by Samuel Bacome
At the end of my wooden pier, the morning was cold. After first
light but before dawn, I was being lazy. My head was under my
sleeping bag, I was trying for more sleep.
I came fully awake when a Viet woman arrived. She knew my bag.
Dao yelled at me as she threw a pack of Marlboro light 100,s at my
chest. She yelled, “Sam! you fish now?”
Half a question, and we both knew it. Of course i would fish:
that was how I survived. Of course I would fish for her. I owed her
a debt of gratitude. when I’d first arrived at the pier, I’d been
fishing with a hand-line and a hook that i had found.she had loaned me,
then given me, a pole.
With her pole and leaders I had discovered that i could
manipulate a school of sardines in ways the others couldn’t. I could
fin their depth, and catch five at a time. When the school tried to
leave, I could make a long cast and call them back, using her shiny
hooks. For knowing this about myself, I still owe Dao.
Then, she taught me how to make her leaders. perfect spacing,
inverted knots, nine hooks- the right hooks, the right line. Not
exactly legal, but very lethal.
I wanted to stay in my bag. But even if it was cold, and I was
hung over, of course I would fish for Dao.
So I lit a smoke and went to work. Half an hour and five gallons
of sardine later, Dao was satisfied. She lifted her bucket and
walked backed up the pier. Strong for for 90 pounds and 70 years, and
Tough as nails.
I put my pole up and watched the sun rise behind the Bay Bridge.
Some of the retired Cantonese were showing up. Jon showed up with
his his grandson. they’d brought breakfast: pork filled steamed buns,
duck eggs. We ate and talked. Jon’s grandson was the interpreter:
Jon had little English, I had less Cantonese, and the kid had pretty
good command of both.
Jon hoped that I could give him a Dungeness, later. I still had
some from the day before, alive, hidden in the water, and i gave him
two, right away. One of the things that i loved about the pier was
that we took care of each other.
It was time for me to really wake up. I went to town, to
Starbucks, Safeway. Toilet, coffee, brandy. Later, I’d be poaching
crab: how I paid for my breakfast. Now, it was enough to pour some
cheap booze in my coffee and talk to to a woman making $250,000
a year. She had the kind of beauty that only money buys:
A gym membership.
Not that I’ve been an angel. My crimes for the day would be immediate, desperate:
illegally harvesting dungeness, illegally selling them in Chinatown.
Drinking in public. Hers would be systemic, thus legal:
marketing useless goods made by children in countries with no real labor or
ecological regulation, to you.
Her ethics pissed me off. Her knees turned me on. So we sat
and talked for half an hour, before I went back to fish.
That was the start of another day.
© 2013 Samuel Bacome