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  • Shedders
  • Matthew Clark (bio)

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[End Page 184]


Lobstering, Ethan and Lawrence have told me, is a kind of miniature rebellion. It’s a small heel-dragging against a vast and uncertain antagonist most readily identified as the good old U. S. of A.—at least the Wall Street Wal-Mart warmaking part.

But did the hippies ever overthrow suburbia? And has the rat race been rendered obsolete? The young lobsterman’s odds seem equally unfavorable. Nevertheless, here we are. We’ve just made the short drive from Lawrence’s house to the Small Point Harbor parking lot, where we sit three wide in the truck’s warm cab. It’s January in Maine, a time of year when breaking even is about as likely as a balmy fifty-degree day. This morning, it’s fifteen degrees outside, and the earth has yet to turn the small spot we occupy upon it toward the sun. We pull on our hats.

This will be my third and last day on Lawrence’s thirty-six-foot lobster boat, Three Rascals. Lawrence and Ethan and I went to high school together more than a decade ago, but I no longer live in Maine—haven’t since I departed for college and gradually wandered west to Wyoming, where I now live with my wife. We return annually to visit my parents, and it’s a nice time in my childhood home. We kick snow and hunker by the stove and press coffee and drink local beer, reporting at mealtimes all the good things that are happening in our lives: a publication here, a bit of carpentry there, a rainbow trout that fed us two nights. But more and more, I don’t want to talk about my life now. I want to hear my parents sort through the misremembered and the contradictory of their seventy-plus years. Tell me about the long hair and the love affair, the chicken slaughtering and the VW Bug collision. I am thirty-one years old, and I can’t quite shake the notion that answers await me when I come here— come home—but it persists, and it’s not just with my folks, either. It’s out on the boat with Ethan and Lawrence too. [End Page 185]

Each morning at four the alarm shucks my dreams and I rise to put on two pairs of long johns and a pair of jeans. I pull on an L. L. Bean insulating quarter-zip, a couple of flannels, and two fleeces. Six socks. Then I drive my parents’ car the forty minutes south from Woolwich, past the former cow pastures smoothed by winter and the boxy new millionaires’ homes tucked into patches of trees and past the clap-boarded houses clustered by the old Kennebec River crossing at Day’s Ferry, and then I turn west across the four-lane concrete bridge over the wide tidal river to Bath, where the sleek and cataclysmic naval vessels are built, and then I head south again down the Phippsburg peninsula toward the ocean and the beach where we slept under blankets with early girlfriends and kicked up phosphorescence in the midnight surf, and eventually I park at Lawrence’s, where a snowed-over mound of marine rope reflects the moonlight.

Ethan arrives and we pull on our rubber boots—our knee-highs, clammin’ boots, muck boots, galoshes. Then we go out. We drive past Lawrence’s childhood home, where the lights are on and his father’s spare yellow and blue traps are stacked high, and then we turn off the winding main road and curve through conifers down worn pavement toward Small Point Harbor, a cove so well nestled into the protection of the land that you have to head west and then south before you can feel the surge of the Atlantic.

Now we hop out and trudge through the drifted snow in the lot. Asphalt shingles and one-by cleats tacked to the steep low-tide ramp promise traction and deliver. In the dark, a boat motors past, interrupting the flat black harbor, rocking the floating dock and the skiffs...


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