideshead with all his cadash can't get laid and marries a fat bitch; the mothers got so much religion up her ass she urinates out the mouth; and Charley, I just don't know about that guy, he just paints pictures and stuff - blows off his wife and kids then gets blown off by Julia - he ain't no achiever. Really man - what's the point a this thing? Three hundred pages a nothin’."

I nodded and smiled, "Got some valid points there Klug."

"No really man - what's this thing about?"

I thought a moment then said, "Well personally I think the book is a microscopic ironic display of the British Upper classes, and the British Empire. I think, according to Waugh, the British Aristocracy in the early part of this century basically declined into a slothful leisure class of screwballs and let the Empire down; that about the time the novel occurs the great empire builders had declined into being led by a weak and placid aristocracy, top heavy with too much entitlement, style, and dim wit. Remember the book is taking place while England was placating Hitler, losing its grip on India, essentially losing its hold as the world power."

Klug nodded slowly, thinking about what I had said, then said, "Yeah makes sense, like I said their cool, gotta give em that. But screwed up."

"And I think Waugh even goes so far as to suggest that the upper class left the responsibilities of leading the Empire to a crass bourgeoisie - who's values really are superficial and founded on haphazardly gained education and refinement. He is showing, I think, within a smaller more dense sphere what was happening in a wider sphere - both spheres being concentric - in English society. He was showing a revolution, or rather an evolution; long enduring ways of believing, of thinking, of living were going by the wayside. In other words - the Great English Empire, the one where the sun never sets, and like that of Rome - fell to the Huns. Only the Huns in this case are the Rex's and the Hooper’s of the world." Then as an after thought I said, almost as if talking to myself, "I think Waugh and T.S. Elliot saw things rather eye to eye."

"T.S. Elliot man?"

"A poet."

"Oh - not big on that poetry stuff man."

"Ever read any?"


Then as an after thought, I said, "Another thing about the book Waugh seems to be making a big statement about faith - how you can try and escape the religious faith - and the values – the tradition you've been brought up with, but in the end trying to escape it just screws you up. That was the thing, in the end, all the characters fall victim to their faith. The Catholic thing really weighs down from on high. That faith they were raised with. Even the narrator was impressed by it all - the Catholic thing." I was here talking less to Klug, more to myself, speculating out loud rather. "And Charles was such a cynic, so irreligious in the beginning. Of course Rex is relatively unscathed at the end, indeed Waugh has his fortunes improving. But that's cause Rex is a shallow soul."

"He's dark," Klug reminded.

"Right - dark. The twentieth century guy." Another thought came to me and I said, "Did you know Kennedy got the Pulitzer Prize for Profiles in Courage and they say he really didn't write the book?"

"No man. Didn't know that - sounds sorta bogus."

"Yeah it does."

"But really man – who cares? He got to be pres and did all those chicks. Like a Rock Star man."

I smiled and nodded, "Yeah – sign a the times I guess."

"And who cares if the pres writes books – that make him a good pres?"

"I don't know Klug."

"Like this book, mm – I don't know, kept me readin' – but I'm up here with the kutes, nothin' goin' on 'round here."

"No, guess not." Is all I said.

I looked out the windshield at the brown and purple mountains majestically rising in the distance beyond the rails and I said distractedly, "I like poetry myself, some of it. But yeah - maybe it is sort of dying out - in the shadow of TV and Hollywood and rock and roll. Getting antiquated like gunslingers, radio, and the Viennese Waltz."

Klug didn't answer. We stayed quiet awhile slouching back luxuriating in the thickly foamed car seats. Then at once Klug said, "Hey man - look it's Nate."

I looked over toward the cabin, Nate had stepped out and he was standing out on the deck bending over slightly, his hand over his stomach as if it ached.

"What's he doin'?" Klug said quickly.

"I don't know - he doesn't see us."

Then Nate walked over to the side of the boat, to the rail. I could see his neck and head crane forward and out overboard, and a stream of soilent yellow-green puke jetted out of his mouth and out into the sea; and he stayed awhile bent over the rail hacking and puking. He looked, with the streams of puke shooting from his mouth, as if he was going through an exorcism of sorts.

Klug said, "He's seasick man. Oops, there he goes again."

Nate looked flushed and sick as he came away from the rail. He wiped his mouth with the sleeve of his shirt then slowly shook his head. His shoulders were hunched some, lowering his neck – as if he were working to keep it down.

Klug and I were both snickering, I said, "He's sick as a dog."

"No kidin' man - he's pukin' green yuk - look at him - he puked five minutes."

It hadn't been quite five minutes - but it had been awhile.

Nate looked over at the car and saw us. We were smiling at him and were probably not a welcome site because I'm certain he wanted to keep his flagging condition under wraps. He gave us a blank stare for a moment, then walked over. He opened the back door and got in; Klug slid over to the other side of the seat. At once Nate started in on us, "You didn't see that - you hear me."

"Hear no evil, see no evil man," Klug said.

"Yeah - well keep it that way," Nate said.

"You were really pukin' - you sea sick?" I asked.

"No - I got cancer - what'd you think?" He shot back.

"I was just concerned," I said, glibly.

"Well don't be."

"Little testy aren't we?" I said, with an air. "Guy pukes out a few intestines and he gets all perturbed."

"Really man - you were sick as hell - what was that green goop?"

Nate was now laying his head back over the top of the seat, his mouth hung open, "I don't know. Just shut up. I'm gettin' it again back here. Gawd damn it - I feel fine just after I throw up, then it just starts buildin' up again. I've puked a bunch. There's nothin' left, but it makes more. Gawd I feel like hell."

"I think its bile," I said.

"Bile? What's bile?" Nate asked.

"The green puke," I said.

"Shut up Joe goddamn it," Nate moaned. "Just shut the hell up."

Klug chuckled, "I don't know man you look in real pain."

Nate moaned again, "Its comin' again. I can feel it. It just started when we got out here into the rougher water. Gawd damn it. You guys don't feel anything?"

"Not a thing," I said.

"No man, feel a-okay ya know," Klug said. "’Cept I'm starvin’. I could use a cheeseburger. With some bacon on it."

"Or some Colonel Sanders Chicken - finger-lickin' good," I said.

"Or pork chops man. Flaka, she makes em in a big pan so their kinda greasy - they swim sorta in the grease - makes em juicy."

I was smiling. Nate turned his head toward Klug and said, "Soon as I'm better – you're dead."

Klug looked at me and made a quick face – wide eyed with an exaggerated frown. A mocking grimace.

I said, "Klug you ever eat tongue?"

"Tongue man?"

"Yeah - cows tongue. Suppose to be kind of a delicacy. But it's sort of hard to eat 'cause when you're eating it, when its sitting there on your plate, you can see that it's a tongue. My mom likes to lay it out on a bed of lettuce."

"Fuck you guys," Nate said as he sat up and opened the door and left. We watched him walk back into the galley. Then in a few moments he re-emerged and went right back to the rail for another lengthy session of vomiting.

Like ghouls, Klug and I dispassionately watched, "He just doesn't look good at all - think he'll make it?" I said.

"Sure pukin' alot. Didn't know there was all that crap in your stomach. Sure hope I don't get it man. Looks rank."

"You feel fine right?" I asked Klug.

Klug nodded. "Yeah sure. I'm fine man. I guess. Yeah, I'm fine. You?"

"Yeah - I guess. The rolling is sorta different though. But I don't know, I guess I'm not feeling perfect. I'm not queasy or anything - you queasy?"

"No. No way man. I don't think so," he said, then sat up and with a disturbed look sat still a moment as if checking and thinking about himself. "Naw I'm fine. Not perfect I guess."

"You don't feel just a little heavy in the stomach?"

"Naw - well sorta - but I think it was that apple I ate. I don't feel like pukin' though. No way."

"Naw, neither do I," I said. But somehow I thought maybe I did feel a little out of sorts. As if slightly dizzy sort of. Not quite one hundred percent; sort of.

Nate had gone inside. Klug then said speaking up out of the quiet, "I don't know, now that I think about it, maybe I'm not just right ya know."

"Yeah that's what I was thinking. Maybe we should go out on the deck and get some fresh air."

"Yeah that's a good idea man."

And with that decision, we both got out and stood outside the car awhile breathing deep as the boat heaved over that abundant and bounding ultramarine prairie.

3 I spent the next few hours reading, napping and more loitering on the deck, killing time; toward eleven, I went from outside back in and saw Jake standing against the stove stirring something that was steaming in a pot, apparently cooking dinner. I checked the stateroom and Nate was laying on the bottom bunk asleep. I decided to go back upstairs to the pilothouse - the boat was growing smaller with less avenues now to occupy ones time. Art had taken Jake's place at the helm. He sat in the pilot chair again, and as before a Budweiser can was in hand. We were nearing the lone peak, it stood prodigious now, much nearer off the port bow, and I could see the rest of the range that extended beyond the initially visible peak for several miles. We were heading for a wide opening between the range and the mountainous shoreline to starboard. I could see in the distance that the opening narrowed and again we would be running through narrow fiords. I looked in the radar and over the blinking screen I could see the jagged outline of the mouth of the channel and the dot that represented the Snark slowly easing toward the opening. Art was quiet and I think in a somewhat somber mood. When I had come up on the bridge, I asked, "How's it goin?" And he grunted a shallow and odd "Yeah." I figured he misunderstood me or was distracted. I sat in the other pilot chair and watched a while as Art checked the map and, like Jake, navigated us into the channel by setting the autopilot toward another flashing light ahead on the coastline. I saw on the map that the Islanded mountain range was called Queen Charlotte Island. Ahead, just over the horizon, above the range, the sun was setting and the sky was dimming into a pale blue gray with a pinkish glow near the sun. The sea on the channel had become smooth and gray. The land to each side again became the steep evergreen mountainsides. With Art not giving off signals that he was in the best of moods, not showing the most pleasant of countenances, I decided to embark back downstairs.

Jake was still at the stove and I saw five small wood bowls set out on the counter with broken lettuce piled within. I went back outside and looked around for Klug but he was not around. I stood by the port rail and watched the land slowly pass. The channel was quite flat, almost glassy now, colored a bluish steel gray. As the boat ran, the engine gently gurgling, a triangular undulation spread from the bow. In the evening air and falling night the land seemed very still. The walls of the mountains enclosed near to each side, it was a narrow channel. We past a few more back woods primitively put together cabins standing along the shoreline, outermost houses, looking more like old weathered gray rotting wood shacks, one hung half over the channel on stick stilts, a couple had slightly warped wood docks meandering out into the water. The only sign of life was a hanging hurricane lamp on the wall of one of the cabins next to the door. It was lit with a glowing white dot in the middle of the lamps bellied glass. I wondered how in the hell could someone live way out there, with really the only apparent distraction a passing boat like ours. No talk of the town, or all the news that's fit to print, no Hollywood Bowl's or Carnegie Halls, or even a Grauman's Chinese, no Ebbits Field or Rose Bowl, not even a Drive-Inn; and unless I was missing something, from what I could see, there was no Stan's with a bar for bellying up to. And what about sex? Was not that an issue? Or was it like an episode of Bonanza – it just didn't come up; or was it like the living, did that too become a singular preoccupation, left to the torrent of touch? After a few minutes I saw ahead in the channel a lone man in a small dingy motoring across, his tiny yacht powered with a small two-stroke outboard. It was Miller time. I then heard a dissonance of quack quacking up above and so looked upward. A triangular formation of geese flew high overhead, their winged forms like small cross silhouettes against the gray-blue evening sky blushed pink down low. Within the fast rising mountains long shadows darkened the side aspects between the folds coming off declining ridges. A couple summits were laced with a coronet of snow. From the bulkhead I heard Klug shout, "Hey Joey." I looked over and he said, "Dinners up."

About time for dinner, I thought, considering lunch was a mere coach class snack of swiss cheese and Ritz crackers. I went back inside and slid into the booth. Nate was already seated across. The salad bowls and empty bowls were in the middle of the table. Klug slid in next to me and Jake brought over a pot filled with warmed chili, set it on the table, then spooned some into one of the empty bowls. He then grabbed one of the salad bowls and I noticed a bottle of Tabasco and took it all upstairs to Art.

The three of us served ourselves and started eating. I said, "Strange hours huh?"

"Jake was waitin' till Art got up to make dinner." Nate explained.

Nate picked rather at his food. Klug asked him, "Feel like eating man?"

Nate nodded, "Yeah - sorta."

I said, "Good thing you don't have to cook."

"I'm feelin' better," Nate said, "ever since we got back into the calmer waters."

Jake came back into the galley and slid into the booth next to Nate, served himself and started eating. Nate seemed to straighten up in his seat when Jake sat down; and even said robustly – putting it on, I figured, "Great food here Jake."

Klug and I joined in, "Yeah Jake, it is good."

Jake just nodded and said, "Just chili. Easy to whip up. Food gets better when the work starts."

After we ate, at my suggestion, Klug and I did the dishes for Jake. Nate went back to a stateroom and found an empty bunk, and Jake went upstairs. When we finished putting away the dishes I went back outside. Night had all but fallen, the mountains had darkened, shadowed over, and the sky above was turning black and ahead over the channel the sky was a lucent midnight blue, dark and glowing. Stars were coming out in the blackened sky above, white lights.

Nate came outside and over to the rail. I asked, "Your not sick again are you?"

"Naw - tried to sleep but I couldn't. Just came out for air."

"So gonna make it?"

"Yeah think so. Least now I can eat without throwing up."

"They got pills for seasickness."

"Heard they don't work that well and make you sleepy."

"Your probably going to need something - can't be throwing up like that and working."

"Maybe I'll get used to it."

Klug came outside and joined us. He asked Nate, "No more pukin' huh man?"

Nate gave him a quiet cross stare, "What's it look like Klug?"

"Just askin' man."

Nate looked away and out beyond to the land then said, "Look at this - it just got dark - what is it? Midnight?"

"Can you believe this land," I said.

"It's another world," Nate said.

We could hear over the engine gurgling a steady soprano of the whirring and chirping sounds of crickets.

"It's something though - us being here," I said.

Nate nodded slowly, "Yeah - we're here alright. Now we gotta make some money."

"That Arts kinda of a kook man," Klug said. "Sure he's gonna pay ya?"

Nate nodded, "Yeah he will."

He sounded confident. I wasn't sure what he was basing it on. I had to side with Klug, Art didn't seem the most debonair of birds.

Then Klug said, "'Course we'd probably be kooks too livin' the way he does."

"Likes that Budweiser," I said.

"No kiddin' man - he's gotta be an alky," Klug said.

Nate was staring beyond into the land, not really paying attention to the small talk, he just nodded and muttered, "Probably." He may not have even heard what Klug had said.

"He ain't married - think he gets laid?" Klug said.

"He's an old guy - probably doesn't care about it," I said.

"Think we'll get laid up here - are there women up here man?" Klug said.

Nate turned from the land and looked at Klug and said irritably, "No Klug - there's no women up here. They don't let em north a the Canadian border. It's just a lot a guys."

"Hey man - I hear there was lots of chic's up here - just not real good lookin' though."

Nate looked irritated, "Klug - you guys oughta face it - you're up here to fish. It might be a few months. Best not to think about it."

Klug laughed, "Nate man - that's yer song and dance buddy - you said the same line about Seattle - no chicks, just get a job. I got laid a lot man."

Nate shook his head and stepped away from the rail and said quietly, "I'm going inside."

The sky began to fill with stars. And the dark twilight blue at the fringe of the sky had almost faded to black. The light from the tower lights over the boat glowed against the black and the land beyond was dark and shadowy. I stayed in the night awhile with Klug, just leaning against the car. The stars had become many and were glittering above sprinkled over a dome which was now black and glistening.

"Got any ideas about what we oughta do when we get up there?" Klug asked.

"Not really - I figure we just get up there then improvise. Try and get on a boat in Juneau maybe - then if that doesn't work, get up to Dutch Harbor somehow."

"Sounds like a plan."

We passed another buoy which floated near the shoreline; its strobe light flashed every few seconds bright and quick like a photoflash. It was flashing about thirty yards off the port side. Around us, save the light, was a deep darkness; the moon had yet to rise over the mountains. The fiord was cast in moonless midnight dark. The woodlands passing along the shore were dark, so dark you could see the eyes. Klug even said, "Sure dark here man - like that place in Oregon where the gas station Kute lived."

"Yeah, it's damn dark."

"Hope that radar keeps workin' man."

"He can see ahead sort of, I'm sure, with the halogen lights."

"Not far man. I was up there when we were leavin' Seattle. It's mostly radar and the lights from the buoys. Good thing they got that auto pilot."

"Boats and sea navigation are as old as civilization Klug. Probably older. It wasn't till the Second World War that auto pilot and radar was invented - and these strobe light buoys I'm sure aren't much older. Both Jake and Art have been navigating up here a long time."

Klug nodded, "Yeah, good thing we live now huh. Man it must a been a real comedy in the old days."

I nodded, "It wouldn't have been easy. But still they sailed, on the Red Sea in Canaan and Tyre, the Ark I guess even before that. The Egyptians sailed the Nile and the Phoenicians the Mediterranean in small wood boats with square sails. Twelve hundred years before Christ, supposedly Jason and the Argonauts sailed to Colchis in search of the Golden Fleece. Three thousand years ago Klug. Think of how dark the nights were then."

"What's an Argonaut? That like an Astronaut?"

"Yeah sorta. Explorers, searchers. All searching to know what's beyond." That was what I said to Klug; but my words had got me thinking – and my lesson's from history roamed through my mind - how from Moses to Jason to Odysseus to Ulysses, these mythical forerunners searched for that promised land. How Xerxes had a Navy of thousands, so said Herodotus. How Rome had their slave powered Triremes, the Vikings the Dragon Ships, Columbus his Caravels, and Nelson his Ship of the Lines, then the great Clipper Ships that used to round the Cape Horn sailing between the American coasts in sixty days. How the Sextant was invented before Caesar and Christ by the ancient Greeks, the Compass by the Chinese and brought to Europe by Marco Polo. How Drake circumnavigated the world through Magellan's straight, taking a side trip to the California coast which he called New Albion, seventy years after Copernicus committed blaspheme against Ptolemy - ninety years after Columbus and his egg, a century before an apple knocked gravity into Newton. And seventy years ago the indestructible Titanic sunk on it's maiden voyage, and a little more than ten years before our little Alaskan venture America landed a man on the moon. I thought how Mars would probably be next.

I said to Klug, "Man hasn't exactly been daunted by the dark, huh Klug?"

"Guess not man – and now we got lights, radio, weather reports, the Coast Guard, that LORAN radio wave thing. Seem's like if you screw up now man you gotta be a real dummy."

"Don't say that - it still happens even with all that. Jake was telling me about a brand new boat that last year ran aground on some rocks; sunk and drowned most of the crew. The guy at the wheel fell asleep. With all the gizmos - didn't matter. He fell asleep." I shrugged.

"Guess that'll do it man. Gotta stay awake. Hey, now that you mention it - maybe we oughta keep an eye on Art. He just sits up there drinkin' beers - what's keepin' him awake?"

"Got a point there. Still he's made the trip up here enough times. I'd say our chances of him nodding off are slim."

"Yeah - and if we deep six I'm a good swimmer."

"Not in these waters - its too cold - you get hypothermia in a few seconds."

Klug put on a doubtful expression, "They say that man - but you'd be surprised. I've surfed in freezin' cold water. Probably not this cold - but cold enough. You last longer than they say." After he said this his gaze was caught by something off the starboard side, "Hey look at that."

I looked over across the deck, beyond the far rail, and amidst the blackness I saw what looked like the dark shadowed outline of a boat, about the size of the Snark. It was heading in the opposite direction. Only its running lights, small jar sized white and green lights shone in the dark. We walked across the deck to the rail and I could barely make out the shadowy lines, but I could see that its rail slung low and covering and rounding the peak of the bow was a noticeable wad like wrapping of some sort - probably rope formed into a bow fender. The shape of its cabin and second deck pilothouse, and lack of halogen lights indicated it was likely a tug.

"Look behind it man," Klug said, leaning over the rail. "Way down there."

Coming up behind was a large black boxlike shadow, well larger than the Snark. Between this and the tug was a small white light, no bigger than a camp lantern dangling in mid air like a firefly. I thought I knew what it all was, "Its a tug pulling a barge - I saw one in Seattle. There's a cable between the tug and the barge - that's what the white light is hangin' from. The barge is probably full of those big metal cargo containers they use in the ports."

The blackened shadow barge came nearer. It passed by only a couple dozen yards from us. The side rails of the barge were several feet higher than the deck where we were standing, and the containers were piled two high, thus the overall height of the mass was well higher than the Snark. We passed one another like two trucks in an alley.

"Tight fit there man, like a virgin."

"Yeah - don't think I want to run into one of those."

"Or how bout that cable - can't even see it. Be a real mess hittin' that."

We watched the black form as it sailed away from us until it disappeared in the distance blending into the black.

"Kinda like a ghost - huh man?"

"Right - the ghost barge - the world has a soul and is full of demons."

"Twilight zone man."

"And we've entered it."

We stood awhile longer, stood quiet. Then Klug said, "Whelp I think it's time for some shut eye."

"Goin' inside?"


He then stood up from leaning on the rail and started in, "You stayin' out here?"

"For a little while."

"Alright - see ya."

He walked into the cabin through the bulkhead and I went back to the night. I stayed out there quite awhile, bathing in it and not thinking of anything in particular. I walked over toward the car laying across the stern of the deck. I laid over against the side slouching in a forward lean over the door and resting my arms on the roof. I gazed out toward the stern of the boat, looking out from where we had come. I Listened mostly to the chugging gurgling patter of the engine and as I relaxed over the hulk of the car. With the quiet melody of that sound, quick thoughts flitted in and out of my lazed thinking there under the black firmament. About the blackness out beyond the boat – about what was singular and solitary, sans everything - like death. How fleeting really our lives were compared to the immensity and endurance of nature. Our time and geologic time. And just where in the black was God. A density of thick woods dark and deep – hands full of dust – hearts in an onion - black holes - Plato's cave – nada and more nada's; and where there's a will there's life - that will - that seemingly aerial yet apparently lay force.

I felt a free soaring, a thermaling above it – like an Appalachian eagle as I looked at the dark and the thoughts percolated through my brain. I could see that the channel was narrowing. Shadows that were darker than the dark of the night sky, that were the mountainsides, had pressed in as we moved leaving it behind. As we came into the narrows the continual and monotonous gurgling of the engine began to echo, but the noise was slight really. And the boat swayed gently, our floating cradle, carrying us like that ancient basket, a slight listing motion, to and fro, fro and to, from port to starboard, starboard to port. My thoughts ceased, my brain fell listless.

When we were well into the narrows and into the quiet echoing, the boat had turned such that directly to the stern was the moon rising. The white shining disc glowed low on the horizon, it hung in the air and following us down through the narrow fiord. The boat was moving, father moon was behind us, and he kept with us, his white – incandescent against the shellacked sky. And over us, and over the barely rippling water, was projected a lunar shadow which illuminated over the water glints of white light, nebulous and indefinite, like sparkling stars with momentary actualities, here then gone. The lunar light colliding with the spare rippling of the water dancing a moment before blending with the black. The echoing of the winding chugging engine, the dancing light, and the slow rocking, the deck slanting to and fro, seemed to work a lulling on my mind and seemed to take it away into a no mind, as if a grasping had been loosened. Over the scene a clear veil of unreality like an apparition seemed cast, like perhaps a kind of madness. Somehow the vision seemed sharpened and more clear, the dark - black so very black – the tiny lights flickering fulgurous – the lunar light - a white disc so white in the black. I seemed to feel the dark closing in, the narrows narrowing, and somehow I felt I was more in a dream, had become phantomlike, was blending with the black, taken out of the day and all yesterdays and tomorrow's - tomorrow and tomorrow. And I sensed then what I thought I knew about the day was mostly wrong, that what was held in the lay mind feigned definiteness, but this was truly momentary, fleeting and really illusionary. That my being there to lay witness to this lunar loveliness and loneliness was likely from a premeditation out of the reach of conscious decision, from somewhere within the actual evolution of the species, from a place that could only be glimpsed at, touched, or seen momentarily like the dancing light.

Then my mind took hold again and I came out of it - the veil lifted. I stood up off the car, left my cordiality with the night, but kept looking out at the moon. I could see now the details of darker shadowy craters over its surface. And an odd sense of surety seemed within me, that somehow my decision to come to this wide and great land was part of a grand eventuality. And I felt firmed, that to see this land, its glory and man's intrusion, to put myself in it, this had somehow been the right decision, meant to or not, it was the course for me to follow; this is what I felt.

Soon I turned away from the moon and stepped back toward the cabin. Due to the lateness, I thought about retiring, but didn't feel at all tired so I decided to go up to the pilothouse and join Art - see to it that he didn't go snoozing off - so I walked inside. Again when I first went up he was quiet - unwilling to enact even the minor social graces, paying attention to me with only an offhand glance. And again a Budweiser can was gripped solidly in one hand. The radio was playing dimly, voices from conversations still just as frequent as earlier. I could see that the halogen spotlight only made a slight dozen-yard or so penetration into the night.

I sat down and decided to take a chance and see if Art had any conversation in him, "So how long more we got till we're in Juneau?"

He looked over me slowly with a stern look then turned away - as if to say how dare you intrude on my quiet, as if the chick was pecking; then he said gruffly, "Nother couple days. Day and a half. We got a while yet."

"Bet you've made this trip a lot a times."

"Yeah. This'll be my fourteen on these boat. And for dat I made bout fifteen or sixteen." His answer seemed to come more willingly, I thought perhaps I was loosening him up.

"You got a house up in Alaska?"

"Naw, dis my house up dare. Dis' boat."

"Gotta house in Seattle then huh?"

He nodded; his head moved in wide nods, "Yeah."

"Live there a while?"

Again he nodded widely, "Yeah. Live there long time. I like it. I go home after workin' on the boat then go over to da Y and take a swim. Dats all I like to do. Work on da boat - take a swim."

"Yeah, we got a Y down where we live. We play basketball there all the time."

"I just swim."

After a silence he said, "You boys from California eh?"

"Yes sir - from Los Angeles."

"Yeah I know Los Angeles. I live in San Pedro when I was a kid."

"Oh yeah - you fished down there?"

"Little bit. My pop he worked the cannery. He always told me be a fisherman. Da fishermen they make de money. So I work on tuna boat. Work a few seasons then come here - heard Alaska was the place for da big money. So here I come. Still trying to make da big money." Then he laughed - a quick but hearty chuckle.

"Looks like you've done okay."

He nodded, "I done okay - for a dumb Pollack."

Then he laughed again deeply and candidly. Then when he quieted he said, "Yeah San Pedro was nice place. I ride my bike along the boardwalk dare. Lot a girls."

"Those were the days huh?"

"Yeah de were."

He turned on a small reading lamp on the desk and looked at the maps. I watched him as he went over the map with a plastic triangle and pencil, then extended a line already drawn - presumably showing where we had come. Ahead in the near sight, about a half mile was a flashing light. He was marking the direction to the next light we would head to after passing the one just ahead. As his hand flattened the map and grasped the pencil I noticed how large and worn his hands were, and how leathery and callused. How they moved hard and abrupt, apparently unmindful of finer exactitudes. And each finger was fat, almost twice the width of mine. My hands in comparison were long and lean, smooth and fine. Dandy hands. And his wrists were wide following the hands, Popeye forearms. Mine were narrow and twig-like, womanly. He was built in body and constitution for the life; I obviously for another. He for the Iditarod, me for the office. And I wondered, doubted really, whether I could do his job, as he had done, year in and out, all these years. In some quarters I would be called a finer product, the result of generations of selective breeding. The thoroughbred who would yet collapse under the weight of the plow which the plow horse pulls daily for his bucket of oats. No, I doubted I could do his job every year for the rest of my days. I was a mere pianist. But then could he do mine? Whatever my inclinations, or high dispositions would have that be.

I spent another hour with Art in the pilothouse, we talked little and listened to the conversations coming over the radio. I mostly just watched Art navigate us through the dark passages. It was nearing two in the morning, and I was feeling the hour, so I went back downstairs to find a bunk in which to sleep. Nate and Klug were in one stateroom occupying the two bed spaces available there, so I went to the other room where the bunks were empty. Apparently Jake was sleeping in Arts bed in the forward compartment. I climbed in the bunk and laid there staring at the wood slats and mattress of the bunk above me and listened to the engine noise - the ever-present cavalcade of winding hum and chugging vibration. Soon I was asleep and almost immediately, so I think, I fell into a dream. I was walking on a street which I recognized as Yale Avenue in Claremont. Then I was in our house walking into the dining room and I saw my parents and sisters at their usual places around the table. They were eating and talking lively - my father motioned for me to sit and eat, the center of the table was covered with bowls and serving platters of food, like a Thanksgiving scene. Then I was back on the street walking past the familiar old houses that were part of our neighborhood. Then I was in front of Jane's house. I stood looking at the house and I could see her behind one of the windows, her head was turned to the side, and I kept looking but she wouldn't turn to face me. All I could see was a side view of her face like a Picasso woman. Then I awoke as if from a mild kind of vexed nightmare - and into my hearing and consciousness came the engine noise. I was feeling sort of bleak and again began thinking, wondering what in hell I was doing, again the doubt creeping in, then I told myself it was too late for such thoughts, I was there in it, it had all been decided, so I kept reassuring myself. Then I fell back asleep and slept well and dreamlessly.

In the morning Klug awakened me with word that breakfast was served. Again the food was bacon and eggs; we all ate heartily keeping Jake busy at the stove. Nate claimed he was feeling better and passed off his seasickness as just nausea caused by the uniqueness of the situation - and now hopefully he had acquired his sea legs. I thought, well that sounded like an improvement – yet I noticed that for the past dozen hours or so the boat rocked considerably less, the seas relatively tranquil.

The land as we went more northward was more fiords and mountainous country, all a variation on the leitmotiv of the previous day. Looking on the map of the entire western coastline of Canada and Alaska, it occured to me that what we were passing through was the fringes of the Coast Mountains – a collection of mountain ranges running in longitude, mostly running parallel, very like the ranges of the central Nevada, only with less extent between the lines of mountains. At the western most fringes was the Inside Passage which on the maps appeared as a tangle of blue alleyways, like the canals of Venice. The mountains were a congress of summits that appeared on the map as a bumpy surface stretching from Vancouver north to well into Alaska and from the west coast eastward a couple hundred miles. And it appeared the broad latitude, the east to west of the ranges, were set atop a kind of slightly tilted table - as if the western end of Canada was in a curious bevel - so that the outmost seaward mountains were lower down, perhaps ready to slide off rather, like a baker pushes excess dough off a cutting board.

I knew from my schooling that these prodigious peaks around me rising to elevations of over ten thousand feet were actually mere serrations on the membrane, a scab on the skin; the result of some Tertiary sixty or so million year colliding of oceanic crusts, like the folds and cleaves in pressed dough, just deformed compressions in the land. I knew some about Plate Tectonics; knew that these majestic mountains and the islands of the Aleutians were Andes rising from an undersea Pampas - the extensive Continental shelf. And this shelf, like an eave, has a fairly consistent shallow depth of three to six hundred feet for about thirty miles from most of the world's shores. From this shelf rises all the globes exposed landmasses, and at it's seaward side the shelf plunges over a roaring rim into a vast sea dessert - the Abyssal Plain. I knew the dimensions, from the peaks around me – lifting high above the line where sea turns to air, the great crust plunges over the rim toward Lucifer's living room three or so miles into the abyss; and where, in vast undersea trenches, like the Mariana, falls three hundred score fathoms more, or a whole Everest and a third. Is it any wonder that such dimension should forever swallow the whole of an Atlantis?

As we had the first day, we passed various outposts - an occasional lighthouse, more isolated cabins - and an old deserted canary which consisted of several plywood sided bungalow buildings with steeply pitched steel sheeted roofs without eves, and one long similarly constructed building. A weather worn wood sign along the roofline on the long building read: RED SALMON CANNERS. The buildings were all nestled along the shore which was a slight half moon cove pressing into the mountainside. Windows over the buildings were all boarded, and paint over the exterior walls had almost faded away leaving what appeared to be a fading reddish stain. A wharf ran along the long building and stood atop turned wood piles. It was obviously deserted, like Dodge City or Tombstone – a ghost cannery, wooden shells, vacant in the present, containing only the past.

Around the bend from the canary was a large narrow waterfall descending from high on the mountainside. It poured initially high up in stair stepped sections coming off slight rock outcroppings. The sections became longer and the rocks larger and flat like platforms, so the water fell in clear water curtains, like the falls around Fallingwater, until falling onto one last large bouldered outcropping a hundred or so feet up, to concentrate like sands in the hourglass, before making a thin Angel Falls plunge into the channel.

Into that second day we had all settled into a kind of routine. Klug seemed to favor the car, he spent most of the time there reading and sleeping. Jake and Art alternated off sleeping and navigating. Nate seemed in the bunk quite a lot - probably still in the minor throes of seasickness. I spent most of my time in the pilothouse, Art even let me navigate a few minutes a couple of times as he went downstairs to check on the engine or grab another Budweiser. I tried reading some, scanned Klug's Playboys, opened a couple of my books. I had trouble with it though, somehow I wasn't quite in the mood for engaging myself into another world, this one around me had taken hold - even through the algorithm of our sail.

4 On the morning of the third day I was up in the pilothouse and Art pointed to a wooded area ahead of us to the port side. The shoreline was about a half mile away, all I could see was a forest and rolling hills then mountains in the distance. Along the shore were several cabins and bungalows, small cubes set in the forest. Art said, "Big fishin' there for salmon, couple a rivers come down from the mountains der. Bing Crosby and Bob Hope fish der." I surmised, since it was the only site Art had pointed out to me thus far on the trip, the area must be of great significance to him - having been anointed by a couple Prometheans from the House of Hollywood.

About an hour past the fishing spot of the great and near great, I began seeing cabins and houses more frequently along the shoreline. Then the channel opened up and we came into a large basin ringed on all sides with mountains, the water was an indigo blue trilling with mild wavelets. Within the basin were many small islands crowded with thick groves of conifers - northern forested Tanimbars. At the shoreline, the soil of each island was a dusty rust-brown which looked like a ring going around the base of their little forests which rose lush and green. The mountains, enveloped with dense forest, were close enough to appear the same green as the islands. As we came more into the basin past a few of the islands I began to see houses along the shorelines similar to those I had seen on the watery outskirts of Seattle. Some were on stilts and were clapboard or log sided with steeply pitched steel sheeted or asphalt shingled roofs. Up on the hillsides on one of the islands I saw a couple solidly constructed out of logs. Light airy smoke came from many of the chimneys and hung in the air like a blue vapor about the surrounding trees near the shoreline. Then from overhead a loud roar of an engine filled our ears as a plane buzzed us. It was a seaplane, a small Cessna single engine class with pontoons hanging below the wings like small white kayaks. It had flown only a few dozen feet above us and then flew down the basin and disappeared around an island. We sailed in the same direction into the basin, as if following the plane, and when we came to the other side of an island, and opening up before us was a harbor and above that, nestled within the folds of thickly forested uplands, was a city.

"Where are we?" I asked Art.


The uplands were only a narrow hilly strip below an immediate and steeply rising mountain face which loomed dark and green over the town. Clapboard houses spilled down the hillsides amid the evergreen pines. Down about a half-mile from the shoreline the hills flattened into a small valley that cradled the majority of the town and the downtown. From this flat area that was only a dozen feet or so above sea level rose a few multistory buildings. The two largest, about a dozen stories each, were long and rectangular, widow and stucco sided, and looked like mid-priced hotels. A couple that were smaller, only a few stories, and mostly window curtain walled, were likely office buildings. Several metal sided warehouse and shop buildings were along the coastline. The shoreline itself which ran along the length of the town was lined with a long riprap, consisting of large fathom wide boulders. On the north side of the town, on the shoreline, extended a boat marina. Parked along docks which extended out perpendicular to the shore were many boats, maybe a hundred, most all were small craft, and most were small fishing vessels like those in Seattle and San Francisco, with about a half dozen crab fishers and purse seiners - about the size of the Snark - parked amid the throng. On the south side of the marina fingering out into the basin from the shoreline was a long rock jetty. On a flat island just north of the marina was an airport. A short steel lattice bridge connected the town to the island. A small flat-roofed terminal building with a control tower rising above it lay next to a single airstrip. A small commercial jetliner was parked next to the terminal. I watched another pontoon plane fly over the town then descend over the basin, and like a waterfowl, it swooped down over the water then settled in and landed skimming through the water. I kept watching as the plane sailed over to a house on the shoreline and parked along a dock extending from the house. I saw many of the pontoon planes around the basin along the shoreline parked, looking like monstrous Everglade mosquitoes, along docks extending from houses and commercial buildings. We pulled next to a large wood wharf which was south of the marina. The wharf was built with extra large railroad tie like timber atop floats and connected to thick fender piles attached to a quay wall. Below the wall extending down over the shoreline was a system of box piles. Attaching the wharf to the timber fender piles were large steel rings, about a yard across, with rollers on the inside against the fender pile. As the tide rose and fell, the wharf could follow along with the rings sliding up and down the fender piles. The tide was way out and when standing on the wharf the quay wall was about ten feet above us. Art said to Jake as he disembarked and looked at the ladder extending down from the wall, "Crazy this tide here."

As we left the boat, Art told us we would be in town a couple hours at most; then he said, "So get done anything, hurry up."

We nodded.

Jake seemed genuinely excited to have arrived. He said to Art, "Wonder if Thelma's still at the Ketch?"

Art just shrugged.

Considering the town could be accessed only by water or air, it was truly a place apart. We followed Art and Jake and each other up the steel ladder. At top was a flat asphalt lot covered with commercial buildings, flat and slanted roofed warehouse type with concrete walls and others of steel sides. A couple had loading docks. We walked over the lot past the buildings about a quarter mile to what appeared to be a main street. Along it were the typical matrix establishments, a Chevron station, the neon sign for a Diary Queen, some cinder block buildings with storefronts. Down the road, in a pitched roof metal sided building, was the frontage for a grocery store. Houses were mixed in with the commercial buildings; many had second stories within high steeply pitched roofs - pitched radically, I figured, so that copious winter snowfalls would slide off. For this place apart, this outpost of the matrix, the street scene still had a comforting familiarity. We could have been in any number of isolated mountain communities, a Tahoe, or Jackson, Wyoming. We only spent a short time in town. We went into a drug store; Nate bought some Dramamine tablets for seasickness and I a couple magazines - TIME and The New Yorker at five dollars a pop. Klug sacrificed eight bucks for a Playboy. We walked up the street a couple blocks, past a couple real estate offices, an auto repair shop, and a bar called the Klondike. The people we saw in the stores and on the streets were not like the metropolitan varieties seen in Seattle or at home, or in Manhattan, or Chicago. A more rough-hewn look. I only saw a couple of suits; jeans and flannel shirts, work boots, seemed the predominate togs of choice. I saw many beards; a few were long and especially full in the Van Winkle motif, as if cultivated with extreme pride over years. I wondered how women took to a beard, and thought maybe later I would shave less frequently myself. The woman I saw tended to costume like the men. It was not an especially pretty crowd, most had thickened bodies, and pale thick skin over larger bone structures; and no one, nor anything about the town itself, seemed concerned with any folie de grandeur, or any folie at all. Nate commented about the woman, "Not too many lookers up here."

"Got that sex change look man. And no tan's, bunch a palefaces," Klug said.

It was a mountain town, a steroid environ, on America's last frontier - if such a thing existed any longer. It was a working town, of working people, hanging in in a boreal Arden. Even the road transport for the most part hallmarked the work ethic - trucks and pickups dominated. Of the autos, most were sedans of antediluvian origin - a few Buick and Fords from the early sixties. I didn't see any Corvettes or convertibles, none of chariots of the sporting class, no airs putting expenditure, just functional pragmatists, Jamesians. It occurred to me that our Ford L.T.D. cargo with its relatively recent vintage and somewhat decent condition would likely be, at whatever its destination, in this Kashmirian local, truly a hot item, a set of wheels to brag over and behold with envy. A sexy thing among the sexless.

We ended up waiting awhile on the boat for Art and Jake to return. First Art came back cradling in his arm a sack of groceries, then a couple minutes later Jake came down the ladder.

Art said, "We shovin' off - get ready."

Jake told him, "Thelma was there - she said hello."

Art just nodded.

Klug looked at me and gave a saucy raise and lowering of his brows.

As we left the harbor and sailed back into the basin, the three of us and Jake stayed out on the deck to do our untying and departing tasks. As we sailed out a jet screamed overhead and landed at the airport. As we were well away, sailing into the harbor near us, to port, was a cargo like ship with a steel sided superstructure that rose three or four decks over the main deck, and ran the length of the ship. It looked rather like a floating shoebox, or plain pauper's field box. The only windows over the ship were an occasional porthole on the sides of the hull and superstructure. At the fore of the ship atop the superstructure was a flying bridge. The entire ship was painted in a dull almost flat olive green with the bridge in white; at the mid section of the superstructure rose the stack. It was similar in look and class to the ships I had seen docked down in Seattle. Jake saw us looking at it, and said that it was a factory ship, sort of a canary afloat. Fish was hauled aboard, processed and canned within.

He told how the factory ships were a recent innovation. They were intended to bring the factory to the fishing grounds out at sea, thereby eliminating the time consuming necessity of the fishing boats having to haul their catch back to the cannery on shore. It was a cunning profit inspired innovation designed to work around the decreasing fishing seasons. Apparently in the last dozen years or so the American Fish and Game had been steadily decreasing the time span of the various legal commercial fishing season's because of the depletion of various species of fish – including the King Crab. A socialistic tendency designed to protect the marine population from over fishing – from the unfettered capitalism of the fishing enterprise. As the legal season's became shorter the processing ships were each finding their services in ever greater demand among the fishing fleets. Yet, as Jake explained, “Problem is though, the factory ships don’t pay the fisherman as much for the catch as an onshore cannery So now you gotta ask yourself - am I makin' more money catchin' more and savin' travilin' time; even though I'm gettin' paid less by hookin' to a factory boat?"

"Do you make more?" I asked.

Jake shrugged, "Depends if ya found a great spot and you wanna keep fishin' it - after you fill up maybe you oughta hit the factory ship, unload then get right back to the spot. Lot a fisherman don't have a choice - the cannery owns part a the boat - so they gotta go to the cannery to unload. Now the cannery's though, they've sorta solved the problem by hirin' boats like us to tender. They can do that cause the factory boats pay less - so if ya use a tender you'll get paid less - and the difference from what you get on shore to what you get at the tender - that money goes to the tender."

"Sounds like simple market economics," I said.

Jake nodded, "Yeah somethin' like that. What happens generally is the first part a the season the boats use the tenders or the ships then the last couple weeks they load up and take their last load to the canary. That's why we'll only tender the first few weeks of the season, the last couple weeks generally aren't too good for the tenders. That's when we leave to go crabbin' - and make the real money."

5 The rest of that day and night and most of the next we sailed through more of the inside passage to Juneau. The further north we went the higher and more rugged were the mountains, with the higher peaks now rising above the timberline eroded, bare and complex, and overlaid with veins and fields of snow and ice, like a stunted Continental Divide. And while the sun was still bright in a blue far reaching sky the air took on a chill, hit cool against the face and in the nostrils, the North was unveiling itself.

Though I spent, in those days, many hours sitting in the pilothouse with Art, the conversation I had with him that first night, if it could be called that, was as extensive and revealing as it would get. The art of talk was not in Art's repertoire of skills. He was no tons of fun, and struck me as a moody and queer bird. I figured he was somehow possessed, with an underlying psychology pulled by undertows and melancholies within, a captive of his id and Budweiser. A few attempts at socializing since that first night were rebuffed with grumps, yeahs, and shrugs and nothing more. Perhaps I had somehow revealed myself as unworthy. Who knows. Nate's father once told us, in the spirit of Dale Carnige, that to get people to open up you just had to find their "hot" buttons. That everyone had something they wanted to yap about and ninety percent of the time it was somehow related to themselves. Per their self interests – their ego – my elaboration. Yet with Art I tried over the hours several potential "hot" connections - sports, fishing, family, Seattle, Alaska, the Y, San Pedro, all were met with a gesture reeking of cool disinterest. What had worked before had turned cold, my lures were going uneatin', my tender mercies rejected. Perhaps it was the accumulation of beers or the extent of the trip. Who knows. I could not get a bead on him, find any true common ground. I was King Henry with the Priests, Rhett with Miss O'Hara. I got the distinct impression that somehow he despised me. I even told Klug about it, he replied, "Hates me too man. I mean really hates me. That's the karma I'm gettin'."

"It's strange - I've never really gotten that feeling from anyone."

Klug shook his head, "He's a kute. Worlds full of em. Probably can't get laid."

"You're probably right. Still you gotta admire the guy."

"Oh yeah - he's a rhino - but he's a witch doctor man. Doctor Strangelove ya know. Boat I get on - I'm gonna make sure it's more with it."

"Good luck."

Klug just shrugged and looked out over the water. Then I changed the subject, "So what do you think about all this?"

"Bout what?"

"Bout all this, the trip up, the boat here, this land, how grand it is."

"Yeah man, it's royal."

"Yeah it is royal. You know Klug I feel more alive - do you feel more alive?"

Klug looked at me strangely and shrugged mildly, "Alive man? Sure I feel alive. Little tired, like to get some sleep in a bigger bed without that stinkin' engine rap in my ear."

"You don't know what I'm sayin'. Don't you feel more alive to things, don't you feel like your really living? That your not locked into some stifling habit, that you're out here in nature and really just living?"

He looked at me sort of with a blank expression, "Sure man, you know. This is neat, it has it's coolness."

"Neat? No Klug, this is not neat, or cool, this is really something were doing here. I just don't feel like I'm lost in some repetitive task, just gettin' through and countin' the days before I graduate or whatever. I feel like I'm really in it now. It's like I feel when I see a David Lean film, or read Melville, or hear Beethoven, or when I first saw Michelangelo's ceiling, only it's not art, it's real, it's the genuine article, and I'm in it, living it, being it, this is not a dream. You know?"

Again Klug just looked at me a few seconds, then probably from a lack of anything else to say he said, "Sure man, it's bond."

I looked at him frustrated at his simple Melba Toast replies. I felt like the lights had just come up and Hamlet with Olivier had just ended and all my date had to say was, "So, what's for dinner?" Flabbergasted over his Buddha like inertia, that he was somehow not as sprung and enervated and a fountainhead of enthusiasm as I - I shouted, full of angst, "No - that's not it!" Then I abruptly turned away, left him on the deck, likely bemused but, with his overall good humor, shrugging off my odd behavior as simply some over strung eccentricity, like some racehorse in need of his goat.

I went back upstairs to the pilothouse to sit with Art who was, as usual, sitting alone gazing out. At least with Art even with his heavy browed Nantucket grimness, his assembly line mien, at least telepathically I sensed between he and I there was a common bond of utmost awe of this audacious and supernatural land. That was the slant anyway I was putting over on him.

We came in to Juneau early in the morning and I was still asleep. I had awaked sensing that something was not quite right, then I realized the engine noise had stopped, we were parked. I rolled off the bunk then walked outside into gray overcast sky and a thick fog hanging low over the ground, a graveyard mist. We were hugging a dock in another marina. Several fishing boats - a couple crabbers, and the rest purse seiners were nearby. Faintly through the fog I could see that the marina was fairly large, easily the size of the one in Ketchikan, but beyond a hundred yards, the rest of it disappeared into the moist gray. There were many more fishing boats in the section of the marina that I could see than there had been in the Ketchikan Marina. I saw several crab boats like the Snark among the boats. And like Ketchikan there were many pleasure and small fishing craft. Nate and Klug were on the dock next to the boat, I stepped over to the rail and stood looking down at them, and said, "So this is Juneau huh?"

"No, we're in France." Nate replied, mildly acerbic.

I sent him brusque stare.

Klug said pointing out into the fog, "Suppose to be over there, someplace."

He was pointing apparently toward the shore because we could see faintly, a shoreline of riprap, a road, and a few commercial buildings.

"Well from this vantage it sure doesn't look like much does it?" I said.

"Nope - there's suppose to be a huge mountain right behind the city, and the city's suppose to be pretty good size."

"Sure it's not over there," I said pointing the opposite direction which was only open gray sea for about a hundred yards before disappearing into the misty curtain.

"Yeah I'm sure the city's that way - you can see the shore and those buildings. And I think here's where you guys need to go."

Klug looked at me, "So man - now what'do we do? Go get hammered?"

I shrugged, "I guess."

Then Nate piped in, "Go find a place to stay - someplace cheap. Save your money. Then try and get a job here on one a these crab boats - there's gotta be more there in the fog."

I nodded, "Where's Art and Jake?"

"They're out buyin' some supplies I guess. Art said he'd be back in a few minutes."

"Well Klug," I said, "may as well get our stuff together."

"You know Art might want you guys to help unload the boat," Nate said.

Klug said, "Hey man, deal was he brought us up here - nothin' was said about unloadin' the boat."

"I'd say maybe you guys could stay and help - tell him to pay ya. I'm sure you guys could use the money."

Klug looked at me inquiringly. I said to him, "He does have a point there."

"I don't know man," Klug said making a face, "unloadin' all this crap looks like a royal ass pain. I say we pack up and adios 'fore they get back."

This minor dilemma was readily solved when Art followed by Jake came striding up the dock each carrying a shopping bag. As soon as Art came to the boat he climbed aboard and said abruptly to Klug and I, "Okay you guys are here off - we gotta go so hurry."

Nate spoke up, "You need these guys maybe to help unload?"

Art shook his head and said, "Naw." Then disappeared inside.

Nate looked at us and shrugged, then in a whimsical tone said, "Better get the hell off I guess."

"Guess so," I said.

Klug and I went back into the staterooms and gathered our bags. As we were walking back out we came on Jake and Art in the galley. Art was over by the sink washing his hands. The two shopping bags they brought aboard were on the floor. I glanced into the bags and noted inside were six-packs of Budweiser. Before stepping out the door I reached my hand out to Jake and said, "Well guess we're out of here, thanks for putting up with us."

Jake was like a ward politician, cordial and energetic in his farewell, he shook my hand firmly and said looking right at me with open eyes, "Ah no problem, good to have you boys on board."

Klug and Jake shook hands also while I stepped over to Art who's hands were still in the sink. I patted him lightly on the back of his shoulder and said, "Thanks a lot for the ride Art - we really appreciate it."

Nodding and giving me only a quick passing side glance, he said, "Yeah - okay."

Hanging back, without going over to him just before stepping out the door Klug said to Art, "See ya Art - thanks man."

Art gave him a slight deigning nod.

Outside Nate was sitting on the rail adjacent to the dock. As we approached him Klug said, "That Art's a hard core man."

I said, "He's a tough one. Jake seemed to warm up to us allright enough."

"Yeah, Jake's a bro." Klug said.

Nate looked at Klug and said, "Art just doesn't like you."

"He likes me man - why wouldn't he like me?"

"Cause you're a surf rat - and he hates surf rats - he told me."

Klug shook his head, "He's a bigot man. Not cool."

"He hates everybody," I said.

Nate sort of smiled and chuckled under his breath. We stood there awkwardly a moment until Nate said, "Whelp you guys better get outa here before Art gets ticked off."

I nodded, "Well guess I'll see you back in Claremont - when you're rich."

"Maybe not rich - but with some real money," he said. "Well you guys try and get jobs huh - don't get spineless."

"Well we're here right," I said, "gotta do somethin'."

"That's right man - we'll get jobs," Klug said.

Nate looked at Klug, "Good to hear you say that - you weren't exactly setting any records in Seattle."

Klug shrugged sort of.

I said, "We'll probably have to figure out a way to get to Dutch Harbor. Doesn't look like there's a lot a crab boats here."

Nate agreed, "That's right - Dutch Harbor's the place. If you can't get a job here get yourself a ride on a boat goin' there."

"We'll figure something out."

"That's right man."

We shook hands; I told Nate to, "Take that Dramamine." He nodded.

Klug told him, "Make money man."

Then we both jumped off the boat, toting our bags, and walked along the dock to a gangway that took us up onto a gravel covered parking lot on shore. I then looked back at the Snark down below us. Nate was standing on the deck watching us. I lifted my arm in a simple wave, and he did likewise, then Klug and I walked away across the parking lot into the grayness out of site of the boat.

Across the parking lot were a few steel sided warehouse and commercial buildings, a couple quonset huts; beyond those a couple dozen yards was a road. We stood a little forlornly, our bags in hand, at the side of the road. The fog seemed to have thickened, I could only see about fifty yards in each direction. I said to Klug, "So what'd you think?"

He shrugged, "Who knows man in this pea soup."

"I know - we don't even know which way the town is."

It was strangely quiet. We could hear a foghorn, a baritone, sounding in the distance, and other horns out in the fog in the direction of the sea. But that was about it. No cars were coming along the road and the commercial buildings were closed up and quiet. "What's today?" I asked.

Klug looked puzzled and shook his head slowly and under his breath muttered, "Ah Friday, Saturday - Sunday man. It's Sunday."

"No wonder everything's so dead."

"We should just get to town - find a place to crash, I wanna big bed - and no noise. I could use a few hours nap time."

"Yeah, some bedtime would be good. And a shower."

We looked up and down the road, looking for some sign that indicated which way to the downtown.

"You know Klug, I can't even figure out here which direction's north; and even if I knew that - are we north, south, east, or west of the town?"

"We should call a cab man."

"Where we gonna call a cab?"

"Gotta be a pay phone round here some place."

"Did you see anybody out on the docks?"

"Nope - all quiet man."

"There's gotta be somebody out there on a boat that knows where we're at."

"Let's just start walking. Car gotta be comin' along here soon."

"You would think. So which way?"

Klug lifted his arm and pointed. "That a way."

And so we began walking. At least we were doing something.

6 After walking up the road a ways, a least a mile, we could see protruding out of the fog like a swelled beer gut, a steep well wooded hill or mountainside. The further we walked the more the side came in closer to the road. Near the base of the side were several small clapboard single gabled houses. Finally a pick up truck came toward us from behind. Klug flagged it down. The truck was several years old and was rusting along the lower halves of the fenders. The driver was an older man with black longish hair, dark weathered skin, and almond shaped chinamen eyes, Klug said pointing in the direction we were walking, "Hey man is the town this way?"

"Town? You need town?" The man said, obviously not especially proficient with the language.

"Ah yeah - town this way?" Klug said.

The man shook his head and seemed to be smiling, or that was just the way his face typically looked, "Town here."

Klug said, sounding puzzled, "Here?"

"Yeah - here."

Then I stepped in, "No - downtown. Main part of town. That way? Or that way?" I said pointing.

Then the man shook his head quickly up and down, "Oh downtown. Not that way - back there. Okay?"

He was pointing with his thumb toward his rear, to the opposite direction that we had been walking.

Klug said, "Oh thanks man."

The man nodded again quickly and sped off.

"Should've asked him for a ride," I said.

"Your right man, should've."

It turned out we were right adjacent to the downtown from where we had left the Snark, only about a half-mile away. We sallied our way back and soon we came to what looked like a main drag. The fog was still consuming. We walked up it a couple blocks, past some storefronts, a 76 gas station. The stores were all closed, most had facades of wood done up to look like part of an old frontier town, one had next to the entrance a small human sized wooden totem pole, Eskimo style, with wings; it was a real estate office, called Capital Reality. When I wondered aloud why a real estate office would be closed on Sunday Klug pointed out to me that it was still only half past six in the a.m. We ended up deeper into the downtown and from what I could see in the limited view; the town was similar to Ketchikan but probably twice or more the size. We walked past many storefronts, and a couple large grocery stores, and several office buildings - a couple were glass and concrete sided going up several stories. Most of the buildings looked fairly modern - post world war two vintage. Unlike Seattle which was full of turn of the century renovated brick buildings in the Pioneer style, all of the structures we had walked past were cinderblock, concrete, glass, and steel. We came around a corner and a yellow taxi was parked on the roadside. I said, "Hey, instead of just walking around here aimlessly in this fog - let's say we take a cab."

Klug said, "Sounds good man - I'm tired from this walking. I didn't get much sleep last night."

We walked over to the cab. The driver had his blond head laying down on a side resting on his arm which was folded and laying on the door through the open window. Klug walked over and tapped him on the arm - a hard tap - more of slap with the top of his hand, "Hey bud," he said.

The driver's head went up and we saw then that the driver wasn't a guy but a girl, just on the androgynous side. She was dressed in a yellow button down, her hair was cut short, side parted, oily looking, and she looked boyish - but the softness in her pale skin and the fineness of her features indicated her true orientation. I could see Klug was rather taken aback - he had slapped her fairly hard. She looked at us a moment, probably coming awake, and then asked, "You guys want somethin'?"

She had an odd deepness in her voice that sounded surrounded by a higher pitched softness.

I said, "We need to go to a cheap hotel - you know of any?"

She nodded, "Yeah there's some over by the Exxon storage yards."

"Cheap?" I said.

"Yeah - real cheap," She said.

Klug and I climbed in and she started driving. We apparently left immediately the commercial part of the downtown for she turned off the street and we were passing through a residential area. The houses were closely adjacent to one another, sitting on small square plots. Most were clapboard sided, some had porches, some were pre-fabed home type, just rectangular house-like structures with plywood walls. The land was uneven, the ride rose and fell over the rising and falling road. After a few blocks of residential we came to an industrial area, small shop and warehouse buildings and storage yards surrounded with chain link fences and barbed wire. I noticed as we drove, the driver glanced into the rear view mirror. I could see her face in the mirror and thus from her focal point Klug and I were likely in the mirror. Our eyes met once and she quickly looked away back to the road ahead. We drove up an inclining street lined with warehouse buildings. At the end of the road we appeared to be at the top of a hill; but I guessed it was more a plateau or another hillside for the fog hung along an incline just beyond the road and hid whatever was beyond. And below us was likely the town yet again the fog lessened our view to only a diameter of maybe a hundred or so yards of site seeing; I truly had no idea or even sense of the true reach of the town or the surrounding scenery or where we were within the town.

We stopped at the top of the hill, or rather where the road ended, another warehouse building was on one side and on the other were two older buildings - the oldest looking structures I had seen thus far. One was narrow with wood stairs coming down from a covered porch. It appeared to be made of wood, it was sided with clapboard and had a rectangular facade, like an old Frisco hotel before the quake. The wood front was painted yellow with white trim, but the paint was cracking and dirty. A sign over the porch had painted in fanciful cursive, The Cheshire. A handwritten cardboard sign in the window in black felt pen read, "DAY, WEEKLY, MONTHLY RENTALS." The building next-door was all red brick, was wider and looked like it used to house a store or two. The wide windows on the first floor were boarded over, as were the smaller ones on the second story, obviously abandoned.

The driver said, "Cheap hotel right here."

"Yeah, looks cheap," Klug said.

"Sure is a dive," I said, then looking at Klug, "What do you think?"

He shrugged, "Try it - don't like it - we move."

I nodded then asked the cab driver, "How much is the fare?"

"Six dollars," she said.

I couldn't believe it, and looked on the meter; sure enough it read six dollars. I said, "Gawd this is worse than Manhattan."

We paid then got out. As the cab drove off I looked at the driver and caught her looking at us - then again catching my eye she quickly turned away. Standing there on the sidewalk I looked up at the dingy yellow building and asked Klug, "Sure you want to go in?"

"It's a dive no doubt man."

"It ain't the Ritz."

We climbed the stairs and the wood creaked loudly, as did the planks on the wood porch. The front door was wood with an egg and dart trim carved around the inside perimeter. The top half of the door held a pane of smoked glass which was cracked in one corner. The interior followed the exteriors lead, dingy, rundown, and dirty, with the added feature of musty. Because the accouterments of the interior, like the front door, though in a state of decline and falling, were simply musty ornaments of finery, I surmised that in it's prime, the hotel may very well have been one of Juneau's finest. When in Juneau, it is The Cheshire. But like Gibbon's Rome, with the flux and flow of civilization all things great will likely shoot their cycle. With Alpha there is Beta; with yin a yan; with Wall Street there is Booming and Busting. Always around the corner a novus ordo seclorum and leaving in its wake: the previous novus ordo seclorum; riverrun past bend of shore; and as the moldy blackened and sooty but ornate wallpaper on the wall was a testament to, the once great Cheshire was deep into its cycle. The carpet was almost black – covered with a sooty mass as if all the sweeps of Victorian London had traipsed therein; but beneath the thin yuky stratum were the remnants of a lively festooning - a swirling and circling golden ribbon and acanthus design on a field of red. The wallpaper was also a fading glory, ornate with thin gold striping and tiny rosettes between the stripes. A wood staircase, painted in an enameled tobacco brown, cracked and chipped in spots, went up straight along the wall, its newel post was a wide fluted ionic column, and each baluster was a leaner version of the first. The front desk, its wood though crassly painted over in the same brown as the stairs, in its details heralded refinement, fluted pilasters folded around the corners, beaded molding sectioned three squares over the face with the center square framing a raised wreath of bayleaf. Insulting this finery, a four by five index card was scotch taped to the top of the desk; over it, was the word in ballpoint: VACANCY - apparently the situation being perennial. The card appeared to have been there a few blue moons for the tape and edges of the card were yellowing. A lamp with an ornate brass stem and shade turned a dingy orange from age sat on the desktop. Strangely its cord was also taped to the counter as it lay over and disappeared down the backside. Behind the desk was a phone switchboard, one from the olden days – a pegboard box with plugs and wires and a dial, when distant voices were humanly connected. Dust and grime were on the components with a couple of cobwebs. A small swelled brass doorbell button, like a teenage bosom, was attached to the desktop; a wire from the button ran over the top and was meanly tacked in place. Another yellowing four by five card taped to the counter next to the bottom read: Ring for Service.

I pushed the button and heard a buzzing sound from behind the wall, within. Soon there appeared through a door, down from the counter, an old man in baggy ill fitting khaki pants held up with brown suspenders over a faded and wrinkled and a little threadbare red and blue plaid flannel shirt; a long sleeve undershirt poked out of the sleeves at the collar. He was taller, which made him an impressive site - well over six feet. Skinny and long limbed, his arms were longer than the sleeves of his shirt. He walked slowly over behind the desk, his back was rolled over slightly humped at the shoulders and his cheeks were wrinkled and deeply creviced; his nose was narrow, long and thin, a Renaissance noise, the nostrils turned up a little at the sides. In a gravely weak, but deeply intoned, voice he said, "Ken I help ya boys?"

I thought, Mr. Usher I presume; or was it Lurch in his sunset years?

"Got any rooms?" Klug asked.

"Sure do," he said.

"Any with two beds?" I said.

"Yep," he said.

"How much," I said.

"How long you staying?" he asked.

I looked at Klug and shrugged. He shrugged back. Then I said, "What is it per night?"


I look at Klug, "That's not bad - lets take it."

Klug nodded.

"Here give me a ten spot," I said to Klug, and he promptly pulled out a wad of bills, a thick head of lettuce, and peeled off a ten-dollar bill. I did the same with my wad and I handed both bills to the old man.

The old man shook his head and said slowly, "Forgot the room tax. Need ‘nother three dollars."

"Room tax?" I asked.

"Yep," he said and nodded.

I reached into my pocket and peeled a five out of my wad and handed it over. Then the old man stepped away from the desk and disappeared back through the door presumably to get me change. I could hear a TV noise through the door – talking with an intermittent laughing – a laugh track. As we stood around waiting, Klug tapped me on the shoulder and motioned his head toward the counter. I looked over and saw a large black cockroach, about an inch long ambulate leisurely over the countertop. Looking at the bug strolling across in open view seeming without trepidation I said, "That's not a good sign."

Klug shook his head, "I don't know man, I thought the Sigma house was bad, it was a palace next to this dive."

"It's just a cockroach - people live in places like this."

"Yeah, but I don't. And where there's big bugs - there's rats. I hate rats man. Got a thing about rats."

I looked around at the floor and the lobby, somehow it looked even more dingy and dirty, "It is a mess." Then I decided to pass it all off and said, "Ah hell - just don't think about it."

"As long as I don't see any rats."

"Hey - what's a rat anyway? Just a furry animal. Like a hamster or rabbit – or a cat."

Klug shook his head, "No man. A cat's not a rat."

The door opened and the old man ambled as best he could back over to the desk. Then he slowly laid out two ones onto the desktop, oddly laying them out side by side. His hands were shriveled and leathery and the fingers were long thin and crooked; the skin was mottled and scaly and hung between the joints like skin on a Yucatan Iguana. Then he handed me the key and said, "Number nine. Up the stairs, straight down the hall on the right side. And we gotta rule - no showers after ten o'clock cause a the noise."

I thought, noisy showers - odd.

Klug asked, "These rooms are clean aren't they?"

The old man tilted his head back a bit as if taken slightly aback and said abruptly, "Sure their clean."

In the interest of civility I said, scooping up my dollars, "I'm sure they're just fine."

At the top of the stairs was a long hall with doors on each side. Each door was painted with the same brown paint used on the front desk, and each was well scarred with scratches and peeled paint. The hall was lit intermittently with bare light bulbs in sockets hanging at the end of electrical wire. The only telltale sign that the carpet was the same as the downstairs was red at the fringes; down the center for most of its width the carpet was almost black from soil and grime.

Klug said, "This place is a hellish mess man."

As I turned the key to get inside our room I said, "Gotta have a positive attitude here."

When we walked in our room it was almost completely dark like a Carlsbad cave. We walked in and immediately went tripping about over the beds – apparently the room was the opposite of expansive. I patted the wall for the light switch playing Helen Keller, but couldn't find it; just felt a rough bumpy plaster. Klug, with a momentary stroke of brilliance bumped his head on something hanging, figured it was a light and felt about it and discovered a pull chain. Pulling it – the light clicked on and our condensed room was bathed in a faint low wattage glow from another exposed bulb dangling from a wire. Looking up at it Klug snickered, "Man – so low dige." The walls were painted in white - but the paint had well yellowed. Two undersized single beds, more like cots, were snugly enclosed taking up most of the floor space. One bed was against the wall in a corner, then there was a small square table playing as a nightstand, then the other bed was against the opposite wall. There was maybe three feet of floor space in front of the beds and the opposing wall - and a simple pine table took up some of that space. Next to the table was a narrow doorway to the bath. After poking his head into the bath, Klug said, "All its got is a sink and a can - where's the shower? Man, the head on the boat was bigger."

"No shower?" I asked.


"You know what - I'll bet you its down the hall - one of those community things."

He moaned, "No man I don't want to take a community shower - who knows what butt humpers they got stayin' here."

"I'm sure we'll survive."

"And look at these beds man. I wanted a big bed - these are 'bout the same size as those bunks on the boat."

"Hey I don't see any rats."

"You will man - rats are all over dives like this."

I left the room and sallied down the hall looking for the shower, and sure enough, on one of the doors was a metal sign which read, WATER CLOSET. I opened the door and saw a small tiled enclave with a rusting showerhead. It really didn't look bad, there was some greenish black moldy buildup stains toward the ceiling - but otherwise it was simply dingy appearing. I went back to the room, Klug was lifting his bed covers and checking the blanket and sheets. I said, "Shower's not too bad - just a couple a roaches crawling down the drain."

Klug ignored my corny pun and said staring at his bed, "Gawd man - look at this blanket - stains all over it - looks like somebody puked on it."

There were several large discolorations; I said trying to make light of it, "Sheets are clean."

"Yeah but got holes all over it - cigarette burns man. And look at this pillow." He pulled the cushion partly out of the cover, it was flimsy well soiled with yellow and brown stains, "How am I supposed to sleep on this thing?"

I nodded looking at it, it did look bad, I said, "Yuk - it is sorta lousy looking; germs won't go through the pillow case."

"I don't like this place man – reeks; reeks bad."

"It ain't so bad," I said walking over to the window which was covered with a pull down shade - it's once white color also stained and yellowed. "Let's check the view here." I pulled on the shade and it snapped up rolling tight and kept rolling like in a Three Stooge's bit. The view was completely a brick wall about two feet from the window pain. "Ah now this is a view - a brickscape."

Klug was stretched out on his bed, his feet hung over the end. "The bunks on the boat were bigger than this bed. This is beat man - beat."

"It could be worse. They said Lincoln was so tall he slept with his feet off the bed."

"The President man? I don't think so."

"Yeah. In fact I think I read somplace when he got shot they carried him to some house next door to Ford's Theater and laid him out on a bed; and after he died they placed silver dollars on his eyes. And in the account I read, one of the telling details was that the bed was too short and his feet hung over the end."

Klug didn't appear too interested in my little story, his elbows were up around his head, his hands clasped cradling his head from the back atop the spare pillow. He grunted a simple, "Huh."

I pulled my bed covers down and sat down, my mattress had a too thin odd uneven lumpy feel to it. I said, "You know if traveling in a third world country like Pakistan or Tibet - this would be the Hilton."

"Glad you warned me man - I'm stayin' the hell outa those places. Alaska's low as I go."

"I'm surprised at you Klug - haven't you traveled to far away surf spots and roughed it like this. Like Mexico - haven't you been down there?"

"Sure thing man but that's surfin'. It's hip. This is rank. And besides on those trips we sleep on the beach - and it's a lot cleaner than this here."

I decided to have a little fun with Klug. As I started taking off my shoes I stiffened up and hissed a whisper as if startled, "What's that?!" I was looking out on the floor beyond the beds.

Klug brought his arms down and sat up a little, becoming more vigilant and looked over at me, I kept gazing. With slight apprehension in his voice he asked, "What's what man?"

"I saw somethin' go from the bathroom under your bed," I said straight faced. Then I slowly lifted my feet off the floor.

"Your jokin' man - I know your jokin."

I shook my head, "U-u no joke - somethin's under there."

He looked at me and squinted a little, "Your fuckin' with me Joey - I know it."

"Hey Klug - have I ever screwed with you before?"

He looked at me, he had a smug look on his face, then he said, "Naw guess you haven't. You really saw somethin’?"

I nodded, "Yeah - think so - I don't know - maybe my eyes are playin' tricks on me - I don't know. Let's just forget about it." I then stretched out on my bed and closed my eyes, my feet hanging over the end also, in the Presidential way.

After a moment I slowly opened my eyes and caught Klug looking down the side of his bed next to the wall checking things out. Then he laid back down.

The light was bright and shining directly in my face so I rose and reached over and flicked the switch turning the lights off. With the shade up the room was mildly lit. After I laid back down Klug said, "Hey Joey."

I said, "Yeah."

"I uh - kinda got used to sleepin' with the light on the boat - think we could turn it on."

I said harshly, "What?"

"The light man - can we have it on?"

I looked over at him, "You're scared aren't ya?"

He shook his head, "No man - I just got used to it."

"Klug - whether the lights on or not if there's somethin' under your bed what difference does it make?"

"I ain't worried about that man. I told ya I just got used to it."

"No - your chicken Klug."

"Come on Joey. Just turn the light on will ya?!"

"It's the same Klug - on or off. Get back used to it bein' off."

"Come on Joey, rats come out in the dark."

I laughed, "See I told you - your chicken."

And then I saw it. It came from under the door, a small shadow, black in the light from under the door, it looked around, scouting out the room probably, then ran into the bathroom. I guessed it was a rat. It had to be a rat - or a mouse. I yelled, "Geezus!" And sat up on the bed, my back almost ridged, looking past the end of my bed toward the bathroom.

"What! What man what!" Klug shouted as he sat up.

"I just saw a rat." I said, my heart was pounding and I was short of breath. The urgency and obvious alarm in my voice likely convinced Klug that this was no act.

"Another one man, oh fuck there's a whole nest of em in here," Klug wined.

"No-no-I really saw this one."

"What'd ya mean you really saw it?"

"I saw it - for certain - it went from the door into the bathroom. It's in the bathroom."

"Oh geeze man - now I can't take a crap."

I started breathing deeper trying to normalize myself, I said in low deliberate tones, "Now wait a minute. Let's just calm ourselves here. It's only a mouse I think. It was real small."

"What about under my bed man?"

"There's nothin' under your bed. That was my imagination."

"You lied man."

"No - I only thought I saw something there. Now I'm sure I was just imagining. But the mouse is real. And it's just a mouse. So let's just not worry about it."

I flicked the wall switch turning the light back on, and we both laid back.

Klug said, "I don't care if it's a mouse. Mouse's – rats - there all the same man. Their rodents - rodents man."

"You'll survive. You know rabbits are rodents."

"No way man. Rabbits are rabbits."

"Naw their rodents. Just like rats."

"Yeah, well they ain't rats."

"Think about it Klug. Does not a rat have eyes? Does not a rat have breath? Does not a rat have teeth? Does not a rat feel? Does not a rat bleed if you cut it? And don't rabbits do the same? So what's the difference?"

"Whatever Joey. Rats are rats man. Pretty damn simple."

We quieted and both fell quickly asleep - with the light on.

7 Later I was awakened by Klug shuffling around getting dressed. He had a towel around him and his hair was wet and combed, slicked back, had a tarnished gold metallic sheen to it; apparently he had just come in from the shower. He was fiddling with his bag on the table and when he took a step I heard the slap of a thong. I looked on the floor and saw he was wearing rubber thongs. He pulled a pair of boxers out of the bag then slipped off the towel, and sat on the end of his bed, then pulling his feet out of the thongs, he laid back on the bed, holding his legs in the air, and pulled his boxers on over his feet and legs. With the boxers on, he slipped his thongs back on his feet, got up and stepped over to the table to his bag and brought out a pair of 501 jeans. With the jeans he repeated the same procedure. With the pants on he stepped back into the thongs. Obviously this fastidious exercising was due to his wanting to refrain from having contact with the floor in only the most minimal way, I said, "Touching the floor isn't gonna kill you."

"I ain't touchin' that floor man."

"Little squeamish aren't we?"

"Whatever man - but I ain't touchin' it."

Admittedly it was a repulsive site, the floor winding through the Paris Catacombs had to be cleaner. When I showered I borrowed his thongs and when dressing I simply stood atop my bed. I said, "Gawd we're a couple a sissies."

Klug who was again outstretched on his bed and reading his Playboy magazine said, "Yeah but a couple a clean sissies."

We had slept the day away; it was early evening, almost seven. We decided to embark upon the town, get some bearings, and discover just what amusements, if any – and we had our doubts - lay cradled in this northern life in the woods, this verdure infested metropolis. When we stepped out of the front door of the hotel the sun hit us bright and full in the face, still being high over the horizon. I said, "Jeeze it's bright – it's lunch time back home."

"I like it man, always daytime."

"Yeah – till winter – then its always night."

"That’s right man, and prob’ly snows like a son of a bitch. How they do it?"

"They just do I guess. But the question I think is – why they do it? Why would anybody live up here? I mean its nice country and all."

"Harsh livin' man. Green Acres. Oliver – he was a comedy. Bunch a Oliver's up here. Country life."

"Call of the wild, I guess."

"Call a the dunderheads man, you gotta really love them trees."

We had to squint to get used to the bright sun after being cooped up in our dimly lit room, and especially so, since the day was quite bright bathed in the clear crisp air. The fog was completely gone, had evanesced or crept away on cat's feet or whatever happens to fog, and before us was a site that was rather wondrous to us considering we had no idea of it's dimension when we had first arrived. Our hotel sat on a hillock above the main swath of the town which looked similar to Ketchikan – mostly cradled in a valley that gently inclined from the shoreline until coming to the near abruptly rising mountainsides - but the valley was wider and the town larger - it looked about three times the size. There were several office buildings of five to ten stories scattered between blocks of homes and smaller commercial buildings. The shoreline was four or fives times longer than Ketchikan's and was lined with many smallish and mediumish warehouse and factory buildings. In the distance ahead far below, about three miles was the marina. It was long and appeared to contain a full parliament of two or three hundred boats, many were of the fishing phylum, all classes, but most were in a similar class to those down in Frisco. From what I could see was a large contingent, perhaps a dozen strong, of the large crab fisher vessels, of Snark class and larger. But what astounded and truly grabbed my eye was that this apparently isolated metropolis – a Fort Sumter quarantined by the hardy landscape from any conventional highway, accessible only by plane and sea - was laid so Lilliputian by the surrounding mountains. Rising precipitous to an almost bald summit was a mountain, rearward of the town, a Ben Nevis, that was so close and high I could not, even with the full craning of my neck, see its uppermost ridgeline. Thick groves of dark green conifers swept up the face to about mid height and then were replaced by patches of tundra that from the distance looked like dark green moss over the face of rock. Across the town rose another mountain, less almighty, but still impressive, covered completely with a downy green mink of conifers. Like Jonah to the whale the mountains seemed to swallow the town which was a mere hors d'oeurve in the mouth of the mountains, a little munchkin mess at the bottom of a brigade bucket. And on the opposite side of the town was the water, a glazed azure amid the sunlight and the surrounding green, and like the basin near Ketchikan was also archipelagoed with tiny isles, more northern Polynesians covered with thick dark green conifer groves. Then across this little Juneau sea was another confederation of mountains, none as high as the ones to our rear, also covered with the verdure, and enclosing the whole scene like a natural Wrigley field. And all of it had been, like the sheet over Michelangelo's David, cloaked in fog and now unveiled for our marveling. We stood looking around for several minutes then I said, "We had no idea did we?"

"Nope. It's sorta like walkin' into one a those old fancy churches they got in Europe. Ya know?"

"Yeah, in the sanctuary of a natural cathedral."

The downtown looked about a mile down the hill and so we started walking toward it. I got the bright idea that maybe we should take a cab to the marina and check the boats. But Klug rightly nixed the idea saying, "We can do that tomorrow, it's past seven man – and it's Sunday. Think those skippers will be down there workin' now?"

I nodded in agreement, then said "Wonder what ol Nate's doin' now huh?"

He said, "Probably pukin’."

We came to a block of storefronts, behind one of the fronts was a small simple cheap looking eatery called Yukon Jacks. Given that our last meal had been the evening before we were both quite hungry. So we easily decided that the place was as good as any. We went in and slid into one of the booths along a wall. It was a simple coffee shop in a four walled space. Old rusted lumberjack implements were tacked over the walls; a half dozen round short stools stood in front of a short formica topped counter along one of the walls. Donuts were stacked under a plastic clear cake dome at one end. All the stools and most of the tables and booths were empty; it was a slow night apparently. The few patrons that were about were mostly older looking working men, one had a beard, all were, like us, dressed down in jeans, flannel shirts, a couple kept cloaked in light windbreaker coats. A young girl with a round pale face and large in bone dropped off some menus and brought us water. She was all business and not at all flirtatious, when she left the table Klug made a sour face with his cheeks expanded and said referring to the girl, "Big mama moon face."

"Not everybody can be pretty Klug. If everybody's a somebody - then who's a nobody - right?"

He looked at me abstractly, "Hey man we're woman gods up here, like Nate is at home. We were even sorta in Seattle - you really hit a homer man with that Julie chick with the big kahungas."

"Yeah she was alright. Best I ever had - bodywise that is."

"You're gal at home Janie ain't so bad."

"No she's not. She was the best I ever had - en totum."

He nodded, "Hmm - so you gonna call her from up here - cost ya a bundle I bet. Call collect - that's what I'd do."

I shook my head, "I won't be callin' her."

"Too expensive huh. Just stick to post cards huh?"

"No - won't be writing her either."

"Why not man. You were still seein' her weren't ya?"


"Oh yeah? Never heard."

"Yeah. Nate knew."

"Gave her the ol' walking papers huh?"

"No. She gave em to me."

He looked surprised, "Jeeze man - what's her problem. She hook up with a rock star or somethin'?"

"Naw - she's getting married. To an older guy who's a big gun at IBM and he's going to be rich."

He shook his head sympathetically, "Hmm yeah man - money. They're real sluts about that man. But hey, you got money. Both you and Smitty I heard were set."

"Yeah we are I guess. I guess Jane just decided she and I were incompatible."

"That's a good one man. In-com-patible. Better than sayin' your a fart head or somethin."

"Yeah, I suppose. Actually it wasn't any of that. It was a timing thing I think. She was ready for the next phase and I guess she figured I wasn't."

"Next phase?"


He flashed a puzzled expression and said, "Marriage? Geeze man, kinda young these days gettin' hitched right after school. Gotta slut around some I think."

"Maybe. Obviously she didn't want to. And I think she knew I did. She's a smart gal."

"Sounds too smart man."

"She was my Cordilia."

"You're what?"

I shook my head passing the comment off, "Ah, nothin'."

The waitress came by and took our order, again she was most businesslike. Again in the penny pinching mode I ordered a tuna sandwich. Klug ordered a steak sandwich. I said, "That steak's gotta be costin' you a bundle - we should conserve our money, don't you think?"

He said, "Well man, the way I see it, I'm hungry, screw it. If I stay up here and can't get a job fishing - I'll get one somewhere. There's gotta be alota work round here - or wherever we're goin' to find the crab charleys." Then he chukled, "You and Nate man, always frettin'."

I looked at him a moment reflectively and a little deferentially. He was right – I was starting to fret some, now that we were up there. For me panic – a heft - was in the air. I was starting to grope. What he just said bespoke an attitude change of sorts, one that was to me quite noticeable. In Seattle it seemed that work of any kind was far from his mind, his attitude more go along, get along, and primarily have fun. Now the real fact of working, of getting work, seemed a real possibility to him, or he seemed to be almost taking it for granted - as if it would just come. He was acting so much like the chosen one, like he just expected things to happen. And he was right, like Nate I was starting to worry, admittedly – interior clouds were graying and gathering, an inner squall was rising about being there in that strange land among strangers, and no real what next tactic in mind; and I was uncertain about the next move. And why was I fretting? I was Barney Fief loading his gun. Klug was Andy, so apparently at ease, grace to my anxiety. An old soul about it. What was the hell wrong with me, anyway? Why couldn't I be so Dali Laman? I asked, "So if we can't get a fishing job - what sort of job do you think we can get?"

He shrugged, "I don't know man. Got to be somethin' up here though. Ol' Hiesenberg made money, lots of it, he probably never even saw the water." It was out of his hands, so to speak. God's will be done.

"You sound like your getting sort of serious about this. The brine get into your veins? Change of heart here?"

He sat back in the booth, picked up his water glass and looked at it as if examining the clearness of the water and said, "Watcha mean man?"

"Well in Seattle it was all Nate and I could do to get you to the docks - now the inevitability of getting a job - and having to do that job seems to be okay by you now. That just doesn't sound like the Klug and Brad Smith I knew in Seattle."

He nodded to the side slightly in accordance; then I suppose deciding something about the water – that it was likely clean enough to drink, he put the glass to his mouth and swigged down a few gulps. Then as he pulled the glass away and exhaled some he said, "We're up here right. Nate proved it could happen if ya hang awhile. I figure man if Nate can get a job - I can. And there's more boats up here right?"

I nodded.

He put his glass down and went on, "The way I see it man - we're up here now so we may as well make some caddash. Hiesenberg did it. If that festive fuck could do it - I can."

"So how come you loafed around so much in Seattle?"

"Hey, I started in with you guys workin' at the docks."

"Eventually - but at first you and Smitty did a lota nothin'."

"If you call havin' a good time nothin'. I figured man - let the Nate hype out seein' if the deal was real or festive."

"You started working with us before Nate got a job."

"Yeah but Nate had been hangin' at the docks a long time and was working. I was gettin' tired a livin' off Smitty. He can be a rich prick man. Lord it over ya - you know. It just seemed more real, the fishin' thing, the longer Nate lasted at the docks."

"I see - so you let Nate pioneer the deal - then you followed."

"Somethin' like that. That's how it worked out."

"Except Nates got a job - and here we are."

He scowled disdainfully, "Yeah, a job with Art. Arts a kook man. Got bad vibes there. I wouldn't wanna work for Art."

I laughed a little, "Yeah you might be right. I wonder why Nate just didn't come up here on his own. Why he dragged us up here with him. I mean - think about it - that was not the purely rational and disciplined thing to do. Why bring us along to anchor him down?"

"The festival man. We all got talkin' bout it together and went visiting the tuna kutes together. We were a clan ya know."

"Or he was like us - too afraid to come up here and face the unknown alone. You know Hiesenberg came up here on his own. And he was just fresh from high school - only what, seventeen or eighteen? You have to hand it to him. If you think about it we've been kids in the way we've approached this whole thing."

Klug took his head back, "Hey man - so what? Your splitten' hairs, thinkin' too much. We're here aren't we. So what if we're kids? It’s the time for that. Got plenty a time to warhead through."

He was sure making sense I thought. Good old common sense; I wasn't so sure how much of that I picked up at Princeton. Soon the waitress came by with our food and we ate. We talked more about home and Seattle – we both agreed Nancy was a class act – except for getting squirrelly on Nate. Klug agreed with Nate that Janie was ready to settle down and she looked at me and figured I wasn't – especially when I was forgoing law school to go on some farciful fishing escapade. Klug wondered what happened to Merril, but figured he fared okay, saying, "He's gets by, he prob'ly hooked up with some chick and sponged." After we ate the waitress brought our bill, My tuna sandwich was four dollars and his steak sandwich eight. I said, "Hmm - seems kind of expensive."

"Yeah - heard it wasn't cheap up here."

As we pulled out our money I said, "You know my problem Klug. I did everything like you were supposed to. Better than you were supposed to. And I got along. But that's how it is - you go along and get along. But really - it makes you fearful. It doesn't prepare you for the extraordinary challenge."

"What does man?"

He had a point there. In fact, I was getting the impression that perhaps I had all along misjudged Klug. I remembered too well that day at the courthouse where he was crawling out of his skin over the bureaucratic ballyhoo. Perhaps that day led me to underestimate him, consider him immature and impatient, and lacking self-restraint - that Klug was indeed smarter and cooler of head and thicker in spirit than his demeanor that day had implied. Perhaps it had been a bad demeanor day. Indeed, I was beginning to consider that day actually a notation on the credit side for Klug; for was it not actually indicative of a finer and broader spirit and mind? I think it takes a dull dull deadened and benumbed constitution to passively tolerate the laws delay and other such governmental time devouring follies. And besides, the bravest grope a little and sometimes hit a tree, right? As I thought on it, I realized that throughout our trip he had never conducted himself anything close to that day at the courthouse. In fact, while I wouldn't call him an intellectual or educated in the extreme, in those areas he was somewhat average – but I was beginning to realize there was something about him, in his way, like Duke Ellington gone surf rat with beatnik tendencies, he had a way about him, a sly majesty was at work. And I recalled Merril's story about him, how Klug was out surfing the waves few others would take on.

Apparently, regarding our situation, Klug had it pretty well figured; he had a consoling faith in his sensibleness - and that was likely why he was so calm in the face of our little personal gale – and I was so anxious because I was not figuring it out as well. In fact, perhaps part of the problem was that I was seeing the whole situation as a problem, a tempest of sorts – I was, in a way, perhaps over sexing the situation, applying too much dramits in my terminology as I thought through the problem. Perhaps he was simply better than I at lighting out into the poorer weather. The bigger waves. And truly, what did I have to figure out? What did I have to be restless about? It wasn't as if I needed a job, or the money. I was up there slumming, for krisakes. I began to suspect some of it had to do with our effort lacking any supervision or laid out structure, as in school you are given class outlines, assignments and exams, a place for everything, everything in its place, the only bombshell, a pop quiz now and again: a controlled environment. That was the clean room in which I had spent the last fifteen or so years of my life – and I was looking longingly back and turning into a salt lick. This northern Arabian Night of course was not school; it was life, or rather a facet, or close facsimile of it. The class outline was brief and ever unsettled, pop quizzing frequent, uncertainty proliferate, deep-water mines and Kamikazes lurked. And I was anxious I suppose because in this classroom, like the other, I so wanted the A grade, but really, I was starting to realize, in this stalag such rewards were more elusive. I was used to success, but that was of another place, time, and kind.

It was a little after nine when we left the eatery. Still the daylight was bright, yet there was a shade over the street which I realized was from the great mountain now partially eclipsing the sun's daylight. We walked down to the corner where the mountain was again in view, it's rocky bare walls and summit was now in shadow. A dark huge presence. We walked awhile around the town which seemed a bit like San Francisco - a matrix laid atop hills and dales, a couple streets we walked up even dead-ended to a staircase. Toward the downtown many of the buildings took on more character becoming similar to the bay windowed two and three storied old Victorians of San Francisco and Seattle. Some had been restored, brought into a new cycle. Homes, piles in the Victorian, pioneer, craftsman and pre-fab style were mostly located toward the mountains and the commercial and industrial structures all on the flats and toward the waterfront. Though deep set in the mountains along a straight of the inside passage, and like Ketchikan accessible only by air and water, as we walked more into the downtown the city took on more metropolitan airs. Sedans become more frequent, I even saw a corvette. There were a couple men in business suits, though the dress was predominately like Ketchikan - mountain style, jeans and flannel shirts. And there were a fare share of tourists about, toting their purses, backpacks, kids, and cameras; they stood out alien like, lolly-gagging about it in looky-loo slouches, in their dress of colorful t-shirts and sweatshirts and tennis shoes.

Eventually we made our way into a bar, called the Val Verde. The inside was clean and newer looking; it was saloon-like with sawdust over a concrete floor and everything in oak - the furniture, wall paneling, and the bar, and all of it detailed with frontier flourishes. A moose head was over the bar and below that a long mirror with gold veins running through it. Hanging from the ceiling were chandeliers made from wagon wheels holding atop the rims jar sized belied lamps. As we saddled up to the bar I said, "All it needs is a player piano."

Klug looked around and smirked in agreement. A lady bartender, a pretty bleached-blond with shiny puffy cheeks and a slight double chin came over, "Can I get you boys anything?"

We ordered a couple of Budweisers in the bottle and were assessed three dollars each. After the initial dismay over the exorbitant cost for a mere longneck I said to Klug, "Well this isn't Stan's now is it?"

He shook his head and said emphasizing the name with a Texan twang, "Nope - it's the Val-verdee."

We drank our beers and discussed the bartender. We guessed she was in her early thirties and only about ten pounds overweight, and as Klug said, "Kinda scraggly;" but other than that she was rather pretty and as Klug said, "Yeah, I'd do her - specially after downin' a few a these buds. Bet she'd be a real romp."

"She probably likes guys with beards."

Klug rubbed his chin, "Think so man. I was sorta thinkin' about growin' one."

"Shavin' is sort of a pain."

"Big pain man."

There were about a dozen other patrons around tables and a few others at the bar. All looked slightly older, mid twenties to thirties, and some forty plus. Everyone was dressed casually per the local chic. It was probably something of a trendy spot – like the El Rancho. Toward the end of the bar there were a couple girls drinking together. I pointed them out to Klug who didn't get too excited over them saying, "They ain't much."

"They might be good for here."

He looked over, then said, "We need a couple a shots."

"I don't know - maybe we should be saving our money."

He shrugged then shook his head, "Naw - let's drink."

Still anxiety prone I hedged and hawed – but finally went along - and so we ordered the shots; then a few more beers, and a couple more shots, and in a short while we became rather intoxicated. More patrons had come into the bar and it had become moderately swarming. A couple of girls were standing nearby with a couple of drinks in their hands. I said to Klug, "What'd you think of those two?"

He looked over and shrugged, "Okay I guess. Like blonds better, and they got that mountain look."

They were both brunettes, in their early twenties I guessed; and what Klug meant by their mountain look likely referred to their lack of stylish dress, make up, well coifed hair, and one had a few noticeable pimples. I noticed they glanced at us. I said, "They were lookin' over here - I'm going in."

I knew I was more drunk than I normally would get on a night on the town because I could feel myself weaving as I stood, and I had to consciously tell myself to maintain a semblance of self-rule as I walked over to the girls. One of them glanced at me out of the corner of her eye, saw me coming, then turned her head away and kept talking to her friend. When I approached I said, "Ah excuse me – but, huh, I saw you girls over here." It was a lame line, to be sure, but then I was tight, as the big white writer had called it.

They looked at me and flashed feint snide smiles as if a bit perturbed over the intrusion; apparently not at all impressed with me or my line. Both were shorter girls, one had a narrow face with a sharp nose, and her hair was a dull brown and hung short to her neck, the ends turned in. The other girl, her hair was longer past the shoulders and laid flat and thin on her head, her face was more rounded and plain looking. Both were on the pale side. Neither were that feminine looking. Their dress was plaid shirts and Levi pants and work boots. Their faces had stronger, more masculine sharp angled off edges around the jaws, nose, and forehead. To my question, one said nodding her head slightly and sounding annoyed, "Yeah?"

This yeah was not at all what I was expecting, and I was put off by it; to say the least. And they didn't try to make conversation or seemed the least bit flirtatious. I stood for an uncomfortable pregnant moment. Ignoring me, they went back to talking between themselves. With that obvious cold shoulder I walked back to Klug, my tail between my legs. "They weren't interested," I said, when I came back.

He had seen that I was getting sucker punched so he ordered two more shot drinks.

"Probably lesbos man, look at em. They look like that cab driver – he she's."

"They don't look that bad."

"No - they just look sorda like wanna be guys, ya know."

I could see his point.

The drinks came, but these, were not tequila, they were a red punch looking concoction. "What is it?" I asked picking up the glass between my fingers.

"Called a Woo Woo."

"A Woo Woo?"

He held up his shot glass and toasted it slightly saying, "It's good man, drink up."

I drank it, it tasted like a fruit punch barely laced with vodka. Not bad at all really; I lightly smacked my lips and said, "Tasty." Then I ordered another round.

While we downed woo woo round two, two older looking girls walked up to the bar next to us. We guessed them for about twenty six or seven. And while they were dressed in the local vogue, jeans and flannel shirts, they were definitely less tom boyish. Immediately I engaged them by looking at them and when they looked over, I said, "How's it going - you girls look like your from California." A better line, I thought than the previous, but still relatively tedious. But it was a bar after all.

They were more pleasant and willing, and we exchanged small talk awhile. They even joined us for another round of the woo woos. They were not from California but from Colorado and had come to Alaska a year previous to work and, as one put it, "Meet men."

I said, "Hmmm," and I thought that things might be getting interesting. One of the girls was rather pretty, tall and very slender with a pleasant high cheek boned face under long brownish blond hair. The other was a little heavy, full figured with brown hair that was in a flowing wide curled perm. She was more plain jane in the face, but passable especially under the increasing influence of the woo woos. They lived on the other side of town and worked for a local supermarket as checkout girls. Somehow we had gotten on the topic of age. After putting the question to them they revealed that they were both twenty nine. Then the blond asked how old we were. I said, "Twenty seven." And Klug said firmly, "Twenty eight."

The girls both laughed and the browned haired girl said, "I wouldn't have guessed that."

Klug said, "Oh yeah - what would you have guessed?"

The girls studied us a second, then looked at one another; then the dirty blond said, pointing at Klug, "You look twenty five or six."

Klug nodded, "Yeah, well I stay in shape."

Then she looked at me, "And you look a little younger."

I sort of grumbled, "Hmm, thanks."

Then after that meaningless exchange of opinion, two older looking guys, rugged but good looking types, in jeans and pull over sweaters, one with a neatly trimmed Van Dyke beard, sauntered over and one kissed one of the girls, and they all exchanged hellos how are ya's etcetera - and a couple sorry that we're lates. Obviously they knew one another and their encounter there pre-arranged. Then they all went out to the floor and sat at a table, ignoring Klug and I. I looked at Klug, "Well guy - aced out. So much for your woman god theory. They didn't even thank us for their drinks."

"They just wanted us to hang so their buddies would see us."

I looked over at their table. They were all smiling and talking up a storm. I said, "Yeah you're probably right - keep their guys on edge."

Two cold shoulders was only two strikes, we still had one more. Klug went right back up to bat. As we were talking to the other girls, a small group of three had gathered to Klug's other side. Then Klug somehow wiled his way into a conversation with them and he introduced me, "This my buddy Joe here."

The girls all nodded and smiled. I said, "How's it goin?" They were decidedly younger than the other girls looking nineteen or twenty and they were all smiling. At least that's how I remember it. Then I somehow started talking to one with short brown hair and an oval face with skin that was darker, browned. I asked her where she had got her tan. She replied, "Born with it. I'm half American Indian."

"American Indian - as opposed to what other Indians?"

"There's Indians all over."

I nodded, "I guess there is, India Indians, West Indies, Indians."

She nodded and said, "Right – and Canadian Indians; most of the people in Mexico are Indians, Aztec Indians, South America has Indians."

I nodded and said, "Hmm - well it's very attractive."

She smiled and was flirty, she asked, "Where'd you get you're smile?"

"Born with it. I'm Irish, all Irish are born smiling."

She nodded, "I like that."

Events, our march of time, seemed to have definitely taken a turn for the better. But then I was noticing coming over me, at first subtly, then most definitely - an inability to easily stand. I was leaning my side against the bar putting all my weight on it, and I was not feeling all that normal. A queasiness was coming into my stomach and the surroundings seemed to be spinning slightly. I felt like I was having difficulty keeping my head still. I turned to Klug and said quietly in his ear, "Hey Klug - I'm not feeling at all right here."

He looked over, "Don't worry 'bout it man - it'll pass."

"Yeah but when - in a couple minutes or next week?"

I turned back to the girl. She was smiling and I asked, "Anyway, are you from here?"

She shook her head saying, "No, I'm from Tacoma – I'm up here working for the summer."

Suddenly I felt ill. A nausea was welling up from my stomach. I was going to be sick. And I was becoming ever more certain of this. I looked at the girl and said, "Hold that thought; will you excuse me a second."

I stepped away from the bar and spotted a door opening, which I figured was likely the bathrooms, then I made my way quickly over. The floor was moving seemingly, much like the Snark's deck on a wavy sea. Fortunately I was correct and I quickly found the correct door with the MEN label, pushed it open, and as I walked inside the nausea in my stomach had welled up into my throat and I knew it had reached a point of no return. I went straight into the stall and without even lifting the toilet seat I upchucked a chunky goo that smacked of tuna fish and fruit punch. I vomited several times emptying - so I thought - my stomach. After my stomach settled and I seemed to be finished, I flushed the yellow and pinkish yuk down and stepped over to the sink and rinsed by mouth out and splashed water over my face. I felt better, but I was shaking slightly. When I was walking back to the group I noticed I was weaving and the room still was spinning rather, that tight spinning where the room moves apparently then moves suddenly back – like an automatic typewriter cylinder zips back in the cradle. I felt a dizziness and realized I was quite intoxicated, too intoxicated. I had lost the rest of me.

When I got back the girl asked me, "You okay?"

"Oh yeah - no problem. I'm fine." I said, gamely trying to hang in.

Then we talked more, about where we were from and what not, yet the specifics of the conversation were lost forever, in a memory well soaked with beer, tequila and Woo Woo's. And then just as quick as it came the first time the nausea welled up again - and again I had to excuse myself, and again I was face first filling the porcelain basin with partially digested leftovers and other such goop. I was filled with a Mulligan goulash from a warlocks cauldron. I was being exorcized. I was to feel better as again I splashed off my face. I was willing to give it another try with the girl, but when I walked back out, I knew I was again weaving a lot, that I was only in partial command of my body – if that. It's natural chemical functions were storming the Bastille and taking over with kangaroo rule, and apparently like the cake dispensing queen, if I was going to mix Woo Woo's, tequila, and such then I too would suffer dire consequences. When I got back to the group my girl had already passed me off for another guy. I stood next to Klug folded over some and leaning heavy onto the bar. I just felt so dizzy. Klug was talking now just to one of the girls. He seemed perfectly normal. No internal intrigues over there. The bartender came over and asked if I wanted another drink. I shook my head quickly "No-no thanks." She was sadistic I thought. Then I felt sick again and again went right back to the bathroom and again gave an encore performance. I was one of the Les Miserable.

When I got back out to Klug I told him, "Hey I'm goin."

He looked at me strange, "You goin' - right now?"

I nodded. I was in no mood to discuss it, the room seemed to be moving. The dizziness going unabated, the bar round and round. I was having trouble standing, the booze had invaded, the Vandles were in Rome, my constitution was plundered and occupied. I had to l lie down. I said, "I'll see you back at the hotel."

"You okay man?"

"I'm fine - see ya," I said and then exited stage right or left or whatever.

8 I'm not quite sure how I did it but somehow I stumbled bummed my way back to The Cheshire. I do remember perceiving the world around me as if I was caught in some film noire movie that was poorly edited so that the scenes seemed to jump too quickly and unnaturally, and nothing was quite level or straight up and down. I was the focus in a transitioning toward modern art. And I only remember sequences of the total scene. Walking out of the bar, seeing that darkness had descended, walking up a steep street, thinking the buildings were tinted in a orange color and tilting with the incline of the street. And I was so dizzy. I vomited again; this time in the gutter, but I had chosen an ill opportune location - right in front of a small quaint hotel. As I was puking some man stuck his head out the front door and shouted, "Hey - you can't do that here!" I looked up at him, most certainly woozy eyed, and was about to make a surly reply like, "Then where do you suggest?" But before the words would come my stomach again overturned and sent more of the lovely goo up my throat; so all I did was look at him then puke some more. With my mess made I then went on my way. After that I remember seeing the hotel up on a hill and wondering how I was going to get up there. And I wondered just what in hell was in those Woo Woo's? I speculated that I had been drugged, or blasted with x-ray beams; next I would start losing my hair. I remember walking up onto the porch of The Cheshire, being worried that I didn't have my key, that I wouldn't find the room. I lumbered up the dirty narrow stairs and down the hall, all of it seemingly moving like one of those flimsy wood and rope suspended footbridges. But I found the room and key and somehow our little bathroom and puked in the toilet, then flicked off the light and collapsed on my bed, on top of the sheets; and even the dark seemed to move. I was a young man in a bad place. Fortunately I quickly passed out. The end of a wonderful evening. I had no idea when Klug came in or what transpired after I hit my bed. The next morning I awoke with my eyes scratching and my mouth dry with an awful sour Cheeto's cheeseball aftertaste flavoring it - like the bottom of a parrot's cage. And the light was on - Klug must have kept it on. He was fast asleep snug in his bed. When I got out of bed and stood up I realized that I was in for one mean hangover, and though I had regained most of the proper functioning of my perceptions I was still quite ill. I was also still completely dressed including my shoes.

After using the toilet and at the crummy little wall sink with the rusting faucet, splashing water on my face and scooping water with a cupped hand into my mouth, I undressed - standing on my boots being careful to refrain from contact with the dirty carpet - then got back into bed. Then I felt sick again. The nausea was welling; it must be the water I thought. I tried to suppress it, relax and hope it would go away if I just lay still, but it became worse. I quickly got up - slipped my feet into my boots and clod-hopped in my boots and boxers back into the bathroom and again puked.

I ended up spending the rest of the day in bed sleepily and just laying there nauseas and lead headed waiting for the poison to be processed and my body finally extricated from its power. Klug got up around noon, he said he was feeling just fine, chipper even. He asked if he could go get me a beer - that if I drank a beer it would make me feel better. Just thinking of a beer made me nauseous again - I declined the offer. He showered and dressed - keeping his feet off the floor still - then went out on his own into town and to the docks. He later returned with a report: "Like Seattle only not as big. Bout ten crab boats. Talked to about five a the skippers. Couple were kutes, couple were cool, but no jobs."

Toward the late afternoon I was regaining faith in my body's recuperative powers. I was definitely feeling more normalized. Then almost precisely when my watch read six o'clock straight up I felt it almost completely go away. I sat up in bed and said to myself, "It's gone - I'm fine." And I was. I had bounced back. I then showered and dressed, sat back on my bed fanning the pages of Klug's Playboy and awaited his return. I wasn't completely one hundred percent, I could feel a slight whisper queasiness within, but compared to the relentless nauseating chemotherapeutic state I had been in, the rock had been rolled aside, I felt reborn. We ended up spending that evening in the local Hilton Hotel, in the coffee shop. Now that I was mostly over my indisposition I was hungry. I ordered steak and eggs with a side of pancakes and a chocolate malt. After I listed off my order to the waitress Klug looked at me "That all man?"

I just shrugged.

"What about saving the cadash?"

"Like you said yesterday, I'm hungry. What the hell." I felt good, cleansed even; and free of anxiety. I was a Devil's Island escapee. When the waitress left I asked Klug, "How did you drink all that last night and not get drunk?"

"I got a little drunk. Not like you though man. You were trashed."

"They Mickeyed my drink. Somebody did."

"No man, you just drank everything down, right now. I didn't drink much a the tequila. A couple sips. I drank the Woo Woo's and the beer; that was it. It was mixin' the Woo Woo's and the tequila that fucked ya. Tequila man – no bueno."

I shook my head, "No kidding. Lesson learned."

Apparently for Klug the previous night had also gone a bit surrealistic. As we broke bread he told me all about it: "Those three girls ended up skatin' on me. So I end up somehow with a couple a older chicks. I asked em how old they were - thirty three and thirty six. I swear man - they didn't look a day over twenty six or seven. But they were kinda mother types - not wild things ya know. They had on pretty nice clothes - for round here. One was a bookkeeper the other just in from - get this man - Argentina, and she spoke English real lousy with that Spanish sorta slur. She's divorcin' her husband so she comes to Alaska to get away from em." Then he concluded, facetiously asking, "Makes a lot a sense huh?"

I thought of some old movie I had seen as a kid, called Westward Ho, The Woman. In this case, it was northern ho, I suppose. I said, "Well, guess here's where the men are."

"Yeah, the burly bobs."

I shrugged, "Beauties looking for their beast."

"Beauties? All I've seen are he-she hags and butch granolers."

"What about those lady's from last night?"

"They were straight, I guess. Just old."

"So what happened finally?"

He continued his story: "We ended up at the other big hotel in town and they got a coffee shop that's sorta in the lobby and so we're sittin' in there eatin' and there's a convention goin' on in the hotel for barber shop singers. So there's all these groups a people standin' around practicing their barbershop singin' - you know that singin' that's like humming. Very weird man – a comedy but weird - all these people around in groups hummin' and singin'."

"They came all the way up here for a convention?"

"Guess so man. Like I said it looked weird to me. They would stand around in these groups hummin' together." Then he did a mild imitation letting out a "hummm," as he thrust out his jaw. "Like that, you know. And all their songs were those hummers."

"Huh. Whatever floats your boat, I guess."

"Gets em' outa the house huh man?"

"Hey, good clean fun."

"Looked rank to me man. Bunch a joneser's."

I smiled and shrugged some, then asked, "So what about the girls?"

"The Argentine one I could barely talk to – I was gettin' a headache tryin' to hear past that cha cha accent man."

"A Carmen Miranda huh?"

"A who?"

"Never mind; so what about the other one?"

"Oh, she had a fillerbratin' heart."

"A what?"

"Fillerbratin' heart."

"What's that?"

"I don't know - your heart fillerbrates."

"Didn't you ask her?"

"Naw - didn't think she wanted to get into it."

"How'd you get hooked up with those two?"

"I don't know man - they were really a couple of mom types."

"So you can't have sex with a fillerbrating heart?"

"Yeah I think you can - she said you could."

"You asked her?"

"Yeah. She said she could - but not tonight."

"Too bad."

"Yeah she was a hard ass. But I don't think I woulda gone for her though."

"Why's that?"

"Kinda old – and what if I killed her man? Might ruin sex for me, permanent. Can't have that."

"Was she good looking?"

"She was okay, but I was sorta plastered. I was sorta tryin' for a place to stay."

"Going for the mooch."


"They really didn't look older than twenty seven?"

"Like I said, I was sorta plastered man – not like you – but I don't think I was seein' all that straight."

We finished dinner and I paid the bill - Klug having left his money in his other trousers. It was a twenty-dollar tab - I couldn't believe the prices. We walked over to the Val Verde and sat at the bar, it was a Monday night and the bar was mostly empty. Klug drank a couple beers and I just water, having learned my lesson for awhile. We sat and talked again about the weirdness of the night previous, I realized Klug had been referring to a Fibulating Heart, and I corrected Klug about it; he replied, "Close 'nough man." We speculated about Nate, figured they kicked him off the boat when they caught him upchucking his intestines. That he was likely freezing his ass wandering some forested Aquitane someplace between there and the Aleutians; about Smitty we speculated he was going to stay at the SAE house and the University of Washington and get another degree – seeing as he had finally found someplace where the woman found him tolerable, perhaps even desirable. Klug laughed over that saying, "Smitty man - Lady Killer. Nope." About what was going on down Claremont way we figured Merril was still in San Fran, but probably gone gay and mooching off some hairdresser flamer named Serge; Janie was canceling out on her marriage plans, having come to her senses about where her true interests lay. We came around to more sensible musings - about our dwindling finances – about whether or not we should go for a month at the Cheshire, or figure out some other accommodation; we wondered if there was some local college with frat houses. I wasn't too concerned, my anxiety had quieted; the booze had cleansed me. An attitude adjustment. Though I had spent all day in bed, I was still tired and so was Klug. The previous night's antics had taken its toll. After a couple of hours we headed back to The Cheshire. Back in our room we stood on our shoes again as we undressed and made ready for bed. Just before I got into my bed I reached up for the chain on the light - but before I could pull it Klug, snug under his covers, said, "Hey man wait."

I looked over, "What - aren't you ready? You're in bed?"

"I know man but ah - what do ya think about that light?"

"What about it?"

"Well I turned it off last night man and it's pitch black in here - no light comes from the window."

"Good - we'll sleep better."

"Yeah but ya know man - that's when the bugs and rats come out - when ya turn out the light."

I looked over the dirty floor, it was clear of any living organisms visible to the naked eye; but then I thought he had a point.

He then said, "There around man. We saw em yesterday."

"Ah screw it," I said and pulled the chain, flicking off the light. But it was very dark. Pitch black. Black so thick I thought you could push it aside. "Gawd it is dark in here."

"See what I mean man. And that's how they like it - the rats. They come out when it's real dark when they know you can't see em and they crawl all over you."

"Oh shut up Klug."

"Seriously man - you wait a minute, then turn on the light, you'll see what I mean, they'll be out crawlin'. Yesterday one came out in broad daylight man. They're fearless man."

I was rather agreeing with him while at the same time thinking it was all so stupid. I said, "So what are we supposed to do - sleep with the light on?"

"We did last night."

"We were drunk last night. Look we're being paranoid about this - what's a few bugs?"

"Big bugs man. And rats – there's rats here man."

I flicked the light on. The black disappeared and I saw nothing scamper or crawl about over the floor. I looked toward the bathroom doorway into the shadows beyond it, saw nothing. Then I laid back and got under the covers and with my arm bent over my face blocking out most of the light I slipped readily into a dreamless recuperative slumber.

The next morning I didn't awake till about mid morning, tenish. My eyes opened to the bare light bulb in the socket in the ceiling, still burning white against the pale yellowing white of the plaster ceiling. And so what will this day bring, I wondered. I looked over at Klug's bed and surprisingly the bed covers were pushed to the foot of the bed and he was gone. And so where did he go? I wondered. Then a few minutes later out in the hall I heard thick footsteps lumbering fe fi fo fum fashion toward the room, then a key working and clicking the lock; then Klug came charging into the room. He seemed agitated - or excited, he stood at the end of my bed panting a little.

I said, "When'd you get up?"

"Early man. I wasn't tired. I went down to the docks - you won't believe it man - I gotta job."

My first thought was that he got some sort of job - not boat related of course. I said casually, "Oh yeah - what kind of job?"

"Fishin' man - I got a boat job."

I laid there sort of looking at him suspecting. I blinked a couple of times, somehow it was not registering. It just didn't seem possible, I said, "Is this a joke?"

He smiled and said loud, "No man! I got a fishin' job - on a boat!" He shrugged his shoulders and held his hands up as if to say - just like that; he had waved the wand and wella.

I pushed myself up in bed, my mouth fell slightly agape, I said, "It's impossible. You just went down there and got a job?" I couldn't believe my eyes.

"Yeah. When I went down yesterday some guy I talked to pointed at this boat and said the guy was lookin' for somebody - but that he's only on the boat first thing in the mornin'. That's why I got up - and he was there."

"What did you say to him?"

"Nothin' really - just heard you was lookin' for somebody. I said the other guy I had talked to day before sent me over - makin' it sound like it was a referral, ya know."

"Yeah, like you were networking. And he just hired you like that?"

"Sorta. He asked if I'd been fishin' before - if I had been on a boat. I told em I hadn't been fishin' but that I worked on boats in Seattle and came up on a boat. You know; just told him man."

"I can't believe it."

"Whatever man - but I gotta go - the boats leavin' today."

He began shoving his clothes into his bag.

"What's the skipper like?"

"Just a young guy man - not even like Art - sorta cool. Like thirty five, I guess. He asked me where I was from, then asked if I surfed. I think he thinks it's cool that I surf. He wanted to know if I surfed Hawaii at all. I kinda laid it on, said I spent a couple years there surfin' Pipeline and Sunset. I figured if he thought I did the North Shore manliness then he'd think I was manly for the fishing gig."

"I am dumb founded. How could you be so lucky?"

He was all packed, bag in hand, "He told me he needed a big guy. I'm big and I'm in shape you know."

I nodded, "Yeah - makes sense."

He gave a quick nod to signal he was off, then stepped over to the bed and stuck out his hand, "Alright man - guess I'm gone."

We shook hands, "That's great Klug. Sounds like the skippers okay. Nates goin' to kill ya."

He smiled, "I know man - it is sorta funny - and I'd sure wanna be with my guy over that Art. That Art's a real kute man. King Kootman."

"It's a crab boat your on?"

"Oh yeah man - better than Art's comedy. Bigger, way more mod. Called The Maldoon."

"Huh, interesting name."

He was over by the door. I think he was a little hesitant to leave; I was his last connection to the home base. I said, "You better get down there - you don't want to miss the boat."

He nodded "Yeah." Then he was quiet a second then asked, "Hey you need some money?"

I shook my head, "Naw - are you kidding?"

"That's right - you and Smitty - the lords."

"That's right Klug - now don't drown."

"Alright man - see ya."

"See ya."

And just as he got through the door as an afterthought I shouted, "Hey Klug."

He stuck his head back in and I said, "Good job – and fuck you." He smiled and nodded and left. The door slammed shut and I heard his muffled footsteps shuffle quickly and become more faint down the hall. I laid back in the throes of disbelief. How do you like that, I thought. The one morning he rouses himself out of bed and goes down to the docks he gets himself a job. I shook my head. Nate will croak over this one. Are some guys just blessed or what? Then I looked around the room, at its dingy enclosing walls and darkening corners and its view of a neighboring brick wall, and wondered what the heck was I going to do?

All of a sudden I really did not feel like getting out of bed. The thought did occur to me to get dressed and rush down to the docks and see if I could repeat Klug's astounding good fortune - but lightning only strikes once in the same place – right? At least probably not in the same day anyway. Gawd life was just too much sometimes. I slipped back down in the bed and lightly dozed off. A few minutes later I awoke and was thinking how the adventure had lost much of its luster. The world was a different place when approached from an isolated view. The room was suddenly very quiet; my life had gone suddenly quiet. Then I heard someone moving about out in the hall with slow plodding footsteps, and they began to cough. I listened to the coughing as it passed my door and went into what sounded like the door adjacent. Then I heard the coughing in the room next door, behind the thin wall. A slow wheezing tuberculin hacking cough. An old bleak house cough. I imagined how it was probably some old drunk, living on social security, or his slight pension, or something. This would be the sum total of his life or rather the denouement - a dingy room at The Cheshire. He wouldn't be seen for several days, go in arrears on his bill. They would finally get around to investigating and find him stiff under the covers in his flimsy bed, and his room all smelly. One had to think about the future; after all this was no way to end up, a tuberculin drunk in a smutty Bates Motel, alone with the roaches and rodents, with just neighboring wine-red rectangles of brick and mortar as your final view.

I roused myself from the warmth of the covers and noticed now that the room was slightly cool. When Klug was there I hadn't noticed the cool or the hacking neighbor; and when I left the room to take a shower I began noticing just how dirty and rundown the place truly was. Along the hall there were hairline cracks over the walls and ceiling, dark oily smudges everywhere, the carpet was almost threadbare down its middle and thick with dirt, the shower grimy. As I walked back up the hall from the shower, I noticed a door was opened a crack and then slowly closed - a peek-a-boo, a Mrs. Kravits busy bodying. As I dressed I thought just what in hell am I doing in this dive, what an Isle of Need I was in. Without the company of Klug or another, without that distraction, that comfort, that clubby fellowship, that mind occupying and altering sociability, this place I was in was taking on a more profound spooky dimension. I was in the midst of squalor and then some. Was this why I went to Princeton? I began to think. Why I worked as I did - to come to this? I had come from the other world and was now alone and bereft. But I was still young – and perhaps actually it was the cave I was approaching and peering into; looking tentatively into its dark and gloomy interiors and hearing a strange May eve screaming.

All dressed I sat on the bed and counted my money - I was down to a hundred and eighty dollars and seventy three cents. Not a whole lotta cash - especially in pricey Alaska. Decisions were in the offing, demanding audience. I was beginning to feel and explain it around in my head that this whole exploit was not really my cup of tea, nor did it fit in my manifest destiny. It had been an appealing jaunt, but truly now, my place was back home, back at Harvard getting a law degree, my ticket to the American elite way of life. That was truly where I belonged. I had to decide - do I pay for another night at The Cheshire or change hotels or do what? Go home maybe? I stared at my money, laying out on the bed, and then I heard more of the coughing. I decided to hold off paying for the room and go for a walk. Get some fresh air out in the ah wilderness.

Outside the daylight was partially obscured by a gray clouding that had moved in and was hanging about the summit of the great mountain; thus a gray overcast pallor was over the town, and the mountain was visible only to about mid way up. As I walked around town, what seemed to dominate my thinking was not what would be my next move but rather what it would take to get myself home. I belonged home - getting myself into law school - that was my future. This fishing thing had nothing to do with that future. It had been a lark and all. Not a complete misuse of time. I had gotten out in it, seen something of the world, some new and different places; and the country was indeed captivating and all – I would remember it, and the Seattle fun, the Snark and Art and the gang, likely for all time. Pleasant memories, from a pleasant trip, a bon voyage.

I walked into the Hilton to find a pay phone and call the airlines to see what the fare was to Los Angeles. I called Alaska Airlines and was told one sixty eight to Seattle and three twenty nine to Los Angeles. And there were two flights that day to Seattle, one at half past one, another at four. I just barely made the financial cut for Seattle, I could fly there and stay at the SAE house and call home for the rest of the money. It would be easy. I even had enough money for cab fare to the airport. In Seattle I could get Mel to pick me up in Klug's bus. It all fit together nicely.

Frankly, I doubt I was thinking with the felicity that I had mostly done in the past; admittedly, a certain heaviness had come over me. My mind worked best with a quart of 10 wieght coursing through, now it felt overfed the cylinders bogged with three quarts of 30 wieght. Throughout my life I had always been placed in the best of environments for thinking. Thinking was encouraged - thinking of any and all sorts – in most any accepted direction; the materials for such thought had been amply supplied, any extraneous intrusion to that environment was dealt with for me. I had basked in the luxury of a road paved for me. But there, in Juneau, in The Cheshire, in that less than soothing ambiance, I was left alone to my wits and my mere one hundred and eighty dollars and seventy three cents; it was a strain. After checking with the Hilton as to the nightly room cost - one fifty five a night - too much for my meager holdings - I started back to The Cheshire. On the way I noticed tacked to a telephone pole a plain sheet of paper with, Xeroxed over it, the message:





15274 AIRPORT WAY #111








Right, cash only. Got it. It was odd really – really odd because it was the only such sign I had seen around the town – and I just happened by and saw it – at that particular time. I stared at the flimsy stapled up paper, its edges flapping a little in the cool offshore breeze; I wasn't thinking much of anything, just looking at the paper. Then I looked to the side, in the direction of the water, I think. Then stared at the paper again; and for some odd reason, odd because it was so contrary to the slant of my then thinking, I pulled the notice off the pole folded and pocketed it and continued on my way. I stopped in a drug store and thought about purchasing a magazine - a TIME or NEWSWEEK. I found the magazine rack and started flicking through that weeks TIME. Then I thought how it would cost me about four or five cash only dollars and I really didn't have the cash. I was beginning to feel hungry, and a quick in head calculating concluded that I didn't have the cash to eat, pay five dollars cash for a magazine, then cab it to the airport and still have enough cash for the airfare. I found this irritating that I had to apply my every move to pecuniary considerations; this limited cash basis was such a puny way of getting through life, really.

Then glancing at an article, a review of some new movie, I, again oddly enough, saw in italics a quote from Nietzsche: In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play. The words struck me - but not in any particular or specific way. I just read them over and tried filing them away as I had a plethora of other interesting phrases I had come across during my years of education. Yet the words were saying something to me, they nagged at me and pulled at me, a magnetic pull. Yet I thought it was something I didn't want to hear, as if the words were a censure; then I turning them around in my mind, I came to realize perhaps I wasn't understanding the phrase, I kept mulling over the words, I saw a coin with two sides; real man and wants to play. Just what the hell was that cogitating Weinersnitzel getting at, anyway? What did it all mean truly? Perhaps it was more handiwork by that overgal meddlesome sister.

9 I suppose I had always made it obvious that I considered myself intelligent. Indeed my ego was even expansive enough to allow me to think my intelligence was more so than my immediate peers. That was what I had, that was my shtick, if you will. Nate had his looks and charisma, athletic ability and his drive; Brad his dad's money; everyone has their virtues. Klug had his luck, good looks, size and virility; Merril his gall - and a certain charm; Jane her innate prettiness and class; Mel his pleasant but suzerain way; Star his brawn - and his suzerain way; Karl his likableness; Ben his solidity; Sal his vibrant creative and theoretical intelligence; Nancy her delicate delicious looks and keen way about her; Julie her sexuality; Art his stamina and drive. Take everyone - they all have it - that which is good about them. They say Al Capone was a likeable guy; Eva Braun likely saw something in Hitler; even with Jack the Ripper one has to admire the stealth in which he went about his grisly handiwork duping the great Scotland Yard. Jeckle had his Hyde. Yet, while everyone has their positives, there is that other side. The dark star. Nate had his bad luck and middling intelligence, and could be overbearing; Brad was spoiled no doubt; Klug was entirely too laxed and obviously not good with local officialdom; Merril was political and indulgent; Jane obviously lacked taste in men; Mel was passive; Star egocentric and bullying; Karl too silly; Ben too narrow; Sal was way too unstructured and an exploiter of superficial and too meager a storehouse of knowledge; Nancy was insecure; Julie naïve; and Art was a kute. And I - the great intellectual, Mr. Self Proclaimed Superbrain, a latter day hometown Aristotle - what was I really? That Princeton diploma had a way of pumping up one's self beliefs. What I probably needed was a good year or two at M.I.T. or Cal Tech, where the Houyhnhnms of the each generation go to knock heads. Then I would have been presented with it, a more complete picture. Shown my place on a silver platter.

I knew I was intelligent yes, but I also suspected I was not brilliant, hardly on par with the genius set, the cream of wetware; I was likely minor player really. Like Nate with his football, I needed a dunking in bigger ponds; I needed some leveling. Proper functioning, if there is such a thing, demands it - that at some point we are fed some understanding of the relativities as they exist, we need that worldly view. Therefore though I was my neighborhood’s Phi Beta Kappa, the most likely to succeed on the Jeopardy game show, I too had the other side. As Mr. Smith had said about his Mr. Parker, all those degrees, that glittering resume, all those trappings of the best and the brightest, and the first year he takes over the business goes into the red, and the second year things didn't look much better. It was one thing to read and know the books, another to make the ideas happen. So while I was confident in my intelligence, confident that I was brighter than my immediate neighborhood peers, had taken that rather as a given, I was at the same time doubtful, that in the universal scheme of things I was little more than a provincial, was, though well schooled, rather a suburban product. And my father was correct, as usual, my getting into the Harvard Law School should be taken as a gift for someone of my intellectual means. I was not counting my blessings. I was a spoiled man catering to the child in me that wanted to play. It was time to stop playing.

But then again, was I so limited? At Princeton with some of the best of my generation, I did well enough. Had I gone too far with, as my father called it, my dumbing down to achieve conformity to local norms? Had I so normalized that I actually became normal? And what was so bad about normal? I was a mess. I was over thinking it, all of it. My conscience was making a coward of me and my resolution sickled over with that pale cast. As I walked back to the Cheshire I was feeling tired. How could I be tired? I had had plenty of sleep over the previous two days. Perhaps that was it - I was growing too accustomed to the sheets. I was becoming lazy. I began to think that somehow after I left Claremont something had come over me, a subtle disease rather, maybe even some discoloration of the psyche. Leukemia perhaps. I had lost my discipline - my effortless risings in the early morn into a systematic run-through of a compartmentalized tightly scheduled day. Accomplishing day-by-day, hour-by-hour, toward the intended goal. What happened to that? I was short on breath and short-circuiting. Could it be psychological? Yet, I was not having fits of paranoia or periods of rage or flights and drops between manic and depressive, my garden was weeded well enough. Whatever it was ebbing into my system, this slow eroding melancholia, where was it really coming from? When I got to The Cheshire I sat down on the front steps and tried to figure it out, think it through. Klug made it sound so easy – why was it not so easy for me? I recalled what Nate had said, that night in Seattle by the reflecting pool - that high school had been a helluva deal. And it had. And for me, so had college. As my fellow alumnus Scott Fitzgerald had said - there are no second acts. I speculated that it was because often times the first came about easily rather, perhaps drenched in good fortune. You work towards something - and then there comes that moment when you can reach for it - you may have what it takes to grasp it, or you may not, and likely it is there only for a moment. Like Henry Ford figuring how to build cars on the cheap – he jumped on his inspiration – and became Henry Ford; had he hesitated, likely someone else would have come along and figured it out. In the realm of the Claremont High School football team Nate was talented and his success there came upon him expectantly; but still, he and the rest of us were rather unaware of the true composition of that success - and how it related to the rest of the world outside Claremont. And it was the same with me. Led and encouraged and nurtured by a positive worldly and educated father Princeton came easy, and also the athletics and the friendships, I was eased into the good life, privilege was written all over it.

Then I thought about the coughing I had heard in the adjacent room. I tried to ignore it but I could not. And I imagined an old man lying there in a room as wretched as mine, only he probably kept the light off - having accustomed himself to the filth, slowly dying of asthma or worse, probably aggravated by alcoholism. And perhaps he turned out the light to make it easier to imagine a better place, a finer world to live out his finale, someplace more than the reality of The Cheshire with only the solace of Thunderbird and a weekly change of bed linen, such a pitiful end to this life. And I wondered how the poor guy came to end up in a place like that. It was hard for me even to imagine how one's life becomes so dismal. What were the steps of that crooked Cat in the Hat stairway that led down into such a place of dis? I quickly concluded - likely it was following too many larks, too much playing. I was seeking blame and rational consequence, that a man's character is his fate. I was holding on to beliefs that in life two and two always equaled four. In this way I was sensing the kinship between us, that though I wanted to ignore the coughing, I could not. Though we were of different face, I was him and he was me. I could be in that room with such a cough, his face could be mine. But I was not ready to concede such kinship. I was still wraped in familiar ramparts. I was still ready and willing to blot out sections of the picture; apply the erasure to life's canvas. I had yet to realize how to know the gates of heaven, as well as how indeed green were the mountains, I needed also to know how green was the old man's spittle. I decided, sleepy or not, that I was going to get on with doing something. I had been given advantages; I had to take advantage of those advantages. I had to get home and stop this foolishness and get myself into law school. This Alaska thing was an escapade. This was an enterprise and frivolity of mere boys, an Easter Break in Daytona. I decided, enough of this thinking, it was time to go.

I then went upstairs and packed my bag. As I left, I dropped the key on the front desk then stepped out the door. I walked down the hill with the day now completely overcast - a thick gray quilt of cloud pressed low over the town and beyond past all horizons. I walked well into town, found a cab near the Hilton and took it to the airport on the outskirts of town down the road from the marina. It looked about the same size as the one in Ketchikan, a small one story steel framed terminal building with an adjacent tower; and it looked like hell to fly into for the air strip lay on what looked like an alluvial plain along the side of the great mountain. In overcast weather a pilot would have to have great faith in the landing electronics - a little too far one way and the planes into the mountainside, too far the other and it's into the drink.

After paying the cab I went inside the terminal building which was just a long room with a couple long formica counters for ticketing and baggage check in. The counters also doubled as boarding gates. A couple of dozen people were milling around waiting, some sitting on connected plastic chairs set in rows in the middle of the room. I didn't see any of the in-fashion jet setters seen in the trendiest terminals like Kennedy, Heathrow, or Los Angeles International; most everyone was casually dressed or dressed in Levis, boots, and flannels. Some even were in coats. I saw on the schedule board, behind the counter, that the one thirty flight was postponed due to the weather; but no matter, I got in the small line that was at the counter and was soon facing the agent, professionally dressed in blue knit pants and a white blouse. I requested a seat on the one thirty flight to Seattle. She nodded and quickly pecked out something on her computer keyboard, then she said, "There's no seats left. We are keeping a stand-by list."

"Oh," I said, surprised that it was sold out. "I called this morning – they didn't say anything about the flights being sold out. It's really sold out? It doesn't look crowded at all here in the terminal."

The agent explained, "You probably should have reserved a seat when you called. The plane comes in from Anchorage, picks up passengers here and then in Ketchikan. Between the three cities the flights are generally full."

"Oh," I said. Not having any choice I requested a slot on the stand-by list. The agent said I was number five on the list and assured me that my probability for getting a seat was about fifty-fifty.

Not liking those odds I asked, "What about the four o'clock flight?"

The agent did more pecking on her keyboard then said, "That flights already sold out. I can get you on standby there."

I nodded, resigned to whatever.

She then said, "Okay, you're seventh on that list."


I thanked her and walked slowly off. Now what was I going to do? I sat down on one of the plastic chairs to think this through. I was stuck up there, damn it; now what was I going to do? I would simply have to sit there and wait it out. If I didn't get on one of the planes then I would make a reservation for the next day's flights and simply stay at the airport until I got on a plane. It was that simple. I had to just sit there and wait because my finances wouldn't allow me to stay another night at the Cheshire and buy a plane ticket. People camped out in airports all the time as they awaited a flight. That was the size of it. So I sat back and relaxed. I felt a quiet calming come over me as I realized more that I was going back to Seattle, and from there home. I slouched back in the chair, calmed.

After a few minutes a plane flew overhead and made a loud thunderous screaming whoosh over the building. The building even vibrated and the window's shook. While I knew it was just a jet passing, I still felt a rise in my chest. Then it occurred to me how I was jumpy even over a passing jet. I sat up a little thinking how loud the sound had been. Then slowly I came to wonder what I was going to tell my father, and tell Nate for that matter. What was I going to say? Klug got a job and I didn't like being up in Juneau all by my lonesome? Couldn't say that. Though that was it really, the real deal. Then I thought, no - probably what I should do is go back to Seattle, hang with Smitty and the boys for a month or so and then get home. Then I could save face. I could say that I simply couldn't get a job – no jobs to be found. Nate and Klug they lucked out, I had no such luck. That would work. Most likely. Maybe.

Nate wouldn't be fooled. I could just see him giving me that look, nodding slowly and saying blank faced, "Couldn't get a job huh. Hmm. But Klug got a job."

Then I would answer back, "Yeah."

Nate would nod, purse his lips some and say again, "Hmm."

No he wouldn't buy into it. Then my father would say, nodding also, "Well, now that that’s done – what about Harvard?"

Yes, my father; that is what my father would say. My father, this man who got shot at flying bombers in the Great War. Who had endured far worse than anything I had seen or would see there in Alaska - all before the age of twenty-one. And he would say that because that’s where he wanted me – at Harvard. He wouldn't care that I had turned back. I knew my father thought that this expedition of ours was more folly that anything else, I speculated he saw it a simply a hiding out by me from the next phase in my maturing. I had heard enough from him over the years, especially in the Vietnam era, how he didn't think especially highly of youthful Homeric exploits that supposedly proved mettle by risking life and limb. The way he saw it, youth throughout history had been suckered into fighting the world's quarrels, had been packed off to wars and such because the older folk could not negotiate or mitigate their whims, ambitions or madness even. It was always some dumbly considered suspicion or fear, or some heroically laced myth of superiority or a manifest destiny, or acquisitive fancy, that got nation against nation and put stupid youths in harms way. I think a couple dozen bombing runs and a Texas hic president burned him out on life's adventure. He had been there done that, seen it for what it was – or at least for what it had been for his place and time.

Then I started realizing that I was panicked, chock full of anxiety, shell shocked in a way - and about what? I started thinking how perhaps this little adventure of ours had brought me to a personal ceiling of sorts – and that ceiling was not that impressively high. Quite low actually. I was a sissy.

All those story's I had grown up reading, all those movies where heroes simply and coolly performed. It was one thing to read the story's another to live them; even just a lightweight semblance of one. And that was really what we had going there – a lightweight semblance of one. This was no moon shot, no Everest climb, no sashay to the North Pole; this was no daylight bombing of Nazi Germany in a B-17, wading ashore on Omaha on D-day, no standing firm at Thermopylae, or at the Alamo. This was no risk of falling over the rim of the world, or being wracked on Cape Horn, or being made a meal of by Cannibals. This was no first flight, or first flight to Paris, or taking a Glamorous Glenna out on a first date with a sound barrier, or first global orbit as a spam in a can, no first step. This was just getting a job in a rugged place, doing some hard work. The hazards were talked about, perhaps talked up, but the chances of injury or death were likely slim really. The odds against it. How many ships went out every year and how many returned? How many cars drove the California freeways every year and how many collided? I suspected the statistical ratios were likely surprisingly similar. Whatever dragon I was hearing in a cave I was puffing it up.

Then I thought about a movie, Twelve O'clock High where Gregory Peck tells the lame duck squadron he's taken command of, how to get through it – the war that is – that it was best to consider yourself already dead. "You're already dead, stop thinking about it. It'll be a lot easier that way." I guess you call that the swaggering one owes a death anyway school. I remembered how after I had watched that movie I wondered if that was how my dad had gotten through. And I had asked him. Mostly closed mouthed about it, as always, he simply paused as he thought on it and then with a slight glinting smile he said. "Actually Joe, I don't think I got through by thinking I was dead, that it was over for me. No. I got through I'd say by thinking it was some other guy who was already dead, and that it was over for him."

I prodded him a little more on it, not quite accepting what I took as a glib answer for such a serious topic. Reluctant to talk further of it, he said simply, "Well Joe I got through obviously. Maybe I was just too young to know any better. The way it works I think, after all is said and done, is you just get through or you crack up. Simple as that. Some do better at it than others. And often you are surprised at the ones who handle it pretty well, guys you thought were somewhat derelict, turn out to be quite impressive. And you're often surprised at those that don't handle it so well. Guys that appeared strong – sometimes they crack. Look – I think it does help to an extent to think in terms that well, one owes the god's a life – if you happen to be in that situation - and you can't get out, for whatever reason. Maybe that sounds heroic, I don't think so; it's just a way of sloughing off a reality. Just keep something in mind Joe - heroics are overrated. Often hero's are too. Often hero's are just some lucky guy among many that performed that gets recognized." And that was all he would say on it – he did, as he shooed me out of his study, give me a book on the Battle of Britain; he told me to give it a read, that maybe it would shed more light on my questions. After reading the book, I still remember what struck me most was how the flyers indeed had a way about them. In the face of daily death, how they joked and passed it all off with a certain slang and swagger. In a way, a vocabulary ment for heroics: when you died you Bought It, or Had Gone for a Burton, or it was Curtains; made a mistake, it was a Boob; when you had to go, you Got Cracking; ammo was Mixed Death; if you were in grave trouble you were Down the Drain; going in for the kill was Tally Ho; if missing in action you were Gone for Six; heated action was a Dust-Up; the morgue was the Body-Snatcher; when in battle or out of control you were In a Flap; a good flyer knew His Onions; if you were in an intense flap you were in A Panic, or in A Party; getting shot up was A Pasting; a crash was A Prang. All this pithy colloquial was obviously to make light of a most thorny situation. Mental gravel easing the drive over reality.

I came to realize that I was simply backing off a situation that for whatever the reason had become difficult for me. I didn’t like being alone up there in the wildwoods, didn’t like having limited and depleting finances, didn't like the idea of going out and getting a job as a rugged individualist; somehow as a group effort it was all okay really, a fun thing. But alone, well, that I didn't like. But the real of it was – I had gone up there for a reason. Perhaps it was not a good or well thought out reason - but I was up there nonetheless. And while I listened to my father's objections to youthful adventuring, the naivety and frivolity of Homeric exploits, I also realized there was something to be said in coming to such lessons from the doing and not from the listening. My father had done the thing, he was speaking from first hand knowledge, but then I had not done the thing. Thus opinions aside regarding the value of the lessons – there still remained the value of going through the lesson. If you entered the cave and found the dragon cowering and fearful, all talk and bluster – the fact still remained that you entererd the cave. Now I knew my father wasn't decrying the power of the dragon, or the mettle proving that went into fighting the dragon, my father's beast was no fairy tale, it turned out quite real and to be far more horrid than first estimated. He had been ambushed, like the Southerners who thought the North would be a push over. As I considered it, I realized there was merit in the folly, in going into the cave. One had to go into personal caves. That indeed was what got man out of the cave, out of the original Eden, northward, southward, eastward, westward, into new worlds, new lives; it was something as fundamental as what changed the color in Darwin's moth, what prodded Pericles and Caesar, Columbus, and Drake, what drives us upward and outward to moons and planets. I realized, as good a man as my father was, he was wrong. It was not to Harvard I needed to go, or any more schooling for that matter. I needed to go into a personal cave – and the entrance was there in front of me - forward, not backward, and foreword was north, not south. And perhaps it would be a mistake, a small one – or even a big one, a life altering one, and perhaps even ultimately a mistake for all time. But I was coming over to the belief that I had to risk it – and besides I didn't think the risk was all that great. And I was not the type to slough off that which I decided to do. I knew I could be casual about it all, laugh it off – say gawd what a dumb thing it was we did – lite out to Alaska to get jobs fishing. Like a comidic protagonist, like Lear's Fool, or a Faulstaf, big plans, little gains. But the real of it was, I was no Faulstaf or Fool, I may have been hiding out with the fold in self-indulgent fun and frolic, but at some point I realized I had to decide – which would it be, the fool or Hal. The fool stayed a fool, Hal became Henry. The way I then saw it, I had no choice really. I was up there, my decision had already been made, it was simply time to get cracking.

I rose from my plastic seat and walked up to the agent at the ticket counter and told her to take my name off the stand-by list; then I left the terminal building to the parking lot and hailed a cab. As the cab left the parking lot, turning back toward the town, I thought about something my football coach at Princeton had told us once when against Yale we were down twenty three to fourteen with just over two minutes left – two minute drill. He said, "Time to put you're head down and think only of doing your job." Then I thought how that was rather like Nelson signaling to his ships at Trafalgar: England expects everyone to do their duty. And he meant everyone, from the lowliest before the mast to his fellow Admirals; and I suppose they all did. Then coming to mind was something I had read in that Battle of Britain book: how character is what you are in the dark. So I told myself, you're in the dark now – but there are worse darks, lots worse. I rather concluded that I needed to settle in on these conclusions, that my thinking was actually hindering and getting the better of me. Time to get your head down and do the job at hand. My next stop was the marina. I decided to tally ho over and see what the prospects were for getting a job.

As we drove back, the mountainside and the dull green forest filling the windows on the one side, the water and overcast on the other, I thought how though I was going back - it truly could have gone the other way. How I could be on the plane telling myself how good it would be to be going back home. And I probably would have believed it with only slight compunction - that was how vulnerable the mind really was. What had kicked in and turned my mind toward thinking in terms of staying, of going onward, I could not isolate it, or identify it, specifically. It could have been simply the base motivation of how it would look to Nate and the others; and I suppose my father – for I suspected that though I thought my father would gladly see me back, somewhere in him he would say that I had shirked – and shirked again. In fact I speculated he likely saw goldbricks all over my character – that my foregoing Harvard was a missed payment of sorts. Yet I knew what I was now doing - my staying - was what I was supposed to do, the course that had eventuated. It was that simple, yet that elusive. I had doubts; of the merits behind my staying, of the merits of my staying; but these doubts were ebbing, wearing from some inner push and confidence, and sense of purpose; and these doubts I knew it was time to shunt them aside, I had placed the order, the product was on its way. It was time, I simply had to quiet my thinking and I resolved myself to this. I shored myself and put my head down, so to speak, and went forward.

At the marina I walked around the docks awhile talking with the fisherman, hoping of course that by some outside chance I too, like Klug, would luck out and readily ease my way onto a boat. Klug that lucky bastard. But it was nothing doing. Out of the half dozen crab boats docked I soon found that all had full crews. One skipper even said, "Probably be hard findin' a job round here. Most a the crab boats up here already got full crews, you prob'ly ought to go to Kodiak or Dutch Harbor, more boats up there."

I knodded and said, "Yeah, well thanks." But I was thinking wasn't that what they were saying in Seattle. Go north, go north. Now there I was, up north and I was still hearing it. I was running out of North.

Then the skipper smiled and laughed, "Shoulda been here this mornin' some kid from Seattle landed a job."

"You don't say," I deadpanned.

"Yep - sometimes it just happens that way. I talked to the kid - he had just come up on some other boat. He didn't even have any experience. Big kid though. You ever work on a boat?"


"Yeah, well important thing is too look like you can handle the work. The kid this morning sure did - and you're 'bout his size. Go up north - you'll get a job."

I nodded and said my adieus, then decided to check into taking his advice about heading north. I pulled from my pocket that notice I had ripped from the telephone pole and asked someone where Airport Way was located. By the airport of course. There were no cabs around so I decided to walk and try and hitch a ride the few miles back to the airport. It was nearing three o'clock. The day was still overcast yet sunlight was breaking through the clouds in the distance over the channel. A couple of light rays were beaming down like spotlights onto the water. And the water looked very still, mirror-like with slight oily undulations and its color was leaden.

I hiked about fifteen minutes down the road about the girth of the mountain; a car and a truck passed and I stuck out my thumb, waving for a ride, but the drivers kept on; I saw them keep facing foreword pretending not to see me. Then an older pick up came down the highway and I could see the driver looking at me, I put out my arm and thumb and the truck pulled over. It was a rusting hulk of a pick-up, a wine red color. After throwing my bag into the back bed I got into the cab. Behind the wheel was a younger kid, high school aged, with scruffy ill-kept brown hair and faint whisker stubbles, mostly just on his pale chin. "Where you headed?" He asked.


"Figures." He said.

"You going out there?"

"I'm goin' just past – but I can drop you."

"Thanks. I'm going to some street called Airport Way?"

He nodded, "Yeah – that's out there."

His front lip was swelled slightly with tobacco. We drove in silence; the airport was only a couple miles ahead. As he drove he sort of leaned forward into the steering wheel. At one point he said, "Looks like rain maybe."

"Yeah, looks like it." I said.

That was the extent of our social niceties for the duration. As we came by the airport he turned toward a short street, coming just before the drive going to the airport terminal, lined with small haphazard looking and placed commercial buildings. He pulled over and said, "Airport Way, right here."

I nodded and said as I climbed out, "Thanks, appreciate it."

He waved me off slightly with a lift of his arm and a pointed finger. After I closed the door I started walking up the street on way, and the kid and the truck drove off in another direction and that was that – the extent of our interaction.

Soon I was walking up to a steel sided quonset hut painted a navy gray labeled with the address on the notice. An older pick up truck was parked in front near the door at one end of the building.

I walked through the door into an almost empty area under the curved ceiling. There was just a gray steel standard office desk near the room's mid point and a steel filing cabinet standing behind it. Behind the desk was a lean pale faced man in a dark leather pilots jacket; he had a large nose and high forehead with a thinning crop of brown curly hair. He was talking on the phone and his voice resonated within the hollowness of the building, he said, "Half of it's filled." Then a pause. "There's plenty a jobs." Another pause. "No we don't guarantee it. Look we're an airline, not an employment agency."

I walked over by the desk and he glanced up at me then back down and continued, "Look I don't know, I really don't . . . That's what we heard . . . huh-huh . . . I don't know, we make no guarantees . . . huh-huh . . . tonight we got one, tomorrow morning . . . Right . . . Better get in here soon . . . okay bye . . . yeah bye now."

Then he hung up the phone and looked up at me. I handed him the notice, "This you guys."

"Sure is."

"When's your next flight to Dutch Harbor?"

"Five thirty - bout an hour."

"Any seats available?"


"How much?"

"One eighty five."

"Says one sixty on the ad," I said and pointed to the paper.

"Yeah well, we got taxes - and this is an old ad."

"All I have is one sixty."

He looked up at me a moment, sitting quiet. He blinked once. I guessed he was sizing me up to determine if I was being truthful. I reemphasized, "Seriously - that's it."

"One-sixty huh?"

I nodded, "Yeah."

He slowly nodded his head to each side as if coming around, "Okay - give me the money."

I pulled out from my pocket my folded wad of bills and counted out a hundred and sixty, then refolded and pocketed the remaining bills. He looked at the remaining money, his eyes following it into my pocket then said, "Thought you only had one sixty?"

"That's all I have for airfare - with the rest I have to pay for my room here in town."

He took my money and began counting it and said, "I should make you pay the full fare and you could forget about the hotel."

"Not pay the hotel bill?"

"That's right - how bad do you want to go to Dutch Harbor?"

"We agreed I thought."

"We did - I didn't say I was gonna, just that I should."

He wrote out a receipt from a generic receipt book with carbons between the pages and said it was my plane ticket and to be at the airport by five fifteen sharp, at gate one, that the plane leaves at five thirty, and I was allowed only two bags.

"How longs the flight?" I asked.

"'Bout four hours," he said.

I left and walked the mile or so to the airport terminal wondering all the way how I was going to live in Dutch Harbor on Twenty eight dollars. I kept telling myself how I shouldn't worry really, that I had heard and read plenty of stories about guys who had made it, who had rolled into their respective promised land with only a few dollars in their pockets. Los Angeles and Hollywood were supposed to be replete with such stories. Still I felt very much as if I had left myself wide open to destiny's hands. The sky seemed to have closed up more which I took as a questionable sign - the plane might be delayed. Then I told myself not to worry about it – that it was out of my hands; and to just stop worrying in general. While I waited at the airport I bought a postcard picturing the city with a headline over it in cursive, "Greetings from Juneau." I wanted to purchase more but they were seventy five cents each. On the back, printing way small and taking up all the space, I wrote:

Dear Everyone,

Nate has job on a crab boat, Klug found one today on a better boat, Brad's in Seattle, now its just me. I'm about an hour from flying to crab fish capitol USA - Dutch Harbor Unalaska. Why Un-Alaska? Beats me. Guessing it's so unlike rest of mighty place: thus expecting swaying palms, blistering sun cooling tropical rains, and topless maidens in grass skirts ready for whatever.

Love Joe.

After dropping the card in the mail, I made an inquiry and was told gate one was on the outside of the terminal along a chain link fence. As the clock neared five-twenty I took my bag and walked outside. Near the gate there were about a dozen others standing around. They all looked as if they would be going to a place called Unalaska, a rough hewn mostly backwoods lot. All were wearing some form of leather work boot, jeans, flannel and wool shirts, a couple wore parkas – even though it was summer, beards and long hair, a couple of large heavy women, dull indian expressions on plain weather-beaten faces. I probably looked way too fresh and well scrubbed. Then I heard from a ways off, on the runway, the loud rumbling pocketing sound of engines on a prop driven plane. Slowly rolling toward the gate was an old DC3 cargo plane with twin oval shaped tails. It had no windows and it was painted a metallic silver that shimmered as it moved. As it pulled closer to the fence the engine noise was loud and deafening to the ears and vibrated the ground. The people around me began to stir, picking up bags and slowly shifting toward the gate. Then the plane stopped, the engine drone lessened, there was a few popping noises, and soon the props slowed and with a flipping airy winding sound they came to a stop. A door in the fuselage, near the tail, opened and a man hung a short metal stairway out of the doorway, then came out and walked over to the gate. Another man came from the terminal and opened the gate and shouted, "Plane to Dutch Harbor - get your tickets ready."

One by one we were allowed through the gate as we presented our receipts. I followed the line of those in front of me as we all walked across the tarmac to the plane, then up the steel stairs, which gave a light clang sound as we climbed up. Inside the fuselage it was like walking into a steel cylinder. The metal ribs and cords of the frame were exposed. A narrow wood plank floor was laid down the middle and painted gray, and a narrow aluminum bench was along each sidewall with a narrow aluminum backrest, like bleacher seats. While we all slowly walked in the man who had opened the door said loudly, "Step to the front please, all the way to the front." I was wondering if the plane was some old military surplus job. Bags were stowed under the bench and above in a shelf of black nylon netting, then we made ourselves as comfortable as we could on a spot along the bench. Seatbelts of gray nylon strapping were located on the bench about every couple of feet so we could strap ourselves in per, I suppose, some regulation. When the door closed, bare bulbs within small metal jar shaped cages alit dully lighting the interior. Both sides of the fuselage were lined with passengers, and in the dull light, the primitive simple and worn look of most of the passengers seemed to come out more noticeably. They were all working class people, plebeians they might be called by some of the truly arrogant. They were dressed for a harsh environment and lifestyle, and by the lined and haggard but passive looks permanently etched over their weathered faces, they looked as if they had endured that environment and the hard work for more than a few years. And they all looked this way, even the few women on board. Many were oriental; many had the dark skin and black hair of the Eskimo. It seemed to me I was by far the junior on the passenger list.

A narrow door at the front of the airplane opened and a guy in black baseball cap - the pilot - I presumed - poked his head out and said, "Okay folks - better buckle up if you can find a belt on your seat there. We'll be taken off here now."

I was feeling a little uncomfortable and claustrophobic. After all just what was the safety record of the airline? I had read that the DC 3 had an excellent record of safety and longevity, but then was I on a DC 2? I had never heard of any planes going down with perhaps a couple of dozen passengers aboard up in the Alaskan territories - but then did they report such things? Then I heard the engines pop and wind over, first slowly a few times with a whipping flipping wheezing sound then into the grinding drone of almost full speed. The plane vibrated, and the steel seat vibrated like a continuous mild sort of earthquake. It was uncomfortable and irritating really and I wondered if I would have to put up with it for the duration of the flight. Then there was a jerking motion and in unison everyone jerked to one side then the other, then I could feel us rolling. After a minute or so we came to a stop and waited a couple minutes. Then the engines were revved even higher and the vibration increased in pitch and thus became less uncomfortable, feeling like a kind of vibratory massage. Then the plane started rolling again and I could feel myself being pulled toward the back of the plane. I could feel the bumps in the runway coming like small slight swells. Thump...Thump...Thump… Everyone was bouncing a little in their seat with each bump. Then we stopped again and I think we turned, and the engine wound into a higher pitched din, so loud it was deafening. Then, with a big jerk, we started moving again. The bouncing from the runway came fast and everyone was bouncing, our shoulders bobbing in unison. Then the bouncing stopped, my stomach went light and tingled. I felt the fuselage tip skyward and I knew we had swept airborne from the tarmac, upward into the great Alaskan sky. Each of my fellow passengers remained sitting still and sullen, stoically accepting the lack of comfort and the noise. It occurred to me that this was how soldiers were airlifted, and this must be what it was like to go to war.

10 The continual roaring droning din of the engine filled the ears and made casual conversation impossible. The quarters were cramped, the vibration seemed to harden the metal seats hardness. After the initial uniqueness of the situation, time passed slowly. A few of the others had their heads down, their chins resting on their chests, they appeared to be sleeping; their bodies slowly swayed with the slight continual sideways slightly roundabout movement of the fuselage. No one was reading - the light was too dim. At one point I looked at my watch thinking we had been airborne for at least an hour and it had only been half that. The air was cold. I was wearing a lightweight pullover jacket over a flannel shirt, but it was not really enough. I was cold. That and the engine noise and cramped quarters kept me from dozing off. As my rear end began to ache I tried repositioning my buttocks, various and slight moves as best I could within the confines of my place - leaning barely over to one side, then the other, then back more over my tail bone; then I tried crossing my legs at the knee, then at the ankles. Eventually I had to go back to just sitting up straight grinning and bearing it. After a couple of hours the bottom half of my body was numb, as if asleep, the feeling in my rear was a dull tingling sensation probably akin to what is felt by someone paralyzed from the waist down. And the sand just eked, grain-by-grain, through the hourglass. In hell, I determined, you sit on a red-hot stove with a clock in front of you're face. And the devil says to you as he sits you down, with a jaunty smile, “You just have to sit there ol’ chap for an hour. Just an hour.” Then as he walks away he stops and turns and says, “Oh by the way, just so you know, each tick of the second hand is a million years.” Then he disappears laughing uproariously.

Four hours came and finally went, and I thought: the guy did say four hours? The flight was supposed to be four hours – right? It was coming on ten in the p.m. That was over four damn hours. Shit. Another damn sales pitch. It would be over five hours before one of the pilots finally emerged from the front door. Finally the door opened and he emerged and stepped a few paces down the isle shouting, "Okay buckle up for landin'." And that was it; he then stepped back into his sanctuary away from his cargo of riff raf. Soon I felt a tickling in my stomach - the pangs of descent. The tickling elongated into wells of tingling as the plane seemed to be dipping in long sweeps as if descending in spurts, ersatz fate. There was one long lowering sweep and my stomach seemed to rise and then it settled, then another couple of dips, my stomach tingling, then a long settling in and an unexpected jerking and bouncing. I could hear the skidding of the wheels touching ground. Soon we were rolling over the runway and everyone was bouncing at the shoulders again. As the plane slowed almost to a stop, the cockpit door up front opened again and the same man came walking down the isle to the fuselage door which he opened. The plane came to a stop and the engines puttered and spit and I could hear the props flipping and whining to a stop. Then the man at the door said, "Okay folks, Unalaska."

Immediately there was the clacking and dinging of buckles being undone and the belts dropped to the side. Everyone seemed to stand simultaneously, some bent over to pull their bags out from under the bench, others reached for bags stored up in the raised rack. Then slowly, single file, we all drained our way out of the plane. As I came near the door I could see that it was still light - and the light had a whitish-gray tint to it; and when I came to the door I could see that it was overcast. Above was a blanket of clouds with blushes of darker gray in the folds of the clouds. It looked like rain. I slowly stepped down the metal stairs and onto the tarmac and slowly walked away from the plane.

The air hit me - it was cool, almost cold, probably in the forties. I stopped and pulled a sweatshirt out of my bag and pulled it on over my pullover jacket; then I stepped over to the side of the tarmac. Before me was just a single concrete airstrip with a few blades of grass growing up between joints. There was a small cinder block shack next to the tarmac with a steeply hipped roof made of corrugated steel sheeting. A windsock, a dull white hung from a pole on the roof. The concrete airstrip stretched far into a meadow between a low hill toward the ocean and a high mountain inland that broadened from a narrow rounded summit. Deep in the meadow and along the sides of the airstrip was a tall thick bladed grass, a tundra. The grass looked gray under the overcast and small white flowers flecked over the expanse throughout. All around the land swept into several peaked summits and all of it seemed to be contoured with undulating and folding swells, many of which rose to sharpened twisting edges, many slight gray parabolic dunes twisting and curving, rising and folding, a complex undulating pattern like the swelling in a mildly rough sea. And all of it treeless, covered with the grass, a bald land. Distantly, the land took on a hard edge, as if the land had eroded, as if the millenniums of rain and snow had washed into the sea all but the most stubborn, hardened and essential earth. Over this flabless soul and bone was a taught skin of the tundra which looked over the stubborn earth like a dark moss over the face of rock. There was not a terminal next to the airstrip, no skycaps, tour guides, limo drivers or hospitality hosts, not even a cab. No, just the bare somber land. A wind was blowing steadily and the grass fluttered and shimmered. There were a couple of dirty old pickups one black, one white, with a few people standing around to greet a few of the arrivals. But apparently most of us were on our own.

From the plane, framed in the doorway, the pilot shouted, "For those who don't know - down the way is Dutch Harbor, then at the other end of town across the inlet is Unalaska. If your goin' to a cannery it's in Dutch Harbor." Then he picked up the stairway and shut the door, and the gathering of passengers near the plane dispersed.

At the edge of the tarmac was a road that went through the meadow then disappeared bending around a slight hillside. I picked up my bags and started walking - following a few others that had already started. I passed a man and lady standing next to a pickup. I caught the man's eye and said, "Looks like rain huh."

He nodded slowly and smiled a little and said, "Most likely."

"Rains allot up here?"

"Bout every day."

Well that was great news, I thought, as I walked passed them. Around me was a virtual mossy moonscape, and if the airport was any indication I was likely going to find myself in some dink town without any accommodations, no Hilton or Sheraton, or even Cheshire, but that would not matter because I could not afford a room anyway. Especially there in this land of two dollar cups of coffee and five dollar hot dogs. I thought well here you are Poindexter, now what? The apparent headstrong impetuosity of my decision to come up there to this Dutchy of Harbor was becoming ever more apparent. A whole new round of serious and banal and bluing woes, which I thought had been left behind in Juneau, were surfacing. I was realizing it was not a marvelous picture before me. What if it rained? I didn't even have a fucking tent, or even a decent rainproof coat. No money for a motel, barely any for food, what the hell was I thinking about? I was quickly realizing I was woefully unprepared.

After coming around the hill the road dipped then inclined down through brief uplands. I found myself well above the town and the bay with most of it in the view. Pressing over all of it was the dense low level overcast. Clouds mostly gray with hues of darkness cradled throughout. The cloud cover so blocked the sun that over all the island any color was neutralized; looking at the vast tundra fields was like looking at a lawn in a moonlit darkness, all color gone out, the eyes blinded to all but the far reaches of the spectrum. I thought it looked like a big dung heap rising from the brine. The bay was significant, a few miles across and several miles long; formed on one side by a range of mountains which curved along the length like a quarter moon. The elevations were comparably lower to the mountains down south – one to two thousand at the highest, thus the mountains there were more hills with a more rugged mountainous tracing. The highest peak of the range was behind me on the other side and rising beyond the airstrip - indeed the strip and meadow lay on a plateau low on the mountain slope. This mountain loomed high over the island, a couple thousand feet - almost twice that of the other mountains along the range - made it appear as if this high mountain was the anchor for the range. Straight ahead in the far distance a lone mountain with a pointed peak capping a wide distending slope rose out of the water to form the other side of the bay. A peninsula, beginning as a narrow knoll coming off the high mountain, but flattening then widening toward the middle of the bay, extended to the lone mountain. An isthmus lay just at the end of the knoll. Over the flat area of the peninsula lay most of the town. Between the lone mountain and the end of the range was an opening to the sea - I estimated it to be six or seven miles from where I stood. On the far side of the mountain from where I stood, and the other side of the peninsula, was the open sea. It was quite evident the industry of fishing dominated the town. Factory, warehouse and small office buildings, boxes of various size, with roofs flat, peaked and curved, were crowded over the flat low lying land along the bay front. All of it concentrated below the high mountain and on the peninsula. It also looked like some of the town spread over the peninsula to trickle out with a few huts and cabins at the base of the lone mountain. I saw many fishing boats - most were crabbers - parked along docks and wharfs along the buildings all along the waterfront. Just below me was a large processing ship which looked like a cargo ship - and likely once was, then converted over; it was docked next to a long factory building. I saw in various locals along the waterfront four long and substantial buildings. Each of these was joined by a concentration of smaller buildings. Most of the fishing boats I saw were docked next to the large buildings; these concentrations, therefore, I guessed were the canneries. Most of the living part of town looked to be on the widened section of the peninsula past the isthmus. Commingled among all of the structures were several large cylindrical tanks and a couple of water towers. A large navy gray slipway crane, three or four stories high, rose along the waterfront on the far side of the peninsula. Lights in windows, on docks, on the sides of the buildings, and on boats, glowed as white fluorescent pocking over the gray shaded scene. I could see amid it all people and forklifts moving over the docks and in and between the buildings. I saw trucks being loaded in front of a couple of the buildings. But for the most part the town itself looked strangely quiet, no traffic or even people out and about, all the movement was at the perimeter of the scene, on the interior it was ghostly still.

I walked a couple hundred yards down to what looked like a main road which ran along the shoreline at the base of the high mountain and the peninsula to the isthmus - there a single decked barge ferry connected the road to the flattened area of the peninsula. It was about a mile to the ferry, and on the hike I walked past one of the long substantial buildings. As I walked up I saw it was actually one of three large buildings in a cannery complex that was within a valley nestled into the lower uplands of the high mountain. From my earlier vantage I was not able to see the other buildings within the valley.

The building along the shore was long and three stories and all sided in corrugated steel sheeting painted a light color that looked like a dull white in the overcast; the roof was hipped and covered with dark asphalt shingles. A building less long but spread out was across the street. A garage and warehouse was on the bottom floor, and it looked like offices were on the second, it was also steel sided but had a flat roof. There were four smaller buildings deeper into the valley. These buildings, each were two storied, were made of gray cinderblock and looked like some type of housing. Each had five or six windows along each floor. On the side of the long building, on the waterfront, was a wood sign with carved raised letters reading: UNISEA PACKERS. Down from this complex were more buildings; all were smaller, storage, barn and garage type. A couple looked like houses with clapboard siding and patched roofs; I could see that inside were offices. There were several mobile office trailers set up next to the warehouse buildings and along the road. It was much like the waterfront along Lake Union, yet in Seattle there were more concrete buildings less of the steel sided and no office trailers. As extensive as the industry appeared, upon closer inspection, the superstructure smacked of the ad interim.

I came to the ferry landing - a pier extending out into the channel with a wood driving ramp and chute for the ferry to slip into. Soon the ferry came across and pulled into the pier. A small old dirty white pick up truck drove off and over the ramp. Then I stepped aboard. I was the only passenger. Somehow the town had well assimilated all my fellow air travelers, the last one I had seen had been walking well in front of me as I came down the hill into the UNISEA complex. The ferry jerked ahead as it started out from the pier and I could hear the bubbling of the water and the rumbling of the throttled engines. On the side of the barge was a small pilots hut, about the size of a phone booth. The house was split into twin sides with a brass steering wheel on the each side of the center wall, thus coming or going in the channel the driver could face in the proper direction. All of it was painted in a navy gray. The driver headed us toward the landing on the opposite side, then came over. He said, "Fifty cents."

He was younger, a teenager with long red hair, wavey and ill combed. He wore a well soiled down jacket with several rips over it. I handed him two quarters and asked, "Any cheap hotels around here?"

He gave me an odd and confused look. Probably wondering what I was doing way up there without knowing anything about the town. He said, "Yeah there's the UNISEA - it's ahead there just over those hills."

His head nodded toward two small knolls in the middle of the flat peninsula.

"Is it cheap?"

"I don't know," he said shrugging. "Never had to stay there. There's Carl's Inn. Just a small place with a few rooms - might be cheaper."

"That's it huh?"

"Yeah - pretty much."

"The cannery's have places to live right?"

"Oh yeah - but I think you can only stay there if your workin' for em."

"I'm trying to get a job fishing."

He nodded, "Yeah lot a guys come up here for that - especially since they started makin' the money."

"The money's good huh?"

"Sometimes I guess. Last few years have been good. We'll see this year."

"Any jobs around you think?"

He nodded to the side, "Heck I dunno. The canneries always seem to have work. I hear it ain't easy gettin' a boat job. I work on my dad's boat."

"He fishes for crab?"

He laughed out of his nose slightly, "Naw - gotta be crazy for that. He fishes halibut and salmon. He's out now off Kiska." He reached into the pilothouse and turned the wheel deftly steering the ferry toward the wood chute against the bank. As we neared, he pulled on the throttle lever and the engine rumbled. I felt the boat slow, and could hear the water bubble and splash against the wall of the chute.

"So how come your not with your dad?" I asked.

"Doesn't need me for salmon. And I got this job. Salmons just a short season, a few weeks."

I nodded and said, "Well, thanks for the info." I said as I disembarked and he gave a half-hearted wave.

I followed the drivers directions and walked toward the grassy knolls that rose in the middle of the peninsula. The road I was on was paved with gravel and was rough, pocked, and cracked; intersecting and branching off this road were gravel roads and dirt paths. There were several houses along the gravel streets, most looked prefabricated - plywood shoe boxes with hipped roofs. There were also a few of the more traditional clapboard sided that I had seen in Juneau and Ketchikan. The gravel roads drew a small matrix over the peninsula, and the houses and factory buildings were located neatly, conforming to the lines of the matrix, everything in rows on square plots between the roads. The only structures that appeared haphazardly placed were those along the meandering shoreline. I came to the hotels. Both were across the street from the other. The UNISEA was a two-story cinderblock box, like a big shoebox. Carl's was just a long clapboard sided building, a single story with a flat roof. I don't know why I was even checking out these local hostelries. Perhaps I was hoping that they were somehow quite reasonable and that my limited funds would cover a night or two. Perhaps I was just rather trying to get hold of some sort of bearings. I really didn't know nor did I put any thought to it, I was simply looky-looing about.

I walked into Carl's first. In cleanliness it was definitely several steps up from The Cheshire, yet it was lacking the antiquated charm. It was an ascetic, purely functional place, a big dormitory, just a small front office with a counter and next to that a hallway leading to the rooms. There was not even a picture or any sort of frivolous decor on the walls or anywhere - there were not even fanciful lamps - the lighting was all from neon box lights over the ceiling. The most decorative item was flecked vinyl over the floor. Behind the counter an older man was sitting on a metal folding chair listening to a transistor radio through an earplug in his ear. When I stepped up to the desk he removed the earplug and stood up. I asked, "How much are the rooms?"

"Just a single?" he asked.

I nodded, "Yeah."

"Seventy a night. But the thing is I'm all filled up probably till the end a the month. It's the vacation season up here - and salmon season. So were pretty busy - and it'll last through August."

"People come up here on vacations?"

"Oh sure, this place and the UNISEA are filled from June through August."

"What's to do 'round here?"

"They come to see where the Japs bombed in World War Two; then for the wildlife, to fish, they take the boat to the Pribilofs."

"The Pribilofs?"

"Yeah - the Northern Galapagos Islands - bunch a rocks in the middle of the ocean with a lot a different kinds a birds - and the fur seals mate there."

I thought, hmm birds and sexy seals. I asked, "So where'd the Japanese bomb?"

"Right here in Dutch Harbor just before they attacked Midway."

"So what's there to see?"

"Not much really, there's a memorial, some bomb craters and a graveyard."

I vaguely remembered my history of the Great War about a skirmish there, on the outskirts of civilization, the only armed confrontation in the Second World War on the North American continent.

"So the hotel across the street - think they're all filled?"

"Yep, likely they are - generally they fill up before we do."

"Is it more expensive?"

"Yeah, it's the town's luxury hotel."

"The Ritz huh?"

He smiled a little, "Yeah - real downtown."

"What do they charge?"

"Ninety, I think."

I nodded. I was stalling a bit, making conversation, not quite wanting to leave the warmth and comfort of the room. I also wanted to do something with my bags. I was tired of lugging them around. I asked the man, "Could I leave my bag here for a couple of hours? Till I get something figured out?"

He nodded, "Sure."

"You’re here all night?"

He nodded again, "Yeah - but if I'm in the back asleep I'll leave em' right here behind the desk. Just reach back and grab em."

"Great, thanks," I said as I handed the bag over to him.

Then reluctantly I pulled away from the desk and again thanked the man.

"No trouble, hope you get settled," he said.

The outside now seemed colder. The sky above looked grayer. And I was hungry. I was not comfortable. The question nagged - how was I to eat and sleep in the comfort of an inner sanctum of some sort. I was avoiding the answer. It was stark and too real; I was likely not - not going to eat much, and end up in the hills someplace on a bed of tundra. And so, true to my vulnerable state, I walked across the road to the UNISEA hotel to again find at least a scrap of solace within another warm lobby - this one more modern but almost as spartan as Carl's. This lobby had a couple black vinyl coaches, a cigarette and candy vending machine, a couple plain shaded lamps on side tables, a coffee table with magazines, and even over the clean white walls a couple framed photographs in black and white of the island in earlier times. From what I had seen the place didn’t look much different in the old photos. I took a seat on one of the couches and picked up a magazine and started flicking through the pages. I was not paying any attention at all to the magazine, I didn't even notice what sort of magazine it was, I was becoming ever more deep in thought about just what the hell I was now going to do. I had come there placing full faith in the hands of destiny, now I was facing the cold slap of destiny's passive ways. Then I heard a woman's voice, "Excuse me?" she said.

I looked up and over to the side of the room to a formica counter built into an opening in the wall. A white haired old lady behind the counter was beckoning me. Her face was plain and friendly and her white hair had a slight gray sheen within. I said, "Ah yes?"

"Can I help you?" she looked only slightly concerned.

"Oh no - I'm just supposed to meet somebody here."

She nodded, "Oh okay." Then she disappeared back behind the counter. I went back to looking but not seeing my magazine. I knew I couldn't stay there long. It was not like a big city hotel where one could loiter in the lobby all night and go virtually unnoticed. I had to think - and think quickly. I was beginning to resolve myself to the fact that I was probably going to end up sleeping outside and it was going to rain. It was simply too late in the evening to figure out anything definite. Maybe I should just go pound on some doors? But the thought of begging for a bed did not strike my fancy at all. I said to myself, "Think about it, just go up to some strangers door? It wouldn't work." I was not sure if it was pride or fear that kept that solution at bay, likely an alchemy of both.

Then the lady again interrupted my thought, "Would you like me to ring their room and tell them your here?" she said.

"Ah - no that's okay. They know I'm here. Thanks."

She nodded and smiled pleasantly, "Well okay."

I was not sure if she was just being nice or suspected my true intentions. Whatever it was, she was doing her job well, pleasantly edging me out, and letting me know that the UNISEA lobby was not a public lounge. I decided what I needed to do was kill as much time as I could that night inside anything with a roof, go find a restaurant, take a long dinner, then a bar, take a few long drinks. It was already almost ten. If I could kill three or four hours, any rain may then have come and gone or the clouds may clear. And if it didn't rain sleeping outside wouldn't be that bad. After all wasn't that what they used to do in the old frontier days when out traveling or exploring the wilderness? Back outside, and Earl Grey was still lord of the evening. And no one was out and about. It seemed rather a ghost town save the glowing of lights behind windows. Apparently the sidewalks rolled up early there in the Dutchy. So where was the Alpha Beta, the Denny's, or McDonald's? Or even a Stan's. There had to be a bar around there someplace. Apparently I had finally come to the last true frontier. Too inaccessible for the usual tokens of the matrix. I had joined the ranks of the pioneers. Then just as I was getting carried away with this final frontier stuff I turned a corner and before me there it was: a shopping center. A more primitive version than found down in the lower forty eight. It was not of stucco, there were no neon signs, but it did have within its cinderblock walls, a market, a liquor store, a small bank, and a dry goods outlet - and in front – a gravel parking lot. Everything was closed though, according to the hours posted on the market window, nine o'clock was the witching hour.

Still, there had to be a bar around. There had to be nightlife, what else was a man to do when he had finally had his fill of pursuing the dollar? Regardless of the local, there was nightlife, be it Paris, New Orleans, Rio - even Peoria had nightlife. I knew this for I had once been to Peoria - and nightlifed. There had to be something someplace for the nighthawks to go - or they would go stir crazy and go forth and harry and lay waste. Something somewhere had to be established to distract them. Even in older times they nightlifed - danced to drums around campfires and shrunk heads. Be it a smoke at the Carlton Club, or a shot of the light fantastic in the disco, or a beer at Stan's, it was in the human makeup. So where was it? Where did these Unalaskans go to let their hair down, where was the local hang?

I had walked past several intersecting gravel streets and had now found myself at the end of the peninsula at the shoreline. Around me were the buildings of another cannery complex. This one, according to the sign painted on the corrugated steel wall of a long and high warehouse building, was RB CANNERS. A large plywood modular building was next to the larger building, its windows alit with white neon office lights within. There was two other large warehouse buildings across the street, one with a loading dock. Then beyond those there were four long two-story dormitory-like buildings. Each was wood sided with a flat roof. A few of the windows glowed yellow from inside lighting. It struck me how the town was neatly laid out as if according to some grid pattern, yet there was no asphalt streets, or curb and gutters, or sidewalks, or even yards really. A couple of the houses did have stones laid out in lines surrounding the house as demarcation of their lot - their space; but there were no fences or walls. The place was too outbound for such staples of the matrix. No need for fences to make good neighbors. I walked through the general area of the RB Cannery complex and up another street; none of the streets had signs or any indications of names. Then coming in the other direction was a man in jeans and a long coat and a billed cap. When I got to him I asked, "Hey - is there a bar or a restaurant around here?"

He nodded and pointed up the street without saying a word. When I got closer to him I saw that he had dark reddish brown skin and black hair and his eyes were oval like an Eskimos. Perhaps he was. I followed his direction and about a quarter mile up I found The Elbow Room. I knew it had to be a bar - what else could it be? The name too - struck something familiar, I could not quite place it. From the outside it was not much, I think even Stan's would rate an extra star or two. At least Stan's was housed in a regular building that would be acceptable to any metropolitan building code. What was before me was best described per the lexicon of the architect as a shack; something out of the tidewater or tobacco road wood shed tradition. A wood floor was raised atop cinderblocks, the roof was half gabled like a lean-to, and the siding was made of boards stood vertically and lapped. A wood sign with the name painted with black block letters on a background of white was nailed over the door. Coming out of the sidewall toward the back was an aluminum stovepipe with a light gray smoke vaporing out. As I stood there a couple older men walked out the door, both had the fisherman look. One was wearing a wool plaid coat and knee high rubber boots, the other was in a jumpsuit and black boots and a billed cap. A pickup truck pulled up and stopped skidding slightly on the gravel. A younger man was in the back and two others in the cab. As soon as the truck was stopped all three jumped out and stepped hurriedly inside. All three had beards and had long hair protruding from under billed caps. Their clothes and caps were all well soiled, and all wore rubber boots. I followed the trio inside.

Regarding decor, the exterior only belied the interior slightly. Definitely of the dive phylum. The traditional darkened atmosphere helped. Inside was a long open room, interrupted with four wooden posts that rose to beams running lengthwise along the leaning ceiling. Small round wood tables surrounded by metal folding chairs were scattered around the floor along the front wall. The bar was along the back wall with a dozen or so wood stools in rank along the front. Over the ceiling hung between the beams was a fishnet with round corks. The front of the bar was paneled with stems of bamboo, and a mirror behind the bar was framed with the same. Over the bar was a false veranda covered with dry grass. Hanging between the posts just below the ceiling were Chinese paper lanterns and colored lights. A jute box was against the wall. The Polynesian flourishes, though feeble, and the splashes of color with the lanterns and lights did add something to the general bleakness. It was no Romanoff's, yet I had a yen for it really - it was Platonic - the dive of dives. There were about a dozen other patrons around, local café society, all essentially in the same mold as the others I saw outside. Gray smoke from cigarettes hung low and hazed the room. Only a mild conversational din accompanied the silent jute box. And I noticed a distinct fishy salty smell laced the air. I stood by the door a moment feeling much the Ishmeal. One thing I noticed readily was how clean I must have looked compared to everyone there with my fairly spotless clothes and boots, only mildly spotted with mud, clean shaven face, and neatly trimmed hair. I was a new stranger in town, obviously a greenhorn looking for a fistful of dollars, and right away existentalized by my spankish ways. I was a swank amid these far outbound provincials. I saw them as laboring nomads and I was a castaway. I decided to put aside such insecurities, this thinking was effecting and step up to the bar. None of the others appeared to notice me.

The bartender was a middle aged lady with black hair with streaks of gray. She came over and looked at me a second and smiled, her face within a general thickness had fine sharp features, with small wrinkles at the corner of the mouth and eyes. It was definitely once a pretty face, and she was likely, in her prime, what would have been described as a fine looking woman; it was distinctly a face that made me wonder what sort of circumambulations her life had taken to get her up there and behind that bar. I imagined a story: she was going to be a movie star but married a rich cannery tycoon who brought her to Dutch Harbor. The years passed and times went bad and he went broke. He hung himself, and with the scraps of money he left she, seeing the opportunity for a decent and consistent livelihood, opened the bar. "What can I get you?" she asked, her voice was deeper with only a hint of the higher feminine octaves.

"Got anything to eat?"

"Sandwiches - we have some baloney."

"How much for one?"

"Four dollars."

Gawd, highway robbery, I thought, then asked, "Got anything else maybe?"

"Beer nuts and hard boiled eggs."

"How much for an egg?"

She looked at me a second then her face turned quizzical, "You working here or visiting?"

"Working. Well I mean I'm going to be working."

She nodded, "Eggs are a quarter each."

Now that was deal, and I am sure my face broadened and lightened, "I'll take four eggs."

"Anything to drink?"

"How much is an orange juice?"

"Fifty cents."

"Well that's not bad - I'll take a glass of that too."

She smiled again and turned away to fill the order.

I looked around. It was mostly a rough and ruddy crowd. Beards and long hair, dirty work clothes, brown weather worn skin, all that sort of thing. And lots of smokes, cigarettes in most every mouth. The lady bartender came back and set a saucer with the eggs down in front of me with a tall glass of orange juice. My appetite was on overtime so the eggs looked quite appealing. I grabbed one immediately in one hand while with the other I reached into my pocket for my money. As I ate my eggs and orange juice I began to think more definitely on what I was going to need to do. Rather like we had done down in Seattle, I first needed to find a place to live; second, get some sort of job for sustenance; then go for a job on a boat. And as I had been told, getting a job at a cannery probably would not be difficult, and the canneries did supply housing - thus steps one and two could be killed with one stones throw with a cannery job. And with my funds being thin as they were - I concluded I simply needed to get thee to a canary ASAP. In fact, I decided after swallowing my last egg that I would go immediately, even at that late hour, and at least try and get an idea of how the land laid at these factories. I got up and pushed my three dollars out to the far edge of the bar. I thought about just leaving it - giving the lady bartender a fifty cent tip - but I thought better of it - I would leave her a quarter - the quarter I kept was another egg later on.

Back outside, it was still gray in daylight – the summer nights up there not going dark until well past midnight apparently. I walked back up the street to the R and B cannery complex. I saw only a couple workers walking around and they ignored me. I went over to the large building on the water, a door on the side was open so I walked in. I first saw pallets of cardboard boxes, each pallet carried a dozen or so boxes forming a cube that was about four feet in each direction. These cubes were stacked five high from the concrete floor. I walked through a narrow isle between the boxes and the wall past several rows of the stacked cubes, then the view opened up and I could see along the entire length of the buildings interior. The cubes went on for about ten yards. In front of the cubes was an open area that extended beyond the rear of the building to the waters edge. The rear wall of the building had large openings about ten yards square with steel doors that rolled up above the openings. Each opening was intermittently placed, and only about five feet apart. All of the doors were open and I could see that the floor extending beyond the doors was a wharf. And down toward the other end of the building, about fifty yards down, a crab boat was parked, and what looked like an unloading operation was taking place. Also on the wall next to where I was standing was a time clock and a long steel rack with thin pockets holding time cards. Along the wall next to the time clock were a couple dozen coat hooks and on several of the hooks were the plastic yellow Helly Hanson weather gear that the fisherman and all the workers wore. Beyond the boxes, the floor was crowded with machinery and tables and racks. Directly near the doors were a couple dozen steel bins on rollers lined up. The area around the doors inside and out was kept clear of debris - probably a kind of staging area. Next, several yards inside the doors, was a line of stainless steel tables. There were about a dozen of them. Next to each table, on both sides, was a band saw and in the middle of the table was a conveyor belt. The conveyor then ran to another table next to a large machine that had a steel rack extending above it about three feet. Only two of the machines were operating and from them I heard a hissing noise every few seconds as if a tire was being pumped up with spurts of air. Workers were out on the boat, with one going between the boat and the tables pushing stainless bins equipped with wheels, about the size of a large laundry hamper. The workers on the boat were offloading what I guessed to be salmon in net cargo haulers made of nylon rope. I walked over closer and saw in the nets long black and silver fish.

From the net haulers the fish went into the bin. Once full, the bin was pushed to the tables where there was a worker on each side of the table. Each worker wore on one hand what looked like special gloves made of a fine steel mesh – protection against the sharp knifes used in the cutting. They would take a fish from the bin, slap it onto the table and with a knife cut along the fishes bottom side. The fishes body would move like gelatin as the knife cut through. Pouring out of the body through the cut were whitish guts that looked like raw chicken and fat worms. After the incision the worker then reached their glove free hand into the fish and pulled out the globs of guts and tossed it into a large plastic trash can bin standing next to them. After that they cut off the head and deposited the triangular eyed piece in the guts bin then spread open the body, pulled out the skeleton, then cut the body into sections and cut off the skin. All this was done quickly in less than a minute, and as I stood I watched the workers do fish after fish after fish, there arms moving quickly, systematically. I figured each worker likely gutted and filleted sixty or more an hour. As these carvers worked, another worker came by on a fork lift and pulled away the filled gut bins and replaced them with empties. I watched him load a full bin of guts and drive away down the warehouse floor to somewhere I had no idea. The raw filleted meat was then put on the conveyor, which took the meat to another table where workers standing around cut and packed the meat into empty cans. After the cans were filled they placed a lid over the can, then placed the can on a narrow conveyor which took the cans in a line toward the machine making the quick pop psh…psh…phs sound, as if it was an air driven Gatlin gun; each had a steamy vapor circling around it. The cans were then spit out of the rear of this machine, one every few seconds and another worker checked and loaded the cans onto another conveyor which took the cans in a flowing group to another table where another worker plucked the finished cans and stacked them into a cardboard box. Another worker took all the filled boxes, sealed them, and then stacked them on wood pallets. Another worker wrapped the stacked boxes with steel gauge boxing bands, then with a forklift moved the pallets over to the storage area where I was standing. I stood and watched the operation for almost a half an hour, all the workers, all in there yellow Hansen overalls, I saw kept up what looked to me a steady and quick pace for the entire time. Most of the workers were young people close to my age, a few were woman. Some were older, thirty something, a few even older. Several were oriental, Indian or Eskimo looking. No one seemed to notice me looking – all were too busy attending to matters at hand.

It struck me that with only two tables in operation the factory was currently only operating at about twenty percent capacity. There was definitely room along the wharf for three and four more boats. Next to me in the storage area three forklifts sat idle. I was wondering if this was just the extent of the night shift - or if it was indicative of how the season was going. I watched for a while then left and went back outside. I also wondered if I would be able to do such a job as those I had seen – the constant repetition for hour after hour. Would my mind allow me to do it? As I walked past the offices in front within the plywood modular buildings I saw that the lights were still on. I walked around to the door and went in. It was a large room with several steel desks in two rows, with several file cabinets along one wall. Behind a desk toward the rear was a younger man in rubber overalls; he was flipping through a stack of manila cards which looked like time cards. He looked up at me with a blank stern look, he said simply, "Yeah?"

I said, "How's it goin."

Then he looked back down at his cards and resumed the flipping, he said without a hint of cordiality, "It's goin' - what you need?"

He looked a couple years older than I, I said, "I'm lookin' for a job - anything here you know of?"

He shook his head without looking up, "Nope - not now. Maybe soon as crab season starts. We're hardly operating as it is. And all the hiring's done durin' the day."

"Yeah, guess it is sort of late."

"Yep - no ones here ‘cept the night shift."

“What about the other canary’s?”

He shrugged and said, “They’re the same. There’s really no work right now. Couple weeks when crab season gets goin’ they’ll be plenty a work.”

I started to back out the door and said, "Okay - well thanks."

Again without looking up or interrupting his work he said, "Yep."

As I walked up the street I thought how he was a real friendly enough chap, but not real encouraging. I then contemplated my next move. The other canneries around were probably like the RB and not concerned with employment matters during the night shifts. I decided then to go claim my bags at Carl's and settle into the inevitable - check into the tundra hotel and make myself as comfortable as possible. But as luck would have it - as I was walking over to Carl's I felt a few cool drops landing on my head, then a few more - then more, and by the time I got to Carl's I was running through a deluge. I was fairly well soaked when I walked into the lobby. No one was around - the old man, I figured was in the back room - presumably asleep. I grabbed my bags reaching over the counter, per his instructions, then sat down in a chair with my bags at my feet and awaited a lull in the rain. Actually, I planned to stay there until eighty sixed - and I was lucky, I didn’t get the boot until early the next morning. I had fallen asleep then next thing I knew I felt a slight kick to my leg and I woke up and the old man was standing over me, he was smiling, “Sorry kid, but can’t let you sleep in the lobby here.”

I nodded and roused myself and said, “Sorry ‘bout that.”

“Oh no problem.”

He told to me to go check at the canary’s for work – and how they had dormitories for the workers. I asked him if I could again store my bag with him behind the desk and he reluctantly agreed. Then once again I found myself on the outside in the tiny town on the tiny isle with no place definite to go. At least the rain had stopped. It was still early morning, just after five. The sky was gray, thick with overcast. Apparently what night there was I had slept through it – or maybe there was no night I wondered – just gray, continual gray. I was hungry but put that out of my mind.

I ended up walking to the UNISEA Cannary and as I did at the RB. I walked around and checked it out. It was very much like the RB, even laid out almost the same. I went over to the main office to check about work, but on the door was a sign that read: NO EMPLOYMENT AT THIS TIME. WILL BE HIRING FOR CRAB SEASON. I looked at the sign and thought about going in anyway, but then I figured the sign was pretty definite. I did walk into a small enclosed warehouse crowded with boxes of canned salmon. I was feeling sort of tired, not having slept much, it occurred to me how quiet it was in the warehouse; I ended up finding a quiet space and sitting back against a pallet of boxes and falling asleep.

At about one in the afternoon I emerged from the warehouse, it was still overcast and I was still hungry. I ended up pulling open a box and grabbing a couple cans of the salmon, then left to go find a can opener. I found a small market - more a general store with everything from ketchup to rubber boots, all with high prices. I noted a Hershey bar was a buck and a half, milk two bucks for a pint. I bought a small orange juice and a hand can opener. Both items totaled just north of five dollars. After filling up on the salmon and orange juice and feeling fairly satisfied and full, I decided to take in a couple of the local attractions. On the waterfront facing the lone mountain was a tall slab of black and gray spotted granite rising out of a pile of dark gray stones. It was a memorial to "World War II in the Aleutians," honoring "those who suffered and knew the pain of war." Behind the simple slab, the lone mountain, its peak like a pyramid atop the full and rounded mountain. The waters of the harbor were leaden and oily. I left the monument and took a walk out onto where the peninsula narrowed, toward the lone mountain.

The town extended out along this narrow strip of land and out onto the lower slope of the lone mountain. Out there were mostly houses, more of the plywood prefabricated type, and many of the same clapboard sided, side gabled cabins I had seen in Juneau and Ketchikan. I walked up a grassy bluff just above the town, on the slope of the lone mountain overlooking the harbor, and I came to a small graveyard. In the midst of the tall bladed grass were wood markers, the white wash over them had long ago eroded away leaving only traces of white within the crannies of the gray dried wood. According to the inscriptions many of the markers were quite old, one said, in Memory of F.E. Blake Able Seaman of H.M.S. Satellite. Died Sept. 1896 Age 21 years. I thought twenty-one; his life over so soon, just as mine was to begin. Another, a gray wooden cross said simply: N. Blackstein, 1879? - 1902. A few of the markers had a wooden picket or just a cross bar fence surrounding the marker and the length of the grave - a symbolic protection, I guessed, against the harsh elements. The wind blew cool around me and swirled the tall grass which looked like a dark gray in the overcast.

Around me was the view of the mountains, the high mountain beyond dominating the view, and all with dark undulating slopes, then the harbor and the gray sea. I saw also on the ocean side of the high mountain and the town extending along that shoreline a ways. At the farthest end I could see what looked like a Greek orthodox church, a small building with two onion domed steeples, it seemed to glow vanilla against the dark background. I turned back to the graves. The grass was thick and swirled and tangled around the headstones and fences. A couple of the fences were leaning and missing pickets. I thought of that night with Nathan over Marylin's grave - it seemed long ago somehow, way in that past that had become somehow prologue. And I thought what Nate had said about Marylin's plot not being much compared to eternity. No it was not - and these fences were laughable, not much of a stand against the advances of that eternity. And here in one of the harshest of the planets environs these markers were of mere wood. Here perhaps such eternities were a minor concern to those still caught in this harsh grip of surviving, that had done this marking. Slow eroding monuments of stone were a luxury perhaps for lands less demanding, lifestyles more comforting and civilized - and thus more valued for the keeping and remembering.

I stayed awhile longer just gazing not thinking about anything in particular, or in general. The scene quieted my mind. Blanked the slate. Soon I walked back down the hillside and into town and loitered around and ended up in the Elbow Room and slowly drank a beer just passing time. Later I had one egg and an orange juice for dinner. There was another bartender, some old gray beard. He charged me a dollar for the egg and two dollars for the juice. Apparently the lady bartender had perceived my plight and had performed a kindness – the kindness of strangers. I felt bad about not leaving her a better tip. All around, it had been a costly evening. The bar was more crowded that night - there were even a few girls. Most everyone I figured for cannery workers. And most were young - near my age or mid twenties. A couple of the girls didn't look too bad really - they all had that countrified look - no make up, hair barely messed with, jewelry limited to a ring or two, and like everywhere else I had been in Alaska - jeans and down jackets were the fashion. I wasn't too sociable that night. I ate quietly to myself and merely looked over the crowd. Everyone seemed familiar with each other, a cliquish crowd. I was merely an existential shade.

That night I went back at the hotel where I grabbed my bag and slepped it over to the warehouse at the UNISEA. I found a dark cranny between boxes and laid down on the cold hard floor. I looked up at the roof of the garage and thought to myself, just what hell was I doing. I slept fairly well actually for a few hours, then I heard the door open and voices. I was toward the back of the garage in a narrow space deep between the stacked pallets of boxes. Two men were talking, management types I figured by the content of their conversation. One man said, “We got all this and five hundred more cases in the other garage.”

Another voice said, “Seattle can probably unload em’.”

“Been here three weeks now,” the other man said.

Then I heard the door close. It occurred to me how my little accommodation and food stash was likely temporary – good only for as long and they kept storing the boxes. And it sounded like any day the boxes would be shipped out. Then an idea surfaced. I started thinking. The canneries had to have enough housing for most of the work force. From what I saw that night the RB was operating at under capacity. Maybe during the day it was the same. If they were operating under capacity - then the housing was probably underutilized. There was probably an empty bed somewhere in that housing. All I needed to do was get in. I pulled out of my little space and went into my bag and pulled out my rubber boots and slipped them on – to look more like the workers I had seen around. After hiding my bag toward the back of the garage, I then went back outside into another gray morning and walked down to the RB.

I walked over back to the three long dormitory looking buildings I had seen earlier. I took a walk around the buildings, a couple windows on the bottom floor glowed fluorescent white with lights burning behind them. I walked quickly past those windows peeking inside. I saw what looked like small rooms with steel framed bunk beds – like those in the meat locker at the Sigma house. On the side of each building was a door. The first building I walked to, the door was locked.

When I was at Princeton a group of my fellow supper clubbers and I broke into the school alumni hall to purloin certain key items of memorabilia. A right of passage of sorts. Every new class of initiates had to do it - take the items, keep them for a day, then return them. Crime of the century stuff. To break into the building one of my fellow initiates had the bright idea of using a credit card jammed into the crack of the door at the bolt. By wedging it and fiddling with it, the card would slip the bolt back into the door and wella you were in. And it worked. The things one learns in college. So I tried it there with my plastic covered New Jersey drivers license card. It didn't work. Apparently it was the wrong sort of door or something, or I just was not doing it right. So much for that. I thought maybe of trying a window - but then which window? There might be someone in the room. Then my troubles were over when I walked over to the next building - the door was open. Someone had laid a folded chair on its side in the doorway against the jamb and the door closed on the chair. That was quite accommodating of someone I thought.

Past the door problem I walked into a hallway going down the length of the building. Doors came periodic and frequent along both sides of the hall. A single row of neon lights ran along the center of the ceiling. To my immediate left was an iron stairway going up to the second floor. All of the doors were shut. It occurred to me if the building was not full the first rooms to go would be those on the ground floor. Yes my dear Watson it was the second floor where you belonged. Elementary. Sure enough, up there several of the doors were wide open with the rooms looking pretty darn vacant. I went into the furthest room from the front – the front being the end nearest to the canary complex - closed the door and flicked a switch on the wall. A single florescent tube over the ceiling cast a whitish light over my new found abode. It was a small room with a set of steel bunk beds along each side with two long metal lockers against the wall next to each side of the window. A naked mattress sat atop each bunk. I explored further, down the hall I discovered were toilet and shower rooms - a men's and a women's; the men's even had individual shower stalls.

This could be a good idea I thought. After going back to the UNISEA garage and grabbing my bag – and filling it with about a dozen cans of salmon, I went back to the dormitory and into the room at the rear; I closed the door and locked it. I laid out my sleeping bag, basically made myself at home. As I laid atop my bag I thought, now this might work - with a little luck. Against my window I heard a pattering, rain was again falling. I laughed as I climbed into my bag for I was in hog heaven; then I fell asleep.

After a few hours I awoke, and as I was just laying in bed contemplating my next moves, I heard someone walk up the hall, then they came to my door and touched the knob. My nerves jumped at the sound of the knob clicking lightly, and my heart leaped and began to gallop - a fight or flight response. I couldn't fight so I flew by pulling the sleeping bag over my head. Then I came out after I heard the phantom step away and the doorknob go still. After a few minutes of settling down, getting my nerves and heart back to normalcy I ventured out of my eminent domained dorm room, towel and shaving kit in hand, but dressed in jeans, t-shirt and socks. The hall was empty and completely quiet - where was everyone? A few of the other doors were opened revealing more uninhabited rooms. As to whatever was going on I didn't let it worry me - the accommodations were not bad at all - not spotless - but rather clean really, way beyond the Cheshire. I would compare it to a drab college dormitory. The toilet and showers and faucets worked just fine, spewing plenty of hot, warm, or cold water. And when I was well scrubbed and shaved I noticed on the stroll back to my room a door with a small plastic sign on it reading: Laundry. I opened the door and sure enough inside were two coin operated washers and two dryers. It was marvelous - all so marvelous. I thought about doing some laundry - I hadn't done any since Seattle and I had already turned my underwear inside out, and outside in, a few times, but I decided to wait until later - that would be that evenings activity. I spent the rest of the morning going to the canneries where at each I was told that I would have to wait, that work crews were all filled for the time being - but that in a couple weeks the crews would be increased for the crab season. Two weeks, I thought, I wondered if I could hold out. If I didn't get evicted out of my room I figured I could last. I would just have to wait and take it day to day. I did mull over a few strategies for keeping the landlords in the dark. As I had discovered at Princeton, every organization has cracks where things fall through with red tape that could be gotten around. The cannery was obviously of good size. The management was concerned with controlling the production - not with controlling the living quarters. It wasn't as if a gaggle of homeless folk were combing that small isle for accommodation. Freeloaders likely just were not a problem. They may have someone assigned to manage the quarters - but I could probably avoid that someone fairly easily. I figured that the powers that be at the RB cannery had bigger fish to fry than keeping their dorm rooms clear of transients. If it became a problem then they would deal with it; obviously, with the open entrance door, and the open room doors, it had not, as yet, become a problem. If someone saw me and asked me about myself I would say I was a new hire, and if it was at night then I would say I was on the day shift or vice versa. It would likely work I thought. Besides I was clean cut, and fairly quick on my feet - as a freeloader I was a miscast.

11 I spent a couple more days much like the first, except that I did spend a couple hours going around to the various boats that were in harbor and checking for possible opportunities. But, as in Seattle, rejection ruled the day. Yet, I did learn that once crab season began there would be many more crab boats – and more activity in town – lots more. Most of the boats were, like the Snark, currently out somewhere along the Alaskan coast tendering for the salmon boats. It was a good thing I got into the dorm – I visited the garage at the UNISEA the day after I moved on, and it was empty. Time passed slowly, languidly, and I was growing bored, extremely bored - I felt like a prisoner rather, marooned on St. Helena, waiting in my room for something to happen, and all the while running out of money. I was even contemplating a second plunge into the depths of The Magic Mountain. And I was tiring of my new diet of simple canned salmon. My mind was plagued with visions of two-inch juicy steaks and mountains of mashed potatoes – freeze dried or whatever.

Then, as is sometimes the case in such circumstances, something did happen. I was over at the RB cannery for my usual run by with whatever boat might be along the wharf. This fine morning there were three boats and the crews were working hard, frantically even. They looked under staffed and overstressed. Before, when I had come around I noted that the operation typically included, three on the boat - two down in the hull loading the salmon onto the cargo nets, another on deck operating the crane. On the dock another worker loaded the bins and ran them up into the canning area. In all, this appeared to constitute one crew. Each boat once it tied up to the wharf would be assigned a crew. And it appeared to typically take four or five hours to empty a boat. Also there was one guy with a clipboard in hand who ran between each boat, he shouted orders to the crews and took care of problems, rather kept the gears oiled. I guessed him to be the dock supervisor.

I couldn't figure out why they were working so quickly and nervously. They seemed to have plenty of workers, each boat had the proper number of crewman at work. I asked one of the skippers I had gone up to and who had politely told me that his boat was "full up;" I said, as we stood on the rail watching, "they really seem to be working today."

"Gettin' toward the end of the season - the tenders are fillin' up quick and lot a boats are comin' in now. I heard on the radio they got three more boats comin' in."

At that particular time my mind took the skippers answer and the scene before me passively without giving it much consideration beyond data storage. Then I left the boat and as I was walking away from the complex a bulb alit, I got an idea. I thought if the boats are coming in quick, and they fall behind, then they may need to supplement their crews. I thought, what if I just put on my rubber boots, then grabbed one of those rubber cover alls off one of those hooks, put them on, and walked out on the dock - and played it by ear - maybe they would put me to work.

There were complications of course. From the couple of times I visited their wharf to talk with the skippers the crews may have seen me enough to recognize me and know me as a usurper That was easily remedied - I would go buy a cap. Then how would I get paid? They would need records for that. There was all the bureaucratic items - an employment application, employer information forms, W-2 forms, a whole file was probably created for each employee. Of course files get lost. Then there were time cards. I would need a time card. I walked back to the main building and into the side door then to the time clock and card rack. At the bottom of the rack was a small writing podium with a stack of blank time cards. For each card in the rack, at the top, in the area for ones name, it was obvious by the different writing styles, that each worker wrote in his own name. I pulled one of the cards from the rack and examined it. There was the name, social security number, the time stamps in each day slot from the clock, then next to each out time stamp were some initials. It was obvious. Each worker was responsible for his own card, for punching in and out, and getting the supervisor to sign it off after each shift. I looked over a few of the cards and it looked like there were three shifts, nine to five, five to one a.m., and one to nine. I took one of the blank cards and went over to my dorm room and decided to think this out some. I remembered how at night the office had no one working, thus at night only the crews in on the docks and in the factory's would be on. There would probably be a supervisor – but if I just showed what could happen? I could always play dumb if the guy was too smart. I decided to wait until the night shift, go by and scout it out and see if I could watch and perceive an opportunity. I went over to the store in the small strip mall I had seen earlier and bought a cap – another five dollars, my money was dwindling fast. Then I went back to my room and laid back and napped and read some as I waited.

Around half past four I got up and put on my rubber boots and left and went back over to the main building. The day was still bright though thickly overcast; I thought it might be best to wait until night fell – the dark may ease my attempt at crashing the shift, but that wouldn't be until the third shift – night wasn't falling up there until well past midnight, I decided to at least scout it out. With a pen that was laying atop the small podium, I wrote my name atop the card and placed it in the rack. I thought about punching in, but I had noticed there was not an inconsistency of in and out times. If I slid in but had a different punch in time – it may arouse suspicion. I decided I would punch in – but I would wait until the shift began and punch in with the rest. I figured likely I wouldn't have any problems – in the confusion of the shift change the others would think I was just some new guy. Then I stepped over to the rack holding the pairs of rubber coveralls and helped myself to one of them. My Trojan Horse. Then I put on my cap and stepped into the coveralls and went lurking about, like I belonged.

When I got back to the warehouse I hung by the pallets of boxes, watching the activity on the dock trying to get a feel for the work. When the shift change came, I went back to the clock watched everyone punch out and in; then as the group scattered I went in and pulled my card and punched in. Then I went back to the boxes and hid out waiting for what my gut feeling told me was a right moment. I watched for quite awhile as the work went along steadily, then I decided to leave - things looked too organized. I walked around the building looking like I knew what I was doing, I checked in the office – it was empty. Then went back to the warehouse and again hid out. Three boats were now tied to the dock with workers on each. I watched for about a half hour, then a forth boat came along and tied up against the wharf; and the crews were still on the other boats. It looked like a bottleneck of sorts. I decided it was my opportunity. I walked down to the wharf and stood around a minute or so, the guy with the clipboard was on the deck of one of the boats shouting to the crewman down in the hull, "I told ya we don't got all day - the other boats here!" He then climbed over the rail and up the ladder onto the wharf. He stopped to write something on his clipboard. I walked up to him, "You want me on that new boat?"

He looked up from the board at me from the top of his eyes, "Who are you?" He was just a young guy, maybe my age or a year or two older. His face was pale with pink lips and a scraggly beard.

My heart raced, "They told me to get down here that you were busy."

He nodded then looked at me blank faced, as if thinking - for what I thought was an unusually long moment – but then maybe I was too receptive about it, because just as I could feel anxiety rising, he said, "Oh. Good. That's just one less guy I gotta find. No were not ready for that one yet - get down in this boat with those goofballs and lets get this one outa here."

I thought - righteo and acted per directions, climbing down the ladder to the side dock then over the rail onto the boat. I looked down the hold and below me, about six feet down, the floor was covered with fish, it looked like a black and silver veined floor that was shiny and oily. I had never seen so many fish. Long slimy bending bodies, the fin tails laying all over, the heads looking up at you with one shiny eye. Two other workers were down with wide brimmed shovels scooping fish toward the hole opening.

"Hey lookout!" Someone shouted at me to my side over by the cabin. I looked over, it was another worker operating the boats crane, he was at the controls and the jib was swinging back over the boat, the block bearing the hook and empty cargo net was rolling back along the jib to align with the opening. I stepped away from the path of the jib. I guessed my next move was to get down into the hole. Then I realized there was no ladder or way to get down except by crawling into the opening and jumping in. Not wanting to appear a complete amateur, after the offloading net and crane hook was lowered into the hole, I sat down in the hole, dangling my legs then I turned my body around facing the edge, and I lowered down and hung from the edge of the hole and let myself drop. When I hit the floor the slickness of the fish grime sent my feet out from under me and I immediately fell rearward into a pile of hard slimy fish bodies. The other two workers looked over at me a second, both had cigarettes in their mouth. They looked at each other, and one made a light snicker and nodded his head toward me, as if saying to the other, Hey - get a load of this guy. The same guy then said, "Havin' problems there?" And then he laughed.

I stood up, but the floor was slick and inclined steeply toward the front of the boat. I took a step and then slipped and again fell rearward.

Then I heard the same guy say "Hey Mikey we got a funny guy here;" and he accompanied the remark with a deep guttural yuk yuk laugh.

Again I stood up then faced my accusers. I also noticed now that the air reeked with a brine sour powerful ugh fishy stench. I didn't say anything about the smell thinking that I had already appeared amateurish enough. I said, "How's it goin?"

The guy with the remarks said, "It's goin."

I started looking around trying to determine what I should do. We were about ankle deep in fish spread over the entire floor. A lamp hung from the ceiling next to the hole opening lighting the space. Both of the others had gone back to shoveling and hand stacking fish to the net spread over the floor just under the hold opening. Both looked about my age or year or so younger. The quiet one, or Mikey I presumed, was lean and Indian looking, his skin brown, his hair black. The hair was straight and long to below his shoulders, it was in a pony tail which came out from under his cap. The other guy was large with dark hair that was long and stuck out from under his cap. He had a good quarter inch beard over a round fleshy face. He was a couple inches shorter than I but thicker and wider. Their clothes under the Hansen's were well soiled and dirty.

I began picking up and piling fish onto the net where the others were shoveling. Then the big guy said, "Hey guy."

I looked up, both were shoveling, "Huh?"

"Helps to have a shovel."

I said, "Oh yeah," and looked around. "Guess there aren't any down here huh?"


Then the big guy stopped shoveling and stood up and took the cigarette from his mouth and stepped over under the hole opening and shouted, "Hey Bob!"

No answer.


No answer.

"Hey Bah-ah-bee!"

Then from above another voice, "Yeah what?"

"Need a shovel down here."

From above, "Go get one."

"Don't be a pudst. New guy needs one - come on."

"There ain't no shovels up here."

Then another voice from above - which I recognized as that of the guy with the clipboard, "Jerry - what'd you guys need down there?"

"A shovel," Jerry said.

I looked up and the guy with the clipboard looked down at me, "Didn't you get a shovel?"

I shrugged, "No."

"What'd you think you were gonna do down there? Barbecue?"

Jerry laughed and repeated as he went back to shoveling, "Barbecue . . . hear that Mika - Mr. Clean here's gonna barbecue."

Both guys up top had walked away from the opening, then in a few moments a shovel fell into the hole and clanged and bounced over the floor. I looked over, the clanging had startled me. From the hole I heard, "There's your shovel, now get shovelin’."

Jerry in a reedy old hags voice imitated, "There's your shovel - get shuvelin’. There's your shovel - get shuvelin’." Then as an after thought, "What a pudst."

When I first started shoveling I was deliberate and careful so as not to damage the piscinery, then Jerry stepped over to me and said, "Hey guy."

I looked up, he put his cigarette in his mouth and talking with a slight mum to his words from holding the cigarette, "Bill see's ya shovelin' like that he'll think yer dickin' around. Like this," then he shoved his shovel hard and fast under the fish and when he brought up the blade twice the number of fish were in his shovel than what I had been scooping.

I nodded and said "Thanks."

As he stepped away he said, "Hey - they ain't gonna scream."

It took us another hour before we got the hold completely cleaned of the fish. Each one weighed between five and ten pounds so my arms were feeling the work. Finishing with the first hold we transferred to anther boat that had just come into the cannery. We started with the fish only a couple of feet below the hold opening, lifting them by hand and piling them onto the net while kneeling on the deck. After making a hole in the mass of fish, we stood in the opening reaching down, plucking them out, and handing them to Mika who quickly tossed them onto the net. Eventually we were down standing just below the hold opening. The slick bodies slid from beneath our feet and made keeping balance difficult, even Jerry slipped a couple times and each time cussing, "Gawd damn slimy fucks."

The cargo net seemed like a crude method of offloading, primarily because it always seemed to take the exertion of two men to work with it once a pile of fish was ready for craning. The net was square and at each corner was a thickened line. Once the fish was piled, each corner was brought up around the fish and hooked onto the crane hook. After about three hours we had made significant progress, down to where we were when I had started on the last boat. Bill popped his head down into the hull, "You guys take dinner, half hour."

A ladder was lowered into the hold for us and we climbed out. On the deck I immediately noticed how cool and clean smelling the air was. Jerry shouted at Bill who was on the wharf, "We workin' overtime?"

Bill nodded, "What'd you think?"

Jerry hissed a curse as the three of us climbed off the boat and into the wharf. I followed them over to the side of the building where there was a hose that we used to spray our boots and coveralls trying to extricate ourselves from the fish slime. I had no idea how dinner worked, whether we went off in search of a McDonald's or if the cannery supplied board. I asked Jerry and Mika in such a way as to not appear a complete neophyte, "So you guys eatin' here?"

Jerry looked at me sort of, as if it was an odd question, "Yeah - where you eatin?"

I shrugged, "Here, I guess."

I followed them to another building adjacent, inside was a small cafeteria. Not the Polo Lounge, it was heavy on the post modern industrial emphasis on cinderblock, florescent lighting, stainless steel and formica. The food was laid out in long stainless steel trays behind a counter. And we each took a stainless steel eating tray with depressed sections for the three food groups and silverware. We walked down along the counter requesting portions of whatever looked appetizing. Before I piled it on I looked around the room for a cash register or any sign that a method of payment would be requested. I saw none, thus I indulged. That nights fare was some sort of chicken cacciatore get up with mashed potatoes - the freeze - dried variety. I also had them serve me up some green beans, a large milk and a pumpkin pie for dessert. But when I got to the end of the counter the lady serving the desserts requested, "Your meal card please."

I thought, oops. I reached into my pockets and slapped over my Hansen's playing the forgot it or lost it game. Then Jerry stepped in, "Here just punch mine - I'm just havin' coffee."

I looked at him and said, "Hey thanks, left mine somewhere."

He shrugged, "I'm gettin' tired of this card anyway."

I wondered what that card was about - obviously it was the way the cannery kept track of who got meals and how many they got. Somehow I would have to secure one. Then get on the payroll.

When we sat down I introduced myself saying, "By the way - I'm Joe Kelly."

They nodded and said their names. Mika said his real low in a grumbling whisper. Jerry’s last name was Hubble.

I was eating fast - hungry as I was. They both noticed me shoveling it in, Jerry said, "Hey Mickey - this guys hungry."

I looked up and realized I was being obvious, I smiled, "Guess I am."

We didn't say much to each other for most of the time. I decided not to be too sociable, best to maintain a low profile I figured, interloper that I was. After Jerry finished off a cigarette he said, "You been workin' the day shift?"

I nodded and didn't say anything. I figured less said and the more up to interpretation the better.

Jerry said, "That’s what I figured. Haven't seen ya around."

I nodded again and said, "Yeah, pretty new here."

"Really, first season up here?"

I nodded and said a quick, "Yeah."

"It's shitty work – but keeps ya outa trouble."

I nodded again, then decided to ask the questions, get them on the defensive, "How long you up here?"

"Just got up. For salmon season," Jerry said. Mika was staying quiet. "So how you get promoted to night shift?"

Promotion? I thought. I decided to fact find. "Promotion - how's that?"

"You got promoted guy." Jerry said with laugh, then looking at Mika he said, "Look at that Mikey, he doesn't even know it."

I just shrugged.

"Yeah, you get paid more on the two night shifts – and if it's busy at the end of the shift you can stay workin' and get overtime. They start everybody on the day shift, then the better worker's they bump em up to the night shifts. You must be a good worker to get bumped so quick."

Again I just shrugged.

"Everybody wants to work at night 'cause a the overtime. And what the hell? Its light out almost twenty-four hours anyway, so its all like a day shift. And What the hell else ya gonna do around here?"

I nodded and said, "Makes sense."

"You look kinda smart – they probably figured you for supervisory material."

I nodded and made a slight face and said, "That be nice."

"Whelp better get back I guess," Jerry said abruptly, 'fore Bill starts pissin’."

They stood up, I followed, and we spent the next couple of hours finishing up clearing the hold; that brought us to the end of our shift. Bill yelled over to us, "No overtime, you guys are outa here." We all went over to the time clock and punched out, then went over to Bill to get him to initial our cards. He quickly went through a few, but when he came to mine he stopped and studied it. This might be tricky I thought, and again my heart leaped. Then Bill looked up at me, his eyes narrowed, "You just start today?"


He looked to the side distractedly as if thinking, then said, "Huh - I told em a couple days ago I was goin' to need extra help; they said they weren't hirin’. You got hired today?"

I shook my head, "No - I've been working day shift - they shifted me over and told me to start a new card."

He looked confused he said, "Huh - wonder why?"

Then he passed it off and signed the card. "Well, I need extra guys so don't let em put you back on the day crew. Get more hours durin' the night anyway."

"Be here tomorrow at five right?" I asked.

"That’s right," he said, distractedly as he kept signing and looking at the time cards.

I nodded and walked away and that was that. That night I was tired. My arms ached from the workout. I got back to my dorm room at about half past one, I undressed, got into my bag and fell immediately to sleep.

The next day went much like the first, just different boats - and I passed on the cafeteria. I figured if it was discovered I didn't have a good card, it could set off a whole chain of reaction contrary to my cause. One drawback of my working, was that it was difficult for me to talk with the skippers of the boats on our wharf for obvious reasons of protocol; looks bad asking for a job while working another one. And while I was working it was impossible for me to go check boats elsewhere around the bay. But I was in need of the money so I didn't worry about it much just then. My plan was to first secure a job, a living situation, and then worry about a boat job. My third day on the job turned out to be my day of reckoning. Again I worked as I did before, and I avoided the cafeteria. With the twenty dollars I had left before I started work I lived on Elbow Room eggs and orange juice. Then at about mid shift Bill shouted down into the hold, "Hey Kelly."

I looked up, "Yeah."

"Get up here will ya."

I thought, Ah oh.

Jerry said, "Oh no - looks like were losin' Mr. Clean."

I was worried. The jig could be up. When I got up on the deck Bill was there with my time card in his hand, "Hey - got a problem."


"They sent your time card down here - said they don't have your records."

I nodded slowly and kept my remarks to a modest, "Uh-huh."

"So anyway it's a problem."


"Yeah." He was looking stern. As if he had to tell me something, but didn't want to. "You’re gonna have to go to the office. But the bottom line is - doesn't look like your gettin' a check Friday."

I looked at him strangely, not fully comprehending the meaning of what was being told to me. Was he kicking me out or what was he saying exactly? He continued, "That office is always screwing things up. I know it stinks workin' all week then not gettin' paid - but you'll get a check for sure Monday."

I nodded slowly realizing the full measure of the situation, I said, relieved, "That's okay, I think I understand."

"Yeah, well they collect all the time cards Wednesday and process them Thursday and cut the checks for Friday. They're sayin' they've lost your records so it'll take an extra day to get you back processed or whatever those yo yo's do. Anyway they want you in the office tomorrow just before the shift starts. So try and be there about four. That should give you enough time. And go ahead and punch in – you shouldn't have to hang out and not get paid 'cause they can't keep things straight."

I thanked him and as I went back to work I had to laugh – things were looking like they might just work out. Still I knew, that if the office was really on top of things they would have to wonder when and how I got hired - and who did the hiring. I realized I wasn't out of the woods yet – especially after what Jerry had told me about getting on the night shift was supposed to be a promotion.

The next day, per my instructions I went into the same office that I had gone into a few nights before. This time most all of the desks were occupied with ladies, all of them were older, fiftyish. It reminded me of Mr. Smith's front office. One of the ladies in a desk at the front asked me, "Can I help you?"

"Bill told me to come up here - I'm from the dock."

The lady nodded, "You need to see Shirley," then raising her voice, "Shirl."

A lady at the desk in the back said loudly "Hmmm?"

"This young man needs to see you."

"Send him back."

All of the ladies had gray hair except for Shirley's whose hair was obviously dyed jet black. Her rear most desk also larger than the rest, seemed to bespeak of her position as probably queen bee of the group - or at least the one in charge. When I got back to the desk she asked me to sit down and after she finished with some work she had been on, she looked up at me and smiled. Her eyes were green, a strange lighter shade, and her face pale but highlighted with makeup. She spent time on herself. She said "Your Joe Kelly?"

"Yes ma’am."

"Well I have a time card here - but no records."

Again I was nervous, this lady seemed sharp, I said "Uh-huh."

"So I need to know what's goin' on here." She didn't say this sharply with accusation but rather reflectively and perplexed. "You started Monday?"

I nodded.

"Strange - no one told me we were hiring anyone."

Again I stayed quiet. Let them figure it all out.

She said, "Did you come up from Seattle?"

I nodded "Yes."

"That's strange - I should have everything. Who did you see when you first got here?"

I shrugged, "I don't know I forgot his name."

"What did he look like?"

"Big guy - with a beard."

"That could be Dan, could be anybody."

I nodded.

"I'll be honest with you, as of right now I don't have any record of your being hired or employed here. Far as this office is concerned your not an employee here."

"That means I won't get paid?"

"No-no, don't worry. Let me call Seattle." She picked up the phone and punched out a number. Then she put on a confused face and said, "Hmm busy - lines must be filled." Then she re-cradled the receiver. "If you would have come from Sitka or Anchorage - I could understand, they're always loosing files, but Seattle is real good about records - especially employee records."

"Well I wasn't hired in Seattle - I came up from Seattle, I was hired in Anchorage."

"Oh - well then maybe they've got your file and they just haven't sent it."

Then she got back on the phone and soon was conversing: "I've got a young man here who was sent to us by you last week. Do you have his employee file over there? . . . . Joe Kelly . . . . Yes, that's right . . . . He's been working since Monday." Then her brows came together and her face looked concerned and she said, "No record at all . . . . he's right here . . . . since Monday…. I’m looking at him."

I was cooked, I thought; she was getting to the bottom of my story and she would see it for all it's shiftiness. Then she hung up and looked at me. My breathing slowed, it was coming - I could see it.

She said simply, "They have no idea who you are."

I shrugged sort of, a non-obligatory, non-committal, nebulous shrug.

Then she said, "Well they are always screwing things up over there. Send you all the way out here without records. Right now I have to figure out how to get you paid - but your going to have to fill out some more paperwork."

I nodded.

"I'm sorry - we might be couple of days late with your check."

"That's okay - I think I can survive."

"Have you been living in the dormitory?"

I nodded, "Yes."

"You checked in Monday afternoon?"

I shook my head, "No - Sunday night."

"Oh - it was probably Brad who checked you in. He assigned you a room in the dorms?"

"No - he just said go over and find a room and come back the next day."

She gave an understanding nod, "Oh - he probably confused you - you needed to come here. You went straight out to the dock and started working."


"You were supposed to come here first."


"Well, its just a teeny mix up we'll get it all straight."

I nodded, "No problem."

She stood up and stepped over to a file cabinet and from it pulled out a couple of forms and handed them to me. I spent the next twenty minutes filling out the forms and in general getting officially processed into the system. I was given a key to the dorms, a meal card, and even a company I.D. card, which Shirley explained, "It's a good idea to always keep it with you. When the industry was really booming we had lots of problems with transients coming onto the island and going where they didn't belong. Now all the cannery's give I.D. cards, keeps everything honest."

"Good idea."

Soon I was back out on the dock shoveling fish – but with a slight smile on my face. And I wondered if this was how Spielberg got into the movies.

12 "Salmon season's really nothin' up here. Soon as crab season starts things'll get goin' around here. But that's when I'm outa here," Jerry said.

"Why's that?" I asked.

"Back to school."

"Where you go to school?"

"Washington State."

"I stayed at the University of Washington in a frat house for a few weeks before I came up here."

"Yeah - good school. Where you from?"


"Oh yeah?" Where in California?"

"Claremont, down in Southern California, near L.A."

"Yeah - the Claremont Colleges, heard of it. So how'd you hear about Dutch Harbor?"

"Couple buddies of mine heard about it. They came up to get jobs on a crab boat. I came with them."

"Crab boat huh - they must be nuts."

"Why's that?"

"They work ya like a dog and guys are always fallin' overboard or gettin' slammed by the pots. If you work the season you'll see - boats comin' in and takin' guys off on a stretcher. And besides, it's hard as hell gettin' one of those jobs."

"Both the guys I came up here with got jobs."

"No lie?"


"Goddamn it. I couldn't get hired - too fat - right Mika?" And he looked over at Mika for confirmation.

Mika simply nodded. We were in the cafeteria eating lunch. After several days of working together we had still only slightly warmed up to one another.

"Never know till you try," I said.

"Na - wouldn't do it. That's one gruel of a job guy. And besides the crabs all fished out. I heard the research ships went out to check on the crop - they do it every year to figure out how long to make the season - and they couldn't find any crab."

"When did you hear this?"

"Couple weeks ago. Nobody believes em though. You know these scientists - they're all ecologists, save the whale types. Fact is, for the last ten years the crabs been boomin' up here. It's sort of fallen off the last couple years. But I had a couple friend's of mine on boats - they made a killing last year."

"How much did they make?"

"'Bout forty grand - and it was a short season."


"Yeah - up until about two years ago this place was crawlin' with people, like I say it's dropped off - the booms sorta over - but the guys that are left they're doin' okay. There'll still be a hundred or so boats fishin' out a Dutch Harbor."

Time marched on; a week then two. My work had become routine, the skill and intellectual involvement level being relatively low. I had quickly settled into a routine - work then sleep, then work again. Meals at the cafeteria were my only diversion. I had heard about a couple of parties at other canneries at their living quarters, but I was always too tired to check into it. In the first stretches of the Salmon season the cannery was backed up with boats waiting for offloading and, being somewhat understaffed, we were daily working overtime hours and working our off days. As Jerry explained. "Salmon seasons nothin' to these canneries up here. Crabs the big deal here. So they just run probably at break even for salmon season, just to keep the doors open and the work force intact. So they really go cheap for salmon. Pretty much under staff the place."

I suppose it was boring, but I hadn't yet gotten to the point where I was growing restless. After getting into the work, becoming familiar with the canary and its operation, getting well institutionalized into the whole situation, I realized my getting the job was not a tremendous stroke of fortune. There were almost fifty employees running about on various shifts, workers were needed and not easily come by in that extreme place. If I had been ejected from the system those first days I likely would have been able to sign on somewhere. There were two other canary’s operating there after all.

I was anticipating the crab season, just productively passing time until the season came and I could get on a crab boat. And of course there was the money, it was something of a perk - yet it honestly was not exactly splendiferous. I was laboring ten or eleven hour days in the gulag, occasionally even more, seven days a week; thus with overtime but minus the taxes I was taking home only about four hundred a week. That was at my six dollar per hour pay scale with time and a half for overtime for any time over eight hours in a twenty four hour period. The way I considered this, was to consider a college roommate I once had who was a bartender. He earned fifty to seventy five dollars per six hour shift in tips, plus a two thirty per hour minimum wage - thus on average about sixty dollars a night. Which over seven nights calculated to about the same I was earning. Of course I was getting room and board, yet also working four hours more a shift. Then there was a friend down in Claremont, Val Percy, who worked as a carpenter on construction sites. He claimed to be pulling in ten dollars per hour, and if he was union he said he could earn twice that. Now I knew why I was up there working, shoveling the fish. But what I could not figure was why my fellow shoveleers would migrate up there to this land of mucho nada to work the grueling hours when the same extent of money was available to them for the same class of work, and for less hours? It became to me another of life's mystos. At another meal session I asked Jerry and Mikey about it, I laid it all out as I saw it and Jerry simply said, "I don't got any experience as a bartender. And I sure don't know anything about carpentry. I know I got a job here, a room, I eat cheap, don't got nothin' to do - so I save lots a money. I was a busboy once in a restaurant down home. I made okay money for high school - but I couldn't make enough now. Up here I know I got a job, what I'm goin' to make and take back home. That's probably how everybody looks at it."

Mika said plainly, "I live here. This what I do."

The theme of these answers seemed to be simplicity and certainty. The work was there, jobs available, the hours definite, conditions known and foretold. Like lodging at a Holiday Inn or eating at a McDonald's, it was the American way - circumstances a la predictable.

Besides the extreme routine the only big negative I could point to was the fish. I was developing a repulsion to the lean oily black and silver hard bodies and their briny stinky smell. I was even wondering if I would ever crave again a sea harvested fillet. And bless them, the cannery management was apparently well aware of such excess and thus served only USDA beef and poultry with only an occasional side of fishy fare. I wondered if farmers acquired similar aversions to the food they harvested. A wheat farmer avoiding Wheaties, another with forests of cornfields surrounding the barn - would he grimace at a bright bowl of steaming sunshine yellow kernels, well buttered? Or a spud picker, would he hold his nose over one of his specimens baked, buttered, sour creamed and chived? I doubted it. These were not fish. Fish were fishy; and they looked at you with that one eye from there soulless selves. I could see a hog farmer avoiding bacon - that was a sloppy smelly business. I've read that a couple of days at the meat packers cured the most avid sausage and hot dog aficionado. Just reading about the production process of veal, how the baby cows are essentially tortured and pumped with antibiotics would likely sway even the thickest skinned to the pasta. And fish are slimy. They all seemed to be coated with a grease. We could hold them in our fist and squeeze their slendering mass and they would squirt out from the grip. I even had dream one night - another Janie Cinerama. I had her in my arms and was going in for the kiss when her fair Cinderella image metamorphosed into a dark slimy salmon - its one-eyed mug and perpetual smirk set for the seasonal encounter. I awoke with a start furiously wiping my lips.

In all, the job passed the time and was serving its purpose. It was probably not the ideal place for a Princeton grad. Yet when I figured it - per year I was earning about twenty five thousand. That of course was working seven days per week, ten to twelve hours per day – with room and board in the most boring place on the planet. I had heard that Princeton grads were averaging around twenty-five grand their first year out; of course that was as some junior exec working ten hours a day only six days per week - and no room and board. Thus, maybe my job was not as fascinating as riding a desk, yet I was at the mean of the earning scale for my immediate peers. Still, I seriously doubted I could take the lifestyle for anything close to a year; or even another moth actually.

Toward the end of the second week I could see that preparations were being made for the oncoming crab season. The town seemed to be becoming more populated and around the shoreline crab boats appeared to be more numerous. Inside the main cannery building I could see that work was being done on the canning machines that were not being utilized in the salmon canning. Also at the front of the building, near the garage doors, huge round cutting tables were being set up, each had a laminated wood top like a butchers block and was about a dozen feet in diameter. Next to the stacked pallets of boxes were stacked dozens of light blue plastic containers, large rectangular bins, like something used to carry a load of wash. I had no idea how it would all come together. In two weeks it would be the end of August and the beginning of crab season. I had heard more reports like the one Jerry had told me about the fishery scientists saying that the season was sure to be a fizzle. The word was, that the research vessels had gone out and found no crab, and were so stunned by the findings that they had repeated their survey. But no one seemed to be believing it. I asked a skipper on one of the tenders I was working on - who would soon be fishing for crab - about the reports, he just shook his head, "There's plenty a crab out there - just ask the Japs."

Initially I was not too concerned about the reports. My objective was to get on a boat and do the thing. If I made loads of money, fine. But if the crab were gone or depleted and I didn't make any money then it wasn't the end of the world. True I would rather make more money than Nate or Klug; but if I didn't, again I could live with it. Getting on a boat and not making money was a damn site better than going all the way up there and ending up shoveling fish and then having to face Nate and Klug with such a squalid story. That was my peculiar frame of mind. I suppose my objective was simply to do the thing. Why? Still I couldn’t really say. Perhaps like Ahab with his albino whale, it was just something I needed to do.

Around me the industry appeared all systems go for another booming catch, thought the pessimism was in the air. I received a big dose of this darkening view from what I considered an unlikely source for such forebodings through an odd but fortunate set of circumstances. One day Bill, the foreman, had taken ill on the dock. It had come in a flash, apparently something he ate – fish likely. He began vomiting and could not stop. Just before he left for the infirmary he handed me his clipboard and said, "Here, keep track of this till I get back." He didn't return till the next day and for almost six hours I did his job, including initialing the time cards. It was easy really, just keeping the weight chit sheets in order and seeing to it the skippers were happy and the crews kept working. Next morning I was thanked and sent back down into the hold, Jerry said upon my return, "He's back Mikey, promoted then demoted." But then about a week and a half before crab season began Bill shouted down into the hold, "Hey Joe - get up here." I climbed up and on top he said, "Chuck in the front office wants to talk to ya."

"Who's Chuck?"

"Chuck Mathews - the boss. Plant Manager."

Soon I was sitting in a metal folding chair in front of a metal desk, in a small office. Over the desk were papers in stacks and just laying about. The office was cheaply paneled on three sides complimenting a side of exposed masonry block. Mr. Mathews was asking me if I wanted to do Bill's job during the crab season, that Bill only worked summers and was going back to school. Mr. Mathews was strikingly large, I had seen him around only a couple of times and had noticed him right off from his size. Standing up he was probably six-six or seven. He loomed over his standard sized metal desk which seemed undersized under him, as if it was a kids desk. He had black hair, a pale ruddy face, and a deep and loud voice and a thick black mustache.

I asked him, "How come you're asking me to do the job?"

"Bill recommended you - said you seemed smart. And in your file here it says you went to college." It did say that I suppose. There was a section on the employee form that listed the standard levels of education within the typical American schooling system – elementary school, junior high, high school, college, graduate school – next to each level was a small box that was supposed to be checked by the employee per their level of completion.

"Yeah, I did." I confirmed.

"Good, well you'll spend the rest of the week with him training." He seemed casually formal and concise. "That is if you want the job."

I was not sure I wanted it. In fact I was thinking of resigning. While I was working I was having difficulty getting around to the boats to check for jobs. And with all the talk about the very iffy season, I was not sure how much time I had to get a boat job. I had saved almost every dollar I had earned - well north of a grand - surely enough to live on for a month or so and spend full time going to the boats. I asked him, "I've heard the crab season may not be too good."

"That's what their sayin'. I wouldn't worry though, there will be plenty of work. If it ain't a good season we'll just hold back our hiring. And foreman are the last to get laid off."

"You think it's going to be a bad season?"

He shrugged and nodded, "Might be."

"So what happened to all the fish?" I said with some flippancy.

He smiled and said back, I suppose just as flippant, "We ate em' all."

I nodded slowly appreciating that simple truth.

Then becoming more serious, he said, "That’s the short answer. Honestly, I'd say the season this year likely won't be much good. Five years ago it happened in Kodiak, the crab were fished out, so the fishing fleet came here. Last year this island did over fifty million in crab, we got over a hundred boats. And with the Japs and Russians goin' nuts fishin' whenever they want as much as they want - yeah, what goes up gotta come down, there's only so much a the resource. Now I don't know if the fishery is blowin' smoke. Probably; they're a bunch a assholes - but it makes sense. Times gonna come. We've been ridin' the wave for bout six years now, this seasons ripe as any for the bottom to drop out." He lifted his hands off his desk in the air, turning the palms up.

Well that did not quite spell it out, but it definitely emphasized the negative view. I decided to accept the job. I had not quite made up my mind to quit, and so until I decided, I figured may as well be doing an easier job - and one that paid a couple dollars more per hour. Still I was leaning heavily toward resigning. This business about the lousy season began to weigh more on my mind. I had also heard that because of the startling test data the fish and game was contemplating a shortened season and other stopgap measures to save the crab; thus I was feeling an ever intensifying sense of urgency to get out and get a job early on in the season. It seemed to me that if someone the likes of Mathews, someone whose career relied on the extent of the catch, someone with access to more than just rumor, was leaning toward the dark side, and admitting to it, then there was cause for concern.

As I walked back out to the wharf it occurred to me how he didn’t ask where I had gone to college. Not that I would have told him Princeton – such a revelation would likely engender a whole passel of inquiries, such as: what the hell was I doing up there? And I figured it might even engender a suspicion or two, that I was a lunatic of some sort, had lost it. Yes, my survival instinct told me - best to keep Princeton under wraps. Still, odd how Mathews wasn’t even curious. I guessed it didn’t matter really, checking that little box I supposed was merely a nudge that helped to secure the job after I had received the recommendation.

13 "He's right guy - the party's over."

This was Jerry talking, we were in the Elbow Room having an after work drink. The bar was fairly crowded and there were even some females. I said, "You don't know that for a fact - there might be another good season still out there yet."

"Sure - that's what everybody in the industry's sayin' - that the scientists are wrong. Maybe they are, maybe they aren't."

"It doesn't make sense to me that it would just drop off, just like that from one year to the next. You would think it'd be a gradual decline."

"Sure you'd think that. That's what everybody's thinkin’, but you know we ain't the only ones out there fishin’. Right Mikey."

Mikey nodded, "Japs and Russians. Bastards."

"Yeah, Mathews said something about them. What do they do?" I asked.

"What do they do?" Jerry said disparagingly. "They're pirates. They rape the sea guy. Outside of American waters they don't regulate anything. They fish when they want and how they want. American fisherman can only fish for King crab three or four months outa the year - probably be even shorter this year. And they can only use crab pots. The Comies and the Nips they go year round and they fish with these big factory ships - you know like you sometimes see in the harbor. And they lay from these ships these big tangle nets. These things are about eight feet wide and a couple hundred feet long and they string em together so they lay em out like ten miles long. They catch millions a the little fucks, as well as a bunch a other crap too. I'm tellin' ya it's getting like one day it'll be all gone – barren. Like with the whales. And they keep all the crab. Americans gotta throw back the small ones – you throw back the small ones so they'll keep regenerating I guess. But the bastard nips and ruskies - they're just laughin' at us those guys. I tell you it's like, lets have a war and use radioactive bullets. That's why there's no crab. Am I right Mikey?"

Mikey nodded.

"Yep that's right. Like usual we're tryin' to do the right thing and we're screwin' ourselves. Mikey here - he hates everybody though - includin' us."

"Us? Aren't you an American Mika?"

He shook his head, "No."

"He's an Aleut."

"You’re from Dutch Harbor? Really?"

He shook his head, "Umnak."

"Umnak - where is that?"

"Next big island down the chain," Jerry answered.

"So why do you hate everybody?"

"We were here first and they all came and take everythang out and make money then don't put anythang back."

"Exploitation huh?"

He nodded, "Yes."

"Yeah, Mikey's all pissed off. All us white guys come up here and put him to work."

"We brought civilization Mika," I said.

"And God - don't forget that - they brought that here," Jerry said.

Mika shook his head, "All I do is shovel fish."

"Well you need to take this money and go to school, get off this island, go to California and see Disneyland and Hollywood," I said.

"Yeah - see how the real people live," Jerry said.

Mika shook his head.

Jerry said, "We've had this talk before - he ain't leavin'.

"Big world out there Mika - it ain't so bad."

Mika just said, "I like it here."

Jerry shrugged, "See - what are ya gonna do huh?"

I looked around the bar at the few girls around.

I said, "What about these girls - where do they come from?"

"Same place we do," Jerry said.

"Why would a girl come up here?"

"When you need money and look like that."

He was referring to there not especially heart-arresting miens.

"What's their looks got to do with it?"

"They wanna get lucky. Probably won't at home."

"You ever get lucky up here?"

"Naw. Came close once - the UNISEA had this big party in their dorms. She was Ornamental."

There was about a half dozen girls around there and even in the dim light I could see that besides dressing in the Alaskan fashion most were overweight, their hair ill-kept, and were as scraggly as the guys. I said, "Yeah, slim pickin’s."

"Yeah - if you could just find one that was slim. That's why this is called Unalaska - for Unattractive," Jerry said.

I was getting tired and decided to call it a night. It was about eight-thirty. Jerry and Mika said they were going to stay. "We have to work tomorrow night," I said.

"Yeah so what," Jerry said. "I'm leavin' in a few days."

"I wouldn't drink too much. Be real lousy having to work in those holds with a hangover."

"Hey - drink like a man - work like a man."

"And talk like a man huh?"

"Yeah just like one. I think I'm gonna get drunk here with Mikey. Then we'll be sick tomorrow - sick like a man."

"Well, you got all day to recover." I said.

"That's right – it'd have to be the mother of all hang over's for it to last till tomorrow night."

Though the signs were there and significant, pointing to a poor and shortened season, nothing was really that definite. And it just did not make sense to me that a drop off from the last year to the present would be all that substantial. It just seemed logical that the drop off would be gradual. Of course this was just my theory concerning subject matter that I truly knew nothing about. But this fact I did not consider, thus did not concern myself over. Call it hopeful thinking, a positive attitude, and as such I decided to remain employed. And there were other reasons. After spending a couple of days training with Bill I realized what I would be doing was much easier than shoveling down in the hold. And I would be working among the boat skippers. The dock foremen were their immediate liaison to the canneries. The foremen kept track of and informed the skippers of the extent of their catch, and lent an ear to their complaints. While I was training I noticed Bill knew most of them by first name and, if he so chose, could ask them easily about such things as crew openings. Thus the job was not a strain and a way to become more familiar to the skippers. And, according to Bill, there would be more boats on the dock at any one time than there was during the summer season, four, five, sometimes even six, compared to the mostly two, sometimes three, at most four during salmon season. Thus, I would be meeting skippers and exposed to quite a few of them with each shift. But beyond all that, I also wanted to make more money. If I quit with only a thousand in my pocket, and I didn't find a boat job after a couple of weeks spending on room and board, in order to get home I would probably have to call home for more money. That was not appealing to me. I had gone as far as I had without that, I figured I may as well complete the mission solely on self reliance. The scenario also occurred to me of quitting the job, looking for a boat job, and if I didn't get on a boat then going back to work in the cannery. But I was not sure about this, I felt uncomfortable with it. I had likely found extreme luck in getting the job at the RB, I was not at all certain I could repeat that luck. If I was going to quit - better to do it with a couple of grand saved up - and it would only take me another couple of weeks to do that. This was my thinking, yet I also felt more comfortable being up there with a job. That is probably what it really came down to. I liked having a place to go, something to do - a purpose in my life, with money coming in, liked that certainty, and of course, if I thought I was really missing out - missing the boat - so to speak - then I could always just simply quit.

When I began training, Bill said, "Just follow me around I guess. It's pretty easy. The salmon boats will keep comin' in the rest of this week, then the crab boats will start in probably right away, the season starts in a couple of days, and it's real busy. You'll probably be with another foreman and there'll be three or four full crews and extra hands. I'm not sure exactly how it all works cause I've never been up here, I hear it's a lot more hectic. But you won't have to be down in the holds any more, that's what's good 'bout this job. You gotta deal with the skippers though. That's why I recommended you for the job, you seem like you can handle it. The work's basically easy. The skippers though take some handlin’.

"How's that?"

"Oh they're always strung out. They're all high testers anyway. But when you get 'em they haven't slept much, they've been yellin' at their crew to keep them up; and they all gotta catch a lot a crabs cause the boats are big and cost a lot. They got bills. One bad season and they could go under. They're just all a bunch a stress monkeys."

"Bunch of riverboat gamblers huh?"

"Yep - but it ain't a river. It's the Bering Sea."

So I followed Bill around as he led me through the various but few and simple duties of the dock foreman. I watched how it all worked with the salmon, and he explained to me how it would be almost the same with the crabs. After each bin of salmon or crab was wheeled over to the scale, the weight was recorded on a weight slip. The slips were on a carbon of three with white, gray, and grayer copies. Each slip was numbered with each copy carrying the same number. When a load was weighed in, the worker handling the bins wrote the weight on a weight slip. All of the slips were kept on small square desks that were just inside of each garage door next to the floor scales. After writing down the weight and the boats name, the worker then ripped off the top copy - the white - and dropped it in a ballot box on the desk. The other slips the worker handed to the foreman - who then handed the next top copy to the skipper. The last copy the foreman kept for his records. A foreman was in charge of two or three boats at any one time. In charge of seeing to it that the crews were properly manned, worked steadily and hard so that each boat was quickly unloaded, and the foreman was in charge of the slips.

"You gotta watch the slips," Bill warned. "Believe it or not somehow they get screwed up. That's why they got three copies. So everybody's ass is covered. If the skipper comes up with a weight different than the cannery then all they gotta do is compare the slips. I've only had a couple of problems in the past and it was the skippers. One lost a couple slips and another just didn't add 'em up right. You know, things happen. Same thing - watch the bin keepers. They're the ones that'll screw up, they'll forget to write down the boat name or the weight will be scribbled and you can’t read it. The boat name's not that big of a deal cause the slips are all collected after a boat's done. And you just look at the numbers. But I just get on 'em about it cause it keeps 'em paying attention. Most a the boats too will have a guy watching the unloading, lot a times it's the skipper himself, you know they wanna make sure it goes right. If it gets hectic that can be a help."

There were three desks along the dock next to the wharf. These were the foreman desks. A small plywood table with a box-like cover. At the back of the desk along the rear wall of the cover were several slots - like mail slots; these were for the slips. Bill explained, "That's where the slips go as you get 'em. But, I carry a clipboard so I can hold onto 'em cause if things get goin' lotta times you gotta do something and guys are givin' you slips and you don't got time to be running over to the desk. The slips are kind of a pain - but they work pretty good. Before Chuck Mathews took over we used to have to write down the weights on a schedule we kept on a clipboard. But that was always gettin' screwed up. And when the weather was bad the sheets by the time the boat was unloaded were always all messed up. The slips, even though it looks like they’re a hassle, are actually easier."

When I had taken over from Bill, that one day he had taken ill, I had pretty much figured the system out. So much of what he was telling me was repetition. Yet seeing him in action did give a good idea of the sort of diplomacy to use with everybody. He was good at helping to keep everyone moving, his style was to start with an ironic indirect pun to manipulate to a quicker pace: "You guys aren't paid by the hour are ya?" Or, "Don't strain yourselves or anything." If the crew did not quite get the message he would make more direct the second comment, "You guys savin' yourselves for tomorrow? Or, "It'd be nice to get somethin' done around here." And if they were really slouching, "Hey - you guys are movin' like dead mules," or, "hey this ain't the social hour."

I noticed that his slanting everything humorously seemed to keep things more upbeat, and seemed to be more effective. He seemed to have everyone pretty well figured out, Jerry was, "A yapper if you didn't watch him," but a smart guy, and while not a real hustler worked consistently and hard. Mika was a hard worker, a good man; but had reached his level. Not real smart these Aleuts."

Sounded rather prejudicial, I thought.

As he had warned, the skippers were a difficult breed; but, as with the workers, he seemed to know the right amount of arsenic to mix-in in tempering his comments. To a skipper who called him over and while waving his chit sheets shouted, "Hey these weights can't be right?"

"What they too high?"

To another who started yelling down the hold at the crew, "Is that as fast as you guys can move?"

"Skipper they're goin' as fast as they can. If I could get em to go faster I would."

Aside Bill said, "They just like to bitch. Let ‘em blow their steam at ya, but let ‘em know who's in charge. When that boat ties up to the dock and your men board and start working – you're in charge. But it's best not to be too much a hard ass with ‘em though. You don't want ‘em runnin' to the front office and gripin' about ya. Those skippers are really the life blood of the cannery. We need their catch more than they need our services. There's other canneries on the beach."

I nodded.

The processing of the king crab was, of course, different than that of the salmon, though the basic steps were the same - off load from the boat to bins to a cutting table to a packaging machine then into a box. But the natural composition and shape of the crab made each step more complicated and difficult, more personnel were required at each step in the process. The king crabs were an other worldly, alien, even prehistoric sight. Something Sci-fi. Fossilized and petrified but living. The crab's appellation per biological nomenclature - Puralithodes Camtschatica - itself sounds beyond the atmosphere - Martianspeak. Indeed, I was taken aback when I first saw them - saw them as some sort of moon creature. Tossed on the deck, almost dead by the time the boat reached port, they lay out flat, moving barely, sluggishly. They were Martian, a being turned inside out, flesh on the inside, bone on the out. Ossified. An extreme projection of a Platonic vision of a crab - in the general shape of a spider, like a Black Widow, but more impressive, the giant crab had a clunky look to it - its body was medieval - it hid body and soul within an all encompassing armorlike shell. Loaded over the hard casing were tiny nubs, sharply pointed like thorns that would prick at the touch, thus thick rubber gloves had to be worn by all handlers - as if touching something radioactive. With eight spindly long legs, each nubbed like the stems of a rosebush, laying flat on the deck, the size of the older crabs looked heroic. Of the first batch I saw there were a couple two to three feet across the leg spread. A few that were laid out tried sluggish crawlings across the deck, last ditch attempts to escape, they crawled not forward nor back nor sideways - but, strangely, diagonally. But on land they could only drag along, moving mere inches over the deck, their armor too much for them left unbuoyed outside their liquid habitat. Their size made them seem to me like eerie house pets. Their bodies, like the hub of a spiked wheel was almost round and colored over the top in a dull dark hue – like iron; the underbody was all a dull white. A fifth pair of stubbed legs were at the forefront and armed with significant claws that I was told, in the larger crab, would snap a finger. Like War of the World's behemoths these crab leviathans espied their liquid hemisphere with eyeballs that bobbed like black pearls at the end of antennae which extended up front on the body. They were a weird mass no doubt, another freak of that ancient land, Anaks of the tribe, the Amazon Dungeness. These were no kin to bugs or rodents, indeed like Caesar to a beggar, the Alaskan lord may be in the brotherhood with his gypsy cousins - the sandy beachcombers, but surely when the ancients honored the species with one of the twelve signs and a constellation on the elliptic, surely now they had the impressive King in mind. I was told the largest of them were about four feet at the leg spread, that the largest caught and recorded was just under five and weighed twenty-four and a half pounds - an extent to admire. Getting such a thing from the sea to boat to box to plate was no mean proceeding.

In a matter of a couple of days this spartan, moody island shed any melancholy and began to bustle. The population must have increased five fold. Now instead of having my dorm room to myself - the other three beds were occupied, two by Aleuts and another by a bearded Paul Bunyan type complete with red and black plaid work shirts. We never saw each other because I worked days and they nights. An army had descended. I was on the dock with another foreman, Jack Stern. He was older, about twenty-five, a graduate student at the University of Oregon, in religious studies. He fancied himself I think as a minister in training. I even caught him a couple of times telling his crews, "Good work guys, God's smilin." He was very positive but rather too sugar coated, the crews would mumble about him and roll their eyes behind his back. I rather liked him, he worked hard, was organized and did a good job, even with his John Brown streak. We each watched over anywhere from five to fifteen crewmen. Each boat once it docked was assigned five off loading crewman. One to operate the crane, two to empty the hold, two on the wharf to fill and work the bins to and from the packing building. Unlike during the salmon season, every crab boat that docked was immediately given a full crew and quickly with urgency off loaded. Salmon season I realized had been a devil may care romp compared to the crab. Now the canneries and personnel were operating with warlike efficiency at maximum capacity. At any one time on the dock there was at least three and up to six boats, and this was around the clock. For being the season that was to fizzle it seemed to me that work and crabs were aplenty.

The crab was not shoveled out of the hold onto a cargo net like the salmon - but was actually plucked out by hand and tossed into a long rectangular box that was, like the pots, framed with steel rods and sided with nylon mesh. It was lean enough to fit down in the hold, about three feet square and about four foot tall. Few of the boats that came in had a load up to the gills. Typically after the water in the hold was drained the load was several feet down below the deck. I was told that the loads were indeed running low, that in past seasons it was not unusual for boats to come in loaded full up almost to the decks. And this was a sign that perhaps the resource was fading. After the box was filled, it was craned to the wharf to a bin. Once over the bin, a worker untied a rope holding the floor of the box closed, the floor then swung open and the crabs fell into the steel bin. The worker had a piece of two-by-four that he would use to bang the sides of the box occasionally when a few crabs would cling for life to the nylon mesh. With the crabs in the bin, the box was craned back to the hold and another box picked up, to be craned to the other worker with a fresh empty bin. As with the salmon, the off loading containers were rotated and the bins rotated, thus the off loading procedure was continually in motion. Once the bins had been weighed and rolled inside the factory building they were moved to one of the several cutting tables. There another worker tossed the crabs into the middle of the tables. Around the huge round tables were almost a dozen workers. And next to each on the floor sat one of the blue plastic baskets. Around the table were long wrought iron bars with two vertical pronged forks at the end. A devilish instrument. Each worker around the table would use the forks to drag the crabs from the pile toward them, then in front of them on the table they would butcher the crabs - but without cutting utensils - by gloved hand; they would simply break off the legs and toss the body in one basket and the legs into another. Another worker would scamper around the tables trading empty baskets for full, then run the full baskets over to a stack of them next to the packaging area. Several long steel tables had been set up where workers along one side of the table took the legs from the baskets then placed them neatly like asparagus into thick walled cardboard boxes. Once filled the boxes were shoved to the other side of the table where more workers sealed the boxes with plastic straps then placed the boxes on a conveyor belt that ran along parallel to the tables. The belt ran to the other side of the factory building and several workers along it on that side would pick up the boxes, weigh it on a scale set up on the table next to them and mark the weight on the box. Another conveyor belt was on the other side of the table and, after weighing, the boxes would then be placed on that belt which took them to the far end of the building over by the time clock. There, more workers took the boxes and stacked them on pallets forming a cube of boxes; then these cubes would be wrapped and contained with steel banding. Unlike the salmon in cans, these cubes of boxed crab legs could not be warehoused and shipped at leisure. Immediately the cubes were fork lifted to another building - a refrigerated warehouse with two loading docks - one on the wharf and one facing land for trucks. Each day two truckloads were taken to the air strip to be airlifted to Anchorage, to then be housed in another refrigerated warehouse for likely but a few hours before being fork lifted to another plane or ship for a jaunt to the lower forty-eight. Stateside the boxes were bought by restaurant and store distributors and super market chains who also had refrigerated warehouses, trucks, and forklifts, and armies of hands to sell and move the crab into stores and eateries - into those refrigerators - the last stop before the boiling cauldron. It was claimed that to anywhere in the lower forty-eight, if gone by air and left unfrozen - per USDA specs for fresh fish - the subtle succulent meat once dipped in the buttery sauce had been a cut up soulless mass for no more than forty-eight hours.

It was a geared machine befitting modern times and I was one of its little gears. And the system was competitively repeated with only minor variations at three other canneries around the harbor and on several processing ships flying the Russian red, the Japanese sun, as well as the American stars and stripes.

14 Though it seemed like it, all was not just work and no play, there was, especially with the boost in population, some diversions, even a social calendar of sorts. Every Tuesday night the Elbow Room had a half-price on beer night - that pulled them in; yet the bar really didn't need to offer any promotional fire sales as it was crowded now every night. Each cannery's living quarters had a party night once per week. Almost on any given night there was someplace to go and people to see. Yet, I was not eating of the fruits of this available saturnalia. I was living more according to Nate's maximum that we were up there to get a job and not become occupied with other matters. When I was not working I was likely walking around the harbor talking to skippers or sleeping. I was not a solid stick in the mud. I did take frequent forays to the Elbow Room for after work sessions to down a few longnecks and gripe and gossip with co-workers and see something female. Even Jack with his biblical streak joined me once for a couple of rounds. It was a Saturday night, about a week and a half into the crab season and I had the next day off. And the Saturdays I had gone through up there with nothing at all to do had made me realize there was something about Saturdays in my blood, my natural inclinations felt it, my chemistry oozed something into my blood stream on a Saturday. It was the night of R and R, of fun and frolic, it was Bacchic, when the lords of misrule came out, for six days it was Apollonian, the seventh Dionysian, it was party time. Though I had had nothing to do on every other night, on Saturdays suddenly I felt a captive, I saw the walls closing in, I was a caged rat. My doubts and longings deepened, my dark and distant shores became darker and more distant. Fortunately, on the previous Saturdays I was sufficiently worked out thus slept easily through it all, but that first Saturday into crab season, with my new, much less strenuous job, and my rainy days of unsociability, I was ready, ready to hit the town, such as it was. But I had no one to hit it with. Therefore, when after the shift Jack and I were walking back to the dormitory I got around to talking him into going. Actually I didn't have to talk that hard. We were in a discussion over his favorite topic - concerning what he would call God and Jesus Christ, and rather what I would call religion, metaphysics and in general spiritual overfed beliefs. Early on in the week we had gotten into it. We started talking religion and I outlined a book my father wrote and it turned out he had read it in his studies at the University. It was not a weighty tome, more an intro, but my father had slanted the work with an academic air, a worldly dispassionate view treating the various subjects, Catholicism, Christianity, Hindu, Muslim, Episcopalian, etcetera, with an equal non-partisan attitude; twenty I believe he described, not emphasizing one over the other, as if they were indeed all alike. Because of this Jack said my father was a heretic. He did not come out and say it - but he certainly implied it, and I recognized it right off. And no one wants a devil for a dad, after all. Jack had said my father's book was thorough, well written, well researched, all the gentile generalities, but he said, "the only thing was he kept calling Christianity a religion."

I said, "Well that's what the books about - religions of the world."

Then he said that, "Modern Christianity" was "not a religion."

I was confused, "My father called the other religions religions didn't he? It's not like he singled out Christianity as some sort of sect."

"Well yes - but the others are religions."

"Okay - so if they're religions - so is Christianity."

"No - modern Christianity is not a religion."

"Then what is it? And what is this modern stuff? The bible is a pretty darn old book."

He stopped and looked with an earnest and thoughtful sigh and said slowly and carefully, "It is... It is... Modern Christianity is best described as a relationship." And he pointed his right index finger into the air - heavenward - to emphasize this R word.

"Relationship," I repeated.

He nodded, "Yes."

I was not an ignoramus about such things, but I was of a bent that I was very suspicious of any club that begged me a member. And it seemed like since my high school days some church group was seeking – a bit too earnestly - my membership. I noticed they really went after the athletes; likely because they saw them as easy prey. Athletes were always living in fear of injury or insufficient talent – they were more apt to just put it all in something else’s hands; and as an added bonus they were typically the more popular in the school environ. Thus bag a top athlete, likely a few more stragglers would follow into the fold. And they all had the same pitch, be reborn, saved, be part of us, let God do the worrying – and when the great Armageddon envelops the earth and its lights out for all humanity you will rise and be spared or some such drivel. It was too late for me – I saw them all as how my father described them – a religion, an army of dolts trying to get you to enlist into their cult. Some where more persistent and halleluiah than others, and some were magnificent, part and parcel of the ages, with Popes and magical water at the door, and some were like Jack, just sweet guys doing what their stupid honey dewed minds told them to do. Now, this is not to say I wasn't spiritual, or a believer of sorts. My soul wasn’t completely sold. I think for me the verdict was still out. I was wondering if what I had read and listened from my father, such proffers as Kant's Nouminal world and Joyce's bit about a table being a window to the ineffable, was that simply a more thorough advancing on the problem? The ultimate questions. Or simply fancy pant intellectual hyperbola trying to complicate the simple notion of faith – to have it, or not. Now Jack seemed quite happy and comfortable in his beliefs. And what was wrong with that? So what if they didn't quite make sense, or derived from a fuzzy application of logic and language. He didn't seem that extreme really. One less head case to disrupt the world. So what if it was not for me, what was so great about my beliefs? Whatever they were. As long as he stayed in his yard - it was a free country right? And I did find myself slightly envious of his ability to grasp hold of something intellectually so easily, some Rock of Gibraltar set and system of beliefs. I admired his inner surety, but I knew for me it wouldn't come so easy – it would definitely take a good story to take hold. Something in my immune system wouldn't accept his easy mendacity. Ignorance and stupidity is bliss. But then was I being arrogant? Was I the one missing the boat?

But whatever. I was now eyeing a potential relationship on an entirely different front. Behind me, with a longneck beer in her hand, was a girl. And actually sort of pretty I thought in her way – a rare bird. I had noticed her at the bar before buying the beer and then later, when I had turned around, she was there leaning against one of the posts. Her hair was black, cut short – just at her ears. Her face was pale with a small rounded boyish nose and light freckles, a pouty chin and small thin mouth. The brows over her eyes were thin and black also. Her skin was tight over her face and so brought out the bones slightly which made the face sort of triangular. And she was dressed in the style, in jeans and a blue wool work shirt. She was skinny and shorter, about five-four. With her hair so short she could have passed for a slight teenage boy. She caught me looking at her, then she looked to the side as if occupied elsewhere. Then she brought the bottle of beer up to her mouth and took a drink.

I kept looking at her and she noticed me again and held the glance longer, then looked away. I looked back at Jack and said, "Hey Jack, I'd love to keep talking about you're religion thing but I'm gonna go talk to that girl."

He smiled pleasantly and nodded and I think he said, "Okay," or "Good luck."

I got up and stepped over and said to her, "How's it going?"

She looked up and gave me a distant look then nodded and said, "Fine."

I said, "So where do you work?"

She mouthed something that I could not hear over the noise so I bent down and said, "Where?"

"UNISEA," she said into my ear.

I stood back up and nodded then tried to think of something else to say. I started with asking where she was from and we went on like that for awhile, me asking the questions and she answering into my ear. She seemed hesitant to talk, just giving me short answers as if she was begrudgingly answering a survey. I probably would have passed on her in most any other similar situation but she was my first female company in almost a month. And she was not bad looking at all. It was her hair being so short, gave her that tomboy look and air – for my eye it detracted from her immediate sex appeal, but on closer exam her sheness came through. And, of course, I was in a needy way.

Then Jack, who I had sort of forgotten about, tapped my shoulder and said, "Hey - I'm goin' back - it's my bedtime."

I turned and nodded, "Okay Jack. You oughtta stick around - let your hair down a little."

He shook his head, "I gotta work. And tomorrow I'll probably have to pick up the slack for the guy that does you're job."

"Yeah, don't let him mess it all up."

"Listen, tomorrow night if I get off early enough - you want to go to the service with me?"



"I don't know Jack, tomorrow's my day off."

"It's only an hour."

"Yeah sure - just come by my room and see if I'm there," I said, as I thought to myself that there was no way in Hades I was going to any island church service.

"I will."

I made a mental note to avoid my room the next evening. I turned back to the girl and waved her over to the space at the bar left by Jack. She willingly stepped over. Perhaps my efforts had not been futile. Her bottle looked empty. "Buy you a beer?" I asked. She nodded, and I did and we talked more shouting into one another's ear. Her name was Stephanie. I didn't quite get her last name, McGee, McGow, or McGraw, something like that. She was from Seattle and worked on one of the packaging lines at the UNISEA. She was just twenty and was going off and on to a junior college in Seattle. Then another tapping came to my shoulder and I heard said loud into my ear a very familiar voice, "Hey – that's my wife asshole."

For a quick moment I was a little startled, fearing the worst, and then I realized who it sounded like; I looked and sure enough - it was Nate. I couldn't believe it, but sure enough - behold, it was him. He was a little scruffy, dirty in the face with a couple days growth of whiskers.

I said, wide eyed and smiling, "Goddamn - Nate - what are you doing here? Your suppose to be fishing."

We shook hands and laughed, he said, "It's a long story.” He looked over at Stephanie and said, "So who's this?"

I introduced them and said, "So what gives? You guys off-loading or something? Where's your buddy Art?"

"Beats me - I got kicked off the boat."

That was a surprise. But it struck me as sort of funny. And I was admittedly sort of glad; we were back on even ground - in fact with my foreman's job I was probably on top.

He asked looking around, "So where's Klug - he go home?"

"You'll never believe it." I told him without going into the details.

He shook his head and looked a little sullen over it, "Wonder how he's doin'."

I shrugged.

"I need a few drinks - can you afford to buy me one?" He asked.

"Sure," I ordered a round of kamikazes including one for Stephanie.

After we drank down the kamis I ordered another round of beers. Nate gave us a brief rundown; he had been fired off the boat in Kiska and then had gotten a job at the UNISEA Cannery there to work at the Dutch Harbor plant, he had been on the island working for almost a couple of days. He was an off-loader. I told him about my position. He shook his head and grumbled, "Ah, I wouldn't want that job - listening to those skippers bitch."

I laughed and said, "Like hell you wouldn't want it."

Nate had a couple more beers with us. Stephanie was quiet through most of our talk and bantering. She did ask, "How do you guys know each other?"

"We're brothers," Nate said.

"You are?" she said, narrowing her eyes with a doubtful look.

I said, "Not really - we may as well be though. We grew up together on the same street. And we came up to Alaska together with a couple other friends from home."

She nodded.

A few times while Nate and I talked I caught her looking and smiling sort of at Nate, he saw it too and looked back, not blatantly, but not slyly. She looked at me the same way also though - and for most of the time. Then Nate bowed out saying he had to hit the sack to get up for work, "I start at four a.m. and work till noon or one o'clock – or later sometimes."

"Tomorrow's my day off - when you get off we should get together," I said. "I want to hear all about what happened."

"I wanna take a nap when I get outa work so meet me here tomorrow at four."

I nodded, "Will do." And he looked at Stephanie and nodded and said, "Nice to meet you - see you around the UNISEA."

She nodded and said, "See you around."

Then he left. I got the slight impression that he was subtly moving in on Stephanie. He was probably as starved as I was for a girl. I think we both sensed that she was game - and perhaps as starved as we were. We drank a couple more beers with more small talk. In a darker corner of the bar some couples were dancing to the jukebox music. We joined in for a couple numbers. We started with The Beach Boy's California Girls - east coast girls, southern girls, west coast girls - where the girls get so tan - no mention of Alaskan girls. The dancing crowd was a mixture of young and old and all looking rift raffish in their work clothes. A few were still in their plastic lined high rubber boots, they were a happy go lucky, fairly intoxicated, rather ribald group. They clapped, a few danced around in suggestive exaggerated gyrations, a buxom blonde was dancing with some gray hair in dirty rubber boots and greasy stained clothes with a pint bottle of whiskey in his hand. She had her shirt unbuttoned almost all the way down and was flashing her endowments at him then laughing. As we danced Stephanie looked at me toward the end of the song with a fixed gaze. After the song I pulled her to me and we kissed. Then an old slow Johnny Cash song came on, I think it was Guess Things Happen that Way, and we embraced as we slowly stepped over the floor and kissed a couple times more. And as we kissed she rubbed her hand over my back then lower down then over to my front. She got me going, and after the song was over I took hold of her hand and nodded over toward the door, "Come on," then led her through the tables and the crowd. She went willingly along. Outside I pulled her over to the side of the building into a shadow, and leaning up against the wall we started kissing and going through preliminaries. She rushed up and put her arm around my head and pulled me toward her, she really went at it. She was hungry. Her shirt was baggy on her and I had pulled the rear panel out of her jeans and slipped my hand up along her back. She was not wearing a bra only a ribbed undershirt. She felt so small and petit, and it felt like her thin layer of smooth skin was all that was between my hand and her bones and hard muscles. She was rubbing me now over the front and I was having difficulty in my jeans. We were sort of laughing and enjoying one another. I needed to take her someplace. I was thinking quick. One of the hotels was out, no rooms vacant probably. My room maybe, but my roommates may come in, but likely not - at least not until morning. And if she was still there, what the hell. I was not in a mood to mull over details.

I took her hand and pulled her away from the building and we walked over to my room. We stopped a couple of times to go at it some more, then eventually I had her on my bed. Immediately we began pulling off one another's clothes. We were both aching for it. She was a skinny girl with her clothes off, and her skin was lightly freckled and felt moist like a flower's petal, and looked tight and shiny over her muscles which appeared well defined for a girl. Her shoulders looked broad and her chest was slight, mere smooth mounds, and little thumb sized areolas. She felt smooth and hard all over and her legs and arms seemed twig-like. When I started going into her she pulled me hard against her and began moving her hips, I tried to move in sync but she would move one way then change to another. Then she whispered for me to turn over and she came up on top of me, even asked me to sit up on the edge of the bed, and she again pulled herself close into me and moved her hips. We went on like that for a while and as she became more excited she pressed her arms around me, and moved her hips vigorously. Her face went blushed and fell back and she said through her breathing, "Stay, stay in me."

I did what I was told; I did try a coitus interruptus – but she pulled on my rear holding me inside her saying still through her breathing, "Stay, stay." I was attracted to her well enough, but the session was peculiar for me. She was vigorous, yet it seemed all applied to herself. As we were going she hardly looked at me. We had almost no eye contact - though I looked at her for it. There was a missing link, somehow. We were not in sync. A kind of mutual masturbation. I finished just fine, yet when I turned over and laid back I felt as if somehow it was incomplete. As we laid back she leaned down beside the bed and took a cigarette and a lighter out of her shirt pocket.

"You want a cigarette?" she asked.

"No, I don't smoke, thanks."

She nodded and plugged her cigarette into her mouth and then with a quick motion flicked her lighter and lit up. She sat up in the bed with her shirt down at her waist. I think she was trying to cool off as she smoked, her skin was moist and dewed with perspiration. I rose up to kiss her - a romantic gesture of sorts, and she pulled the cigarette from her mouth and gave me a hesitant and funny look, as if she didn't understand what I was doing. In odd slight ways she seamed awkward. Then I laid back down and fell asleep. Later in the night I felt her move over me trying to arouse me, and we went at it again. And again it was rather the same. Early the next morning, before my roommates came in she got up to go to work. In the bed she slid on her jeans, then she got out of bed without anything else on and collected her socks and shoes and shirts. Then she sat down on the edge of the bed and pulled on her socks, then her shoes. Then she slipped her T-shirt over her head and then stood up and put on her shirt. She looked around - as if trying to figure out how to make her exit. I said, "Gotta work?"

She nodded, "Yes." And kept standing and again looking as if she didn't quite know what to do next. I pulled on her arm and she sat down on the bed, I said, "Here give me a kiss." She did; first a light one, then I kept pulling on her and she gave me a better one. Then she stood up again.

"So you work everyday?"

She nodded, "Just about."

"When's your day off?"


"Maybe we should get together Monday or Tuesday night for dinner or something."

She nodded, "Sure."

"You're at the UNISEA?"

"Yeah - I'm in building E. I get off around five or six."

I nodded and said, "Okay."

"Okay," she said, then, "well, bye."

"See ya. See you in a couple days."

Then she smiled shyly and nodded and walked out. My guess was her overall shyness was a self-image problem; and her sex making was not the best I had experienced - but that it couldn't have been from inexperience. I laid back to fall back asleep thinking that I really had no complaints. For what was running up there she was a good number - and perhaps the sex would get better. But then as I laid there and thought more about our sexmaking, for that’s what it was really, a kind of mutual masturbation, I began to think about Jane. Good ol’ Jane. I thought how we would typically go out to dinner, a movie maybe, or just to Stan’s. We would talk about the current events in our lives and about the town. Nothing special really. Nothing brilliant at all about it. Just the stuff of the everyday operating among our friends, parents, sisters, brothers, just that life amid our immediate circle. Then I would ask, so you want to get out of here, and she would nod and smile and we would walk out and walk to my house. On the way I would take her hand or put my arm around her. At my house we would go inside to my room; I would close the door and we would sit or lay on the bed. We would kiss some. She would be dressed in pressed pants or a skirt, a pressed blouse or polo shirt. Always dressed nice. Typically a string of small pearls was around her neck slightly slack. I thought how as we kissed and petted I would get her clothes off and she would get mine off, then we would get under the covers and I would go into her and she would always look into my eyes, and I in hers. Her skin was smooth and golden almost, her breasts, rounded, full, and firm; her arms and legs spindly. Sometimes she would sit atop of me, her arms rubbing over my shoulders and her face, above the pearls, full of pleasure. And I would reach up and feel over her breasts and chest, and she would breath in long and full. And it always seemed new and almost like the first time, so I was thinking. Soon I closed my eyes and decided that I had to let her go and forget those nights.

15 That morning I slept in. I had planned on getting up early and going around the waterfront to check for any opportunities on some boats, but when I first woke up, I was still tired and, after almost three weeks straight of working, I figured, what the hell, I was going to sleep in. I succumbed to my baser nature, decided to indulge myself. I rose later in the morning near eleven, dressed slowly, then went to the cafeteria for lunch. The fare was baloney sandwiches with a side of scalloped potatoes. You would think on a Sunday they would fancy things up a bit, some eggs benedict perhaps. After lunch I made my way over to a few boats on the harbor. I was going to try and get by the UNISEA pop in and see both Nate and Stephanie - but I ended up talking awhile to a couple skippers with boats parked at the Bering Sea plant - getting more lowdown on the state of the season. By the time we finished it was almost close to four, time for me to get over to the Elbow Room to meet Nate. Though I had gone by a half dozen boats I still had no bites nor even any nibbles regarding a job. The skippers I talked with did say that the catch was down. And the word was that the majority of the boats were coming up with empty pots, were going to their special spots and finding nothing. I did not have any way of confirming this - from the vantage of a cannery hand, seeing only those boats that were successfully finding crab, things looked steady and even prosperous. But we were only seeing those boats that were finding the crab. If the crab was plentiful then most of the boats would find it and the number of boats coming into the cannery would increase. To date things looked steady, not quite what past years were, as I was told, but good enough. Yet there were no real signs that things were on an incline. And this was probably the initial sign. If the crab was depleted, as per the gloomy gus scientists, then, as the season progressed, even fewer boats would find the crab, and only the same ones that had found it initially would keep coming in. And if things were really bad, then boats that had initially found crab would return to their spots and start pulling up empty pots having fished their spots out. Then the number of boats coming into the cannery would actually decrease. I was told that this later scenario, however, was doubtful - the industry was remaining optimistic to date. Nate was looking tired when he came into the Elbow Room, his face was slightly swollen as if he had just woke up from a deep sleep. We sat down at one of the tables along the wall and ordered a round of beers. "Looks like you just got up," I said.

"I did. Soon as I hit the pillow for a nap I was out. I'm working hard. You know this is probably as hard as I've ever worked. You ever work this hard?"

I shook my head, "No."

"Of course being a foreman is not so bad - at least you don't get that constant physical exertion."

"Don't forget I shoveled fish for two weeks before I got promoted."

"It really isn't that bad. I sure sleep well though. Work and sleep - that's it. And eat. I'd hate to have to do this the rest of my life. The boredom's the worst thing about it."

"I'd hate to do this another month."

"So how did you get that foreman job anyway? You put your resume in front of mine or something."

"No, they just recognized immediately my naturally superior abilities."

"You're a crock."

"I'm also a foreman and you're not."

He nodded not saying anything back. He knew I had him. "So what happened with that scrawny thing?" He asked.

"Scrawny? She ain't scrawny."

"And she looks sorta like a guy, a kid."

I shook my head, "You're just pissed. You're off the boat, you're flingin' crab for minimum wage, you're tired and not gettin' any. A lamentable state of affairs I'd say."

He leaned back in his chair and tilted his head way back and gave a tired exhale then said, "You're a prick."

"And nothin' happened between me and Stephanie – that's her name – not scrawny."

"Like hell lover boy - she was given you the eye. Hell, she was given me the eye. One of us was gettin' somethin'."

"We rolled around a little."

"A little?"

Reluctantly I admitted, "Yeah - sort of a lot. But trust me – you don't wanna know the details. It'll just get you riled."

"How many times?"

"You want me to write a book?"

"Stop bein' such an ass about it. You're always a prude about these things."

"Alright - twice."

He shook his head, "Its not like she's your girlfriend or somethin."

"She spent the night in my room, what do you want - you're the one that's been a hard ass about women since we left Claremont."

"Yeah, well they're scarce up here."

"And the ones that are here - yuk."

"I've seen better. Stephanie wasn't bad. Kind of a board though.

"Not really – she was wearing lots a clothes."

"Yeah, lots a clothes – that’s a good one. Was it flat or concave under those layers?"

"Do we need to talk about this?"

"Not a real personality either - she didn't say hardly anything when we were all drinking."

"No, but you can't be too critical up here."

"No, but I tell ya - you gotta watch it I think. They start looking better after awhile. Down home you wouldn't have given Stephanie a second look. It's either from lack of variety or quality or from starin' at fish all day."

"It's your mind being twisted by a deprived libido – its playin' tricks on you."

He nodded, "Yeah - somethin' like that."

I decided to quit the small talk and get my curiosity satisfied, I asked, "So what happened with Art and company?"

"Its a long dumb story. I was led to water but they wouldn't let me drink."

"That Art seemed like a funny guy - did he cheat you?"

He winced a little and with hesitation said, "Yeah, sort a. Yeah, he did I guess. I put a lot of time on the boat and didn't really get paid for it."

He went into the story first in broad strokes, then as I queried him he became more specific. There was valuable information to be had for he had actually done the thing and learned much about it. In fact I peppered him with questions - everything from how certain knots were used and why they were tied, to what was what on the boats - equipment that I had seen but had no idea what it was used for - so many questions he eventually said, "You're getting into this aren't you?"

I had not realized it really, and considered the question a moment. I had asked Nate question after question and listened intently, still my interest had come upon me rather unintentionally. I guess it stemmed from the work I had been doing, investing this time and effort, I had definitely grown interested and intent on getting a job on a boat. I said, "Guess you're right, I am." Like golf, the fishing game had taken hold. I was no longer at every whipsaw longing for home. I was rather proud to have gotten as far as I had, to have tried destiny's play with not a completely sure hand, and so far bluffing her well. And the daily grind had settled me to an extent, focused me - as well as made me appreciate the value of the ring if once grabbed and held. And I think there was something else about it also. Working on the wharf I had noticed it. Saw it, and did not actually elucidate and think on it in my mind, just rather noticed it. When I had started working with Bill he showed me at the dock foreman's desk a list of about a dozen boats. He said that those boats when they come in always received preferential treatment. They were the first to be unloaded and always an extra crewman was assigned to them. Even as tenders the boats received the treatment. It was because the boats were skippered by Highliners - skippers who had the reputation for year in and out bringing in the most crab. Somehow through skill, or luck, or both, they were the known masters plying the trade. Like anything, they knew how to do it, they had the knack, the talent, the genius for the thing. The cannery also paid them a higher price per pound for their catch. And all around the harbor the Highliners were in demand by the canneries. Most had developed a relationship with a cannery over a span of years and thus remained in that stable, but occasionally if a skipper was offered a little higher price per pound or was disgruntled over something he would switch canneries. They were the Du Ponts and Vanderbilt's, the Carnegie's and Rockefeller's - the great men of the business, the tycoons of the trade. They were the top of the pyramid. The boats I worked on that were Highliners, the few, you could tell by the look and feel of the boat. I could sense a difference. A couple of them had been brand new boats - sleek sparkling affairs. But then one came in and I was surprised to see her on the list. She was a humble looking maiden, yet once on board again the sensation was there. Crewman I had seen from every boat, Highliners or not, seemed a hardened and tough lot. There looked a devil-may-careness about them. There was an edge to them. But on the Highliners the edge was even sharper, even more noticeable. Sometimes I thought it was all something I was projecting onto them, that they were really quiet and stoic looking, and that way because they were tired. It was the way they would stand perched on the high deck leaning not lazily and weakly but solidly seeming, leaning into it, with a self possessed serious brow. Even the young ones had it. I never saw them up there joking and jiving and yapping. Just standing with dash and superiority in their eyes, with subdued panache, eyeing the unloading operation with a barely perceptible disdainful stare, looking at work they may or may not have done, but regardless, it was beneath them now. They were on a higher mountaintop, they were a superior breed. They must have thought while looking down from on high, "Imagine that, people actually shoveling fish for a living, and for a mere six bucks an hour. Chumps making chump change." And in the Highliners it was all more acute. The crewman seemed steadier, even more serious, even larger physically, the skippers smarter, but more tense and high strung. The Highliner skippers were the blatant difference, "Can't you get this crew moving faster? I gotta get back out...Foreman - that guys slacking. I gotta get back out...Foreman - you sure this is all the slips? This is accurate, you sure? I gotta get back out. We're wasting time here." Their touch was blunt and succinct and always urgent. It was not always a pretty picture, but it was an effective, no nonsense one. Of the Highliners I saw, none of the skippers were laid back or easy going. They were ass kickers, Attila the Hun's, Cromwell's, Patton's, the Sherman's, and Churchill's, the War Lords.

On the docks in view of those Olympians admittedly I felt rather lame. I had grown accustomed to standing on the high deck. In high school I was an applauded athlete, one of the school's best, yet in this Aleutian arena I was on the bench; rather like the waterboy there to service the great ones, not a Highliner, or even a midliner - a sideliner. At college I was at Princeton, need I say more. And there, I was one of the best at the best. My tradition was excellence. I was a Highliner, goddamn it. And that was it - that something else - I was not born to bask in shadows. Maybe it all was pure imagination, neurotic projections. I was not completely sure, but though I had only nibbled, I had touched and seen enough, I had to get on a boat. Get into this air that to me so well reeked of honor and glory. I figured that whatever I could glean from Nate would likely be useful knowledge – not just for getting a job, but once acquired – doing the job. And I wanted to learn from his mistakes – I wanted to know why he got kicked off the boat so as I could avoid making the same faux pas. He was forthcoming with completeness and at times surprising evocative detail, and eventually I was able to put it all together in considerable detail.

Apparently, after Klug and I had left the Snark to environs a la Juneau, the boat made a quick stop at a cannery and a crew of several off loaders came aboard and summarily, in about a half hours time, offloaded the car, the lumber, and the various other incidentals that had taken Nate, I, Art, Jake, and Dean three days to load. Then the Snark was off again back into the marine highway, through more of the high country. Several hours later, after passing through more narrow fiords, between plunging mountainsides, there came another widened basin, and along one side were dark gray blue mountains with sharp steep peaks and sheer rock slanted sides colored gun gray in the sun. Between the mountains was a white icy extreme. "The bay opened real wide," Nate told, "and along one side were gray treeless mountains, just rock sides and pointed peaks. And between was this huge slab of ice. A big wall of white between the mountains. And the face of the wall was all craggy and lined like the face of a thick board cut with a crummy saw. And it went up fifty, sixty feet. And you could see up on the mountains, on the face along the ice, the sides just dropped straight - where the ice had sliced right through. And you could see the layers of rock, the veins in the mountain. The top of the ice, the edge of the wall was all jagged like an old mans crummy teeth. Then in the water all around the boat was small chunks of ice, like crushed ice in a drink. And some of the chunks were big - bout the size of a car. We moved past it real slow, I guess watching the ice - you know not wanting to pull a Titanic. It was kinda eerie, real quiet seemed like. And even though the sun was out it was cold. You know that sharp kind of cold that cuts into your face. The water was real smooth like glass and cold looking and a shiny metallic like blue, like it was blue foil. And it seemed like it was somehow thicker. And in the ice there was a bluish glowing. You know it wasn't just white, it had this blue glow like if there was an inner thing going on. I guess you had to be there to really get it. It was like another world Joe - even more than the stuff we had seen."

After the glaciers they sailed a day through more mountains into the Gulf of Alaska, then south along the Alexander Archipelago to another tremendous bay where on one side lay Sitka, a small fishing town along the slopes of the mountains comprising, the Chicagof Island. Along a two mile strand was most of the town and a marina holding a fleet of a hundred or so small and large fishing boats. Most of them were purse seiners of all sizes. There were four or five small canneries along the water and the Snark docked near the Sitka Packing Company and spent the night there. The next morning another crewman came aboard, he was an Indian - or Eskimo - or Aleut, Nate never found out specifically; his name was Billy and he was a couple years older than Nate, or at least seemed to be. He was quiet, and not sociable at first, but later they all went to a bar in town and as Art and Jake talked, Nate and Billy began an exchange. Billy lived in Nome which, when Nate asked where that was, Billy said simply, "It's way up there." To Nate he seemed quite on the ball. He asked Nate about the lower forty-eight, asked him which states had he been to, what California was like, specifically about the girls, Disneyland, and Hollywood. He wanted to know how the movie stars lived. "Like us – only lots better," Nate told him.

As the evening progressed and more beer and drinks were downed Jake surprised Nate by taking on a rowdy, frisky, dirty ol' man disposition. He became a real flirt with the bar girls, joking around with them with corny old-timer lines, occasionally slapping or copping a feel along a thigh or backside. Art mostly sat quiet and slowly drank but smiled occasionally at Jake's antics - the only sign that he might be enjoying the show. And the bar was quite lively. The way Nate explained it, it sounded like the Elbow Room on a busy night, much drinking and dancing to the juke box music, rowdy merry making. "I looked over and thought I saw two women dancing together - they were pulling each others hair and slapping each other beatin' the heck out of each other. Next thing they're rolling over the dance floor. It was kinda funny."

"Sounds interestin'."

"It was."

The next morning they set sail for the open sea, back into the gulf to begin three weeks of tendering. They cruised along the Alexander Archipelago listening to the short-wave for salmon boat skippers to radio looking for a tender. Basically my impression was that the canneries hired boats like the Snark to go out and get the fish. Again it was a competitive move. The canneries had to compete with each other as well as the offshore processing boats. Hiring large boats like the Snark to go to the salmon boats would theoretically circumvent the efforts of the offshore processors. The boats competed for the fish, and the canneries competed for the catch, it was free enterprise with only the strong and innovative surviving. When a call came over the radio for a salmon boat looking for a tender in the area the Snark was cruising, Art or whomever was running the bridge would answer, contact the boat, and try and set up a meeting. Coordinate locations were exchanged, a meeting place determined with an estimated time. Then soon the two boats would meet and the smaller salmon boat - always a purse seiner - would tie up to the side of the larger Snark and the transferring process would begin. A large net like that used on the cannery docks was craned from hold to hold. A heavy duty scale, a round dial with a hook at the top and one at the bottom hung between the crane hook and the filled cargo net. From each load transferred from the purse seiner a reading was taken from the scale and the weights duly recorded. Nate's job during the operation was to be down in the hull unloading the cargo net and shoveling the fish into the hull.

"Did you get sick?"

"I took a lot of Dramamine and it seemed to help. But yeah, a couple a times. The sea was wavy, and down in that smelly hold got to me. Puked a couple a times all over the slimes."

Not much was earned by the boats and crew for tendering. It was done mostly to pay a share of the expenses for repairing and making ready the boat for the crab season, and a way to kill some time. For the three weeks that they tendered Nate earned about a thousand dollars. After they brought in their last load of salmon into Sitka, a day was spent cleaning the hold, stocking supplies and gassing up the boat again. Then they set off to sail over the great expanse of the Gulf of Alaska to Kodiak - another fishing port, much like Dutch Harbor - where many varieties of fish are canned, the foremost being salmon, but closely seconded by crab. On Kodiak, crab once was the top money earner and emphasis of the local industry, but a few years before, the catch from the fields around Kodiak were on the decline and the great and plentiful crab fields of the Aleutians were discovered, then much of the industry moved to Dutch Harbor.

In the outer expanses of the gulf, the seas again rose to playful heights and as the boat rolled over the purling rippling swells Nate again felt the surge of both the sea and his stomach and puking again became for him de rigueur. Still he managed to keep it to himself, puking on the sly.

Billy and Nate got along well and spent several hours together in the pilot house watching the helm while Art and Jake would sleep. To pass the time Billy would explain to Nate how the crabbing would be done. He gave Nate several detailed insights into the ways and means of the craft; such things as knots - he showed him a knot that was essential for all hands to know for tying the pot lines together. Similar to a bowline by bringing two ropes together, it was stronger and more complicated to tie. After the twists and loopings of the lines, the knot ended up in a square tangle, and though much less likely to unravel than a bowline it was easy to break and untie.

He showed Nate how the skippers used the LORAN navigation system. In the marine highway the navigation was done from point to point, in the open sea either a sextant and compass was used - or the LORAN. The world's seas were, with satellites and land based antenna towers, mapped electronically with the latitudinal and longitudinal grid - the great matrix. A ship with a Loran system could be thus electronically directed toward the intended location. All a skipper had to do was locate on a map the latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates for his point of sail and dial them into the LORAN box - a black box with a digital light which showed the coordinates - then the system would indicate the compass direction the boat should sail to eventually reach the coordinates. All the skipper had to do was keep the boat on course and watch for any land or rocks or other potential hazards that may intrude into the course. Each skipper apparently kept a log of coordinates - with Art it was a black book he kept always in a small safe in his stateroom. The coordinates were the skippers known or speculated fishing spots. And they were top secret to all, even the crew. Apparently, some skippers, perhaps even Art, wrote the coordinates down in code in case by chance their records were ever stolen. The crew was, in general, kept in the dark about the coordinates for one never knew when even the most loyal crewman might, especially in the demanding and fatigue inducing pursuit of the crab, fly off the handle, quit on bad terms and take up with another skipper. Even when the boat was sailing to a fishing area, the skipper would generally dial in a coordinate that was nearby the key spot, then once over to the sub spot the skipper would clear the bridge and navigate the rest of the way alone. The LORAN system was a tremendous aid in man's effort to tame the seas, yet like any electronic gismo it had its quirks. Touted for its ultra precision, in reality that was a sales pitch, it was not unusual for a boat to find itself a half mile or even a mile off the mark when supposedly arriving at the intended point of intersecting latitudinal and longitudinal lines. And in the open sea there was really no way to tell if you were actually there at the invisible spot - though all the electronics swore that you were. To remedy this problem all boats were equipped with a depth finder. Over the charts were fathom markings, thus with a depth finder a skipper could get some idea of just how close he was. Not absolutely perfect but close. And hopefully close enough. Skippers prided themselves on their sea instincts and navigational abilities to find the spot where to lay the traps and then return to the traps once laid. But seamanship and instincts aside it is primarily an electronic show. The seas were so rough and the weather so consistently poor that navigation by any other means than electronic was almost impossible. But every boat and skipper had basically the same equipment. But the great skippers, the ones who survived and even made a small fortune were the ones, who, given whatever the permutations, still year in and out found the crab. You had to find the crab. No amount of electronics or navigational know-how, or grandiose boat, or array of equipment could substitute for an inability to find the crab. And Billy said about Art, though he was a hothead and a hardhead, and generally cheap, and didn't have the Cadillac of boats - he was still a good skipper because he found the crab.

Not too many of the experienced hands would work for Art because amid a generally irascible group he was marked as one of the more extreme. He was not a complete bastard because he was generally fair with his crew, even with the newer guys. Some of the skippers according to Billy would try and take advantage of the new guys, pay them a small share saying it was because of their lack of experience - send them through an initiating season in other words. They would spend that season working hard for a creep not knowing any better, just happy with a boat job. Once they had developed some where-with-all they would ask for more pay. Typically they would end up transferring to another boat. And the skipper would play the same game with another neophyte. Just a way of making more money. Art would not pull that Billy said, that was not his style. Art believed if a man worked he ought to get paid the going rate. Where Art saved money - and where he made money - was in his boat and equipment. Everything was top of the line but never brand new or more than was needed. Art skimped, he was a low overhead guy. Why do the same job with a brand new sleek high cost boat that could be done with one used, less sleek, and a lot less mortgage?

And Art stayed away from the far afield fishing around Dutch Harbor. He fished around Kiska along the known crab fields that had been fished for years - and though considered fished out - for the few that still fished the area, it supplied a good catch, not a tremendous haul, but plentiful and consistent. Thus Art fished more safely and less stressfully, and with his lower overhead he still made a good living. When Nate was explaining this, his business acumen came to the fore, he said, "You know these guys with the big brand new boats, what they are really going for is the big kill. First they need to catch a hell of a lot of fish just to pay the overhead. And they got the big machines so they can catch zillions of pounds and make a killing. And for the last few years most of the boats have been doing that. But what happens if you have a bad year? Now you got this big nut to crack - so you take the money ya made in past years to keep paying the mortgage, next thing you know you're break even. Them big highliner boats - they're expensive as hell and everything - but there's gotta be a lot a crab out there to keep them things running. I mean you gotta be pretty optimistic - ya know? Now guys like Art will never go broke, he'll just keep making consistent money."

"Do the canneries consider Art a highliner?"

"I don't know - I didn't hear about highliners till I got up here. They did treat him good though. Like Billy said, he could find the crab."

When Nate told Billy that he was going to assume the cooking duties for Jake once they began crabbing and Jake went to another boat, Billy smiled amused by it. "You know how to cook?" Billy asked.

Nate said, "Sure."

Billy nodded, "Sure huh." Then he told Nate how it was easy to cook on land or on steady seas, but on the Bering Sea when it was always, at best, somewhat rolling, that was an altogether different affair. With the boat tossing and rolling it was something of an art. Jake had done it so many years on so many different boats it was second nature to him, he made it look easy. Nate thought he was exaggerating the difficulty. It could not be that hard. Nate did not tell Billy or anyone about his seasickness, but he did touch on it indirectly in hopes that Billy might have an antidote, "Hope I don't get seasick," he said once. All Billy did was shrug and say, "I don't worry about it. Never got it." Billy did tell of skippers he had known who got sick and simply rode it out through the season, and that he had heard of some guys getting sick and so constipated from it that they had to drink dishwater soap to lubricate their bowels. This information made Nate a little squeamish in the stomach, but as he thought about it, it did not quite make sense to him. If you're puking you're not going to be defecating, right? Nate mentioned this and Billy just shrugged. "I think it's something to do with dehydration. Its like when you get the runs - you get dehydrated cause you can't keep fluids in you." Nate was still doubtful, it sounded like a story and stories were just that - stories. So he hoped.

After three days crossing the Gulf they sited Kodiak Island. The LORAN got them almost precisely to the harbor entrance, to the north of two parallel rock jetties. The town looked much like Dutch Harbor, most of it along the water's edge at the base of mostly bare tundra covered mountains; and the fishing industry, its many factories and warehouse buildings, comprised most of the town. Unlike Dutch Harbor though, of the many boats parked along a network of docks forming a marina that ran the length of the waterfront, most were purse seiners and other types of boats equipped for trolling and gill netting and other ways of fishing. "It was sort of like Seattle," Nate said, "not a lot of crab boats. Billy said that five years ago it was all crab boats - before they all went to Dutch Harbor."

They spent the first few days in Kodiak outfitting the boat for crabbing. Jake left the boat and transferred to The Dauntless, a large more modern fisher, Billy said it was one of the best boats in Alaska, not just always catching the crab, but lots of it. A true Highliner, a prince in the aristocracy. Only the best of the old crowd crewed on her.

"Best of the old crowd? Who are the old crowd?" I asked.

"Just guys that have been around a while. You know they've only been able to fish for the crab where they do for about twenty years. Without LORAN and radar and all these electronics they couldn't fish the Bering around the Aleutians. The weathers too lousy. So there's a crowd of old guys that have been doin' this since it started. Since like the sixties. According to Billy, Art and Jake are a couple of 'em."

Jake's replacement was about ten years his junior, a larger man in both width and height and he had a thick beard and large bald head; like a dome. His name was Frank, he lacked Jake's open jovial Alaskan personality, was more like Jake's sullen Seattle personality, and he seemed to regard Nate with a cool air. Billy said he was "sort of an asshole," but good on the crane. Billy also explained to Nate how both of them would be doing the brunt of the hard work. They would be sliding the pots around the deck, connecting the crane and the hooking lines, stacking and tying off the pots, launching them, hauling them aboard, emptying them. Nate got a taste of it all when they were outfitting the boat. The first thing that was done was the deck was cleared of all inessentials; then the heavy equipment - the crane - the launching gate - the davit and hauling winches - the engine - even the electronics - all of it was tuned up and overhauled, all of the fluids, hoses, valves, lines and belts were checked and most replaced. Then with the boat ready, they began loading it.

Fishing for king crab is done with what are called pots. But this term is a misnomer, for hardly are these traps similar to a black iron witches cauldron or a stainless steel bowl for the stove, the pots are actually more cages. The name is a hand-me-down from ancient methods employed by pilgrims off Cape Cod going for lobsters or the blue cousin of the king. Looking more like something that might hold a bird, the pot is a structure with a welded steel rod frame holding an inner lining of heavy nylon mesh. The mesh is attached to the rods with nylon string coiled thorough the net and around the outermost rods. The dimension is significant enough to hold a man, seven feet square and two and a half feet deep, and each weighs about seven hundred pounds. Not an easy thing to manipulate. And filled with crab the situation does not get any better, a full pot can weigh up to a ton. Weight is added along the bottom of the pot so that while descending in the blue wet to join Poseidon the pot will land with the proper downside down and upside up. In two of the opposing narrow sides are rectangular narrow slits in the net. A nylon rope is threaded through the net around the edges of each cut, then elastic lines are connected to each rope at the corners. This draws each side of the net inward creating an hourglass effect, and also opens the slits making a door - a kind of trap door. Within each trap is hung plastic cups holding the bait - typically halibut heads and always fresh - the kings, like humans, are finicky - they prefer their fish fresh. At the sea bottom, the crabs, thus in search of the source of the irresistible scent crawl up into the hourglass and through the open slit and fall into the pot. Once in, they are virtually surrounded top and bottom and sides with netting. To find the way out is a strange puzzle indeed; especially given their gangly multi-legged bodies which obviously tangle easily in the netting. And, which only complicates an escape when a crab finds his way into the pot, he is typically followed by others for, as fish do in schools, the kings travel in what are called pods. These pods, like packs, will run from just a group of them - a few - to over three thousand, all in an affectionate embrace clasping and tangling legs to one another, flocking in a dark mass through the greenish depths. This behavior, like most collectives, serves as group protection. Easy for a predator to get his mouth over one, but biting into a thorny mass of a few hundred is too daunting, even to the most vicious and starved lion of the deep.

The king's realm is a vast swath that is about fifty to two hundred miles wide. It runs along the vast shelves that follow and reach out from the dry land rimming the northern most Pacific Ocean, starting from the northern tip of Japan up through and around the Kamchatka Peninsula, then a perpendicular swing through the Aleutian archipelago, and all through the southern shores of Alaska down almost to Vancouver Island. Crab has also been found on the western Aleutian shores from Bristol Bay to St. Lawrence Island, in the Bering Sea. The Japanese have been fishing the kings around their shores since the 1880's. Later as they moved further offshore searching out the crab they developed the use of the factory ships. They began fishing the eastern side of the Bering off Kamchatka as early as the 1930's. After the Second World War the Americans realized what they were up to and joined in the hunt. Then in the late fifties came the Soviets. Americans hunt with pots, the Russians copied the Japanese who use the tangle nets. One factory ship with a fleet of net laying vessels and picker boats can lay and tend several fields at a time - several miles of nets to entangle the crab. In the late sixties the pounds harvested began to decline yet the industry expanded because as the catch lessened the prices increased, the demand for the tender rich snow-white meat persisted through price hike after hike. "Cost ya thirty bucks to get a plate of it in a decent restaurant nowadays," Nate said.

"Sounds like the Japs and the Russians are takin' it all."

"No kidding. Compared to them guys the way we do it is like a guy who makes a shoe at a time versus the factory spittin' 'em out a dozen pairs an hour."

"Right, we're still in the craftsman phase."

"Yeah I suppose. We're just more free enterprise oriented. Each guy owns his own boat and all that, as opposed to everybody working for the factory ship. Seems like the factory ship and the tangle net methods the way to go as far as efficiency - but Americans are entrepreneurs so the way we do it sprang from that I guess. We can't be doing too bad, according to Billy last year out of Dutch Harbor the total catch was around fifty million dollars."

"Sounds good - but I've heard there's about two hundred and fifty boats fishing out of here - that's only about a couple hundred grand a boat."

"That's an average. Some are above average - some aren't, right."

"Why is it the more we figure this thing out the more of a real gamble it seems?"

"Cause it is a gamble. Life's a gamble. That's the way it is. That's free enterprise, everybody running around like rats fighting to survive cause there ain't no sure bets. I think the sooner that's realized the better off a guy is."

"One day you're on a boat, next day you're off."

He looked at me unamused then gazed down at the table, "Yeah - somethin' like that."

The pots are lowered individually. Each has a bridle line attached at two corners of the topside of a narrow edge. This is attached to a nylon line which will be a hundred to three hundred feet long and will lower and raise the pot. Once lowered, at the surface end of the line, will be attached a buoy. Two types are used, either an inflatable type, which looks like a plastic kids play ball and generally colored a bright orange or red, or the type called highfliers - these are long poles wrapped at the center with a pill shaped long foam float. A weight hangs at the base of the pole under water to keep the pole standing upright as it floats, some even have flashing lights at the top. Art, in keeping with his apparent no frill philosophy, used the ball type. In fact, most of the fishermen used the balls because of the ease of use. The balls could be easily stored inside each trap with the hauling lines, whereas the highfliers had to be stored elsewhere and then brought out and attached during the lowering operation. It was a minor difference really, yet having to connect and disconnect and stow away dozens of poles in rough seas and weather went from a minor to major nuisance. Because of the diverse conditions what passed for a minor detail on land or normal sea was protracted to major ordeal. For launching and hauling in the pots, boats had two different basic systems with variation only in design and types of equipment used and how the equipment was lowered on the hunt.

The predominate system I saw on the boats I had watched unloaded there in Dutch Harbor and saw down in Seattle, and which was on the Snark, was what Nate called the davit arrangement. Here a large davit - a thick cane shaped pole with a haul block hung at the end - was mounted immediately abaft the cabin. Below the davit sitting on the deck was a hydraulic hauler - a winchlike machine with a large V grooved wheel - or warping drum – which looked like an average auto's tire steel hub. Along the rail was a launching rack - the apparatus I had first scene in Seattle that looked like a gate of some sort. Made of wide steel tubing about five inches in diameter, the racks were rectangular about five feet across and four wide. One side was attached to the top rail with a few heavy steel hinges. Under the rack, protruding from the deck, was a hydraulic cylinder which would raise or lower the rack. At rest, the racks lay inclined down from the rail. When made ready for launching or retrieving, the rack was hydraulically lifted to be level and thus perpendicular to the rail and even with the top rail. The pot could thus be craned in place - set onto the rack. For launching, the rack was raised to an incline over the top rail, and the pot would slide down into the water. With the davit arrangement a pot was craned over to the rack, the hauling line was connected to the trap and wound around the warping drum, and the pot launched. As it went down the warping drum would control the ascent as the line went out.

The other type of system which, after Nate's discourse, I recognized on only a few boats, employed a smaller and shorter boom coming off the crane mast just below the crane boom. At the end of the smaller boom was attached a V-groove hauler - a large block powered hydraulically. The short boom was also active - in that it had hydraulic vanging and topping ability. With this system the pots were craned into place near the end of the short boom, then the hauling line was coiled around the power block, then the short boom lifted the trap over the water and, with the power block controlling, the trap was launched.

Until I got to Dutch Harbor I had only seen crab boats with the cabin forward of the open deck. But while working at the cannery I saw and offloaded several boats with the cabins aft, these looked like coasting vessels. The galley and a couple staterooms were in the cabin topped with the bridge, then up on the bow inside the forecastle was a small room with bunks - the crews quarters - and in between, in front of the cabin, was the deck area. In most that I saw the crane mast rose in front of the cabin at the aft side of the deck. A couple though did have the masts forward immediately aft the forecastle. On all of these boats I saw installed the davit mounted hauling arrangement. One thing I did see on many of the aft cabined boats was a different type of crane, called a Hydraulic Power Block Crane. This dinosaur rose out of the deck about mid deck on the opposite side of the boat from the davit and hauler, rose about six feet over the deck in a wide steel cylindrical body which was about a yard in diameter. At the top of the body was a steel collar bolted in place with large two inch nuts and bolts, and atop the collar was a heavy duty steel triangular hinge from which extended a long boom. Thick steel plating was bent into a long rectangle to form the boom - it was not a pole - and it was in two sections - and it tapered slightly toward the end. Each section was about ten feet long and were hinged together to allow the boom to extend or fold and contract. Angling from the body to the first section of boom were attached two side by side hydraulic cylinders, then where the boom was hinged was another cylinder; thus the boom was hydraulically manipulated. Also below deck were more hydraulics which drove the body turning it 360 degrees. Some of the larger boats had two of these cranes, these hulking insect like creations, one fore and aft on the deck; and I saw a few of the fore cabined boats with these cranes in addition to the boom cranes. Boom cranes were manipulated with hydraulically driven guy cables to raise and lower the boom and move the block back and forth along the boom. In rough seas the guy cables would bounce and sometimes jam or slow the operation of the crane. In the power block cranes the elimination of the cabling made for a faster more efficiently operating machine, and one much more effective in foul seas.

Regardless of the construction of the boat a wide open expansive deck area was required, primarily for the stowing of the pots. Most boats would carry dozens of pots stacked over the deck on the way out to the crabbing fields. And because of their weight, the pots had to be craned in place, thus whatever the type of crane and arrangement, it had to be large and heavy duty enough to cover the entire deck and able to hoist the weight of a full trap.

With whatever arrangement used, davit or V-grooved hauler, the number of crewmen used to service the system and their responsibilities were basically the same. The skipper was on the bridge, operating as both a Grant and a Lombardi, he was in effect the king on the board, he sailed the boat between buoys and watched the work. A loudspeaker on the outside of the bridge allowed him to shout warnings about sea conditions - specifically about large waves that were about to break over the deck - and shout orders. Many of the skippers were known as screamers, guys who liked to shout constantly over the loud speaker. Some theorized that it was good for the crew, that during the long sleepless stretches it helped keep them alert. The guy on the crane, who was often the senior crewman and called the first mate or engineer operated all of the deck machinery, and was a kind of lieutenant to the platoon, or first knight. The levers operating the hydraulics for the crane, the hauler, and the launcher, were located on most boats along the cabin wall next to the crane mast. The operator would stand at the levers, watching the crewman on the traps, and work the levers. The crewman, the pawns, which on smaller boats like the Snark numbered just two, and on larger boats - three, they handled the traps and the crabs. One of those three, typically the senior of them was the sarge, an anointed piece, the on deck supervisor. When launching, the crew would connect the crane hook to the pots bridle, then hold the trap as it was raised and pulled along the boom of the crane to the launcher and set on top. A line was then connected to the bridle. Generally the line was coiled up and inside the pot with one or two buoys. It was all pulled out - and part of this line, near the end tied to the bridle, was wrapped once or twice around the warping drum. The cup of bait was hung inside, then a sharp distinct wave of the hand was given to the operator, the launcher was lifted, and the pot slid over the side and splashed and foamed as it went down. Once the pot hit bottom twenty, thirty, even sixty fathoms down, the line went slack and came off the slowly turning warping drum. The rest of the line was thrown in the water with the buoy secured at the end. Then the engines revved and the boat sailed slowly forward as the process was repeated. When taking up the pots, with the boat hugging close to a floating buoy, one of the crewman, with a long dulled gaff, hooked the buoy and pulled it aboard, then wrapped the line around the warping drum. The other crewman grabbed the end of the rope coming out of the drum, then as the drum turned hauling the pot up, the crewman coiled the slacked rope. When the pot broke the surface of the water the pots bridle was hooked to the crane and the pot brought up out of the water over the deck. The bottom side of the pot will swing open, thus it is kept shut with two short nylon strings - these are untied and the bottom of the trap is swung open and the crabs take a royal plunge onto the deck. While a crewman loads the pot back onto the launcher to make it ready for re-launching, another crewman quickly sorts through the crabs laying on the deck. Those with a body width in excess of seven inches are tossed into the holding tank, those are called keepers, those too small go back homeward into the brine. A good crew could make ready and then launch a pot about every five or six minutes. After a pot has been lowered the boat slowly moves on while another pot is made ready to launch, the pots are thus laid in almost a straight line about twenty to thirty yards apart. Over the buoys are painted a letter and a number which is a designation code each boat is given upon registering for the season. Strict laws, of course, govern the sanctity of a registered boat's pots.

A boat will carry stacked on its decks as it sails out to its laying spot a few dozen pots, and a boat may work two or three times that. The key is to find a location where all the pots can be lowered and, when raised, come up with a sufficient number of keepers. In the old days catches averaged fifty keepers a pot. According to Billy, the then current state of things, made thirty keepers a pot cause for celebration. He had heard of pots coming up with over two hundred crab, but this savored of a farcical fish tale - Billy said he couldn't see how so many could crawl into the trap.

At the beginning of the season a boat would lower from the first load a few pots in different areas, a spot check to find a bountiful location. These groups of pots would be set apart but the groups in total would be within a fairly tight radius. This way they could be quickly retrieved once a spot was found or if nothing was found. What the skipper essentially did was choose an area to fish, such as off Cape Sarchef or the south of Unimak Island. Then within that area he would pick spots to try out. And before finding a good spot, the pots may have to be moved to many different spots or even an entirely new area. Once all the pots were lowered in a good spot then the fun began, the pots were raised and lowered machine-like every few minutes until the crab ran out, or the hold became filled, or the season ended. The Snark was restocked and refueled and about sixty pots were loaded on deck. The pots were stored beginning at the far corner of the stern end of the deck. Each was set on end and, like books, were stacked across the deck, then another row was begun. In all, each row held about seven traps and the deck could contain four rows; extra traps were fitted in along the front and a few were stacked on top of the rows. Each pot was tied in two specific points to either the side rail or to the cage to the left. This way, when on the high seas and making ready the pots for lowering there was no time lost looking for the connections. Once loaded, the boat looked top heavy with the cube of cages rising ten feet over the deck, as if the boat was loaded with a tremendous aviary. I saw many such configurations sail out of Dutch Harbor at the start of the crab season.

The Snark sailed out of Kodiak a couple of days before crab season. Nate spent some time on the bridge watching Art work. Art was going over a couple maps and looking in a black plastic bound notebook - Nate assumed this was his book of LORAN coordinates. Nate recognized that the maps were of the shoreline around the Aleutian Peninsula. Billy had told Nate how Art liked to fish closer in along the shorelines and didn't like venturing too far out into the open sea; not more than twenty or so miles. There were a couple of schools of thought about this, apparently out in the open expanse it was easier to get lost and sometimes difficult to locate the exact fishing spots especially in bad weather. Closer into shore there were landmarks in sight which could help navigation. And it was thought that the fathom readings on the maps were more accurate along the shorelines. But the other school of thought considered it actually more dangerous to stay close in, that in bad weather it was generally too difficult to see landmarks and then, if things did go wrong, the radar went out, or you just got lost, the potential was great to run ashore. At least out in the wide open the shore would not become a hazard. Billy tended to agree with any school that found the crab, the way he saw it, being far out or close in, both had their positives and hazards, yet he tended to lean toward getting out in the sea, especially since that was where most of the crab was then being found. He claimed a lot of the skippers, especially among the older ones were not keen on venturing too far away from the site of land. "They remember too well the days when they didn't have radar and all the gadgets - and the problems they've had over the years with the gadgets."

"So they should know how to navigate without the gadgets," I said.

"I asked Billy about that," Nate said. "I guess it's the weather. They fish today in weather they wouldn't even think of going out in before. Twenty years ago they'd fish for the crab in spring. Now they go in fall. The best time I guess is right in the middle of winter, but they cut the season back the last few years to try and limit the catch."

"And they're supposed to cut it back even more this year."

"Supposedly. I guess the problem is they cut it back but they still catch as much. You know more boats are fishing now, the technology is a little better, everyone's better at finding the crab."

"A vicious circle."

"If you're a crab."

Art studied his charts for almost an hour, made a few markings in his notebook then with a touch of excitement in his voice said, "There." Then he looked up, "If they was there last year - don't see why this year'll be any different."

Then Art looked at his watch and at Nate, "Well you gonna cook dinner? You're the cook now."

"Right." Nate said, jumping up out of the pilot chair.

And so Nate went down to the galley too make himself at home in the art culinaire. He decided to start with something easy - to get accustomed to the thing. He remembered how one night he had watched Jake do up some macaroni and cheese, it had been a snap; Jake just emptied a couple of boxes of mix in some boiling water. So Nate found a couple boxes of the Kraft variety and went to work. And with the macaroni he supplemented with string beans - again an easy process of dumping the frozen veggie into a pot. Soon he had everything steaming and like Betty Crocker was stirring a pot with each hand. The salad was no problem. Just like Jake had done, broke some lettuce leaves into a few bowls, sliced a tomato - no big deal there - a wedge to each bowl then pour in the dressing. He was whistling like little miss homemaker and was quite pleased with himself that he was adapting so well to his new role when Billy came in and espied the food and commented, "Macaroni huh."


Billy shook his head, "Don't like it."

"You're gonna have to suffer through it big guy - cause that's the menu tonight."

Billy walked off and Nate kept humming and stirring. Then Nate began noticing again that slight queasiness in his stomach. Was the dreaded ill coming back? The boat was rolling some, but not much. Not as much as it had the last time he had gotten sick. It was his imagination he thought. It was just heartburn. He put it out of his mind. But as he was carefully spooning the contents of the pots onto plates it became unmistakable. He felt dizzy as if he had twirled in a circle then stopped. After setting everything on the table he sat down and hoped that would settle him. Dinner went rather well. Nate managed to mask his discomfort. Billy after finishing off his plate said he had only been kidding about not liking macaroni and even had seconds. Nate asked Frank how he liked his, he said with a slight nod, "Yeah - its okay." Arts reaction was about the same as Frank's, "Yeah good."

That night before Nate retired to his bunk Art told him that the next morning they would be lowering pots first thing about five - so breakfast had to be up about half past four; therefore, Nate would be up at four. Before he went to sleep Nate checked all of the utensils and got out what he would need. Breakfast he thought would be easy. The following morning when he awoke the boat was really rolling in slow deep falls and rises all at different angles. In the middle of preparing breakfast pangs of nausea welled almost to the extent that he thought he was going to be sick. Twice he had to sit until the pangs quelled a bit. But once outside into the work the queasiness seemed to subside. The fresh air and the fast paced work seemed a kind of antidote.

Any task requiring even a modicum of skill and knowledge in the doing, the first time out at it will likely be fraught with awkward boners and miscues - and crab fishing was no different for Nate. Yet Nate, being strong and naturally well coordinated, took to the task fairly well. Before going out on the deck they dressed in their work garb. Similar to what we wore on the loading docks – just more stringently applied. They wore a plastic rain jacket over the coveralls; and to keep out any water that happened into them from waves washing over the top rails, they used rubber bands, cut from inner tubes, and rolled onto their cuffs and sleeves. Once out on deck, immediately Billy and Frank went to their places, Frank by the hydraulic levers and Billy over to the pots, Nate followed Billy. Nate was immediately hit by the snap of the cold the air and was slow to get used to it. It was northern cold made more so by the moisture in the air. Too many years in the Southern California heat made his body vulnerable to such cold. And with fall coming on the weather had cooled appreciably. The sea was full of low knolls and shallow troughs and the boat seemed to slide up and down, gamboling over. Billy climbed up on top of the pots and waved at Nate telling him to climb up also. As Nate climbed he could feel the cold steel of the cage frames through the rubber of his gloves. Once on top he crawled and stepped carefully over the tops keeping his feet and legs along the bars and holding tight. He was up almost higher than the cabin atop a platform that clinked and rattled with each heave of the boat.

They started on the pot that was on top and closest to the launcher. It had also been the last one stowed. The pots would be dislodged from the rest in the same order in which they were stowed, that way the remaining pots were always tied and secure. Billy pulled the crane boom over the pot, then the hook and block were slid down the mast just in front of the pot, and Billy slung the pots bridle over the crane hook. The block and hook were then pulled back until the bridle was taut. Billy told Nate to watch carefully what he did because Nate was going to do the next pot and the rest. Billy untied the lines connecting the pot to the others then waved to Frank. The crane boom lifted and the hook and block slid forward lifting and pulling the pot off of the pile. There was a dragging screeching noise as the pot moved. Billy held onto the bottom of the pot, and when it was at the edge of the pile he jumped down and held the pot as it fell off the pile; then he guided it over to the launcher. Once on the launcher he lifted the bridle off of the crane hook then pulled the hauling line and buoy out of the pot. The crane boom moved back over the pots and the hook and block was slid back toward Nate who was now at the next pot. While Nate hooked up the next pot, Billy wrapped the hauling line around the warping drum and they gave the signal to Frank - and the launcher lifted the pot until the pot slid off and splashed in. The first pot launched. They set three pots then Art's voice rang out of the loudspeaker, "Okay - that's good. We sail now." And after about a half hour they set three more; then spent the next few hours setting the pots in sets of three.

A few hours after they had started Art told Nate to go inside and prepare lunch. Again as he did the pangs of seasickness welled. While Nate, Billy, and Frank were sitting in the booth eating, Billy asked Nate if he was tired. Nate of course denied all such culpability. Frank remarked, "You look seasick."

Nate just shook his head barely, all but ignoring the comment.

It took almost fifteen hours to lower all of the pots in the different spots. After the last set had been lowered Art told them it would take about an hour to get back to the first set and raise it. In the meantime Nate cooked dinner - spaghetti with bottled meat sauce. After reading about it in the cookbook he thought it sounded simple enough to boil up - only slightly more complicated than the macaroni. Again during the preparation his seasickness welled, and after twice sitting down to try and quell it he puked. And then during the meal Billy again mentioned that Nate was not looking too good. And again Nate went through denial, "I'm fine."

But he really was not. Twice when they were raising the pots and stowing them back on deck Nate puked. And they all saw it. The first time he went over to rail and bent over the side. Art shouted over the loudspeaker, "Hey - you gonna get sick - puke on the deck."

Billy explained how it was not considered safe to vomit over the rail - a good way to fall overboard.

For the pot raising operation Frank was again on the hydraulics, Billy gaffed the buoy and brought the rope aboard, hung it over the davit block then around the warping drum. Then the warping drum, like a winch, spun coiling the rope and lifting the pot from the brine. When the pot broke the surface Nate connected the crane hook to the bridle and the pot was lifted aboard. Every pot they had set came up empty, thus instead of re-baiting and re-lowering, after Billy pulled the coiled rope off the warping drum and stuffed the rope and buoy back inside the pot, Nate held the pot and walked it over the deck as the crane carried it and stowed the pot as had been done before. After all the pots had been picked up and stowed, it was well in the middle of the night and they had been working straight through with only breaks between trips between the pot groupings. Art announced that they were sailing to another area and that it would take three or four hours to get there. He suggested they all get some sleep. Nate slept as if he had died on the pillow. The work had been hard, and not at all abetted by his seasickness. The next day went generally like the first. They set all the traps in several spots, Nate cooked and got sick, puked a couple more times on deck, and when the traps came up - no dice, or rather, no crab.

There was one specific deviation, in the morning after breakfast Art made a special request - for dinner that evening he wanted his favorite meal, corn beef and cabbage. He said he wanted a real meal, "Not some noodle mess," and he recommended that Nate cook it all in the crock pot. Nate said, "Sure thing," and thought to himself what the hell is a crock pot? Nate nervously looked through the cabinets for anything that might be a crock pot. There were lots of pots, and pans, and a waffle iron - and a box. Here he found luck. The box was well labeled and held a brand new unopened Sunbeam Crock Cooker. Now he was getting somewhere. Pulling open the box he came to a cylindrical half gallon sized brown clay pot with a glass lid which rested on top. An electrical burner was incorporated in the base. And inside the box was another gem - a little pamphlet with cooking instructions for various dishes. He flicked through it and sure enough corn beef and cabbage was one of the selections. It sounded easy, cut a cabbage head into fourths and stuff around a three to five pound brisket of corn beef, pour in three cups of water, plug in, set burner register on medium, and let it all set for eight hours. Nate did per instructions then went out and worked.

At around dinnertime they had picked up two sets of pots and had again found no crab. Everyone was rather sullen. By now, according to Billy, they should have found crab, they had been to a dozen different spots. While they were sailing to another spot Art told Nate to serve up dinner. When Nate went inside to prepare, everything looked just fine. A faint ghostly steam was rising out of the pot from around the lid, and when Nate looked inside everything looked brown and a cloud of hot steam billowed into his face. As Nate explained, "It looked pretty damn ready to me. But I didn't really know cause we never had corn beef at my house."

"Pretty evident meats ready or not isn't it?"

"Not really – corn beef is this dark red color. I couldn't tell. It tasted okay – least the piece I tasted. So I threw this slab a meat on a plate and it's all shiny and dark red on the outside, and I surround it with the hunks of cabbage that are all kinda soggy and brown. I put the plate on the table, then set the table, then I go throw up cause I'm sick again. I was sort of getting used to throwing up, like it was natural. Then Frank and Billy came in and sat down and sliced themselves off a plateful. I slice some for Art and fix his plate and take it upstairs. Now the meat is layin' in the plate and its real red. But it's warm. And I don't try it or think anything about it cause I never had the stuff."

"Right. Like you've never cooked much."

"Whatever. So I sat down at the table and I'm watchin' the other guys and their chewin'. And I notice their chewin' a lot - and they're not cuttin' off new pieces, just chewin' one piece. Like they were chewin' gum. So I asked them - I was curious – 'how is it?' And good ol' Mr. Personality, Frank, goes, 'it's raw.' I go 'raw? Really?' Billy nods and says, 'Yeah, it ain't cooked.' So I stuff a piece into my mouth and sure enough it's warm and everything but it just chews like a cud."

I started chuckling.

He continued, "Yeah, I knew you'd get amused by it. Then big Art comes runnin' downstairs with his plate and he's all red faced and charg'in like a bull with his balls in a vice." Nate made a scowling face, "He goes, this plate ain't cooked! Thought ya could cook! So I stood there like an idiot, you know moving my shoulders up and down like, hey. I said, 'I followed the instructions for the crock pot.' And he goes, 'Instructions? Who needs instructions!' Then he yells, 'Put it in the fuckin' pot!'"

"Sounds rather arbitrary."

"I tell ya the guy really got set off. Kinda of a scene. I couldn't figure it out. Mr. Kangaroo court."

"Well it was his favorite meal. And he was hungry."

"I guess. It was like takin' a baby bottle away or something. Obviously something went wrong - but obviously if I served it up I made it sort of obvious that I wasn't some executive chef."

"So did anyone get any dinner that night?"

"Oh yeah, I ended up fixin' it. I stuffed the whole thing in the microwave. Fifteen minutes later it was perfect. But it was downhill from there. Next day I got sick again and puked when I was holding a pot and moving it over to the launcher. So I slipped you know."


"Yeah. So he gets on the speaker and screams hey don't you go gettin' sick with the pots in the air - you wanna lose your head!"

"He was looking after your safety."

"I don't think so. He really yelled - you know a lot more than he had to."

"Sounds like the typical Art modus operandi."

"Yeah, whatever."

"So how come after eight hours the food was raw?"

"I don't really know for sure. But I was thinking about it and I think the lid was loose. The lid just rests on top of the crock. But it's a heavy glass lid and I think the thing was flawed, the lid wasn't resting tight on the rim of the pot. The things cook from the pressure of the steam inside. So if the lids loose the steam goes out and nothin' gets cooked."

"Tough break - should have taste tested it."

"Well see - I probably would have - but I was feelin' sick. I just wanted to get the crap on the table and be done with it."

"So Art held a grudge huh?"

"Yep. Next day we found crab at one of the spots and Art decided to head to Kiska right away and pick up more pots, set those we had in the spot, then go around and pick up the other pots. And if any of those had crab then I guess maybe fish those spots. I don't know. All I know is we got back into port and Art and Frank leave the boat and come back an hour later and they got some other guy with 'em. Art comes up to me and says, you're off the boat. I couldn't believe it, I was a little stunned. But always quick on my feet of course..."

"Of course."

"I said wait a minute. Off the boat? Up here in Kiska? What the hell am I supposed to do? You owe me some money for the work I've done."

"I think he was a little surprised I called him on it. I think he just thought I was gonna go about my way, you know."

"No - not the Nate."

"No. He goes all right, all right - I'll give ya five hundred. And I took it. I should have haggled with him. That's where I was weak. I was ticked about gettin' kicked off."

"So now you're in Kiska - just you and your bags."

"Yep. I wasn't in that bad a shape though. I had fifteen hundred bucks in my pocket. That night I went and got a room in the local hotel and ate like a hog. Once I got on land my seasickness completely disappeared and I was starved."

"You didn't think about throwing in the towel and flying back home?"

"Sure. But you know when I was sick on the boat - I really wanted to call it quits. There were a few times when I was just all in a sick daze. But when I got on shore and was myself again I just thought well hell - keep goin' at it. Next day I went to a couple of canneries and it was easy, I got jobs at both. But the UNISEA said they could get me a job at Dutch Harbor - but I would have to pay the air fare. Air fare was a hundred bucks on this charter cargo plane. So here I am."

"You want back on a boat?"

"Sure. Why not?"

"Glutton for punishment."

"Naw - see I think I got that figured out. I started getting sick cause I was cooking. When I cooked my back was to the front. I was stationary, inside, and looking at only a couple of places. They say that's what does it, if you're in a stuffy place, and your backs to the movement, and your eyes are looking in one place. When I was outside and working in the open air, lookin' all around, movin' all around, after I would puke once or twice I'd feel all right."

"Strange how you'd get sick - and those other guys wouldn't. Even Klug and I didn't get sick when you were."

"Yeah I know. I'm just screwed up in that way I guess. I think If I get another job on a boat where I'm outside all the time I won't get so sick. You know, sittin’ here, on a boat, then kicked off, the crab season going’ south - this sort of reminds me of that game against Ganisha.”

That was all he had to say, I knew precisely what game he was talking about – our junior year in high school. I said, “We floundered and floundered. I dropped like two passes.”


“Three? No two.”

“Three - the forty-three split to corner in the second, the five-seven draw, in the third, you dropped the easy circle pass, and the seven-seven out in the forth.”

I looked at him a second trying to think if he was accurate with his recall, and I believed he indeed was. “You remember the plays?”

“Yeah, sure do. Especially that game.”

“We couldn’t do nothing right, then wham, it all gelled.”

“Yep, the twenty-nine split to the corner with two minutes five left, you scored. Squib on the kick-off got us the ball back – Phil Newton fell on it. The only play he made all year. Forty-one draw to Preston got us five, the sixty-three sneak got us twenty-two, then the sixty-eight, sixty-nine corner, Kevin Riley one handed it then juggled it some and somehow pulled it in as he ran into the end zone. Minute left. We kick, they try to run it out, but can’t do it. Ten seconds, coach calls a twenty-nine post – but then I remembered how you were beatin’ the corner on the right pretty easy, so I changed it in the huddle forty-five corner, and I looked at you – and you nodded at me – kinda smiling. I thought you were saying just get me the ball, just get me the ball.”

“That’s what I was thinkin’, you were right, I knew I could beat that guy, I just knew it. I thought you called my number just ‘cause you knew if anyone could get open and make the catch I could.”

He nodded, “I think that’s what I was thinking. I mean, coach called it for Riley, I’m sure ‘cause he was having a pretty good game – but naw, I guess I kinda knew you would make it happen. I walked to the line of scrimmage and looked out at that field, at the distance we had to cover. I could see the other guys all lined up ready, then the grass beyond them kinda bluish green in the lights, then the black night sky past that. Well over that black sky I saw, I swear I did, even with the situation, the crowd yellin’ over in the stands, the lights shinin’, the other players all around me, I swear Joe I saw the trees over by Crawford, and I saw you goin’ near those trees, and then I just knew – you were gonna catch it, you were gonna catch it. And you did.” Then he laughed.

We both sat quiet awhile as we went back to those days. Then I spoke and said, “I sure did; and that was that, we won. I still can’t believe we won that game, after starting out so lousy.”

“That was our best game, if you think about it. We did great things that day.”

I nodded, “I think you’re right, all in all.”

Though we both had to be up and at work early the next morning we stayed and talked till well past midnight. We even reminisced a little about home and wondered what was going on there. I thought I noticed he was beginning to exhibit a few faint symptoms of homesickness, no doubt due to our meager surroundings. In all, I had to hand it to Nate. Even with his pastings he kept cracking, moving forward, and hanging in, still positive and ever hopeful.

16 One thing I will say about my upbringing and education was that it definitely prepped me, or rather programmed into me the ability to adapt fairly readily to a tedious repertoire and relatively dull and stale, stale and dull situation. Something placid had this way come and I had fallen feet first into it. After a month in Dutch Harbor any gloss on the situation had been rubbed dull. The routine had settled into a doldrum like deep Grand Canyon of a rut. Up at five a.m. Dress; walk over to the cafeteria; eat some eggs and drink a couple cups of coffee. Punch in. Walk out to the warf; record the weights; listen to the skippers; feel the cold; break at ten; lunch at one; break at three; always an extra hour or two of overtime; punch out; Dinner; back to the room at about seven or eight, shower, read, sleep, repeat. On a good night, for a minor deviation, I would see Nate or Stephanie; and there was the Elbow Room. Pathetic as it all was I had adapted. I was not plagued with nervy withdrawal symptoms or longings for home. I simply did my duty. I had rationalized it out; said that any effected progress in any endeavor, great or small, was done with such recurring and dreary maneuverings. Controlled effort, and the tedium deriving from it, lay behind all accomplishment. Even in pre-history, in the days of the hunt - the hunting had its techniques, had its lulls, and acts done over and over. Is not a rousing good movie simply life with all the boring parts cut out? All great art, all magnificent efforts of the spirit, required the repetition, the expanded toil over an extended time. In all there is boredom. Brief shining moments, transcendent spirits come typically from enduring belabored ascents. Success was one percent talent and ninety nine percent sweat, so Edison said. Think of the four years Michelangelo spent on his back on the ceiling, or the five Tolstoy scribbled War and Peace. Talent taken to ad nauseam, efforts obsessive and manic that were the back bone of the great institutions. Power was brokered by breaking the backs and spirits, channeling all movement, all expenditure of energy, mind and soul into a direction. And it did come finally to that? That when all was said and done, all those façades painted with high and mighty talk once pulled aside, a direction had to be chosen, the mind thrust into the slot of single-mindedness, the vocation chosen, an institutionalizing if you will. And the results came what may. All one could do is what one would do - and no more. And that was basically where we were at, Nate and I. We had to stand that particular tedium, this was our brush stroke upon the canvas of our lives, our chipping away at the marble. In this way I was philosophical and had calmed myself to endure it. And there were worse tedium's. And there were better. Some played baseball every night; some welded car doors; some picked fruit; some pounded nails or finished concrete slabs, some sang songs; but with whatever the tedium, at bottom, however it was done, meditation, drugs, psychotherapy, or just doing it, one had to somehow learn to stand the pain, somehow acclimate his character and psyche to the enduring. One had to trick the mind and spirit into the accepting; one had to calm thyself to it. And there it was, maybe - the initiation. As water seeks it's own level a man must seek the levels of his character. As I worked hour upon hour, day upon day, bearing the comatose of the unloading with boat after boat, crab after crab, I bore up to it for I had sold myself. This tedious flight I endured, for upon arrival I was imagining my inheriting some pot of gold. In Nate's eye the gold was in dollars, in mine a coin of a different realm. Was I Lear, Kent, the fool, or all three?

For the next couple of weeks after Nate had arrived on the scene I saw him only briefly a few times. Our work schedules did not coincide and we were both generally too tired to do much extra curricula's. I did make it a point to see Stephanie a couple evenings, but it was the same with her, her schedule was always changing and it seemed a rarity that her time off coincided with mine. The nights I did see Stephanie went much like the night I met her. We would meet in the Elbow room, down a few drinks, talk about hardly anything, then I would take her back to my room. We had hardly any common ground between us aside our fishing occupations and our libidos in need. We conversed little really; mainly snippets of questions and short answers:

"Shouldn't smoke."

"I know. I like it."

"It's glamorous."

"It's what?"

"Glamorous - you know."


"What are you studying in college?"

"Restaurant management."

"You want to manage a restaurant?"

"Maybe. Worked in enough."

"Want another beer?"


We were in bed once, laying back and relaxing after sex, and she was smoking, laying up against the pillow, the covers down at her waist. I asked her, "You have a boyfriend at home?"


"Your a pretty girl, I'd think you would."

"No, I had one, but he was - I don't know."

"Not your type."

"He was crazy."

"Crazy for what?"

This elicited a smile, "I don't know, he said he was."

"Was he?"

"I think so - I don't know. He's gone somewhere now though."

"Gone where?"

"I don't know. He was into drugs, got messed up and left for somewhere."

"That's too bad."

She shrugged. Then she popped a question, "You sleep with a lot a girls?"

I smiled, "Not really - why?"

"Seems like you would. You seem smooth."

"Smooth huh - that's a new one. Well I wouldn't say I slept around. I've slept with a couple girls before."

"Just a couple?"

"Well maybe a couple more, what do you want me to say? How would you like it if I asked how many guys you slept with?"

"You can ask."

"Have you slept with a lot of guys?"

She nodded, "Yeah, I guess."

"Yeah you guess? How many?"

"I don't know - thirty maybe."

"Thirty?" I said astonished. "Are you just trying to shock me?"


"That's a lot of guys."

"So. It's easy for a girl."

"I'll bet."

"Where do you meet all these guys?"

"Bars, wherever."

"And you just go home with em."

"Yeah. That's what I did with you."

"This is true. You see many of them again after you go home with them?"

"No, I don't like most of them."

"Have you ever done anything unusual?"

"Like what?"

"Well, you know. Couple of guys, couple of girls, that kind of thing?"

"No. Not really. I've been with girls though."

"What's that like?"

"It's nice."

"Well you're fairly broad minded."

She shrugged, "I guess. I just like sex. Something wrong with that?"

"No, not at all. That's huh - well - you know - huh – kinda charming."

That lame remark did bring a faint smile.

Later, I told Nate about this conversation and he said, "She's not bad lookin' for a go around, I'll give her that. She told you she was a lesbian huh?"

"No, she said she had been with girls - that was it. She didn't go into it."

"You usin' a rubber with her?"

"Where am I goin' to get rubbers up here?"

"Company stores got 'em."

"We don't have a company store."

"Then go to the drug store dummy."

"It's too late now anyway, I would have gotten somethin' by now. I don't like buying those things anyway."

"You don't like buyin' rubbers - what's wrong with buyin' rubbers?"

"I just don't like buying them. You know asking the guy for them. I just don't like it."

"Everybody buys rubbers - what's the big deal?"

"No big deal. I just don't like to."

"You're strange. Some things about you are really strange - you know that."

"What's strange about not wanting to buy rubbers?"

"It's strange, that's all. Just strange."

"Well, perfection I'm not and never pretended to be."

"Good. Glad we got that straight."

My only other diversion during those first weeks was oddly enough, a church service. Jack finally caught up with me on it. The next morning after Nate and I had our long session at the Elbow Room, he cornered me at work and reminded me how the night before he was supposed to meet me at my room and take me to the church service. "Hey Jack - sorry about that. Completely forgot."

"No big deal."

"Yeah would've liked to have gone. Maybe next week huh?"

"If you really want to go - there's a short service on Wednesday night. It's for people that have to work Sundays. It's right after work - we can walk straight over."

"Yeah - well, let me know. Maybe."

Wednesday came with the usual happening in between - except that I did get together with Stephanie Tuesday night - and Jack ever dutiful to his peculiar God came over and reminded me. I was tired but thought, what the hell, and so I went. It was a small weather-beaten country church. The main building was square with a pyramidal roof topped with a cupola with a small Russian Orthodox onion dome. Rising in front like a sentry was a rectangular bell tower also with a small cupola and onion dome. Atop each dome was a white cross. The window and door sills were warped and cracked from weather and age and the paint had faded to a dull, pasty vanilla. Shingles were missing from the roof. Inside there were rows of dirty wood benches with an aisle down the center leading to a simple alter - a table with a white cloth covering and two large candles held by simple silver holders. Behind the alter the shrine was a dark wood cross against the wall. The ceiling vaulted pyramidal to the cupola where sunlight coming through the high windows made the inside of the cupola glow brighter than the vault below. A podium was set to the side of the alter, a simple wood one without adornment. We arrived a bit late, the pews were mostly populated toward the center, we sat toward the back. I had seen the church from afar when I had first walked around the island. It was along the sea on a bluff down at the base of the big mountain. The small gathering, maybe two dozen strong, was all working people, long scruffy hair, beards and work clothes and woman dressed like the men, and all wearing the same sort of clothes or probably - like Jack and I - the same clothes they had worked in that day. A motley gathering. Several even kept their caps on. Someone up front was trying to collect donations to rehab the church. A plate was sent around. I threw in a dollar. I was tired and really didn't feel like sitting in on this. The night before I had not gotten much sleep. The minister or deacon or whatever his title came up and stood at the podium to begin the sermon, he was an old frail looking gray hair, and wore a black gown like a judges robe. I dozed off at first and woke up to hear him reading:

My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my

speech shall distill as the dew, as the

small rain upon the tender hearts, and as

the showers upon the grass:

Because I will publish the name of the Lord:

ascribe we greatness unto our God.

He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all

his ways are judgment: a God of truth

and without ingenuity, just and right is he.

They have corrupted themselves, their spot

is not the spot of his children: they are

a perverse and crooked generation.

Do ye thus requite the Lord, O foolish

people and unwise? is not he thy father

that hath brought thee? hath he not

made thee, and established thee?

Remember the days of old, consider the

years of many generations: ask thy

father, and he will show thee, thy

elders, and thy will tell thee.

My mother was a Catholic, my father – I truly had no idea – he was philosophical. My mother had taken my sisters and I to church on rare occasions when we were younger, but that had been it. None of us had been put through catechisms or first communions, we grew up I suppose as little heathens, my parents emphasizing sense over spirituality. My mother had apparently all but fallen from the faith. My substantial experience with religion I suppose came from my reading, schooling, and from my father. I had heard a little of a lot of different sorts of beliefs: of the Pagan Olympians, of Thebes, of Apis, and the Pharaohs, of Confucius, of Adam and Eve and Abraham, of a tower of tongues, of Juno and Jupiter, of Sodom and Gomorrah, Jacob's ladder, Joseph's dream, Jonah's whale, Helen of Troy, the great Sphinx, an Exodus, and Ten Commandments, and the parting of the Red Sea, of Solomon's Temple, and the Temple of Diana, Nebuchadnezzar's Dream, the Upanishads and Buddha, Zeus and Ulysses, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the Pyramids at Cheop and at Technoticlan, Adrian's Tomb, and Jesus of Nazareth - King of the Jews - the Father - the Son and the Holy Ghost, of Constantine and Ecumenical Councils, of Popes and Omar's Mosque, of Druids, and St. Patrick, of Mahomet and the Koran, and the burning of witches, of Crusades, and St. Peter's Basilica, of Gutenberg's bible and King James, of Martin Luther and Pilgrims and Henry the Eighth, of Joseph Smith, and Jonathan Smith, of Second Comings, and Beasts with multiple heads, and Anti-Christ's. And now to this tiny building where a tin plate was passed to help give to it a coat of white wash. Born of a fear of a dark beyond the glow of a campfire, belief passed to each generation carrying its trappings and lore in a newly donned expostulation spun from the inner glow.

I sat on the hard bench, my night of mostly sex play and little sleep and day of work came over me and my relative disinterest in the service put me in a somnambulist state; I started dozing off and heard only some of the gray haired man's service:

Man's fall is your fall. From Eden we are all descended. All of us here are good people. This is a church of simple people. We work hard all of us. As our fathers worked, and their fathers. Our age, this new age, often consider such toil uncouth, common, unsophisticated. We live and toil far from the mainstream of our great civilization, of our great societies and great capitols. We are exiles. We have come to make what we can of our lives here in this lonely fierce isle….

….We are not captains of industry, or heads of state, or picture stars. The world does not bask at our feet. We are like the lepers. We carry out our days where time and civilization seems heedless toward, where we have only this harsh place of worship. Yet it is here you will find the most holy. It is here amid this desolate station that you will be nearer to God. Our brethren in the great cities, on the great plains, they toil as you toil, but here, this is a sacred place, here only those stay who will toil with strong backs to live from the land and the sea incorrupt and complete in the faith of his ways. In this land, barren as it is, we are closer to him and his ways, his presence and his power. Here on the mountainsides amid the sea we may comprehend his incomprehensibleness….

….Agree with God and be at peace, in this way good will come to you. May the Lord be good to you all, and his son the Lord Jesus Christ fill your heart and may you give over your soul to him and thus receive the eternal and enter the gates of Heaven. Thank you ladies and gentlemen.

He ended with a prayer of giving thanks for the attendance and donations for the rehab, and the everlasting goodness of his grace. Then everyone stood up in a flurry of creaking wood and shuffling of boots on the rough and worn wood floor. Jack lingered some so we ended up filing out toward the end of the mass exodus. As we were leaving I looked back at the preacher and saw him looking down at his podium studying the great book, I supposed; one of his hands covered his mouth and chin, and I imagined he stayed like that until everyone had gone and he was left alone in the place.

I thought how I was tired and should not have gone, though it was not so bad at all, hardly a poison pill, quaint really, there in that little church amid all the scruffy clad workers, I suppose all looking for something spiritual, the words really had no impact on me. I was not moved, comforted, nor inspired. Of course at that early juncture in my time, I suppose I didn't especially crave such things. Once again in a relative way, at that tender age, I had found a level of comfort. On the walk back to the dormitory Jack pressed me for a reaction.

"He's pretty good for a small town minister," he said.

"Yeah, not too heavy handed."

"No he's not big on the hell and damnation aspect."

"Didn't even mention the hell bit."

"No. You ever think about that?"

"About what?"

"Going to hell."

"No, not really - I think I've arrived."

He laughed, "Yeah it is sorta hellish here."

"That's right, hell is a job in a cannery for eternity."

"It's a lot worse than that."

"I'm sure it is."

"Then you do think about it?"

"Sure, who doesn't?"

"You know about accepting Christ?"

"Yeah I've heard about it - you don't need to go into it."

"So you do know about it?"

I just shrugged hoping he would somehow go away. I felt rather like he was queer and I was getting hustled.

I thought my unresponsiveness put him off for we walked quiet awhile until almost coming to the dormitory. Then he said, "You're a tough one Joe. I'm worried about ya."

"Worried about me? I don't get you?"

"Your tough - you think you got it all figured out."

"I think I got it all figured out?"

"Yeah," he said smugly.

"Hm, I see."

"That’s how most non-believers are - think they got it figured out."

I just nodded.

"You know the bibles pretty explicit about hell."

Again I just nodded. Tuckoo's infernal prison flashed through my mind.

I thought about getting into it with him, but I knew better, and I was tired. His sales pitch about his Christianity being a relationship and not a religion had told me what he was about. So God's going to be my bud and I can debate with him on long walks along the beach. I was exposed to enough to believe it just wasn't that easy. Pleasant as he was, like a lot of them, these dumbhead fanatics, he seemed to me to give off the air that he had gone through a partial brain debilitation. As if there was a few vacancies up there. It was like those kids in school that no matter how many times and ways the instructor went through the equations they just were not going to get the arithmetic. He smacked of a lack of wherewithal and even looked it with a young, pale face that had a baby pink glow in the cheeks. He had a chestnut beard that he trimmed precisely, it looked rather Christ like – at least the Christ seen in all those paintings. His hair laid fine and fair over his head - and it was also trimmed and combed neatly with a center part. He had a neat streak in him. Even I, supposedly Mr. Clean, was a bum next to him. His clothes were even clean. He would have made a fine Mormon, scavenging around for those latter day guys and caulking in the forty day gap. And now he was trying to turn the tables on me. So I told him, "You're right Jack – I got it all figured out. Anyway, see ya in the mornin'." And with that I waved him off and started to walk inside the dorm. But then I had a thought and I turned as I pulled open the door, I said, "Hey Jack."

He was standing looking at me, his face perked up slightly.

I said, "'fore I go in here, I will give you this one clue to all of it…"

He nodded his head forward to listen.

"…Hell is where heaven ain't." I then walked the rest of the way inside and let the door slam shut behind me. I had to smile over my apparent omnipotent cleverness.

The next morning at work Jack was his old self, Mr. Friendly. When I was punching in he came up from behind me and grabbed his card from the rack and said pleasantly in his voice full of those nice want to be liked inflections, "Hey Joe - ready to go to it?"

As I walked away from the clock I gave him my usual tired sounding, "Oh yeah."

Then he came up from behind me as I was walking down to the wharf. I heard his steps coming, I just looked ahead and tried not to acknowledge him, he said, "You know what you were saying last night...."

Maybe I was tired, or cranky, I don't know really, but I had had enough, he was too persistent, coming on too strong, with his dogmatic harassment. I interrupted him, and as we kept walking toward the wharf I said, "Listen Jack I went to your church service okay. I haven't been to church in years, but I went cause you wanted me to go. Now Jack I'm not some backwoods cannibal that needs to hear the word a God. I have read a lot on religion okay. My own father wrote a thick book on it - and I read the book. And I know what you're sayin' about Christ and all that modern way of thinking stuff. Believe it or not I know about it. I know more about it than you do I'll bet. I know you don't think I do because we seem to be disagreeing and people like you think that when someone disagrees with them it's out of ignorance or arrogance and nothing else. But you're wrong…" We had come to our working area and I finished my harangue with, "…Now you go work your area over there and I'm going to work mine over here. And, honestly, I don't really want to hear any more about this religion slash relationship stuff, or whatever it is." I promptly walked off not waiting to see a reaction. I thought how my big mistake was going to the church service, sort of like letting a phone solicitor proceed with their pitch.

I soon forgot him though as I got into the demands of the day; when I walked onto my first boat the skipper was there waiting arms akimbo and a scowl over his face, "We've been here fifteen minutes. I gotta get offloaded and outa here."

"Yes sir, were onto it."

That was the most difficult part of the job, dealing with skippers. Initially I had considered it rather a break in the tedium, then as the season progressed their irascibility came so frequent it became also part of the tedium. I had even changed my mind about the Highliners; gone from idolizing them, a highlinator, to simply considering them a bunch of pushy hot heads who were just plain more lucky and mean than their counterparts. They always seemed like the ones most ready to shout down the offloading crew. And when one of the Highliners spouted off, I had to walk a fine line between shouting a response that would mollify his highness the skipper and one that would not make me feel like I was back stabbing the crew. I would typically just say in a low stern tone, "Come on you guys, we gotta try and get this guy back out." This seemed to work for the skippers and keep the crew from slitting my throat. Yet when just your typical mediocre boat came in - a middlin' liner - as I started calling them and the skipper got on his live wire, then I'd look at him and say, not too loud or overly harsh - just loud enough for the crew to hear, "They'll get it done. Why don't you go inside the cafeteria and get a cup of coffee or something to eat." This way the crew thought I was mostly standing up for them. Of course I wanted to tell each skipper who mouthed off regardless of his lineage - high or middlin' - just where they could put it - but I had to be political. I wanted a job on a boat and no use aggravating a potential employer. Still the crewman sensed I was maybe a bit too tactful. Once after an hour of listening to an unusually vocal skipper one of my crew came to me and asked why I "kissed their butts." And this irritated me really. They didn't care or seemed to understand my position, somehow I was supposed to be their avenging angel against the black knight skippers; I didn't see it that way. The way I saw it I was supposed to keep the crews working hard and the skippers happy. Second, half the time the skippers had good reason to complain, normally I would be watching two or three boats; human nature dictates when the cat's away the mice shall play, especially after long hours of back straining work. We all knew the crews would slow down and loaf some when they thought they could. I told my accuser, "I kiss their ass cause that's part of my job - to see that you guys unload and that the skippers are kept somewhat satisfied that they're getting serviced like they should be and will keep coming back with their loads. If I don't keep them happy they won't bring us their loads. And if they don't do that, the cannery doesn't have enough work, and we all lose our jobs. It's called the domino effect, get the picture?"

I began to notice in the few weeks I had been working at the cannery I was developing a rather high-lined irascible side to my nature.

17 Going into the fourth week of the season it was becoming understood all over Dutch Harbor that the current season was showing all indications it was the beginning of the end; the end that is, of the boom days. The deliveries to the canneries were simply way behind the previous few years. There was even talk in the air of lay offs at the canneries. "Bottom line - the parade is marchin' by," I said to Nate; we were in the Elbow Room drinking beer and discussing our fate.

"Lousy time for us to come up here I guess, we only missed it by a year or two."

"Well that's the breaks. But that's not the point. I have to get on a boat. I've heard the season will last maybe two more months. After this week I'm quitting the cannery and looking full time for a job."

"I'm doing the same, we should go look tomorrow for a place to live."

"I know you have more money than I do - and I've got enough to live up here for a month then fly home if I can't get a job."


So again another course altering decision was made, an adjustment. But for me it was unnecessary for the following day, in the morning, a boat tied up to the dock, in Jacks area. I didn't think anything of it, just another boat; then one of my off-loading crewman said, "Hey look - somebody got hurt." I looked over and a stretcher was being carried aboard. Deciding to go investigate. I climbed off the boat I was on and walked up the dock. Jack was standing next to the boat. "What's up?" I asked him.

"One a the crew broke his leg - got tangled in the hauling cord."

I nodded and watched them carry the injured man to the stretcher, his right leg had two boards running along each side for splints and it was well bandaged; he was an older man about Jake and Art's age, a cigarette was stuck in his mouth and he looked quite alert even jovial. As they laid him in the basket stretcher he said to another older man standing over him, "Your insurance paid up George?"

George shrugged, he was probably the skipper I guessed, he said, "Don't carry no insurance."

As they carried the stretcher over the rails I heard the injured man say to George, who was following, "See ya in court then I guess." Though it didn't appear to be, I sensed this exchange was all in dry levity.

A younger man, about five years older than I stood on the deck. He was shorter than I but stockier and he seemed to have a large head, but I think it was an effect created by a full head of curly black hair. His skin was dark and he had a large Grecian nose; in fact he looked Greek. I stepped over the rail and asked him, "That guy gone for good."

He nodded, "Yeah - he's done in."

"You the skipper."

He shook his head, "Naw - the skipper's George. He'll be right back, he just goin' with Dirk to the first aid station."

"Too bad about that."

"It happens."

"You guys catching much?"

"Naw. We found some crab finally - then this happens."

"You guys going to replace that guy?"

"Maybe, I don't know. We got three crew now. We can handle it with that. Why - lookin' for a job?"


He smiled and laughed a little, "Gawd you guys are like vultures. The guys hardly been off the boat."

I shrugged and said, "Hey."

"Naw I know - I'm just kiddin' ya. You'll have'ta ask George about it. He'll be right back. We gotta get outa here. We lost a day and a half."

"I'll keep an eye out and talk to him when he comes by."

"Okay, I'll tell him you came by."


I went back over to the other boat and caught up on the work my crew had done. I kept a spotters eye pealed on the boat. Finally George came sauntering down the wharf to the dock ladder. When I saw him it was through the corner of my eye, I was engaged in another castigation with the skipper of one of the boats my crew was off-loading, he was saying something about the chit sheets being off, "I got a quarter tank left and I know what the poundage should be - this don't add up right!" He was saying.

I was trying to explain in level headed pleasantries how he didn't know what he was talking about, then abruptly when I saw George I held up my open hand and said, "Wait - wait. Somethin’s come up - I really gotta go. I'll be right back. Hold that thought."

The skippers mouth stayed open and as I walked off his boat I heard him say, "Hold what? Hold what? What is this guy?"

When I caught up to George he was climbing over the rail of his boat. He was now smoking a pipe. I said, "Excuse me - are you George?"

He looked over at me. His face was dark from the sun, leathery even, and round with plump cheeks, his hair was grey and laid flat over a broad forehead. His nose was pugged, he said calmly, "Yes - I'm George."

Immediately I noticed there was a serenity about him that was rare for the skippers. He looked at me and dragged on his pipe and did not seem at all rushed. I said, "Sorry about your man there."

He nodded, "Yeah, that was too bad."

I didn't quite know how to ask him so I stalled. Again he didn't seem to mind my dallying, he just drew on his pipe. Then I spoke up, "I was talking to one of your other crewmen, he said you might need another man."

Then he looked at me, nodding slightly as if sizing me up. Then he pulled out his pipe, "You ever been on a boat?"

"A salmon seiner. A small one."

"This last season?"

"This and last years."

"What are you doing now?"

"I'm a dock foreman here."

He nodded slowly, "Foreman huh."

"Yes sir."

"They work you guys hard over here?"

"Ten to Twelve hour shifts."

"We've been doin' twenty to twenty two hour shifts on this boat - hows that sound?"

I shrugged, "Sounds like the salmon boat."

Then the greek looking guy I had talked with came out on the deck, George saw him and said, "So Nick think we need another hand?"

Nick looked at me, "I don't know George. We can handle it. We're not catching much crab."

"Three can handle it alright; but even with four I got one guy down with a broken leg. And he was my most experienced man."

Nick nodded, "It's always safer with four."

George nodded and stood quiet and just dragged on his pipe. My heart was beating, I could feel it - I was getting close here. Then George looked at me, "What's the cannery goin' to say with you just up and leaving?"

"I'm sure they won't like it - but there's plenty of guys that want my job. And I really want to get on a crab boat."

Again George just looked at me and sort of slowly nodded, "We're ready to leave - can you be on board in ten minutes?"


"I won't pay you what I was paying Dirk - he has a lot of experience and he has been with me for ten years. I'll pay you eighty percent of what I'm paying my lowest paid man. That's Danny.

"That's fine. Am I hired?"

George looked at Nick who shrugged and said, "Why not?"

"Go get your things," George said, "you only got about ten - fifteen minutes."

I could hardly believe it. Just like that. It was just like that. I was hired. I could not believe it. I ran up to Jack. "Hey Jack you gotta take over for me - then you gotta tell 'em I quit. I'm goin' on that boat."

He gave me a puzzled look and said, "What?"

"Yeah, can you help me out here?"

He looked at the boat docked near my area and gave a reluctant nod, "I guess so."

"Look, just get one of my crew down there to fill in and watch him to make sure he does okay."

I got him to go along and told him which of my crew would be best to replace me. Then I ran to my room and threw everything into my bag, rolled up my sleeping bag, and stuffed that in. Then I quickly scribbled a note to Nate:


I'm on a boat - but we're leaving now. I've got no time for particulars. Tell Stephanie for me.

See ya,


I stuffed the note into an envelope I had and wrote on the outside: Nathan Browning UNISEA CANNERY. Then I ran back down to the wharf and tossed my bags on the boat. Then found Jack and told him to please take the envelope to the UNISEA. He said he would and congratulated me. Nick had untied the boat and I climbed aboard. Nick yelled up to George in the pilot house that all was ready and the engine was turned on. As the boat pulled away from the dock I shouted to Jack from behind the rail, "Thanks for the help."

As we pulled away he smiled and waved. I waved back.

One thing about Jack I was almost certain that Nate would get my note and I wished I had not laid into him about his relationship.

18 We sailed out into the harbor toward the lone mountain through the inlet between it and the range coming off of the high mountain. The day, as all the days had been, was all gray from thick overcast. Ahead beyond the inlet was a horizon line with a milky gray cloud above and below it an oily gray sea. Nick came up to me on the deck, "I'm Nick, inside is Danny and Jim, they're asleep, you can meet them later."

I introduced myself, and Nick explained how before Dirk was injured they had spent most of the previous three weeks setting traps and then only the day before did they find crab. Hopefully the spot was a good one and they would start pulling them in. He said we were about five hours from the field and that it would probably be a good idea if I got some rest; once the fishing started respite would become a rare commodity. The boat was a bit larger than the Snark, and much newer; the lines and the gloss of the paint indicated it might only be a few years old. Even in the gray of the day its green and yellow colors shown bright and glossy. The hull was a forest green, a yellow stripe stylized the green going around just below the top rail. The cabin was white and the stack was yellow. From what Nick had explained to me and from what I had seen on the docks the boat was equipped with a davit arrangement. Indeed it all looked quite similar to what was on the Snark.

Nick said, "Why don't you grab your bags and I'll take you inside and show you where you'll be sleeping - well, at least where you'll have a bed."

The later part of his comment I supposed was a slight pun on the lack of sleep I would be experiencing.

Inside the boat was laid out like the Snark; but the galley was larger and the cabinets and counters were in a light wood grained formica, the wall coverings a mild yellow. This gave the interior a newer, more modern look, and enhanced the lighting which was bright, like a well lit industrial space - so unlike the dimly lit interior of the Snark. That winding mechanical din of the engine made so familiar to me on the Snark again filled my ear. We went across the galley through a narrow doorway into a short hall. At the end of the hall was a widened space and in the middle was a narrow steel spiral staircase. Besides going up to the bridge, it also went below into the engine room. On each side of the short hall were two staterooms. Doors for each were closed. Nick slid open one, and inside was a small space with a bunk bed. Someone was asleep in the bottom bunk. Nick said without lowering his voice, "That's Danny - hey Danny meet your new roomie - this is Joe Kelly." Danny didn't stir, I could see him barely, his sleeping bag was pulled up over his chin. I could see a mop of blond hair and whiskers on a lean pale face. "You won't bother him - sleeps like a rock," Nick said. "If he ain't sleepin' he's eatin' - or slackin' off."

Danny stirred and his eyes opened, he saw Nick bending down looking at him, Nick said, smiling, joshing, "Hey baby."

In a drowsy half sleep Danny said, "Gawd shut up. Go away." Then he rolled over turning his back toward Nick.

Nick teased further he said, "You sleepy baby? Hey baby?"

Danny shifted and turned his head rearward, "Will you get outa here - you smelly Greek geek!"

"He's not real friendly right now cause he's tired. Ain't ya baby. Meet your new roomie baby."

"Get outa here you Greek geek," Danny shouted.

Nick was enjoying the tormenting obviously encouraged by Danny's inordinate reactions. He was laughing, and teased further, "Greek geek! That's a good one - never heard that one before. Make that one up yourself?"

"Get outa here."

I laid my bags on the top bunk then followed Nick out and up the stairs and onto the bridge. Again it all looked familiar to the Snark yet more modern, and the bridge was much roomier. George was sitting in one of the pilots chairs and apparently it could pivot completely around for he and the chair were faced aftward. He was looking over a couple of charts laying on a table at the rear of the bridge. And he was still smoking his pipe.

Nick said, "Well, we gonna find our way back?"

"I think so," George said. "Got a few hours though."

George finished with his charts then swung around in his chair. Nick had sat down in the other chair. I was leaning on a railing that was around the stair opening. We had well cleared Unalaska. I could see it, or what I thought was it, behind us appearing as a lone mountain, a darker gray smoked shadow amid the gray sky. The sea was rather calm. Our motion was a mild rocking.

"So where you from Joe?" George asked.

"Southern Cal."

"All the way down there huh," George said. "How did you find your way up to Unalaska?"

"Just came up with some friends of mine and found jobs," I said.

"I see. Lot different up here huh?" George said.

"Lot different. How long you been fishing?"

"Gosh - twenty five years probably. Hell Nick here has been with me for ten."

This surprised me, "Ten? You must have started young. You don't look that old."

"Seventeen I started," Nick said.

"I took him tendering," George said, "he was a good worker, so I kept him on."

"Bet you've done pretty well the last few years?" I asked.

"We haven't done bad. What'd you think Nick?"

"I ain't complainin'."

"So where in California are you from?" George asked.

"Place called Claremont, it's near L.A."

"Oh yeah - that's where the colleges are at. Must be a nice town," George said.

"It is. Little different than Dutch Harbor."

"Probably a lot different than Dutch Harbor," Nick said.

"What's wrong Nick, you don't like Dutch Harbor?" George asked smiling.

"Sure I like it," Nick said with a snide air. "I wanna retire there."

George smiled and chuckled lightly to himself.

"How long have you had this boat?" I asked. "It's a nice one."

George nodded, "Yeah, she's been good. This'll be our third year owning her. Well - owning her with the bank. Bank owns a little more of her than I'd like, 'nother couple good years and that'll rectify that."

"How are things looking so far this season?" I asked.

"Slow - but we'll find something. Always do."

I heard steps coming up the stairway, I turned to look and saw the top of a large bald head with a sparse garland of swirling gray hair around large long ears. When he came up I could see he was older than George even, probably Art's and Jake's age. He was a thick man and his face had a big bulbous nose and bushy gray eyebrows; he said, "What's this a party up here?" His voice was thick and deep. He was wearing a coverall suit. When he saw me he smiled and said, "Hey - who's this?"

I reached out my hand, "Joe Kelly."

"Pete Pouluses," he said and took my hand and shook it firmly and squeezed it hard. His hand felt broad and fleshy.

George said, "Pete's my engineer. This is our new man, Pete."

Pete nodded. "Good. Didn't think you were gonna hire another one chief - glad ya did."

"Thought I'd give Joe here a try," George said.

"It's probably best," Pete said.

"Yeah I think so," George said. "I'd like to keep you guys healthy."

"Get some sleep Pete?" Nick asked.

"Yeah I did. Slept well. Needed it."

"You wanna get some sleep George?" Nick said.

George took his pipe from his mouth and looked thoughtfully, "Now that you mention it, I think I will grab a couple of hours. Let me show you where we're going here."

George showed Nick a couple of marks on the chart and then pointed to a black box, the LORAN box I assumed, and, referring to digits shown on a digital display. He said, "These are the numbers. Best to come get me in a couple of hours."

"We'll do chief," Nick said as George went downstairs. Pete went back down also.

Nick switched into the pilot chair George had sat in, I stepped over and sat in the other one. I told Nick as we settled in, "George seems like a real good guy."

"He's the best."

"Lot of the skippers I used to deal with on the docks were real screamers."

"That's not George. He expects everybody to do their job. If they don't they leave. It's pretty simple."

I sat with Nick for almost an hour. He showed me how the LORAN system worked - quite as Nate described; but also showed me how it was connected to the auto pilot - so that all they had to do was dial in the coordinates, switch on the auto pilot and the boat was automatically directed toward the coordinates. He showed me another digital readout on another box, also part of the LORAN, that indicated the boats current location. As the boat sailed toward the intended coordinates, the coordinates on that readout were continually changing. I asked, "What happens when the boat gets to the location dialed in. Then what does the auto pilot do - shut off the engine."

"No - once it goes past the location it'll circle the boat back around. It will always direct the boat toward the coordinates."

"How long till we get there?"

He moved his head to each side thinking, then said, "Well – 'bout six hours I'd say." He slid the map close to me and pointed to a location on it. I looked closer at it as he said, "This is where we're headed. Somewhere about twenty miles off Cape Pierce here - that's where we left the traps."

"That's where the crabs are huh?"

"Maybe, that's where the indications are. And last year it was a good spot. We only raised our test traps and they all had crab. Then we went and got our other traps and after we set them and started bringin' them up - that's when Dick got hurt - but they all had crab."

"Does George keep the exact spot secret?"

"What do you mean?"

"I heard that the skippers won't let the crew know where the exact spot is, they keep it secret so if a crewman quits them he won't tell another skipper."

He shook his head and smirked, "Naw - George ain't that way, I heard a few did that, kept everything top secret. That's probably cause they're hard on the crew and have a lotta guys quit. Besides – its not that big a deal. Good spot today – not so good tomorrow."

"George is good with the crew?"

"Oh yeah. He's the best. We gotta good boat here and he's good at findin' the crab. He's not an asshole, but he'll get the most from his crew. I don't know, all the skippers work the crap outa ya, if they don't they don't survive as skippers, but George is fair and he won't screw ya or treat ya like hell. And he's pretty good at knowing how far he can go with his crew."

"How much they can stand huh?"

He nodded, "He's pretty good at judging that."

"Well, you don't look too overworked, like you're on the brink of exhaustion."

"Naw, I slept when we were comin' in and up until a few hours before we left. That should do me for a week."

I smiled; yet somehow I sensed he was almost serious.

We sailed deeper into the gray, rolling and pitching like some prairie schooner, westward ho over a gray undulating land. I asked Pete about the knots that Nate had described and he found a line of rope and he showed me, wrapping the line around the railing, a double half hitch with a knot after the front hitch to absolutely secure the knot. He said it was used primarily to tie the pots to the rails and together. Then I asked, "Isn't there another knot for connecting the lines - kind of a complicated square thing?"

He nodded, "You're probably thinking of the pot knot. You tie this when you're lowering the pots and need to add line, you probably won't be doing much with the lines so I wouldn't worry about it." He then tied the knot for me several times and explained as Nate had done that the knot was devised with opposites in mind - surety of holding and felicity of breaking and untangling.

He also explained how the boat was set up with a davit and hydraulic out-haul system. That the crane would do the work of positioning the pots; the davit, launching gate, and the V-grooved wheel did the work of launching and in-hauling of the pots. Apparently I would be working with Danny and doing basically what Nate had done on the Snark, moving and positioning the pots as they were craned, just basically be around to help out. "Some boats our size would operate with just three men," he said, "Pete on the switches, me on the davit and hauler, and Danny on the pots. But with an extra man the work will ease all around, helps to take some of the pressure off. And in the long run after working straight for lots of hours of hardly any rest I think it's safer. And when you get better on things then I can leave the deck and go cook without interrupting things too much."

Nick again recommended that I go downstairs and get some rest. But I was too wound up. This was the grail I had sought. I was there now, was actually going to do the thing. My mood was stirred and intoxicated by it all. Instead, I decided to go downstairs and pen a letter to send home, something I had neglected to do since arriving in Dutch Harbor. Actually it was less neglected more procrastinated; until getting on the boat I didn't think my Dutch Harbor days were interesting enough to chronicle, a dull day for night cinerama verite. Frankly I was hesitant to admit to the home front that the sum of my efforts had resulted in the menial job of shoveling fish. I found blank paper and borrowed a pen from Nick then went and sat down at the galley table – a pool table green booth around a rectangular sunny yellow formica covered table, again like the Snark's only slightly larger. Pete was on the other side of the table with a newspaper section laid out in front of him like a place mat. He was working on a crossword puzzle in the paper and looking at it through plastic Franklin half-lens reading glasses, the magnifier type bought from a rack at the drug store. They looked odd and small against his large fleshy face. He looked up at me over the top of his glasses and said, "Desert lion maiden?"

"How many letters?"


"Easy - sphinx."

He nodded, "Right." Then wrote it down. Then said, "How bout this one - man horse."


He nodded again and counted, "Five, six, seven - is that one or two r's?"


"Guess that's right. Try this one - Columbus example. Three letters."


"That works. You're a smart one kid."

Before I started writing, it occurred to me that I did not know the name of the boat. I asked Pete. He said chuckling a bit, "Ya outa know that huh - The Paramount."

Not a bad name. I then penciled the following in my semi cursive and block and quarter calligraphied scrawl:

Hello Everybody,

Greetings from Dutch Harbor, Alaska. In case you're geography escapes you get a world map and you'll see I'm near the top just under that white arctic blot between the Mickey Mouse ear at the North American continent and the Ruskie homeland where they send all their politico miserables - Siberiado. As you can tell I'm in the Espanol mood - for I have finally tamed the bull and tipped the windmill. I write you now amid the galley of the ultra sleek and moderno ship (not boat mind you) of which I have been taken in for hire. I am the lowliest lubber on this fine crew - but it is a small crew and thus my humility will be merely fleeting. Indeed though - did you know that of all the varied crew designations on the Titanic from captain to decksweep, the greatest number of crew that survived came from the decksweep ranks? (Never mind that there are more decksweeps than captains). Yes, the arrogant captain with his golden epaulets went down, as did the great Astor, and even the boats (anything that sinks on it's maiden voyage is no ship) architect; as did the lovely poignant group of musical players who strummed "Nearer My God to Thee" as the great hulk slid slantwise into the cold ever darkening deep depths; slid elegantly into its wet grave.

As you can tell my mood is blithesome. Probably for two reasons; one, I am on a boat, and two, Nate is not. That's right, you read it here first. When last I wrote I had left the Snark with it's Ahab, Mr. Art at the helm in Juno. Then after good friend Klug secured boatside employ I made my way here to Unalaska - which by the way is a misnomer - there is nothing UnAlaska about it - it is rather the big land taken ad absurdum (picture big mossy rocks assuming to be islands). Then behold, what do you know, who shows for the party? One Nathanial Browning. Apparently after an unmeshing of personalities aboard the Snark due to a bungled meal - a tragic comedy with epic soupcons (vast and high seas, sickness and plague, amateur epicureanism) Nate was booted in a quaint local called Kiska (big island due south of the mouse ear). Then he, true to our Californian upbringing, summoned gumption, booked air passage to the unplace and secured a canary job, which is where on the big monopoly board he now sits, stuck rather (sinister mild chuckle connotating glee).

Now I, your loving son, inheritor of your proud genes, upon arrival in Dutch Harbor, I too secured employ at a cannery, and if it can be believed spent two weeks hoisting shovelfuls of whole salmon (stinko). However, my obvious and inborn talents being exposed I was quickly promoted and spent the following three and almost one half Julian weeks as a dock foreman supervising a crew of shoveliers. Not quite paradise lost and regained, but in the relativity of the situation, it was a lower berth, a room with a view, an extra flower on the table. And bear in mind the added perk: Nate is in town a shoveler, I a foreman (am I sounding contentious?).

How I went from deck to boat was strange indeed. A simple twist of fate. The boat, the great Paramount, as she is registered and labeled, pulled up to the dock with no cargo to offload just one crewman borne by stretcher, seems he had committed a fracturing faux pas, got his leg entangled in some fast winding rope and like a dummkopf - broke it (the leg - not the rope - bad sentence, I know). Exit one crewman enter one Joseph Kellareno - replacement. Hence brings us to the present in our story, at sea in the great Bering, and bearing it thus far quite well and expect to continue to do so.

In regards good friend Klug (no good lucky bastard) as yet no new news (maybe perchance he has fallen overboard and washed up on some frigid arctic penguin populated shore - and like our ancient forerunner the majestic Odysseus - he's become the captive of some wrinkly ol' hag of an Eskimoed Calypso. The thought enchants me).

Anyway, since the Snark much has happened little of which is interesting. Believe it or not though a fascinating tidbit - one for Ripley's - with my hands-on labor intensive occupi - will it be believed - callouses have actually blossomed over my underhands - much worse than those acquired via golf swing.

I miss all, of course. You dad with your wise and always abundant council - and my allowance. You mother, your beauty which, like the morning star (thank you Churchill) is surely missed in this gray ever overcast and half-casted atmosphere. And you dear sisters - yes even the both of you - your lovely oval and winning faces and shrilly admonitions to my every aspect of character - I even by god miss that. Can it be believed?

Well I best wrap this up now. What adventures are to come I could only barely and purely speculate, for frankly I see all of this equipment and machinery on board and can only vaguely speculate as to what it's purpose may be within the modus operandi of crab gathering. Like our Jewish friends of old I move forward into history not knowing what I do. That should change, of course, quite abruptly I am sure. Hopefully I will adapt - as I have to date, always done.

Your faithful son, and sometime servant, who beneath the swank sound of all these musings loves one and all,


Pete was still working at his crossword puzzle when I finished scribing the letter and had folded the pages. I saw that most of the crossword had been penciled in, "Looks like you've got it licked."

"Oh yeah. Most of 'em were easy; 'cept the ones you got."

"Lucky guesses."

"Doubt it. So did you go to college?"

"Yeah I did."

"I wanted to go. Just never got to it."

"Probably learned more out here anyway."

"I don't think so. So this is your first crab expedition huh?"


"A greenhorn."

"Guess so."

"That's good. Good to have fresh blood. You'll like it. Everybody likes it."

"That's not what I've heard; heard it was sort of grueling."

He shook his head and pursed his lips and said a long, "Naw."

"All exaggeration huh?"

He nodded, "That's right - everybody exaggerates how hard things are."

That was a reassuring attitude I thought. Then from the doorway Danny appeared, dressed only in long thermal underwear. His hair was matted and tangled and standing on end in spots. When he came through the doorway he was walking slow with his shoulders turned inward and his back hunched over, his face looked swelled and bleary. He seemed still mostly asleep. He looked at me without saying anything while walking through the galley to a door along the side opposite the table - the head no doubt. He went inside, closed the door, a few moments later he reappeared and again as he walked in the same droopy manner he looked at me, and still said not a word.

I looked at Pete who looked up from his crossword and rolled his eyes a little. I thought him a rather peculiar phantom, this Danny.

19 Funny how it all rather worked out. How Nate had initiated it all and we had followed him up, now Klug and I were crabbing and Nate was washed up on the docks. Still, the rivalry thing aside, I had to hand it to Nate. I had counted on myself since Klug left me in Juno, but it was Nate who had gotten us there. No effort goes entirely along a forsaken road. Somewhere comes other hands to assist in the propping. No man is an island. And ol' Nate, I suppose he knew that more so than any of us - after all why did he bring us along? We were after all excess baggage. First he had to persuade us into it, then he pulled us along throughout, strategized for us over each hurdle - losing the money to the whores, living arrangements in Seattle - then even finding us work. He was a good man that Nate. A good friend. He likely wanted us to come up with him for the companionship - better to explore the unknowns in the midst of company. Like fish travel schools - and crabs in pods. But he didn't have to keep going once we got up to Seattle and once he got on the Snark. He could have left us to our own meager devices, left us to wallow in the every man for himself. He even helped out Klug who rather deserved no help and was now on a boat while Nate was not. Not that I ought to be pitching stones, of course. A good man, but a puzzlement that Nate really. He had always been something of a puzzle. But I thought then how he knew, or thought he knew, as we had all thought - thought we knew - that with Nate there was that star. That here was a guy who had it going for him. Maybe it was not as a great athlete, but as something, he was one for a future. He sensed it, as we all did. Such was likely where he found the strength behind the discipline, behind the reserve. And then Maryline's accident. Of all the guys - for something like that to happen to. Yet I thought I could see how it had come about, thought I saw natures method below the apparently mad cap surface. It was simply something he had to go through, as steel is pounded. Had it been anyone else Maryline likely would have just dropped the relationship. Look what little provocation it took for Jane to draw the iron curtain between she and I – no high strung emotional plays there - just the ol' adios – nice knowin' ya. Perhaps she had seen too much with Marylin, best to cut quick with a sharp implement. Well to hell with her, let her have her old codger, her Mr. IBM - Mr. I've Been Matrixed. I began to doze off. Apparently my reverie had quieted my metabolism. I had left Pete with his crossword puzzle and had taken my rightful place above Danny, on the top bunk. I laid there thinking and trying to relax and listening to the winding engine din. Soon I was asleep, but it was a fitful sleep, something I went in and out of. Finally I had a long stretch of it until I heard Nick shouting from the galley, "Okay, let's go - were here."

I must have been more tired than I thought for I was roused out of a fairly deep sleep and felt a little groggy. According to my watch I had been asleep for over three hours and it was just after four p.m. I slid off of the bunk onto the floor and saw that Danny was gone from the bottom bunk. When I stepped into the galley the others were dressing into their outerwear save Nick who was dressed and occupied over by the stove. Immediately I noticed the floor was rising and falling, a rhythmic yawning, worse than before, and standing still without holding onto something was difficult. I went back into the stateroom and pulled my boots and Hansen's from my bags. Eyeing my long underwear I thought about putting them on - but figured it probably was not that cold - I had never needed long undies at the cannery. I watched Pete and Danny while I stepped into my Hansen's to make sure I was dressing as they were. Danny was sitting at the end of the booth slipping a large black rubber band - like a cross section cut from an inner tube - over his boot and the pant sleeve of his plastic coveralls. The band stretched and tightened, and he brought it up to about mid calf along the boot. Then I saw Pete doing the same. I guessed that the bands kept water from going in under the pant legs of the coveralls. With my coveralls on I stepped into my boots and pushed the legs of my jeans into the boots then tightened the small belt like stays at the top of the boot sleeves. I had brought out also a plastic top coat that went with my Hansen's, but I did not see the others with such a coat so I tossed it back atop my bunk. Then I asked Pete if he had any extra of the rubber bands. He said, "Hey Nick, got a couple extra garters around?"

He nodded then brought a couple out from a drawer next to the sink, and handed them to me and I slipped them on. I was wearing a T-shirt under a flannel shirt under a sweatshirt under the suspenders of my Hansen's. I wondered if that was enough or too much, I did not want to freeze or bake in a garment induced sauna. But Pete was wearing a wool sweater with a thick turtle neck that seemed to cradle his chin, Danny wore a sweatshirt and his long underwear, and Nick only wore a long sleeved turtlenecked shirt. I decided to pull off the sweatshirt. Then Nick said walking away from the stove, "Okay coffee is on the stove - but better hurry up." Then he walked out the door to the outside.

Danny who was just sitting at the end of the booth, hunched over with his elbows on his knees said in an imitating whine, "Hurry up - hurry up - you'd think we were right on the pots."

Pete just smirked as he poured himself some coffee out of the steel pot. Danny stood up and as he stepped over to the stove said, "Least it's fairly calm."

With cups of coffee in their hands they both stepped back to the table and sat down. "You don't want any coffee?" Pete asked.

I shook my head. "No thanks." I decided to go outside and see what was going on. Inside the galley the air was warm and still, I was even a little too warm, but when I stepped outside immediately a sharp cold wind slapped my face, it was a brisk hard vexing wind that seemed to rail against me. The deck was slick and icy. I could feel my boots slipping under me as the deck rose and fell. I had my hand holding tightly to a pipe rail along the wall next to the bulkhead. I felt as if I let go I would stumble and slide around. Around the boat was gray on gray with the sea a multitude of wide rounded slick looking gray knolls like small wind swept dunes. The horizon line rose and fell as the boat climbed over the dunes and slid down into the troughs. Occasionally at the tops, the swells would churn and a frosting white foam would appear.

Nick was over by the launching gate looking over the rail, a long pole was in his hand with a wide hook at the end - a gaff. I was standing just outside the bulkhead and I felt a tap on my back and heard Danny say "watch out." I moved aside and he and Pete came outside. Danny walked over to a door on the other side of the galley and brought out a wide bladed shovel and began scraping the deck. The overcast was thick, and though it was afternoon the deck seemed in a shadow, then a light was cast over the deck, and I looked up and saw that the halogen lights atop the mast had been turned on. The light was noticeable only on the deck floor, it's glow above having well melded with the daylight. Pete stood next to me, near the hydraulic controls. He said to me, talking loud over the wind, "Okay Joe, Nick's looking for our line of pots. When we start you just help out Danny for now. He'll do most of the work for now - you just watch then after a few pots you can work in and take over some of the work."

I nodded.

Over a loudspeaker set above on the wall of the pilot house George's voice rang out, "Okay Nick comin' up is the first - see it there?"

Nick waved, and I ventured out onto the deck several feet beyond the launcher, rather getting out of the area of probable action. Danny had finished scraping the deck and had put the shovel away. The others appeared to walk easily over the rolling deck with only a balancing stop now and again. From the closet Danny looked and waved me over, saying to me only, "Hey!" I walked quickly over skipping slightly on the swaying slick deck. At the closet door I saw that it was refrigerated inside and beside a couple brooms and shovels were a few stacks of small, cake sized boxes. Danny handed me a couple of the boxes and said, "Take 'em over there," and pointed out toward the deck away from the hauling machinery. I walked out on the deck per orders with Danny following with a couple more boxes in his hands, then he said, "By the rail, set 'em over there." Again I did as told and sat them down next to the rail. Then Danny snapped, "No - not there! Up here."

I looked over and he wanted them out further away from the machinery. We laid the boxes down next to the rail and pulled the flaps of one of the boxes open, inside were frozen fish heads, like silver medallions encrusted with an ice patina. Danny then walked over and stood near Nick. I stepped over to the rail and saw about fifty yards in front of us two pink spheres about the size of basketballs bobbing over the water. Way in the distance straight out beyond the bow I could see another pair. As the buoys came near, Danny stepped away from Nick and grabbed the crane hook and walked it over to the side next to the launching gate. The crane boom moved over with Danny pulling on the hook. I saw George working the controls.

When the balls came along side, Nick, with an all at once furious quick motion, lifted the gaff and slammed the hook between the balls and pulled the balls quickly toward the boat pulling hand over hand on the gaff. He pulled the gaff up and the balls bounced out of the water into the boat and I saw that the gaff had hooked a short line between the buoys. The boat kept moving, but the engines, I could tell by the sound, were slowed, the winding had become an idling and at the stern the frothy churning had gone to a mild bubbling. With the buoys in the boat Nick - still moving furiously, each move a quick hard but exact motion - though the quickness made his movement look exaggerated - wrapped the line in front of the buoys around the davit block, then down the large V-grooved wheel, then he waved to Pete.

The wheel began to quickly turn with a whining whirring sound and the line began to accumulate and thicken over a steel rim as the hydraulic winch whirred. Danny was next to the launcher on the side toward the stern; still holding the crane hook over head and looking over the rail watching the line come up out of the water. Nick stepped over to the rail on the other side of the launcher and watched also. Then about thirty seconds later the pot broke the surface. Nick shouted, "Okay!" And waved to Pete. The pot slammed against the side of the boat and rose only a couple feet out of the water. I could see a couple of crabs dangling from the netting over the top side of the pot.

Danny then pulled the crane hook down and hooked the bridle which was connected to the hauling line and rose from the top of the trap in a triangle almost to the rail. Then Danny made a thumbs up signal and the crane lifted the pot the rest of the way out of the water until its bottom was over the rail. Then with the boom moving to the side pulled the pot over the deck. Danny was holding the pot, directing it. Once it was over the deck he began to untie a short line on the bottom which, once undone, allowed the bottom side to swing open. The pot was filled with at least a dozen crabs. When the bottom side flopped open most fell onto the deck. Danny with his gloved hands slapped the netting over the sides and the rest of the crabs fell. Some of the crabs tried to move but their legs only gave a feeble tapping and scrapping over the deck. Then Danny told me to hold the pot, so it would not sway with the boat movement, and he went through the crabs on the deck and tossed the small ones over the rail and the larger ones into the hold opening. I could hear a splashing in the hold below. Danny told Nick, "Ten keepers," and Nick showed ten fingers to George above in the pilot house. Over the loudspeaker George said, "Better than nothing. Okay send it back down."

Danny retied the strap holding shut the bottom door then held the pot directing it as the crane moved it over to the launching gate, I also held the trap, trying to get sort of involved. The launcher was brought up so that it was level and the trap was set down on a wide side, the narrow top side toward the deck. Moving hurriedly, Danny reached into the pot and unclipped a small white plastic cup with holes all over the sides, then emptied the contents of the cup over the side and banged the cup a couple of times on the rail to get it mostly clean. Then he stepped over to the boxes and stuffed a handful of the fish heads into the cup, and as he stepped back over to the pot he mashed the heads into the cup with his palm jamming them in, then reached into the pot and re-clipped the cup. After Danny pulled his hand out of the pot, he took hold of the crane hook and pulled off the bridle, then as he walked the hook away from the launcher, Nick signaled to George with a hand waving in a circular motion that the pot was ready for launching. The gate lifted, and the pot, first slowly, then all at once, slid off the gate with screeching metal on metal sound and splashed into the water. The line ran with a whirring, turning the outhaul wheel and over the davit block, and in about twenty seconds the rope, coiled around the V-groove wheel, appeared to contract until it almost disappeared. When the line stopped running there were still several turns of rope left on the wheel. Nick again with movement that was so hard and quick, it seemed charged with fury, uncoiled the line and tossed the remainder with the buoys overboard. Then he turned toward the pilot house and waved motioning forward, signaling an all clear; the engine noise then grew louder, and in a flourish of gurgling and sudsing, like a fierce acidic boiling, the water at the stern came alive. I fell back a little as the boat seemed to rise out of the water revving up to speed to the next pair of buoys.

About a minute went by and Nick again had the gaff pole in hand at the ready to repeat the procedures. And indeed the procedures were repeated, again and again, pot after pot, for hour upon hour. But we worked hard and fast, and the time seemed to pass quickly, especially when I began to assume more of a role. I began by handling the baiting while Danny sorted out the crab; then toward the end of the shift, when Nick went inside to prepare dinner, I took over for Danny as he took over the lines for Nick.

I got to thinking that the work was not that bad really, this crabbing. The machinery took most of the strain out of the process. We moved quickly and constantly, but we had done that also at the cannery - and it seemed to me shoveling the fish was worse. It was a leashed domesticate really - this dragon. The only incident for the day happened after a dozen or so pots had been raised and lowered. Danny was setting a pot atop the launcher and I was bent over opening the flaps of another bait box when over the loudspeaker George shouted, "Wave to port! Look out!" I was still bent over I lifted my head looking toward Danny and Nick, both had disturbed distressed expressions across their faces and were looking at me and shouting, "Get up!" I stood up and looked over the rail just as a long high knoll of glistening swelling gray was heaving at an angle into the rail next to where I was standing. The ridge of the knoll was about a foot higher than the top rail and when it hit, the boat pitched to the starboard side. I grabbed the rail to keep my balance. As the bow dug into the wave and the rail dug into the water, a rush of sea flowed over the deck, I held onto the rail, and water wet my sleeve and came up to the waist of my plastic overalls. After we passed through, the water receded almost immediately, washing over the deck, draining through the side openings in the rails at deck level. With the deck clear Nick and Danny were looking at me, checking to see I was not shaken up or something - I presumed going by the blank searching looks on their faces; I said, "Well that was interestin'."

Danny frowned and shook his head and said, "That was nothin." Then we all went back to work.

As we worked later into the night and the gray day darkened until black, the air began to chill and the moisture on the deck and rails began to ice. Walking over the deck became even slicker and a couple times I even fell still not quite used to the movement and the slickness. During a lull in the action, Nick said, "Winters comin' on - its beginnin' to ice up."

I asked, "Is that a problem?"

He shook his head, "Naw - not really. It is on smaller boats. Too much ice and they can get top heavy and roll over in the water. But its gotta be colder than a son of a bitch. It's still too warm."

Too warm? I thought. It was not severe enough, and we were working hard enough that the weather went unnoticed, but during the few pauses in the work I had felt the cold enough to resolve that for the next shift I would slip on my long underwear. But if the current weather was warm - then how cold was cold? There were about a few dozen pots that they had brought in and lowered in the area. They had set several groups of test pots, then when they found the crab they collected the other test pots and brought them to the area. On the average each pot we raised contained almost a dozen keepers which did not seem to overly excite everyone. It took us almost sixteen hours to raise all of the traps in the line. We ate about every four hours, and when Nick would leave the deck it would take him only ten or so minutes - about the span of raising and re-lowering two pots - to wave his culinary wand and have the meal served up. Then one at a time we would go inside to eat. Most breaks were mere pauses - coming only if the boat had not quite reached the next pot. The big break came when we had hauled in the last pot in the line and had to sail back to the first pot - to restart the line - about a half hours sail. But before restarting a couple hours were taken to get some sleep by all except apparently Nick who manned the bridge while George took in a few winks. Soon as laying down on the bunk I was asleep - into a black dreamless unconsciousness. I think my body must have sensed somehow that the time would be short and that it should get quickly into its sleep time operations. And though it was a couple of hours - it seemed like only minutes had passed - when Nick was in our stateroom and in a chiding womanish voice was telling Danny, "Hey sleeping beauty - hey sleepy head, wake up, rise and shine."

Danny groaned and lazily without humor said, "Why don't you shud up."

Nick laughed and went out the door mimicking, "Why don't you shad up! Why don't you shad up!" Out in the galley we heard him say, "Danny's so cute."

Then Danny shouted, "Yeah - and you're a homo!"

Nick in a high pitched sing song voice sang out, "No sense a humor - no sense a humor!"

Danny got out of his bunk and said quietly, "What a geek." Then walked out of the room.

I heard Nick say again, "Hey sleepy head."

I slid off my bunk and changed my underwear putting on my long thermals, then put on my clothes and went out into the galley to finish with my boots and Hansen's. Breakfast was up and all of us sat down around the table - even George came down. As we started into our scrambled eggs and bacon George said, "Things look okay so far huh?"

"So far," Nick said.

"Only a dozen keepers a pot - that's not too good," Danny said.

George nodded, "Could be worse. I hear on the radio no one else is doin' so great either. If this spot holds we'll do alright." Then he looked at me, "How you bearin' up?"

I shrugged, "No problems."

"Good - ain't so bad huh?" George asked.

I shook my head, "Naw."

Danny looked over at me, "You just started - wait till the weather goes."

I just nodded.

Then Pete said, "Hey George - you oughta see this kid with the crosswords - he's a wiz."

George said, "Helping Pete out huh?"

"I got a couple of the answers."

"Couple a the hard ones. He's a college man George."

"Well good - we could use some brains around here," George said.

"Hey," Nick said, "talk for yourself about no brains."

Everyone chuckled, except Danny.

When we went back outside it was still black enough that the predominate light was the pinkish white neon glow from the halogens pressing out around the boat against the dark. The weather was colder - a morning cold - and our breathing showed like smoke from the dragons mouth. And then we started as before with Danny scrapping the deck with the wide shovel. But this time, on my own initiative, I went to the refrigerated closet and brought out a few boxes of bait and put them in place. After I set them down Danny looked at me and said sternly, "What are you doing?"

"Puttin' the bait out."

"I didn't say to do that."

I looked at him a moment, then said sharply, it rather just came out, "Oh I see – you're in charge and I'm you're coolly. That how it works?"

From the side I heard Nick laugh and say, "Oh baby – not gonna push ol' Joe around."

Then turning toward Pete, "Did ya see that Pete – Joe here ain't no coolly!"

Pete said, "Naw, he don't appear to be."

I was a little surprised I shot back at Danny so quickly, perhaps it was all that abuse I had taken from the skippers back at the cannery; or fatigue beginning to come on. Still, I figured no way in hell was I going to be diplomatic to some guy two or three years my junior, who was dumb anyway, not to mention a mentality stuck somewhere about half my age. I was lucky though, in that everyone else seemed to agree with my assessment.

With our pecking order re-permutated, the work proceeded well, the first couple of dozen traps were just as full as those lifted the previous day. We all seemed to be working well coordinated together, and I had become quite comfortable in the work. A few hours into the shift we were again in a gray on gray overcast day yet the clouds appeared well blotched with fissures of dark - were more ominous looking than before. And gusts of hard chilled wind would suddenly blow then disappear leaving only the much milder swirling air. The sea seemed to be building, the gray knolls expanding and occasionally the crests flipping and foaming into a white capped breaking wave. The deck was moving more as we rolled over the ever rolling sea; again I fell a couple of times. The others were saying nothing about the apparent fouling of the weather, though I could see they also seemed to be struggling some amid the nastier elements. And then lady luck decided the elements were perhaps a bit too stinging, she opted to jump ship about halfway through the line. About eight hours into the work the pots began coming up with less crab. From a dozen keepers to ten to seven and then none. We brought up four more empty traps. With the fifth trap, George over the speaker said, "Go ahead and stow it Danny."

With that order the procedure now changed. The coiled line was slipped off of the hauler wheel and the excess on each side of the coil was wound by hand into the coil. With the buoys dangling, the coil was squeezed in the middle and the end of the line at the buoys was wrapped around the middle to tie off the coil. The bait cup was taken out, emptied and tossed into an empty bait box. Then the line and buoys were stuffed inside the pot, and with the crane lifting and moving the pot along the length of the crane's boom, and either I or Danny guiding the pot, it was led to the stern of the deck. We began stowing the pots in one corner, lashing the first pot to the railing, then each successive pot to the one previously stowed. For the remainder of the shift each pot came up empty and was stowed until we had over thirty pots neatly stowed over the deck. This work, though I had not noticed it at first, had a sobering effect on everyone. Obviously the work was a fruitless expenditure, squandering precious time and ultimately money. And the wind increased and the sea became shakier and thus the hours we put in seemed longer and the work harder. Waves had started washing over the rails, two or three per hour. Spray from the sea had well moistened my clothes. And the work besides being fruitless seemed just simply slow and tedious, and difficult on the ever tilting deck.

After the pot was craned in place, Danny would slip the pot bridle off of the crane hook, then stow the hook by clipping it to the side of a pot already secured. Pete would lift the hook taking up the slack in the cable thus tightening the hook and securing it. While this was done, I would be holding the pot, leaning and pushing against it, keeping it secure against the other pots and the side rail. Then Danny would tie the pot in three places to the last previously stowed pot. Always the same three places, the lowest side corner, facing forward, the corner above that, then the top aft corner. The pots were placed in rows; yet, the rows were not tied at any place to each other. After a row of pots was set, a rope was tied to the side rail and ran over the top of the row and tied to the opposite side rail. After the deck was full we laid four more traps on top of the rows. To do this we had to climb atop the pots and, while the crane dragged the pot screeching over the rows, Danny and I would hold onto it, to direct it, and for balance, as we stepped gingerly over the frame bars. Each of these pots were tied down at all four corners to the bottom rows. Then once in place another line tied to the aft row ran over the top then was secured to the forward row. And throughout the procedure, the deck, the stowed pots, the boat, rolled and rolled over the pitching, knolled, ever rolling sea. After the pots had been stacked we all went inside and ate dinner. George came down also and ate with us.

"Storms comin' up," George said, "heard 'bout it on the radio."

"Big one?" Nick asked.

"I don't know - probably."

"So what's the next move boss?" Nick asked.

"I don't know - I'm thinking. We could set more test pots from what we got on deck. Or we can go into port and empty the hold then go set some test pots. If it storms big that's probably what we outta do."

"But since we're out here - probably should set the test pots huh?" Nick said.

"Yeah - I got another area about three hours from here. But it's farther out from Dutch Harbor. So if it storms we could really get caught good. What'd you guys think?"

I just looked around at everyone's expressions and said nothing. Nick was sort of nodding, Pete was looking oblivious as if come what may, Danny was eating. Then Nick said, "Hate to get caught in a wild one with all these pots."

George nodded, "Yep."

I asked, "How long can the crab stay in the hold?"

George smiled a little, "Thirty days. That's not really a problem." Then he leaned back, "What to do, what to do."

Danny with a mouth full of food said, "Let's go for it - drop the pots. We're goin' broke out here."

George looked at him with a mildly stern nod, "I'm going broke out here."

"Well - yeah. But we're not makin' any money," Danny said.

Then George looked over at me, "Well Joe - you're a college man - what would you do?"

I shrugged, "Tough call. Waste of time to go in really, probably dangerous to stay out. Better to lose a couple of days than the whole boat I guess."

George nodded, "What'd you think Nick?"

"Go in." Nick said.

"You Pete?" George asked looking over at him.

Pete nodded with a chagrined look, "Yeah – I think the college man has it right."

Again George just nodded.

20 The big decision came as something of a relief to me. Pushing and pulling those pots, even with the aid of the crane was no dainty toil. And after only a couple hours sleep the night before I was tired. At dinner, sitting up even, I had lightly dozed off a couple times. Now that we were stopping work and going in I could sleep. After dinner we set sail for Dutch Harbor and I stripped off my outer clothes and got deep into my bunk quick as I could. I doubt ever before in my life had sleep come so eagerly and readily. And again it was black and deep and dreamless. But alas, again it was short lived, for a couple hours later I heard rattling my unconscious Nick's voice. I awoke, it was coming from below my bunk and the door was open with light from the galley shining in. Nick was saying urgently, without levity, "Danny - Danny - get up." I also immediately noticed the boat was hugely rocking. The rising and fallings and side turns were lusty, virtual dives and buckings and what seemed like almost rollovers. My bunk was built with a high board to the open side with a valley in the middle. I had thought nothing of it the few times I had slid my rump through the valley past the board and into bed; thought the board was simply a quirk of decor. Now I was being pitched to and fro into the wall then into the high portions of the board. Another trick of the trade. Apparently I was in such a deep sleep that I had not noticed the movement. I looked over the board and saw Nick, dressed in his Hansen's with a top coat on, he was bent over saying to Danny, "Come on - we gotta tie the pots down more."

"Alright - alright," Danny said groggily.

Nick stood up and saw me looking, he said, "Its a wild one."

"You need help?" I asked.

"Naw - you better stay in for this one, Danny and I'll get it."

Danny got up and was soon dressed, he also put on his top coat and even a plastic sou'wester. He did not appear too thrilled; as he left the stateroom he said a tired resigned, "Fuck."

I was still very tired but my curiosity got the better of me. We were obviously into a thrill of a storm and I wanted to see it. I got up and dressed into my jeans and flannel shirt all the while being pitched into the bunks and the side wall. It was a real rolly polly ride. When I was going up the stairs to the bridge a good sized wave must have broadsided us for the boat hiccupped and leaned way over, I grabbed onto the rail and held on. Then just as quick the boat righted itself. When I came up to the darkened pilot house George was just sitting in his pilot chair smoking his pipe and riding it out. I could see from the glowing control lights that the LORAN and the auto pilot were on and doing the work. I said, "Big storm huh."

"Not too bad now - let's hope it doesn't get worse, he said.

I got into the other chair. George had his chair turned to the side facing the inside, that way he could see both forward and aft of the boat.

Water was raining and spraying over all the windows and as fast as the wipers cleared it they were re-soaked. It was a dark tempest outside and all I could see in the glow of the halogens were large dark mounds covered with sweeping veins of white foam. And the mounds rose high and daunting around the boat, it seemed as if the sea had risen into a hilly mounded land, some of the mounds came as high as the upper deck. Then suddenly, flash lighting the black, like a strobe light – lightning - and quickly following came a loud cracking boom, like a shotgun - thunder. I could not see the bolts because of the limited visibility through the drenched windows, but I could see in the halogen light over the deck, and Nick, a bundle of line in his arm, crouched down slowly making his way over the pots. When we had previously finished stowing the pots the cranes boom had been lowered to rest over the collective cage of pots, and the hook was tied to the stern rail; then the slack in the hooks cable was taken up to press the boom over the cage of pots. Because each pot was tied to another, the cage was a collection of interconnected pots which became then one unit. If the pots had simply been stacked in without lashing them to another, the cage would be a collection of separate units, and lashing the collective unit down would be much more difficult, requiring many lines running over the pots attempting to insure that each was included in the strapping down. Yet, because it was all interconnected, the idea became one of strapping the whole down on the deck, thus the boom and a couple of lines laying over the cage was sufficient to keep it all in place. With the storm then showing a potentially mean mien and before it really got going - Nick and Danny were simply adding a few more lines as added measure. Danny was standing up on the pots on the forward side, along the top rails of the bottom layer, he was high enough on the pots so that his arms, head and shoulders were over the top. He was holding and controlling a long line that at one end was tied to the crane mast and at the other was tied around Nick's waist who was sitting on top of the cube toward the stern. Both, I could see were getting well drenched; their top coats were shiny with wet in the light. And the lightning flashes and crackling booming of the thunder came quickly, two or three immediately one after the other, then a slight pause, then again two or three, as if the sky was in convulsions or in exorcism. It was Lear at the heath. We were near the thick of the storm, this I knew because the sound came with or, at most, followed immediately after the flashing. I asked George, "Shouldn't we have tied these lines earlier, before the seas picked up?"

"Yeah we should have - but I thought we would avoid the storm, and the lines are only an extra measure - in case we get caught up in a real squall."

Nick made his way to the stern, to the port-side corner and laid the bundle of line down atop the cage and extended several feet from it. All the wile the boat heaved, rose and fell, he was riding a flat bucking skeleton of a floor - of the pots thin steel framing and the netting in between. Then he laced it through the frames of the pots below stacked on side and the pots on top laid over flat. Then he tied it off and slowly made his way back sitting, creeping and sliding over the rails of the pots, coiling out the line - over the pots and the boom to the forward starboard corner. Then he laced the line through the corner pots and tied the line off on the starboard rail. He took another line, and again slowly made his way over the cage and tied a line to the aft starboard side corner, then began to make his way back. This time as he was going over the boom, I saw George grab the loudspeaker mike and he said, "We're comin' starboard. Hold on." I looked over past George and sure enough I could see a large black shadowy mass coming on us, the crest as high as the top deck, a glaze of foam glinted pinkish white in the halogen light. I looked back to the deck, Nick had sat down on the pots dangling his legs between the frames and leaning his back against the crane boom, wrapping his arms behind him around the boom, crucifix fashion, as best he could. Danny went from holding the line to grabbing bars on the cage with both hands. We came into the wave and the water went over the deck, submerging it, enveloping the lower part of the boat, and all but the top couple feet of the pots. Then immediately the boat seemed to rise up, tilt, and the water drained away; I said, "Geeze." The water gone, Nick went back to crawling over to the port side forward corner of the pots.

I said to George, "Good thing you spotted that wave."

He nodded, "Yeah, it helps."

"It would've washed them overboard if you hadn't."

"I don't think so. Would've doused them though. I can't see 'em all."

"Seems dangerous if you don't."

"It is, that's why when you're on deck you always gotta be aware of the sea. That's what happened to Dick, we were lowering a pot and a wave came and he stepped into the line – it snapped his ankle and threw him up on his ass."

Nick seemed to be moving slow to the stern of the cages. George then said to me, "Why don't you get your gear on and do what Danny is doing."

I went down stairs and quickly put on my boots, rain pants and rubber garters, top coat, gloves and a billed cap. Then I went outside. The wind hit me cold, biting, and the rain was a mixture of rain and sleet; the sleet hit my face like little cold needles pricking the skin. My cap flew right off. The wind must have been blowing fifty or sixty knots - I don't know, it was blowing like hell. I could barely move in it. Over the loudspeaker George said, "I sent Joe out there. Tie him up and Danny go help Nick with the lines. Danny climbed down from the cages. I had to keep wiping my face as the rain water kept drenching me and getting into my eyes. The deck moved like a carnival ride, I had to continually hold onto something to keep standing. The sky flashed again and again, and I could see the bolts now. Several jagged bolts would come at once, were spread out over the black sky as if the legs of some electrical spider; the legs shooting through the clouds; or the bolts would shoot down as if lighted spears tossed to earth by sporting gods above the cover of the dark clouds; and the sound crackled and banged across the sky like reports from guns on a battlefield. Danny tied a rope to the crane mast then around my waist. He shouted through the rain and wind, "Just stand up there and make sure the lines to me and Nick don't get tangled or caught in the cages! Got it?!"

I nodded and followed Danny, climbing up the cages like a kid going up a jungle jim – except this one was moving to and fro, back and forward. I stood on the top of the bottom row of cages with my chest and head peering over the top row. I held on with one hand and kept Nick's and Danny's life ropes loose from the cages. Nick went over to the port side and tossed Danny one of the lines and Danny held it as Nick tied it off on the rail. The lightning flashed and thunder clapped loud and unremittingly to the port side, right off the boat, I saw a single white hot bolt knifing and slicing the black sky thrusting down into the black water. Thunder cracked loud as if a gun were fired right next to me.

"Comin' port!" George shouted over the speaker and I looked over and sure enough a wall of black was moving at us. It looked higher than my head and it hit, water washed up over the deck, I was completely under water up to my chest, the boat was submerged almost to the top deck, then quick as it came it washed away. My boots slipped a little but I held on. All I began thinking about was hanging on. Soon Nick and Danny got the line tied off, it went from the starboard to the port rail over the cages, near the stern. Then they made their way over the pots near the mid point and began laying another line.

"Starboard! Starboard!" George shouted through the speaker and I looked over and another wave was coming to wash over us. I was holding Danny's rope, and he slipped a little as he hunkered down getting set to take the wave, the rope tightened along the top rail of the pots and my right little finger got jammed between the rope and the rail. I quickly pulled my hand away, then the wave hit, the sea again submerged us - up to my shoulders. After the sea subsided I looked down at my hand, my outside finger felt strange in the finger of my glove, and the glove looked oddly crimpt slightly along that finger. I quickly pulled off my glove with my teeth, still holding on with my other hand. Sure enough, I saw it immediately, the finger was no doubt broken or dislocated, it was bent toward the outside of my hand. I felt a slight squeamish panic within me over the grotesque bend of the finger. It was so cold I didn't feel any pain. Then the sky lit up again, flashed again and again, with loud banging, then a bolt with a zapping sizzling noise struck the top of the mast, sparks flew off, and the sound was like a gunshot fired right next to my ears. I still had my glove in my teeth and I bit down hard on it. The halogen lights went out and all went black. With the rain and sleet I could see nothing, could hardly see my hands in front of me. I just held on with my one hand and hoped there wouldn't be any more waves, and that God would be satisfied with a messed up finger and allow me to get through this without further mishap. In the dark I just held onto the ropes and the traps and forgot my finger. There were more flashes and cracks of lightning and thunder, and another wave hit, catching us sort of by surprise. Through the flashes of lightning I saw Nick and Danny making their way back over the pots toward me. When they got to me Nick shouted, "Come on! Fuck the pots!"

I nodded and climbed down. They followed me climbing down and we went inside. The power was still out and it was almost pitch black inside. I held onto the side of the galley booth as the ship continued it's rollicking. When Nick closed the door behind us he let out a, "Whoa! That was somethin'!"

Danny said in a tired resigned voice, "Fuck that."

We just stood around waiting a moment. Soon Pete came up the stairs from the engine room down below carrying a flash light. He said flashing the light on us, "Hey, aren’t you guys supposed to be outside?" He stepped over to a power box on the wall in the galley, nimbly moving over the moving floor, opened it and flicked some switches and the lights all came back on. He laughed as he said, "That was somethin' - blew the fuse box."

Nick said, as he pulled off his wet gear, "You think that was somethin' in here – try out there."

Pete shook his head, "Perks of bein' old. Don't have'ta go out in that crap."

After I got out of my rain gear I started working on my finger. I pulled on it trying to set it or relocate it - though it seemed more a break and not a dislocation. Fortunately the cold had numbed the finger and dulled most of the pain.

Nick saw what I was doing and stepped over, "Broken finger, huh."

"I guess."

"It hurt?"

"Sorta - the cold helps."

Danny said, "Wait'll ya warm up - then it'll hurt like shit."

Nick brought out from a drawer some popsicle sticks and white medical tape. Using the sticks as splints he helped me set and tape the finger. After we finished he said, "Take some aspirin if it bothers ya."

George came down and said, "Kinda wild out there huh - that damn lightning got the lights and the radio. We'll have to fix everything when we get in."

I asked, "Does it always storm like this?"

Nick smiled, "Sure does."

George nodded, "Yeah - worst weather in the world is up here. This really isn't that bad, just bad enough to keep us from working cause the seas are too high."

"Yeah its not even blowin' that bad," Nick said, "maybe forty or fifty knots. It starts blowin' about seventy and blizzarding and freezing everything up - that can get bad."

"Especially if you got a full load in the hold weighing you down," George said.

Nick ended up taking the helm for George. He stayed downstairs with the rest of us, and we all did as Pete had been doing through most of our little adventure - went to bed for hopefully a long winters nap. With the excitement of the storm worn down I again slept readily and well and dreamless.

When I awoke - on my own accord - I knew it had been a few hours at least for I felt rested. And again I felt an immediate sense that my surroundings were again much altered in some way than when I had lay me down. First coming out of the sleep on my own – no one shouting me out of my sleep; then the calm - and the quiet - no winding engine din. All I heard were voices outside. Distant shouts, and some screaming birds. We were there, in port. I got up and slid on my pants then stepped outside. It was a rare clear sunny day. The storm had passed and had blanketed the island with a bare patina of snow that was flecked with dark patches of the tundra still showing through; and the air was cold. I stood just outside the door on the deck. The forward row of pots had been offloaded so that the iron plate over the forward hold could be brought up. And the offloading crew was busy at it. I caught one of the crew as he was climbing down into the hold eyeing me. Yes, now I was one of the rare breed, one of the tempered and hardened, one who had actually been to the bowls of the beast, tasted of the hemlock, yet lived to tell about it. Odd though, I still rather felt the same. Perhaps I had not done it long enough – and like the others had said - the storm wasn't all that bad – the worst of it apparently being the thunder and lightning.

I went back inside and walked around looking for the others, but no one was around. Someone had to be close by though because of the offloading going on. I wanted to know how long we would be in port, I was hoping to go and see Nate and Stephanie. I took a shower, then put on a fresh change of clothes, and washed my dirty clothes in the shower. As I was hanging them up to dry around the head Pete came into the galley. He said looking at my clothes, "They got a laundry room you can use here."

"I didn't know that - I'm done anyway."

"You'd make a good boat-wife."


"House-wife, boat-wife."

"Oh - yeah. So how long we have?"

"Couple hours. George wants us back at five."

I looked at my watch, it was half past three. I asked, "Think he'd mind if I went and saw a friend of mine?"

"Naw - just be back at five."

I left the boat and jogged most of the way to the UNISEA. When I walked into the main factory building I saw Stephanie along one of the conveyor belts picking up boxes and taping them shut then replacing them on the belt to go to the stackers. I walked over and stood near her and said, "Hey Stephanie."

She looked over and when she saw me at first she seemed not surprised or even glad to see me, just had a concerned look, as if I had just caught her with a hand in the cash drawer. I did not think too much of it for she was always coming up with awkward and uncertain movements.

I said, "Aren't you glad to see me?" I wondered if maybe she somehow didn't get the word.

Then she smiled and came over. When she got up to me she leaned up and gave me a light kiss then said, "Hi. Nate told me about you getting on a boat."

"Yeah, sorry I couldn't tell you – I just didn't have time, I had to go right then."

She sort of nodded.

"So what's goin' on?"

She shrugged, "Not much. Just workin."

"Looks boring."

"Yeah - it is. How's the boat?"

"Okay I guess. Its not too hard - but we're not catching that much crab."

"No one is I hear."

"Yeah - tough season. So Nate filled you in?"



"Yeah, we sorta went out a couple a times drinking." She seemed hesitant and with a kind of remorse in her voice.

"Good, Nate's a fun guy." I said; but I was thinking to myself, hmm, she and Nate out drinking. I was suspicious.

She nodded, "Yeah he is."

We looked at one another awkwardly a moment, then I said, "Well I have to be back on the boat in an hour."

She nodded, "Yeah - I gotta get back working."

"Yeah, you better - them boxes are pilin' up."

She nodded again then leaned over and gave me another kiss, then stepped back over to the line.

I found Nate over on the dock pushing one of the bins. I said, after we exchanged the usual greetings, "I thought you would have quit by now."

"I'm goin' to - couple days. One more pay day."

"Season's passing."

"Don't remind me - I've been hearing how bad it is."

I followed him on the dock as he worked and told him about our problems with the crabs and the storm and how I got on the boat. He said, "Now you and Klug on a boat and me pushin' a fish bin. How idiotic can it get?"

"It can always get better - and it can always get worse."

"The philosopher speaks. Just what I need today Joey and his wise ass crud."

"Yeah, well I thought I'd stop by and edify you."

"Thanks. So what happened to your finger?"

He was referring to my still bandaged finger. "Broke it."

"Must be a pain."

"Naw, hardly notice it. The cold numbs it. So I saw Stephanie."

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah – she told me you told her how I got on a boat."

"Yep I did."


"You forgot to write the name of the boat on the note. What if the thing sinks - no one would know."

"Your concerned for me. I'm touched."

"No - I just know I'm in your will and if I can't prove your dead then no mula. Right?"

"I'm on the Paramount. But you're not in my will."

"You're kidding - I was counting on it. The Paramount huh. Sounds like a movie studio."

"Means the best. The top of the form."

"May mean it, may not be it though."

"Hmm - glad I came by."

"I'm glad too."

"So Stephanie says you two went out a couple times."

He was talking while he was working and only occasionally glancing over at me. When I brought up Stephanie he seemed to become even more distant and distracted; he said, "Just went to the Elbow Room."

"That's good - I'm glad you're entertaining her."

"Yeah, nice girl."

Now I was really suspicious - I could tell he was clamming up, and his unsolicited claim of just going to the Elbow Room. I knew Nate too well. I could see or sense there was something up. I got right to the point, "So you sleep with her?"

Then he stopped work, and out of the side of his eyes he looked over at me. Then he nodded slowly and said, "Yeah, I did."


"When you were gone."

"When I was gone?"

Now he stood and looked at me and said simply, "Yeah."

I was irritated, "What kind of answer is that? No - you did her when I was there."

Calmly he said, "No - it was when you were gone."

"I can't believe it."

"You can't believe it?"



"’Cause I can't."

"Listen - don't get all cut up Casanova. She was willing - and so was I. So why not?"


"Oh - because. Because she was your girlfriend? You can't even say that. ‘Cause she wasn't."

"You knew what had gone on between us - and how did you know what I thought about her?"

"Jeeze Joey - get serious will ya? You know sometimes you're impossible to figure. For a guy that went out for how many years? With a gal the class of Jane Sizemore to get all cut up over this? Jane's a silver tea service, and Stephanie's a tin can - I mean come on. I think she's even a lesbian. And she's not even good in bed. And look where we are, look around." He held up his hands palms up. “You told me to go see her – to give me you’re message – that you were adios.”

“I asked for you to give her a message – not fuck her for me.”

“Why shouldn’t I do her – you were gone.”

“I was gone, but not gone – gone. I was coming back – see here I am.”

“So she was you’re girlfriend?”

“Yeah – sorta.”

“Oh – come on.”

“You know that’s just like you – taking the simple view.”

“The simple view? What are you sayin’ I’m dumb here about something?”

“No – just sayin’ you’re taking the easy view and gettin’ what you want.”

“I can’t believe you’re so pissed. That’s just like you makin’ a federal case outa nothin’. Comin’ up with some way a lookin’ at it we’re all supposed to fall in line with, like you’re some authority or somethin’.”

“Well – shit – you’re a friend of mine, supposedly a good friend, don’t you think you should respect that?”

“This is stupid. Just plain stupid. I may be simple and dumb – but this is stupid. Listen asswipe – she came up to me in the bar – and you were gone. And chicks are in short supply up here – especially decent lookin’ ones. And I’m just not into guys, you know. Especially guys who handle fish for a livin’. Nature took its course. Think of it this way Joey, you got on boat and you gave her to me. Be a sport.”

“This is a girl were talking about – a person.”

“Oh fuck, that’s right – a person who wanted to get laid – and get laid by me; cause you were gone.”

“But I was coming back; there in lies the crucial point. And I didn’t give her to you. I would hope I wouldn’t even think in such terms. I wasn’t dead, I wasn’t on some plane to California, I was coming back – here – right here.” I said enuciating each sentence and pointing at the ground for emphasis.

He shook his head. “Well bud, by the time you got back here, right here, she wanted some sex, and so did I. And if it hadn’t a been me, it would have been somebody else. And you know what? Better me than he.” As he finished he pointed to some big bearded offish guy working near us.

I looked over at the guy and shook my head.

Then he started in some more, “I don’t get what you’re so cut up about? This girl is just a fling. You know that. Are you gonna pine over her too? Like Jane.”

I gave him a harsh look, “Oh – and what about you and Maryline? Huh? You know what Nate, let me fill you in on somethin’ here – this trip of ours, its got me wonderin’, got me wonderin’ just how sane we are. Have’in all the advantages, and here we are – up in Alaska fishing. Talk about vanity of vanities. For krisakes, we should have our heads examined. You know why I came up here? You know why?”

Looking passive and impatient he said, “Why?”

“Far as I can figure it was because I wanted to have fun. Fun. F-U-N. That was it. I realized it soon as Klug got a job and I was stuck in Juneau hell. All of a sudden it wasn’t fun. And I wanted to get my ass back to California, and you know what? I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing. You see Nate – I count my blessings. Jane was a blessing. You don’t count yours. Maryline was a blessing. You liked her ever bit as much as I liked Janie – but for you she wasn’t enough. Well Jane was enough for me.”

He rolled his eyes then said, “Oh, and Stephanie is enough for you too?”

“See – see there – you’re not even listenin’ to what I’m sayin’. Not even gettin’ it.”

“What’s to get? You’re over thinkin’ it as usual.”

“You want some advice?”

Nate smiled out of the side of his mouth. “What? What’s you’re big advice?”

I wasn’t smiling. I said, “Take what money you’ve made – get you’re ass back to Seattle and go see Nancy. She’ll come around. Work it out with her. Then take her back to California and get a life.”

He exhaled a guffaw, and shook his head. “I don’t think so. I’m here. I’m stayin’. Got that?”

“Well I guess that’s the strong thing. We can’t be weak, can we.”

“That’s right paley.”

I was angry I suppose, possibly because I was a little tired. I don’t know really. But I was rather seeing the Nate’s point of view on Stephanie, admittedly. He was right, I had left; abruptly so. My expectations were a bit high. And she went with him; and why should she wait around for me? And I remembered how all I said was that I was gone on a boat, I didn’t add any I shall return codicils. It would be unfair of me to expect her to be a Penelope and this gray desolet isle an Ithica. And really now, was I much of an Odyssues? Still I was worked up enough to stick to my guns, at least temporarily, give Nate a little lesson, so to speak, regarding his treading on my turf, let him sit in the dog house awhile; so I left him saying, “Well this is just bullshit, I’m outa here.”

As I turned and stepped away, I could hear him shout, laced with some levity, “Fine be pissed. Never talk to me again. But you’re over thinkin’ it paley – as usual – over thinkin’.”

He was shouting after me, and I was thinking yeah, whatever. And that’s how we left it – his voice trailing after me. I imagined him smiling and laughing to himself as he shook his head over our exchange as he went back to work. When I got away from the dock, and his voice well behind, I walked back through the factory building. When I looked over toward where Stephanie was working I saw she was looking at me. I walked over - I figured it would be lousy form if I just kept walking, then she would likely guess that Nate and I had been comparing notes, and I didn't want her to think that. When I got up to her I said, "Well I have to get back on the boat."

She just nodded.

"Maybe I'll see ya when I get back."

She nodded and said, "Okay." Then a surprise - she stepped over and gave me another light nip on the cheek.

When I was walking back to the boat I waxed in my mind philosophical about her – or maybe it was psychological. It occurred to me that somehow she had become more attractive when Nate had spilled the beans. Funny how people are - they want what they think they can't have. Flakes want what they can't have, I thought. It was an inferior response. My ego had just been pricked. Ah, the male ego. That Nate. That slime. They all loved that damn Nate. That was his peculiar gift.

21 We left Dutch Harbor into flat and calm seas under a milky white lightly overcasted sky. For the next ten hours I slept, read a little, helped Pete with another crossword, laid on my bunk, hung out rather. Nick and George were up on the bridge with Nick coming down only to cook the meals. George showed me on the map that we were sailing due south of Dutch Harbor towards an area called the Aleutian Trench. Apparently this trench marks the fall of the Pacific geologic plate beneath the North American continent plate. The waters were deeper there and possibly it was an area less fished and thus more populated with the crab. We could not experiment too much, sailing off in search of new areas that were far a field of the area where they had originally set their pots. Sailing back and forth retrieving then setting the original pots would take too much time. Always the end of the season was hurrying near. We dropped the first load of pots in sets of three to a particular spot trying in all about eleven spots. This took about ten hours. Then we had to decide the next move.

"We can go back to the first group and check for crab," George said. We were all sitting around the table drinking coffee. "Or we can go back to the other field and load up on pots. We're five hours from the other field. An hour from the first set of pots. We find crab here we're gonna need the other pots."

"What if you don't find crab here?" I asked.

He shook his head looking down like a bull, "I don't know. Then we keep looking. This is a mess."

"Should find 'em first - then go get the other pots," Nick said.

George nodded, "Yeah - that makes most sense. We just keep raising and moving them pots round here till we strike somethin'."

"Yeah. Pretty obvious that's what we need to do," George said.

It took about twenty or so minutes to raise each set of three pots, then twenty minutes to a half an hour to move them to another spot when they came up empty - which they all did, set after set. We spent four days picking up a set, stowin' the pots, moving them to another spot and lowering the pots. Sleep and rest and meals were snatched during the sails between old and new spots. We combed an area for the crab of several square miles. During the fourth day the weather again began to turn. First the whitish overcast became grayer, then darker and the sea whipped up - more undulations of hills and knolls and white caps. Four days of grabbing sleep on the come in twenty minute naps was taking an hour by hour toll on me. Like Chinese water torture it was slowly getting to me. With the fatigue setting in I began to realize that though the work was not that difficult it was the time and lack of rest that slowly ebbed on the skill and competence and mood. And as the sea became unstable, the relatively simple work could become difficult and dangerous. After we had raised, moved and lowered all of the pots for a fourth time, still coming up empty, again George came downstairs, and again we all sat at the table and figured what to do next. "No crab here, that's all there is to it," Goerge said. "I hate to say it but I picked wrong and now I think we should load 'em all up and try another place."

Danny hissed a sigh, "That'll take forever."

"Got any better ideas?" Nick said.

"Nope," Danny said, subdued.

"Yeah, looks kinda bleak here," Pete said.

The sentiment seemed to be pointing to a major move, a difficult decision to make no doubt. I realized also that George, by his coming downstairs and chatting with us about strategy, was making a smart management move. He was the skipper and was responsible to call all the shots and then accordingly per success or failure take any blame or credit. But by coming down and including us all in the major strategy decisions he had kept our loyalty and morale up. True, George picked the areas to drop, but we helped him chose to stay or move, or at least he made us think we had a part. If the pots came up dry, we believed then we were partly to blame, and George was still a pretty good guy. Yet this rather democratic style would only go so far I supposed. Like anything it wore well as long as there was some success. As it were, with each new pot coming up empty, George's style, or any style, would wear thin at staving off our frustration. Yet, and as it were, as empty cages and fatigue conspired to build the frustration, there was really nothing we could do. George was our skipper, period. We were in it with him as much as he was in it with us. His style only worked to make slightly better what was focusing into a bad situation – perhaps even the season to end all seasons.

As we sailed around to pick up and stow all of the pots, the weather was turning increasingly cooler and the sea more rolling. The bars on the pots and the deck became slick from icing over. Our rubber boots slipped and slid as we walked over the constantly shifting deck. And while stowing the pots I began to feel slightly dizzy and nauseous. It would especially well as I tied off a pot to another. We would crane over and slide a pot in next to another and I would tie the rails with short cuts of line, then when I finished, I would feel sick until it would subside as I helped Danny crane over the next pot. I began to worry as I recalled how Nate had become seasick and puked repeatedly there on the Snark in relative mild seas. Just what I needed, I thought, on top of the fatigue, now to get sick. After a dozen pots my lightheadedness and the sickening welling in my stomach increased, pangs calling for vomiting. Then as I was tying off one of the pots the puke rose and spouted out like I was a fountain. I grabbed the side bar of the trap and the partially digested chunky yellowy fluid poured out of my mouth between hacks and upchucks. When I finished, my throat burned, but I did feel better. I finished tying the line I had been on, then looked up. Danny was holding the crane hook and looking at me with a disgusted stare, he said, "That's gross."

"Got the flu I think," I said.

Without humor he said, "Flu huh - that's a good one."

After we had raised and stowed all of the pots we all went inside to dinner. I had puked by then a few times. I just kept working through it. It came in surges, like tides; it would well up and I would puke then I would feel almost normal awhile until it would come again. As it welled I told myself just to keep working, that I would puke and it would pass. When I sat down for dinner Nick said, "If you don't feel like eatin' best to ignore that and just eat - stuff it down - especially now that you're gonna get some rest. Eat then get in the bunk and go to sleep. At least then you might keep it down and some of it'll get digested and in your system before you get sick again."

I nodded and did as told. But the pangs made it rough, I ate carefully and quickly trying to get the meal down without puking. And the main course being panned fried liver and onions was no help. When I finished I quickly undressed down to my long underwear and got into my bunk. I lucked out - immediately I fell into a deep sleep.

"Alright - rise and shine - come on babies. Come ah-on." Nick's voice rang into my unconscious head. My eyes opened - but against their will. I was groggy and I wanted to beg for just a few minutes more of the inclined position. I looked at my watch I had been asleep a little more than four hours - what was my body complaining about? Four hours was better than thirty minutes any day of the week. I heard Danny below me groan then he rolled out of his bunk and stood up. The boat was rolling and pitching and yawing. Danny even slipped slightly and grabbed the side of the doorway. His face was swollen with sleepiness, he said, "Now's when it starts bein' a bitch." Then he left.

I rolled off my bunk and followed. A thickness and fatigue seemed to permeate my every muscle, it even seemed somehow in the bone. Even my marrow was sleepy. Yet the sickness was gone. The floor was still a see-saw yet my stomach had normalized. Thank God. Perhaps there was a God, a Lord, and a helpful one at that. As I dressed my body loosened and the fatigue diminished.

Nick was already dressed for work and was busy at the stove brewing coffee, Pete was also dressed and sitting in the booth smoking a cigarette. Danny came out of the head and I replaced him. Outside the porthole I could see more gray overcast and a hilly foamy sea. It was difficult to stand at the toilet the boat was heaving to so.

As I came out of the head stumbling a little because of a sharp dip and rise, Nick said, "Whoa - it's gonna be fun out there babies."

I saw Danny roll his eyes.

After I was all dressed, Nick poured me a cup of coffee and said, "Best to get outside quick so ya don't get sick. And when you work try not starin' and concentrating on one thing for too long a time. Your gonna have to do some cause we'll be untying and launchin' the pots - but keep it in mind to look up every once in a while you're untying."

I nodded.

"Yeah - the starin' makes you sick," Nick said. Cause you're body feels the movement but your mind sees something stationary so it gets confused and throws off the equilibrium."

The explanation did not quite make much sense to me, but who was I to argue; I just didn't want to get sick again. Outside it was cold. The air and mist from the frothing seas slapped cold on the face. A layer of ice, still thin, but thick enough to appear white, covered all. We all wore our plastic top coats now with a couple of layers of clothes. The sea was a lumpy curling expanse, a desert of steel gray dunes glazed with white foam. The horizon was a wavy demarcation between shades of dark gray. It was a wild sea and the deck rose and lowered, leaned and angled. We stepped slowly and carefully grabbing onto whatever protrusion was close at hand. The wind blew slapping the cold gusts against the face; after my cheeks numbed I could only feel the air press on me. With the shovel Danny scrapped the narrow strip of deck between the stowed pots and the cabin. I brought out the boxes of bait. Then George over the loudspeaker said, "Okay - we're here."

Again we lowered in sets of three. Thirty minutes on, thirty off, for nine hours. Nick's advice had worked. I refrained from too much hypnotic like starring on the knots I was untying and stayed well. I even felt hearty enough to wolf down a half dozen pancakes and a few eggs at breakfast. Pete even said watching me quickly clean my plate, "Looks like you're back in the land of the livin'."

"Yep, four hours sleep was just what I needed," I said.

Scraping ice off of the deck with the shovel became a regular function, and though we became more accustomed to the trick of stepping lightly and slipping over the wavering deck, stumbles and falls became commonplace. Nick started telling Danny and I when he would catch us down, "Hey - quit slackin' off."

Danny would take in these comments with his usual aplomb with such remarks as, "Up yours Greek," or "Clam it grease ball."

Throughout the shift the sea, in turmoil, would toss waves over the rails, at least five or six an hour would surge over. George would see most of them coming and give warning, yet a few snuck by and would catch us unawares. As you worked you knew that at any time the water could hit. I even slipped and fell once when it hit me unawares. My back was turned and it caught me at the waist and I fell back and sat in it. Fortunately my top coat and coveralls were enough to keep all but a little water from seeping into my dry underclothes. Nick saw me fall and said, "Hey - get up, don't play in it!" On my rear there on the deck I must have looked like a kid at the seashore. After we lowered the pots we sailed back to the first set, it took about an hour and a half. During that pause we ate dinner and caught an hours sleep; at least Danny and I did. I did not see what Pete did, and I saw Nick go upstairs to the bridge, then George came down and went into his stateroom. Nick, I presumed, had relieved him. And then it occurred to me how I had not seen Nick at rest or sleeping, he seemed always up.

Later we again raised the pots in sets of three. The first set came up empty, we stowed all three pots, sailed to a new spot then lowered the three pots, then sailed to the second set and raised those. Those came up empty. Indeed every set, all of the pots came up empty. To raise, move, and re-lower the pots took us about twelve hours. Then we caught another hours sleep, and we did it all again because they still came up empty. After that second shift of raising, moving, and re-lowering, all of us again sat around the table strategizing with George. Time was marching on, always moving, steamrolling, hurrying near, unforgiving, time, time, time, we were losing it. George decided on a new approach, "We've put pots all over this place and still nothing. We're gonna go to each group and raise just one of the pots and stow it. We'll go through each group and if they all come up empty we'll pick up and stow eleven pots. Then with these eleven we'll go to a whole new area and set just those. We don't have time anymore to be as thorough as we'd like. We gotta get pots down and find something." About five hours later we craned aboard the tenth empty pot and stowed it against the other pots. Soon we were at the next pot but we let it pass, the spherical buoys floated past the boat about ten yards aft the port side. Seeing them made me wonder - if maybe? Fifteen minutes later we were on the last group of three and we raised the eleventh pot. It too was empty. When it came up Danny hissed, "Son of a bitch," and shook his head. Even Nick looked glum. Then we stowed the pot.

The boat idled slowly in the still gamboling sea. We all just stood on the deck waiting for word from his master's voice. Finally George came on the loudspeaker, "Its a dry hole guys. We gotta go lookin’. Why don't you tie a couple lines over those pots."

It was only eleven pots, we lowered the crane boom down over the top of the smaller collective cage and threw a couple lines over the boom and the cage and tied it all down. Then we went back inside where Nick had prepared a lunch of baloney sandwiches, chicken soup and Tang - the orange juice of the astronauts. We all ate silently, as if there was death in the air, a morbid stench. There was a faint pall of bluish smoke hanging over the table - from Pete's cigarette, he had finished his lunch and had lit up. Danny cut the silence by admonishing Pete, "Those Camels'll give ya cancer."

Pete looked coolly over at Danny, "They don't give me cancer."

"Just lettin' you know."

Pete made no reply or expression, just took another drag. After more silence Nick said, "Well suppose now you guys can get some sleep."

Danny drank down the remainder of his Tang and slammed the cup down on the table and said, "You got that right," then got up and went over to our stateroom.

Nick gave me a plate of food and a glass of Tang and asked me to take it up to George. As I went up the stairs, stepping slowly and carefully up the treads, my hands being full and the stairway tilting with the motion of the boat, I could hear the short-wave going fairly loud. I did not pay too much attention, it sounded like the usual chatter between fishermen. George was bent over the chart table making marks on a map with a red pen. He did not look up but I guess he saw me for he said, "Hey Joe, thanks - just set it there. Feelin' better?"

"Oh yeah."

"Good. Well some bad luck here. We haven't shown you much success."

"I'm sure things'll improve."

I sat down in the other pilots chair, "Got another area picked out?"

"Yeah - its a couple hours away."

Beyond the windows the great gray sea rolled on in undulating hills. The clouds above were gray. Gray on gray, today like everyday.

"The LORAN pretty good at getting you to the area."

"Pretty good, its accurate to between a mile and half mile. The LORAN gets you close then to get to the exact spot you use the depth finder and coordinate the fathom readings here on the map with what comes upon the finder."

As he worked I listened more intently to the voices coming over the radio:

"Got a full load here. Over."

"How far out are ya Northern Star? Over."

"Half day. Maybe less. Sorta rough out here. Over."

Another voice crackled in, "Where you at Northern Star? Over."

"Wouldn't you like to know. Who's this? Over."

"Alaskan Eagle. We're headin' in too. Over."

"How'd you do Eagle? Over."

"Three quarters full. Two weeks work. Seen better. Over."

"Same here. Over."

"Hey Northern - what happened to Doral? Over."

"Don't know. Last I heard just the May Day. Over."

"Said his engine was out. Wouldn't give his position though. It was his secret spot. Over."

A chuckle then, "If he was sinkin' hope he gave his position. Over."

"He wouldn't. He'd sink first. Over."

"Sounds like Charley. Over."

"Hey you can always get another boat - but not another spot. Over."

"Can't get another boat if they can't find ya. Over."

George was smiling and chuckling a little over this exchange. Then another voice came on, "Doral here. Fuck you guys. Over."

Then there was a laugh, "Hey 'gainst FCC to use the F-word on the airways Doral. Over."

"Ten-four Doral and we all heard it. Over."

"Someone should write it up. Over."

"That's a ten-four. Get right on it. Over."

"Doral here - fuck you all again. Over and out."

"He's lost control. Over."

Nick then popped his head up from the stairs, "Hey George you wanna get some sleep?"

"Naw, I'm okay." George said.

I got up from the chair and announced that I was ready for sleep. Nick came up the stairs and replaced me in the other chair, and I went down, undressed, and laid down on my bunk and again immediately fell asleep.

"Wake up babies."

Oh gawd. I looked at my watch. It had been just over a couple of hours. When I re-closed my eyes they stayed shut and when I went to reopen them the lids seemed to pull down to stay closed. The sleep was just long enough to get my body settled into it. Now my body seemed to scream for more and cry out what was I doing to it? From below Danny groaned, "Gawd damn," then stood up. His eyes were red and he rubbed his head and said, "This is hell." Then he stumbled sort of walking out of the stateroom. Then I got up and my body was thick with fatigue. I stumbled myself, just standing, from the movement of the floor. Back outside the wind was really up, it hit like a stinging slap on the face and was so hard it impeded my movement. It felt like I could lean into it and it would hold me up. All around the boat were the wild gray hills and knolls of swirled foam and white caps. I heard Danny cuss, "Gawd damn fucking wind." As we moved we leaned into it. We spoke in shouts. Smaller white capped wavelets constantly splashed into the side rails tossing sprays of water over onto the decks, we were continually showered with these sprays, always I was wiping water out of my face as if it was raining. We launched one pot then sailed about ten minutes and launched another. About halfway through the pots, we had hooked a pot, and I was standing on the deck refilling a bait cup when through the loudspeaker George shouted "Starboard - big wave - lookout." I turned around and the boat took a sideways lean into a wide wall of dark water which washed over the deck and swept me off my feet. For a moment my head was actually under water and my head stung and ached from the chill. When the water subsided I was sitting on the deck. I stood up and surprisingly was not that drenched under my over gear. Just my shirt around my shoulders and neck was wet. Danny said, "That was a big one."

Nick looked at me and shouted, "Hey, get some legs greenhorn."

Over the speaker George said, "Gotta watch it - that won't be the only one."

I heard Danny say, "Great - stinkin' weather and no crabs."

It took us about three hours to launch all of the traps. As we sailed back to the first ones launched we went inside for coffee and dinner. Again we ate quickly and tried to get at least a little sleep. This time we got only about a half hours worth. When we went back outside night had fallen and beyond the halogen halo was just an inky indigo vastness. No stars, no moon, from out of the black came a fierce chilly wind and a fiendish tempestuous stygian sea. As we sailed between the pots, which were still coming up empty, we stood on the deck waiting for the next pair of buoys to show on the surface, we stood with nothing to do but to hold on in the wind and wait. The blackness and the wind and our tossing raft seemed to magnify the aloneness. Just a few men on a small steel and wood cay in a raging careless sea trying to make a dollar, trying to beat some vague sort of odds. Like the life below in the still depths, the bigger life who devoured the smaller and was in turn devoured by even bigger; we had come with only ingenuity and guts to glean our survival from the sea. But apparently that year the sea had drawn some kind of line. It had enough, it would not that year give forth. Man was again facing an inevitable result of his ingenuity and enterprise again taken too far, what nature could give, it could also deny. The hours passed and we kept raising and re-lowering then raising pot after pot. We took breaks only for meals and we even forced ourselves to break two hours for sleep after about twenty hours of it. I could see that the others were becoming even more concerned, that they were going through the paces irritably. Talk between us had almost ceased. Even Nick had stopped his chiding. We were gambling and averaging down on borrowed time and we were well overextended. If we were to get anything out of the season we would have to start finding crab immediately. And they were all likely more disappointed because they had found crab early on - that early success had supposedly prefigured a great and bountiful season, now they were facing apparently the worst ever. The big catch had somehow disappeared, got smart and gone away or got fished out or whatever the wild does to evolve out of an infringed life cycle. One thing I saw in this show was just how good I had it. How truly I had been to the manner born. If the season continued on this way and the gains were minimal then for me it was simply back to Claremont, then likely Harvard. But for the others, a poor season meant low income for the year. Probably the necessity even of finding income elsewhere. For George it could mean the wrath of the creditors, potentially the loss of the boat if his overhead was too high - if like Dedalus he had flown too high with the good years. This was gambling. The casinos of Vegas and Monte Carlo and the like were trivial parlors compared to this vast chilly gaming house in the north. At one of the meals Danny said, "What'd ya think - think its all fished out?"

George said, "Somethings up no doubt. They're still out there though. We just can't find 'em."

Pete said, "Things keep like this my wife's gonna be ticked."

"Why's that?" George said.

"She's gonna have ta get a job."

"It's that bad?" I asked.

George nodded, "It's pretty bad."

Pete said, "Yeah, haven't seen it this bad since the Bay of Pigs."

George smiled, "Yeah, that was bad - no crabs in the Bay of Pigs."

"I don't see what's so funny," Danny said, "since we've dropped Dick off we've got nowhere. We're jinxed."

Nick laughed, "That's right we've been voo-dooed."

"Well don't it seem sorta strange that we've got nothin' since Dick got hurt."

Pete nodded, "You know I think the kids finally put two and two together."

"Yeah, and got three," Nick said.

Everyone laughed save Danny.

Then Pete said, "Wonder if you can collect unemployment even if you've been working?"

"Yeah, workin' at a job that don't pay - that oughta qualify," Nick said.

Again we laughed.

22 It all ends with a whimper. At least up in the chilly north. The crab disappears and the grand proud boats go bankrupt sailing around scouring for it. We spent two more shifts hoisting, shifting, and dropping pots. We were beyond bushed and the fatigue was made all the more acute with the lousy luck. Our biorhythms were in descent. A downer. I had actioned on through a dozen second winds, I felt like I was operating on a kind of autopilot, my body, because of the repetition, moved by rote and seemed not to concern itself with directives from the mind – almost numb and stupored from sleeplessness. A mind to ignore. My brain actually felt numb, I thought I could feel it, like it was a muscle, there was a buzzing going on within and its operations - my thinking – processed as if sopped with water and all but shut down. After the second shift, during the short sail back to the first pot, we decided we would stow all of the pots again - if they all surfaced empty - which they did - then move on to a complete new area. After that third shift we ate dinner, and at the table, just sitting, I dozed off. Twice Nick elbowed me at the side nudging me awake. He, of course, appeared chipper as when had we left Dutch Harbor. He was inhuman. A freak Greek of nature. I was beginning to comprehend why Danny, at every free moment, piled into the sack. Like coins in a piggy bank he was saving it up - rest time. But Nick, he was a spendthrift. I asked him, "Don't you ever sleep?" He said simply with a smug shake of his head, "No." Danny then indicted, "He sleeps - you just don't see it."

Sailing to the new spot took about eight hours, thank God. Eight hours of dead sleep. And even then, when I awoke, my body pined for more. My body was still thickly tired and yearned to lay around, but I could tell that there was a freshness in the feeling and operation of my brain. Before the big sleep the interior of my skull felt somehow swelled and pressing in on the brain matter. My head felt heavy and thoughts truly came slow. Now my head was lightened and I could think again, I felt the alteration. I wondered how did these guys do it year in and out for two or three decades. You would think they would be vegetables or their bodies wracked with deterioration. They were indeed specimens of the miraculous recuperative powers of the human body. Of some bodies anyway - and there appeared to be variations. Nick needed no sleep and seemed to stay the same. Danny needed gobs of rest, Pete and George required less than I but more than Nick. I was rather like Danny, constantly starved for beauty rest. It did occur to me though, was Nick superhuman or was it all mind and attitude – over matter - his telling us and himself that he didn't need any sleep? And simply denying himself. Resolving his mind and body to it. And were we, Danny and I, simply weaklings - cry babies allowing ourselves to be buffaloed by the pangs of our whining bodies and minds. As Nick had said when I asked if he ever needed sleep, "No." A simple, unadorned, unexplained, No. Any speculations beyond that simple No simply did not compute, were not part of the equation. I would have said yes of course I need sleep, why I'm only human. All my life I have slept. When I got tired, I slept, typically eight hours per the standard twenty four. But did I really require the sleep? Was I operating on a conditioned reflex? Where was the point, the breaking point? And not just with fatigue - with anything? How much conditioning is surreptitiously thrust into our daily lives? How did these fishermen do it? Year in and out, how did their bodies and minds stand these sleepless and physical rigors? The answer was simple. They did it. They did it and stood it because they did. Simple. If their bodies and minds broke then they would have pushed too far. Simple. And that would be the breaking point. Nick had told me that George was a good skipper because he knew how far he could work his crew, how to get the most out of them. Then George told me about Nick, essentially raving, "He's ambitious. He wants to be a skipper, and he's almost there. He's tops. Out works and out does everybody and keeps a level head and ain't afraid of any weather. And he's good with the crew." I could not see anything wrong with that assessment. Heraclitus gave character over to destiny. I side now with Melville that it was somewhere in the backbone. I was then riding with a half a handful of apparent meager destines, but all with firm backbones.

During the long sleep I dreamt. I was back at home in the dining room sitting along the side of our large table we used to dine at almost every evening while I was growing up. Around the table was my family and Nate, Jane, and Brad even. Food was being passed around on large plates and a large browned basted turkey was the table center piece. It was like that Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving dinner painting. Then Nick's voice intruded and obliterated this idyllic scene, "Come on babies!" Yes, I was indeed conditioned.

Once awake, besides the engine noise, I noticed readily we were hardly rocking, the boat was gliding along somehow smooth in what must be a placid silky sea. After dressing I stomped through the bulkhead into a strangely all new scene. The sea was flattened. A shiny steel gray floor, as if polished. We coasted along in it sliding as if effortlessly, a feather slicing air. And above the water and all around closing in on us was a dense gray fog, so gray like smoke, an eerie phantom like other worldly pea soup, of the London class, so dense it clung and hovered like a ghostly steam on the stern rail and was slit by the top of the mast. The halogens penetrated feebly. Danny and Nick were going through the usual preparations. The air was cool still but warmer. I asked Peter, "How do you find the buoys in fog like this?"

"Cool head."

Yes, of course. And how does one go about that? The boat was within its own misty universe, like Plato's cave, we were pawns to the unknowns in the mist and below in the sea. Crab that should be here was maybe there, or should be there was over that way. With wherever it was, the cave was making its presence and power known, it was, as in the end, as it always does, it was mastering us. And it was all so quiet. A windless, foggy, silent day; only the gurgling and purring of the engine cut the air. Then we began launching.

We went through two more shifts and still no crab. At dinner George came down and said, "I don't know - sure don't look good. Not at all. Listenin' to the radio sounds like we're not alone."

"Bad all round?" I said.

"Yep," George said, then scratched the back of his head.

Pete said, "I remember the same thing happened ten years ago to the shrimp. For years we fished tons and tons of it - then one year nothin. Just nothin. It makes sense don't it George?"

George nodded as if he knew exactly what Pete was referring to.

"How's it make sense?" Danny asked.

Pete said, "Every year now for bout ten years its gotten a little worse. Take the sixties, we were pullin' in a hundred keepers a pot. Hell we used to pass up areas that was given fifty keepers a pot. I've seen pots so crammed with crabs you thought it was a miracle that so many had gotten inside, one fifty to two hundred in the pot."

George nodded, "Yeah, sixty eight was a big season. Tremendous catch! That's how I made enough for my first boat."

"Seventy is when it turned," Pete said.

George agreed, "That's when the pots started coming up consistently short, fifty in a pot was good then. But that was okay cause we'd still get plenty a loads and the price went up so the money was still there."

"And every year it got less and less. Last couple years it was fifteen to twenty keepers was good. Now just findin' it would be good," Pete said. "It's the damn Japs and Russians."

"How's that?" I asked.

"The Russians and Japs fish with big processing ships and tangle nets," George said.

I nodded, "Yeah, I heard about that."

"They don't control their fishing, their supposed to but they don't, not like the U.S.," Pete said. "Supposedly there are treaties setting limits – but they don't get enforced. Politicians just set em' up so they can look good. They probably catch two or three times what the U. S. fisheries haul in."

"Looks sorta bleak," I said.

"Should a stayed at the cannery huh?" Nick said.

"Naw - I don't think so," I said. "So is it all just fished out. Are the crab gone?"

George shook his head and assured, "Naw. It used to be there were great fields of the crab over the shelves around the Aleutians and Alaska. Put your pots anywhere and you'd come up with crab. Now there's just pockets of concentrations - there's a lot less. Just harder to find. Now it's a real game a hit and miss. And it's gettin' harder to hit."

"So what do we do? I asked.

"Keep droppin'," George said. "What else is there? We've already done all I know. Just keep goin."

23 When the test pilots of yore, those with the right stuff at the turn of the new era of jet propulsion, X-15's and global shrinking, when moving faster than the speed of sound still whirred in the imagination but was becoming graspable as fact, when they called it breaking the envelope, like breaking a gorgeous virgin who's beauty and self possessed mystery made her somehow an unreachable goddess, there was buzzing around among the aeronautical community, among the scientists with their theories and the pilots with their joy sticks trying out the theories, tales of all sorts of sordid phenomena of what would happen when the barrier was finally reached and the envelope, the great hymen of her highness, was finally ripped through. But tales they were, hyper speculations, mere ghost stories, which the X-15 and Chuck Yeager proved them to be. There was also the same kind of hype over the four minute mile. First it was four minutes five seconds, then three, then two, then four minutes itself. And for eight years the mile went at four minutes. It was speculated that the human body could not endure or sustain for a mile the speed to run it below four minutes. That four minutes was the barrier, the wall that nature had masoned. Odd how it came to be exactly four minutes; nature could be rather neat in her ways. Then came along Jim Ryan who disbelieved and broke through into the three minute range, an expulsion of the four minute syndrome and another jab at the credibility of all such syndromes that have dragged on and dogged mans ascent from the cave. Today a four minute mile is routinely broken by even mediocre college runners. I suppose such barriers and syndromes are in relative forms in all men, we all have our walls to break through to enter a wider realm for our lives. Eventually I started wondering there on the boat if perhaps this venture that had taken me from the Elysium of Claremont to the gray chill turmoil of the Bering Sea had somehow taken me beyond some personal sound barrier, through some internal wall. Had the crucible of this experience somehow made me stronger or better in some way, or had I merely gone a sightseeing?

I recalled a story Nate's father once told us about a guy who swims across a river. He looks at the river and thinks, yes I'm going for a swim, then, like Cheever's Swimmer swimming through the pools of suburbia on a frivolous yet somehow challenging whim, he plunges in and dedicates himself to reaching the other side. It looks afar - but reachable. He proceeds with almost full confidence with only a twinge of supposed doubt. As he nears the middle he discovers the rivulets of current were equal to the state of his physicality and he is tiring. And the water was cooler than he thought. Yet he keeps on. At the middle the current is strongest and he is truly tired, almost exhausted even, he is beginning to think he will not make it. He sighs a few short statements requesting god's deliverance. He thinks he might be on the brink of drowning as he realizes that being in the middle he has as far to go as he has come. Effectively he is trapped. He feels panic, drowning is imminent. Then the survival instinct takes over and slowly he moves on. He is stronger than many, stronger than he thought. Some would have drowned. That is life. Eventually like a new sun filled morning the sandy beach becomes near, he is even invigorated rather by the sight, more strength comes to him from somewhere unknown, he knows he has made it. Then soon he is on shore crawling up and laying down breathing hard and basking in the sun. A few minutes go by and he is rested, his breath has been found and has normalized. He looks across to the other side from whence he came and thinks to himself, I made it okay really, it really was not all that far and that hard, I made it. Then he even has the slight inkling of an urge to swim back - but he suppresses this telling himself no. But not because he might drown, no; because he simply doesn't have the time. That is also life.

I doubted that I would be like the swimmer who looks at the river and passes off with mendacity the hazard he had just met and struggled through. I rather prided and fooled myself with what I called self-honesty. I tried to stand aside and see myself and what the world was doing to me, and I to it. I liked to think that I would look back across that river and say to myself, "Damn, I almost lost it in there. That was a tough deal. Better take the bridge back over." In other words formulate a proper assessment - see myself for what the experience showed me for what I was. And at the same time see the swim for its worth, have the honesty to say: Hell I almost drowned - it was not an easy chore - but by god I made it through - and I found something out there. I actually hoped that I was of that sort of marrow to see the swim without clouding it in mendacity, without delusion, deception, without the hype of exaggerating its horror or undervaluing its lesson. And that is how I began wanting to asses this fishing thing. Had it been a valid and valuable investment of time, energy, and effort? Were there indeed barriers and walls I had broken through?

Frankly there on the boat as I began a mental accounting, I was not so sure. I knew that I was most of the time damn tired and working through that was trying. But I would not say it was an extreme test of body and soul. The rough and tumble of the Great Bering surprised with its movements - but our tiny steel Kon Tiki had proven worthy amidst its tempests. This was no Normandy Beach on D-day or Valley of Death – or B17 bombing run over Germany. The sleeplessness, the work load, the wind and cold were pains to be endured - but just pains really; I never for once felt in fear of my life or in any real peril. As I thought it over - did I really feel stronger or any better in some way? I wasn't sure - I just felt tired. I had come upon the dragon with Excalibur in hand at the ready, I lowered my visor and was prepared, but then I found him leashed; I saw into the cave, ventured in and found it rather demonless. But of course, at least I had ventured in.

Indeed as we raised and lowered, stowed and stacked pot after pot, the work and situation lost those glints of glamour we had imagined into it and became, like the cannery work, and indeed all work - because it is just that - work - it became merely repetitive and tedious. And this was the nature of my thinking on the whole matter as we sailed on lowering, raising, and moving pot after pot for shift after shift, still - still all coming up empty. Frustration had given way to depression, we were definitely in the throws of the slings and arrows. We all seemed to be taking it stoically and still bits of humor surfaced. Danny was less stoic, but his griping was minor when it came down to it. That was his style, like the rest with their swaggering style of shrugging it off. Once when we were all again around the table eating George said, "Maybe we can convert her to a whale watching cruise boat or something, sell tickets."

Peter said, "Hear it's a good business. But also heard the whales are gone too."

"Oh well," George said, shrugging.

Apparently it was becoming a depleted sea.

We spent another week dropping pots and exploring a new area. Fatigue went to boredom and back to fatigue. My mind and body were just a rag, worked out and worn out, but we kept on scrubbing. Nick remained amazing. Still not showing any outward signs of fatigue or let up and still I had yet to see him sleep or even doze off. "Don't you need sleep?" I asked him again. And he replied the same old song, "Nope."

He did show me one of his tricks: I caught him jump roping on the deck between pots. I said, "Now you're working out. You're inhuman."

He shook his head and handed me the rope, "Try it."

I did almost a couple minutes of hops, and when I stopped I noticed I felt better, it had invigorated me some. I said, "Makes you feel sort of refreshed."

"Speeds up the metabolism. You do it when you're real tired, gets ya goin' again."

"So you do get tired?"

Smiling he said, "No - I do it for the exercise." In an earlier time Nick would probably have been a great crusading knight or Warrior or Legionnaire, a lieutenant to Agamemnon, an Anthony, or a Brian perhaps; or simply one of those who as they were about to die saluted Caesar.

In the week that we explored I lost count and could not even get close to accurately estimating how many times we lowered and raised the pots, it had just became a repetitive tedious assembly line like function, and we tired robotons. But then a pot broke the surface and just that quick we had found it, Nick shouted, "Yes! We have crab!"

When we raised the pot out of the sea we saw there must have been fifty of the spindly crustaceans. When we dropped them on the deck over half were keepers. We had, it appeared, struck the Mother-lode, the El Dorado. Immediately our spirits rose, as if a floodgate had been opened and waters from the hopeful Periean spring were now allowed to flood forth and pervade our bodies and soul. We became manic, flushed with optimistic ions. Still we had no idea of how significant was our find, we had only set one trap in the spot. That was why before the dreadful dry spell they had always checked a spot in sets of three - to get at least some idea if a find portended that below was a large enough gathering of crab to warrant transporting dozens of pots to the area. Now we only had one pot full, but that was better than none, and its fullness fueled the optimism.

We freshly baited and lowered the lucky pot then sailed off to gather the others. Four hours later those were all on the deck stowed and we returned to the original pot. We raised it again - and again it was full. Then we lowered the other ten pots. We then spent the next day sailing back to the area where we had left the other pots a couple weeks before. It took a day to raise and stow over the deck fifty of those, then it was another days sail back to the promised eleven. I was in crab fishing heaven, it had become a Cunard cruise. Two ten hour stretches of sleep in three days, I was over rested, my body soaked in sleep, which was just as well, for we worked around the clock for almost two weeks, fishing what turned out to be a field of plenty.

Slowly over the shifts with pot after pot all filled with crab we filled the hold with the magnificent keepers. And George even said that if we could get a couple boat loads to the cannery by the time the season was shut down we would likely have a good enough year. Not a great year, but good enough to make it worthwhile. "Its likely the price'll be up cause no ones catchin' anything. So even if we're catchin' a little - we should make out okay," he said. It was simple supply and demand economics, and we lucked out, finding ourselves on the lucky side of the supply curve.

24 We had just finished eating dinner. The boat's hold was filled with crab and we were a day's sail out of Dutch Harbor. I had gone up to the bridge to relax and watch awhile, us sailing through the gray hilly sea. We seemed to be bobbing like a cork over the mounds, the boat pitching and rolling. Were it not for the LORAN readings, I would have no indication from the gray beyond that we were making any headway. I sat in one of the pilot chairs, George in the other. The radio was on, but George had the sound turned down, the voices came dim and seemed to blend with the background noise of the continual mechanical din of the engine. Smoke from George's pipe had drifted my way and I found pleasurable the sweet wooden tobacco smell. The day outside over the sea, like all days there in the Bering, was gray overcast. Gray on the gray undulating mounds all around with only an occasional wisp of whitecap gilding the gray which went on into the far surrounding horizon. I heard something on the radio about rough weather, a squall somewhere east of Dutch Harbor, near the mainland. But that was all that registered. George seemed to ignore the voices as he simply sat with his pilot chair turned rearward, so that he could study his charts laying over the table.

It felt quite good to be rested and relaxing there; though the rocking of the boat was exaggerated in the heavy seas, I had become accustomed to it, and thus it had a lulling effect on me. The bodies recuperative powers were indeed amazing. I had slept eight hours that day and felt just fine, in fact I was ready for more. My body was becoming accustomed to the rigors of the long sleepless hours, the hard work and fowl weather. I was toughening up. And I was quite satisfied with myself. Admittedly almost as much - or perhaps even more so - as when I graduated Princeton. Yes, this crab fishing thing did have its own delicious flavor of satisfaction to it. Everyone goes to college these days, and while Princeton is one of the best, and I graduated with honors, my going to Princeton had been almost a natural occurrence of events. I seemed destined for that, as if it was somehow predetermined. Indeed when it came down to it, though I did have to put in some work - lots of work rather - it was still, in the relative scheme of things, easy for me. But this fishing thing, unlike the Princeton thing, it had been such a radical course - a mere six month previous, not in my wildest imaginings would I have conjured this up - that I would be, at the tail end of that year's fall, in a commercial crab fishing boat sailing over the treacherous Bering Sea. I had left the comforts and certainty of my place in the matrix, had ventured out into the wilderness, to a place in one of the last frontiers, had set out to do a thing, had stood up and born its requirements, rigors and demands, had lucked through its chance and hazards, had gone through an odyssey, an initiation; indeed I had done the thing.

Through this mental back slapping, I heard on the radio: "How much left in the season? Over."

George looked up and reached up to the radio box and turned the volume up.

Another voice on the radio: "I talked to the UNISEA and they got an indication from the fisheries that..." The voice faded replaced by the hissing and hum of static. George quickly reached up and turned the volume up and the tuning nob - but the voices would come in then fade into the hissing. He tried turning the channels, but most were clear or filled with negligible conversation. Then on one channel we heard a voice filled with professional urgency: "This is the U. S. Coast Guard, your location? Over."

Something about the voice, its urgency perhaps induced George to stop on the channel and listen. There was a pause on the radio then the same voice said: "Sand Point Mayday, Coast Guard here, your location? Over."

Then another voice came on: "Coast Guard we are 10:30 longitude, 15:93 latitude, about forty miles due south of Sand Point. Both boats have gone down. Over."

George brought his arm down and turned his chair to face forward. He said low in voice, "Something's happened."

I took that to mean something of consequence, for while I had heard maydays before on the radio, none had elicited this sort of response from George.

Again the voice came on: "Sand Point mayday. I.D. yourself please. Is rescue equipment needed? Over."

Another voice: "Coast Guard this is Northern Sea. We are near accident. Two boats have gone down, one a tug, the other a fisher. Looks like the tug was pulling a barge of cargo containers cause there's a barge out there just rollin' in the waves and half its containers have spilled off. Its really blowin' and rainin' and snowin’. Can't see too much. There's another fisher out there - looks like he's lookin' for survivors. Over."

A short pause, then: "Ten-four Northern. The other boat is the Neptune, we copy him on channel two-three-zero. He has two survivors spotted, he requests you assist in rescue. Approach from his port side. Over."

A pause, then: "Ten-four Coast Guard. I see the survivors. Both are near the Neptune, one's on top a one of the cargo containers, the other's hangin' on the side a one. I got my alternate radio tuned into two-three-zero for instructions from Neptune. You copy. Over."

George reached up quickly and turned on the alternate radio and turned the channel nob, soon we heard coming over that radio: "... to my port side Northern. Try and keep those damn containers away from me, they keep bumpin' into us and movin' us. We're goin' for the man on the side of the container. He looks in bad shape. Other containers keep bangin' into him. Over."

"Ten-four Neptune. I'll do what I can, and will inform Coast Guard. Over."

"Ten-four Northern."

"Coast Guard this is Northern. We will need medical rescue. Both survivors have been in the water a long time now. One is definitely seriously injured. The other on top of the container looks okay. He keeps pointing to the Neptune to get the other man. Over."

"Ten-four Northern, we are checking into status of equipment and weather. Will advise. Over."

"Ten-four Coast Guard. Weather - stormin' out here. Wind - forty to fifty knots, sea - ten to fifteen. Rain and sleet. Over."

"Ten-four Northern. We're checking extent and estimated duration of storm. Will advise. Over."


There was a long pause. George said, "Sounds like a fishin' boat ran into one a those cargo barges bein' pulled by a tug. Sounds bad, sounds like all except for two are lost."

Then a voice completely different from those we had been listening to came on, "Dauntless, this is Evening Star you read? Over."

Almost immediately: "This is the U. S. Coast Guard we have a mayday in progress, please clear this channel. This is the U. S. Coast Guard clear this channel. Over."

For about thirty seconds the channel stayed clear with just a slight hiss coming over the speaker.

Then: "Northern this is Coast Guard, do you read? Over."

"This is Northern, Coast Guard. Over."

"Northern this is Coast Guard. The weather is too extreme for air rescue. Cutter Storis is three hours to location due east and is in route. Please advise as to status of rescue. Over."

"Coast Guard this is Northern. We're trying, but with the weather and waves and all these damn containers, it's a mess. Neptune has tried several times to get a line to survivor on side of container. It's tough with these waves. Other survivor appears okay. Oh shit!"

There was a pause, just the hissing. Then, "Northern, this is Coast Guard, do you read? Over."

A pause.

"Northern this is Coast Guard, do you read? Over."

A pause. "Northern this is Coast Guard, do you read? Over."

I looked at George, "What d'you think happened?"

He shrugged, "Who knows. Tryin' to get those guys on those seas with all those containers around, it's tough and dangerous. It'd be real easy for both those boats to collide and be in the same situation as the other boats.

"Neptune, this is Coast Guard, do you read? Over."

A pause, then, "Coast Guard, this is Northern. We had a real bad wave hit and one a those containers was tossed up onto the deck of Neptune. Looks bad I think it hit a couple of his crew. Their crane'in the thing off now."

"Ten-four Northern. Coast Guard standing by, please advise. Over."

There was a long pause.

Then: "Coast Guard this is Neptune. One of my crew was crushed by the container. He's dead. We're trying to get the container off the deck. Northern has moved in to rescue the survivor. Over."

"Ten-four Neptune."

There was another long pause. George was shaking his head, he said, "This is bad, real bad. If that guy hangin' on the containers hurt bad it'll be real tough gettin' 'em off and in the boat. And if he's been at all in the water I don't see how he's lasted this long."

"Maybe they should go for the guy on top of the container - at least save one."

"Naw - as long as that guys okay they'll go for the guy worse off. They'll do everything they can to save both. I'd do it just the same."

Then a voice came back on: "Coast Guard this is Neptune it looks like they've got the survivor. They got a rope to him and they're pullin' him up now. But the other survivor, the one on top the container is gone. Must have been swept off or something during those big waves. We are searching the water but I'm sure it has been too long. Over."

"Ten-four Neptune...Northern this is Coast Guard please advise as to status of rescued survivor. Over."

There was a pause.

"Coast Guard this is Northern. Survivor is on board. He appears in hypothermia and has multiple fractures all over. He was crushed pretty good between those containers. One leg at the shins got a compound break. We are cutting away his clothes and warming him up with blankets and hot towels. Got any other suggestions? Over."

"Northern this is Coast Guard. Take his temperature if you can, and his pulse, then report. Also, if he is conscious keep him talking, try and get information about accident and his name. Over."

"Ten-four Coast Guard."

"Coast Guard this is Neptune. We can't find the other survivor, we're gonna break from Northern and head back into Dutch Harbor. Over."

"Ten-four Neptune. Please advise on dead crewman, name and next of kin."

"Ten-four Coast Guard."

Again there was a long pause. George said, "Those boats probably went down in seconds. Most of the crew was probably below asleep. Probably more of the guys got out - but sounds like they didn't even have enough time to breakout the life raft. They were probably just in the water, and by the time those other boats showed only two were left."

The radio interrupted George, "Coast Guard this is Northern. The survivors temperature is ninety two degrees and pulse is about four zero beats per minute. He was conscious when we brought him aboard and for a few minutes, he's now out. Before he went out he said his boat was the Viking, but we couldn't get his name outa him, or anything much else. He was pretty delirious. I know the boat, it is out of the UNISEA at Dutch Harbor. Please advise for rendezvous with Coast Guard Cutter. Over."

"Ten-four Northern. We copy Viking as boat down, and we are getting position of Cutter Storis now. Will advise. By the way Northern - and Neptune if you copy, fine job. Over."

"Ten-four Coast Guard."

George and I listened for awhile longer. The Neptune soon radioed the dead crewman's name and next of kin, he was just a young guy, twenty three, with a wife in Seattle. The Coast Guard gave the Northern directions for meeting the cutter, they estimated it would be a couple hours before they came upon each other in the open sea. Then a transfer of the injured survivor would have to be made, and George explained how, if the sea was rough, such a transfer, and with the man's injuries, would be quite complicated in itself, and may even kill him.

After George began turning the channels to see if there was any information about the status of the weather or the season, I opted to go back downstairs for more sleep. Nick and Pete were sitting at the table drinking coffee and Nick was reading a magazine and Pete was at work on another crossword. I told them all about what George and I had just listened to on the radio. I talked fast and excitedly; they simply sat there with passive expressions over their faces only suggesting concern. After I finished the story Nick said only, "Huh." Then looked at Pete and asked, "You ever hear a the Viking?"

Pete pressed his lips and nodded slightly, "Doug Willis boat ain't it?"

Nick only shrugged and went back to looking at his magazine. Pete went back to his crossword.

I said to Pete, "You know those guys on that boat?"

Pete nodded, "Ya sorta. Sailed outa the UNISEA."

I stood and nodded, not too impressed by their reactions, or lack thereof. I said, "Sure is too bad about those guys."

Nick lightly nodded and kept looking at his magazine and said, "Yeah it is. Happens."

I stood a second longer then as I turned to leave Pete said, "Hey kid."

I turned and looked over, he asked, "Speed a light - one letter - what the hell?"

"C," I said

He looked down at his puzzle for a few seconds then started nodding, "Yeah - it works. Good one kid - thanks." Then he looked at Nick, "The kids a goddamn wiz. Nick."

The following morning when we came into Dutch Harbor and docked, and the unloading began on our boat I went over to the UNISEA in search of Nate. I saw Stephanie right away when I walked into the factory building. She was doing the same job on the line as she was when I last saw her. She gave me a kiss on the cheek, then she told how Nate had finagled himself onto another boat and had left me a note. She grabbed from the floor, under her chair, a small black canvas satchel which she used as a purse. From inside the satchel she pulled out a folded card, a time card - and she handed it to me. On the back was written a messy scrawl which looked familiar to me:

I'm on a boat - again. I got no

time so its just later days big guy.

See ya at the bank!


P.S. The boats called the Viking. Good name huh?

I think I gasped or went white or did something because Stephanie asked me what was the matter. She had to ask a couple times before I told her about the rescue on the radio. Her mouth hung open and she brought her hand up to cover it. I told her I had to go and see what I could find out, and that I would tell her anything I found out. Immediately I went to the Coast Guard station there on the island, it was down a ways from the UNISEA on the bayside, it was a flat roofed building with several antennas, long poles of various heights rising atop the roof. Next to the building was one tall, about fifty foot, antenna tower made of steel truss framework. Inside was a large room with a counter running its length. Behind the counter were a couple metal desks and a long console against the back of the wall of electronic equipment. A low desk high counter ran along the console, earphones and a couple of microphones were atop the table. A guardsman, in blue uniform, was seated at the console, his back was to me, it looked as if he was monitoring the radio. Another guardsman was at the counter, it was he that answered my questions.

The guardsman knew all about the accident though the Coast Guard station that had monitored and advised the rescue was in Port Moller. As far as the details of the accident and rescue he knew about as much as I did. They had a copy of the Viking's manifest, but Nathan's name had not been added. The guardsman confirmed, however, that the manifests were rarely updated during the season. The injured survivor had been picked up by the Coast Guard Cutter then flown by helicopter to a hospital in Port Moller, and the only word the guardsman had at that time was that the survivor was very critical, unconscious, and his identification still unknown. After talking with them, I did some checking at the UNISEA front office and they confirmed that the Viking was one of their regular fishers, that it was owned and skippered by a Doug Willis, but as far as keeping a record of the boats crew and any changes thereof, it simply was not done. That was between the skippers and the Coast Guard. I had Stephanie point out Nate's supervisor on the dock and I asked him for any information. He confirmed that Nate had quit "cold" about two weeks previous for a boat job - and that he thought it had been the Viking, but he was not absolutely positive, after all, as I well knew, a lot of boats offload at those docks. As I left the UNISEA I realized that Nathan was likely on the Viking when it went down, but I had no way of being certain. The only way to find out was to phone the hospital at Port Moller and talk with the survivor. I went back to the Coast Guard station and they let me put in a call from there. A nurse at the hospital informed me that the survivor was unconscious and in intensive care, and his condition grave. She said he likely wasn't going to make it, and they had no idea who he was or his name. I realized that I needed to get myself to Port Moller and see for myself if the injured and dying survivor was Nathan and if not, when and if the survivor came to, ask him if Nathan had been aboard.

I told George what happened and he agreed that I needed to find out if my long time compadre was dead or alive, and he told me the way to get to Port Moller was to take the cargo plane which left daily to Anchorage, and from Anchorage charter a bush plane to fly me to Port Moller. He also paid me five thousand dollars for my work, and said if I was interested he would like me back. I told him I would have to think about it after I got things straight. He understood, and we parted with a handshake and me thinking that George was a fine man all around and I was darn lucky to have him as a skipper. And so I left the boat; I made arrangements with Stephanie to call her with the news – or if by chance she saw Nate, to get him to call and leave word in Port Moller. Then I set out for Anchorage.

Port Moller was a coastal village on the north side of the Alaskan Peninsula, well outside Bristol Bay, on the Bering Sea. There were a couple canaries and a fishing fleet, but it was a smaller town than even Dutch Harbor. The hospital was small consisting of a couple long quonset buildings, like a MASH unit behind the lines of a battle front. The intensive care area was in the back of one the buildings and consisted of a few beds and monitoring equipment. A nurse who knew the circumstances of the patient - the only patient that day in the intensive care - led me to the area. As we walked back she told me how the patient had come out of unconsciousness a few hours before, but only briefly, then lapsed back into it. He had suffered many broken bones, including a couple of vertebrae and several ribs. Apparently the containers had banged into him and crushed him several times.

When we came around a curtain that was pulled along the side of his bed, though he was bandaged literally everywhere, around the head and neck, both legs, one arm, around the waist, I could see in his swelled and battered face that it was not Nathan. The face was round with full fatty checks, the whiskers of the beard were black, the eyebrows thick and black. It was not the square jawed, narrow and fine face of Nathan's. He was bandaged like a mummy, like something you would see in a movie - in a comedy where they were trying too hard to be funny by exaggerating the character's injuries. But it was not a movie, not funny, it was real, and the man was dying. And it was very likely that Nathan was gone.

"Is this your friend?" The nurse asked.

I shook my head, "No."

"I'm sorry," she said.

I just slowly nodded.

An I.V. bottle hung on a wire stand next to him and thin plastic tubing ran from the bottle into the bandages over his arm. Another tube ran from his nose down under the bed someplace. Wires came out from under a sheet over his waist and chest.

I asked the nurse, "Will he make it?"

"He's badly injured. But he's young and strong."

I nodded, then walked out and away from the hospital. I went down across a street to the edge of the shoreline. A low concrete wall, about knee high ran along the shore. A steel railing ran along it. The water came right up to the wall. I leaned up and pressed forward to the rail. In front of me was the rolling gray sea, and nothing else, just its immensity and power. The thought of Nathan dying as a result of this stupid folly was not quite sinking in. How could it happen? There was money to be made. But then that has nothing to do with it, now does it. And I was not absolutely sure he was on the boat, not sure about anything. I would only know if the survivor came to and I could ask him about Nathan. But I knew the odds were that Nathan had been on the boat. Then I thought about the difficult chores I would have to do once I confirmed it, lousy nagging details, call home, inform everyone, that sort of thing. From a sinking inside I exhaled a quiet curse. I stayed at the rail awhile just looking out at that gray hilly sea with an occasional flicker of white cap. The wind blew cool against my face, but I didn't notice it. The gray overcast seemed to beat down over the sea - the salt wash in constant motion, the hills, distending, rolling, spreading and flattening; the sea, the sea, the big gray always to be sea, ever undulating, sans everything. And I alone just stood for the longest time and looked at it.


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