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Seal Wife

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

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Marshall goes crabbing
First and second cognates

The summer he turned thirty, the only task my husband Marshall could stand was setting nets for crabs off the Santa Cruz pier. The simple hauling and suspense of the enterprise appealed to him — he was far too clumsy and impatient to fish. Crabbing was like casting pennies into a wishing well, only what he wished for actually surfaced when he drew the rope back up.

On his birthday, Marshall left his wooden cabana next to the boarding house he managed and descended into town. He could hear the tubercular barks of the burgeoning sea-lion colony nearby. He took the shortcut by the river, through the tent city where homeless people camped. Sea lions had swum upriver, and they crowded now among the garbage and sleeping bags. They hobnobbed atop the flattened tents and nosed through rags and bicycle parts. A small, dark-eyed female found a bell and stroked it with her nose. It rang — a brittle, shivering sound. The rest of the sea lions fell silent. She rang it again. They all gazed at Marshall. She rang the bell a third time, solemnly, and the nylon tents fluttered. Marshall shouldered his crab hoops and kept on. (more…)

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