OLD TONY: OUT EAST
Last night out. Old Tony bends his legs as he empties the dredge. The shells ting against the crosshatched metal deck buried in mud and rocks. The metal links shake, drip the rest of the water. Scallops will have to be shucked immediately and thrown on the ice. Not easy work. Old Tony does the math quickly in his head. Easily five hundred pounds less than last week at this time. He’s not gonna make it to September without some real pinching. They’ve reduced his days out here, he’s got to stay in regulation. All he’s got is Glenn and Robbie. Let the other two go to another boat in need of hands. He grumbles audibly.
“Not a lot is it?” Glenn says.
“Tis not,” he says back, thinking antiquated language will lighten his mood. He stares at the lanky girl before him.
“I’ll start shuck -
Old Tony raises his hand. “You gather, I’ll shuck. Where’s Robbie?”
Glenn motions to the boy, lit blue by the screen of his phone, looking at pictures of the girl on the shore that’s left his heart an open wound. He’s been a sad sack the last month.
“Robbie!” Old Tony shouts. The boy darts to his feet. Wipes his nose. He’s been crying again. Old Tony shakes his head and remembers his calm. “S’ok boy. Grab your knife.” The boy sits and shucks. “What’re you twenty-two?”
“Twenty-three? One got past me, did it?” Old Tony looks out at the black water. “Fair enough.” The cloudy sky masks the moon and casts a hazy glow over the sea. “What do you say we turn off these flood lights?”
Glenn looks up, bent over the mud, arms buried in thick rubber gloves.
“S’alright Glenn, we’ll leave a light on, just lose the floods.” The girl hustles to the control panel and pulls the lights. “Cut the engine too, girl!” The boat goes quiet.
Glenn makes her way back to culling. Old Tony bends a knee and culls too.
“What’re you Glenn,” Old Tony whispers, “nineteen?” Glenn nods, used to the old man’s prodding. He knows damn well how old she is. “The two of you,” he says louder, “out here 89 days, now the season's tallied, and hardly looked at each other.” Glenn bows her head. “S’ok Glenn,” whispers Old Tony, “you’re just gonna have to be in charge of asking for his number. He’s too blind to see what’s in front of him.” The old buzzard winks at the girl and they sift through the sludge quietly in the dark. The boy shucks, a familiar and satisfying rhythm overtakes the boat. The water laps against the hull. White clouds puff from the mouths of the fisherman and his young crew.