The Red and White for Darwin
Not much else to eat. Fish. There was a time when I didn’t mind, when I was a child. Fish every day, every meal. I had a mother who’d do things with them. Mash them into fish balls and fry them, stuff them, grill them. Had a father who watched her cook. Sometimes we’d get something different, maybe they’d bring in a dusky shark or tautog, but mostly it was lionfish, goldfish, catfish, the kind of fish that can live on anything, that can live through the bloom.
Now I can’t stand the sight of them, their guts slop around the water that collects at the bottom of the boat, my Cape Hopper. Their heads overboard, their spines overboard, their scales everywhere. Can’t stand the smell of them, either. Dead or alive.
I clean them up before I take them on the rounds. The cape people see too much fish, don’t bother with anything they have to work on. I make a stop at all four major Cod Islands, and a few of the minor ones if the weather’s good. People have to eat. They empty the boat out, guts or no, blood and salt. Red and white.
I’ve got to leave the islands. Been too long here, almost spent my life at forty five. Should have more to live, but not here. I’ve got to go north, take the boat. When April comes, that’s when I’ll go, get there before the canes grab us, me and the boat. Won’t take anyone. I’ll leave the kid. Fifteen years, good enough. Got to go somewhere they don’t eat fish. North to a governed state. North to the EC Montreal.
Had an aunt who went that way. Returned once too. Told me I lived in shit, ate shit, drank shit. Told me to go north when I was 17. Ignored her. Thought she smelled like cement. I thought the sea smelled clean. Now I’ll go north, though. Nothing but fish here and I’m tired of the red and white.
Math Calculations for Algerion
My bridge is still afloat. Stupid of me to leave it tethered when the hurricane whipped through. It took two days of a good lashing but held up. Makes me proud to see. I’ll have to repair the damage today, though. Even from shore I can see it needs work. The off ramp came away on the Sandwich Island side, unhooked from the levelers. I’ll need help to get it back up. Need a vehicle or a good boat. Might get Darwin when he passes through, if he hasn’t finally left. Been talking about it for a decade, but every few days he still comes by. Never really leaves. Next year in April, that’s what he says. Next year in April before the canes.
Better to scout for chain while I wait. Heard the Nauset crew jacked a containership in the storm. Outer Isles, containers don’t run through there much. Must have been sent off course by the cane. Lucky for the crew. Might have some chain for the bridge now. Probably trade a tenner pass for the crew. Well worth it for a container chain, strong chain, and heavy. I wonder if Minnie still runs with that crew. Heard a couple months ago she quit, but rumors like that don’t carry water. Wouldn’t mind Minnie coming back to the bridge. She was good company, and she knew her math. Lonely to be the only one who knows.
Nice to problem solve in the evenings. Determining the hydrodynamic coefficient if we replaced a central pontoon, what if we replaced an outer pontoon, what if we lengthened a pontoon? These are now problems only I can consider. The team can count, they count wages. Not much else. Good for muscle, good to laugh.
Dawn’s coming. First Pass-Throughs will want space. Anchors didn’t shift too much in the storm, so the central pontoon release should work normally. Another hot day with the sun. Nice to stay inside on a day like this. Inside with a companion. Talk shop, talk coefficients. But not today. Another day on the water under the sun. I know why Darwin wants to leave. Sometimes I think about it too.
A Funeral for Dom1N1on
The skulls are cleaned and ready. Eight up on the mound. The cartoonist has done his job and each has a nice representation, burned in, black on white. The lives they lived. Cheap lives, now memorialized. Drake Cinder, Blam4n Forman, Minnie M1stery, Ali bin Sumara, Cook, Ferry Smyth, Jin Zhou, and M3quet, cleaned and ready.
Each was a good hand, and our crew is worse off without them. It was a tough raid, but a big prize was won. Enough for a permanent fix, ride for a station maybe, new identity, new existence, enough for some of us certainly. Who won’t make the cut? Who’ll be culled? Some of the fallen would have been first choice. Minnie could have made it anywhere. Ali too. Ferry was smooth, M3quet was tough. The others wouldn’t have made it. But not to worry about these things today. After the ceremony, when the dead are dead, then I’ll have to consider what to do.
The D3M0 looks sad. He’s paid to look sad, hand on the trigger. “Anything to say?” It’s me who speaks. No one in the crowd looks up, 31 left. 31 heads face the ground. “They were family, they’ll be missed. Let’s hope there’s something on the other side for them.” Again it’s me that says the words.
I nod to the D3M0 and he pulls the trigger. The mound explodes. Skulls, dirt, sand, rock, dust, smoke, fire, they all shoot up, up, up, until they plume and slowly, slowly they fall. Thup, thup, thip, dop. That’s the sound they make when they return to earth. After a few seconds the wind sweeps the dust and smoke across us. Someone coughs, but mostly silence is the thing. Explosions are so sonically deep, every other sound for a moment afterwards feels like it’s been sliced by a metal wire.
I feel the same as the sounds. Eviscerated.
But tomorrow is a new day. Tomorrow off to market, to find the worth of the 8 gone. Tomorrow to find out the final tally. Who will stay and who will go. These are the thoughts I think at the funeral.
Storm Days for the master, Mertha K1dd
Teachers get the days off, but not the master. The master stays with the facility. I think it must be a holdover from the days when ‘lawlessness’ meant something. In the 18 years I’ve been at this school, I haven’t seen anything resembling a threat. Dom1N1on’s crew on the isles could be a threat to outsiders but, if anything, they’re a boon for the school. They’ve always got a little something extra to give the kids; when the crew is in town… Of course I’m not from around here, so I don’t know what things were like before. Maybe they were different.
They’ve always had storm days, though. Hurricane season comes hard every year. Last year the bridge broke and took three months to repair. So much stress for the workers that Algerion lost half his force. No one wanted to go through that sort of punishment again, I guess. I heard he didn’t handle the situation well. He’s always seemed like a loner to me; smart, but alone. I’ve only met him a few times personally, but he didn’t show much love for the school. I heard he went here as a child. Maybe things were worse then.
The days after the storm are always tough. Mostly people spend them on cleanup, the kids too. This year we’ve got 26 kids. 14 of them live above the line. The others have to find shelter as best they can when the storms come. Mostly someone takes them in for the days, someone above the line… Since I’ve been here, we’ve never lost a child to the storms. Some adults here and there, but people are generous with the kids.
There isn’t much cleanup to do around our facility. I got a ping from Pati saying he’d come by to help out in the afternoon, but I don’t think he’ll find anything to do. I’ve pretty much cleared away the debris already, made a nice little pile out in the yard. I’d like it if he came, though.
‘rrrrrrRRRrrr’ That’s my stomach. The fishermen went out this morning. They didn’t go out during the hurricane, but the days after are usually good days for a catch. I’ll have to check the market down in town to see what they brought in. Dennistown is above the line, and it looked in good shape on my way through this morning.
Maybe some tef with chili and paste, some tomato slices, too. Stuffed with a fried catfish steak. My mouth is watering now. Still, it’ll be an hour or so before anyone in town has their kiosk open for lunch. I better wait until then. Doesn’t do any good to hang around in town when nothing is open. I better wait. Maybe Pati will come if I wait. Maybe…