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SETTLED ON THE CRANBERRY COAST /Michael Byers OUR LIVES IN THIS TOWN are slowly improving. When Trudi grew up, in the old reservation houses, the roads were dirt and the crab factory still wheezed along, ugly and reeking. In early summer the factory stayed open all night, and the damp dirty smell of the crab cooking in its steel vats blew off the ocean, all the way to Aberdeen, even beyond, for all I knew. I remember driving home from movies during my adolescence, the windows open; the sweet pulp-mill smell of Aberdeen was tinged with that distant damp cardboard of Tokeland's cooking crab. But crab harvests withered fifteen years ago, the state jumped in with some money, and almost at once Tokeland plumped with antique stores and curiosity shops, and the old clapboard hotel became a registered landmark. The Indians, too, began prospering; three years ago, the local tribe sold their fishing rights to the Willapa and voted to put the money into CDs. Many have managed to live off the interest, and now buy fishing licenses like the rest of us. Their trawlers are easily the nicest, you'll notice them moored under the bridge in Aberdeen, the big sleek powerful monsters with aluminum hulls, blue-striped, the new nets, the new radar. Neither Trudi nor I have ever been married. We went to high school together, years ago, but we didn't travel in the same crowds. She was from Tokeland, a half-breed Indian, and tended to hang with the toughs, surely tame by today's standards—the kids who wore leather jackets, the kids who smoked and overdid the hair gel. Trudi had long hair, unusually long, thick brown shiny hair that reached the middle of her back. Her crowd drove pickups instead of cars, and on Friday afternoons they'd motor out to the beach, pitching and hurtling over the dunes, then speeding down the long wide beach, big V-8s wide open. I envied them, sort of, but didn't want to be them. Tokeland back then was not a good place to be from. It meant the clapboard shacks for the Indians, and outhouses, and pump wells instead of piped water, all of it on an open spit of land that caught the The Missouri Review · 121 worst of the ocean winds. Winters, Trudi says, the wind would blow all day, all night, until it was a part of your soul, an extra function of your body, like your heart, or your breath. I lost track of Trudi for a while after high school. I went off to college, then lived in the east for a few years with a woman I thought I would marry. When she left me, I decided to come home for a while to recover. I took a job teaching high school history and kept at it for twenty-seven years, fishing during the summers and doing some casual carpentry. Occasionally in the hardware store I'd see one of Trudi's rough old crowd, most of them prosperous fishermen now, having inherited their fathers' boats, now walking with the casual swagger of money, wearing designer blue jeans and monogrammed dress shirts. Some of these men make two hundred thousand dollars a year, I know; and they've always got the newest trucks, slim wives (in matching blue jeans) with tousled hair and high heels. They recognize me, most of them, and I hear them worry about their, kids sleeping on the beach, the girlfriends and boyfriends, getting into this or that drug, trouble at school, and sometimes they ask me about their child, though I make it clear I am retired from teaching. I try to assure them that the kids will grow out of childhood, as they themselves have done, and privately I wonder why they can't see themselves in their children. When I retired from teaching, packing my classroom with utter relief, handing in my teacher's editions for the last time, I found I was restless. Fishing wasn't enough to hold my attention all year round; I'd never married, had had no children. I had some good friends...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 121-135
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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