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January 18, 1947 - Image 3

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1947-01-18

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PERSPECTIVES

Page Three

MOMENT IN LONELINESS
... Maizie Gzsakoff

-KAREN and Arthur walked down the
pier together, but Karen kept a little
behind Arthur so that she could run to
the side and look over at the whitened
outlines of dead fish in the harbor mud
or let her eyes follow the swoop of the
gulls around the thin masts of the
fishing-boats. Their steps made hollow
sounds on the pier-boards. As her steps
stopped for moments or quickened as
she looked about her, the sounds under
Arthur's heels became angrier and an-
grier. They advanced to the end of the
pier, she trailing behind him with eyes
narrowed in intensity, absorbing the
shape of the sloops, the gulls, the long-
coated fishermen, 'til finally the sound
of his heels was loud enough to make
her notice their loudness and she closed
her eyes a second, then ran to catch up
with him, taking his hand.
"I'm sorry I'mslow," she said.
"That's all right, kid," he said grin-
ning. "Just that it's nice to have you
with me."
The warmth of his'- smile and his
voice heartened Karen and relieved the
moment of apprehension she had felt
at the quickening rising noise of his
step. This time, at least, he was not
really angry. She kissed him for it
quickly on the cheek and his tense face
relaxed into contentment.
"The rest of the afternoon will be
nice," he said. "There's lots of fish out
here and it'll be nice for you watching
the boats. If they start coming in easy,
you might pull in a few yourself again."
He knew, though, that she lost interest
quickly in watching for the bob of the
cork on the water. Before they'd come
here she had spent a week with him,
fishing intensely, concentrating on it,
baiting the hook herself with the wrig-
gly, boody sand-worms and cursing
with him at the disappointment of in-
edible bagalls circle-eyed and heavy on
the hook, And once she had watched
with wide eyes when he pulled a long
writhing eel into the boat. He had loved
to watch her as deep in it as he was,
close to his thoughts. Most of all he
had loved to teach her the knacks of
winding line, 8f fastening cork, all the
tricks he had learned so painstakingly
in the high-school days when he'd felt
he could not face the stuffy room, the
rasping teacher and his own incompe-
tence, but had instead run wild-winged
on the subway up to City Island for
the freedom of the rowboat in the wide
bay, blue above and blue about, a catch
to be thrown back for secrecy, and the
hand-wa hing ritual to scrub off the
smell of the sand-worms. But since
that one week where she had been truly
involved in the essence of fishing she
had lost interest quickly, particularly
here where there was so much else she
wanted to do, to see, to watch and im-
press on her quick mind, as if having
once absorbed the joys and bitternesses
of the experience completely she was
done with it, though it was still a plea-
sure to him. Nevertheless he thought
it would be a nice afternoon and a nicer
night if she, his wife, kept so close to
him as to kiss him out here again. He
kept holding her hand, slowing his steps
to hers.
The gulls came shrieking in around
the pier following the fishing-boats.
The slant sun hit their wings, marking
white, bright patches against the blue
sky, swift and swoop in changing line.
The gulls shrieked and swirled about
the boats, hovering over the piles of
silver mackerel, the glaring brightnesses
of whiting,,the dull flatness of flounder,
The fishermen stood on the wet fish
decks in their oilskins, shouting at the
dock and the gulls and each other,
sloshing through the limp high-piled
fish. Even before the boats were tied
to the pier, they began to throw out the
bad fish and prepare for the unloading.
A squid sailed squashly through the air

landing with a squish in the dirty port
water and coming tc the top to float, its
tentacles waving. A gull dived for it
and swooped up again in rejection, yel-
low legs flat against white chest.
Karen and Arthur settled themselves
on the side of the pier where the boats
were coming in. Karen watched him
seriously as he undid the rod and pulled
out the line with a long stretch of his
arm and added the hooks and a small
piece of pier-dirty squid for bait and
dropped it over the side. He worked
quickly and eagerly and Karen loved to
see him thus, absorbed and competent,
sure of himself, the tall muscular body
in action. She was happy to be his wife
then, she thought, and sat down beside
him, her legs around one of the pier-
posts and hanging over the side.
He looked up from his exploration of

turned the thing over in his hand. "Say,
they say this stuff makes good bait.
Did you want it for anything or do you
mind if I break it up?"
The girl lost interest in the shell.
"Sure, go ahead," she said and turned
back to lean on the post and stare at
the boats. Finally the men threw their
thick green-coated rope cable from the
pier on to the deck, then jumped to
the boat from the water-logged ladder,
They waved casual goodbyes as thq
engine started, and went inside to the
cabin, brushing the dampness from
their clothes. The worn boat chugged
off, sounds of laughter coming from
the yellow-warm-lighted windows sur-
rounded by the first darkness of the
night.
For afternoon had turned to late aft-
ernoon and evening while they had been

it they turned their silver bellies up and
the fins shone through the oily boat-
water. Karen caught her breath at the
silver flashes.
Arthur jerked at his line with a gut-
teral explosion of breath and a thick
line of silver traced back and forth in
the water. "Got him!" he said, and
reeled the line in half way, the fis
squirming on the end of it. "Grab it and
pull him in!" Arthur said, excitedly.
Karen brought the line on to the pier
and Arthur shook the fish from the
hook. It trembled and squirmed on the
dock, beating the wood with its tail and
curving itself into frantic tight-strung
bows. Karen took the fish in her hands
and felt its wet bending coldness.
"Pretty small," Arthur said. "We can
get better ones." He threw the line in
again. Expertly and subtly he bounced
the bait and the swiftly circling lines of
green and black raced for it, hit it and
passed it. It was hard to see them in
the dark water, but every now and then
the curving swimming mass would stand
out in swift clarity. The silver flashes
of light multiplied around the bait. Ar-
thur pulled up another, grabbed the line
himself and shook it off. He cut the tail
from the first mackerel, and the bloody
miniature guts began to ooze out. Ar-
thur baited the hook with the silver tail.
He threw the line in again and the fish
swarmed and swooped after its dips and
bobs. "They're all cannibals," he said
"Look at them go after that!"
The second fish beat a tortured tail-
less tattoo on the dock. "Baitig them
with their own beauty," said Karen,
"Hardly seems fair."
"Don't worry about them," Arthur
said. "Look there's another one' We
can have some supper tonight, hon'."
He looked over at her a minute, his eyes
teasing, yet not quite frank. "Glad you.
married me?" he asked and, leaning
over, peck-bit her cheek.
He threw the line without waiting for
an answer, but he left her with the
question unsettled in the air. "Sure
thing, sweet," she said finally, but the
delay made the flippancy a frightening
- thing, to her as well as to him. Panic
darted in her like thin fish swooping.
Off to the right where the Cape curved
in, the lighthouse began its steady beat
of red flashes and the evening seemed
to blacken all at once.
The tide had gone out, leaving the
town end of the pier standing on long
skeleton legs in the sand. The lights of
the town were beginning to go on, each
light seeming to add to the darkness
around it. When the moon caine round-
ly out over the shacks at the end of the
piers, the day had fully darkened and
was gone. The wooden salt-encrusted
buildings started right at the water's
edge, so that the whole town, looked
as though it had been washed up cas-
ually by the water and left to dry
and whiten on the beach. The piers
stretched long to the town, almost con-
verging at the land-end. They were
alone on the widest part of the angle,
suspended at the periphery, separate
and secret and apart from all others.
The large anchored boats stirred silent-
ly. One moon-eyed gull flew from
above them across through the masts to
where, on the other pier, the rows of
shadow gulls kept silent watch. It
scrambled for a foot-hold on the roof,
then too was silent. In the green water
the silver fish swam.
Karen felt as though her very pores
were opening to take it in, to remember,
to understand. "Now the night wind
lives whistling in my shell," she
thought, remembering. "In the heart's
place and singing in the skull; Beauty
the wolf has eatea out my soul and
left me' empty." Karen shuddered
slightly. The poet was wrong, she
(Continued on Page 4)

the water. "You're beautiful," he said,
"in those dirty old blue jeans and that
shirt." He leaned over boyishly. "I love
you," he whispered, blowing in her ear.
"Let's go home and go to bed." She
laughed and kissed him lightly again,
then he turned back to watching the
fish and she, after, to watch the un-
loading.
There were two sloops at the dock
now. In the one nearest them, the Port-
uguese fishermen had silver mackerel,
piled shining sun-brightened on the
deck. They began to shovel fish into the
baskets and, dull and odorous, they
swayed up past Karen to the barrels on
the deck.
"Hy-yah!" the moustached fisherman
shouted at her, and threw up something
that had been pulled in with the mack-
erel. The delicate shell landed near her
and she leaned for it. Holding it up
she yelled, "Thanks a lot!" to the men
in the boat. Arthur looked up. "What.
was that?" he asked. She showed him
the shell.
"He threw this up," she said.
"It's a scallop," he decided. "You
can tell by the wavy edges."
She looked at it again. "It's nice, isn't
it, Art;" she said, "the way it's so per-
fectly done with the two halves fitting
so tight against each other, I mean."
"Yeah, sure," he said. "It's'nice." He

sitting there on the pier. The mists
were coming in from the sea, and the
boats, their masts standing lonesome on
the deserted decks, went like shadows
into the mistiness. The long row of
gulls sitting on the opposite pier were
quiet as shadows, dark against the
darkening sky. Occasionally one bird
would cry aloud and swoop down from
the roof to the water. They passed and
repassed in front of her, squawking their
cries, swooping and reswooping.
"Arthur," she said, suddenly chilled,
pulling at his jacket. "How long do you
want to stay?"
He hardly looked up. "Say, you must
be getting cold. I hadn't thought," he
said. "Just let me try the other end,
huh? They say it's a cinch to catch tink-
er mackerel this time of night." He
jumped up and ran down to the ocean
end of the pier. He threw his line be-
tween the anchorings of two large slow-
stirring boats. "Say, come and look,
Karen," he said. "There are millions of
them, and they're beauties!"
She looked into the shadowed water
and saw the green thin fish, speckled
with black dots. "A mess of them cooked
up in butter would be nice, eh? Arthur
said. He dangled the line among them,
and they swarmed about the bait, hit-
ting at it in short quick bites. Like kisses,
Karen thought. When they darted for

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