The next morning was clear and fresh. A breeze had sprung up overnight, chasing the hazy summer fug off of Boston Harbor. The breeze was by no means certain, but as the day started, Bob and I certainly were much improved for its' presence. It also kept down the flies.
Bob surprised me that morning, beating me to the boat. When I picked my way across the pier (noting how slippery the area around the bait cooler was), I saw the boat opened up, and the engine was turning over at idle- almost inaudible. She really was the quietest boat I've ever been on.
I slung down two barrels of our regular bait- these were smaller barrels of salted herring pickled in brine. Along with the barrel of leftover salmon skins, we agreed that we'd work until the bait ran out, at which point we'd head for home, it being Friday.
Since Bob had loaded up the bait bags already, I got to enjoy the ride out of the Back River and into Quincy Bay. We were steaming to our 'outside' gear out in the southern half of the mouth of Boston Harbor- an area called Nantasket Roads.
The deck was a little tacky, becoming slick when wet. It smelled.
"Jesus, Bob, I still stink from last night. I woke up, my pillow smelled awful."
"Lemon Joy, bud. That's the good shit."
" s' the lemon- just like eatin' fish. It cuts the smell."
"Yeah, well, I can still smell you, and you smell like my ex girlfriend."
"Yeah, but I smell better than you do, bud."
(Author's note: If anyone shows this to my mother, you're dead to me).
We proceeded to haul about 300 traps over the next 8 hours. We worked slow, as the remaining salmon skins still made the deck like a skating rink. I discovered that my ass, sides, shoulders, legs elbows and arms were already bruised, as whenever I slipped and fell, everything hurt before I even landed. Eventually we did get through the day. I remember that on the next-to-last lobster pot, itself a trawl we referred to as "the shitties," being old and rotten, with razor-sharp rusted edges poking out of the trap everywhere, an errant piece of wire caught my overalls at about thigh-height, tearing them to pieces when I bounced a trap off my knee prior to throwing it onto the stack on deck.
"Nah. I don't think I'm going to be able to patch this, Bob."
"Meh! Duct tape, a little suit sealer... good as new! Ah well, last trap, anyhow. " The last trap came over the rail.
That night, Bob and I were unable to stand the stink of ourselves, and only drank one beer after work together. We agreed to meet up later at the local biker bar, a place where neither of us belonged or fit in, but where both of us, strangely, were welcomed. Bob, actively, being friendly with the crowd, and me, benignly, being a friend of Bob's.
Bob and I, when we're together, shift constantly between old memories, new conversations, and stupid inside jokes, all done seamlessly, stream-of-consciousness style... and, working 60-72 hours a week alone, together, 11 months out of the year, year in and year out, you get to know someone.
That night, both of us, skin shining from a healthy dose of Omega-3 fatty acids via the flying greasy salmon skins, and both of us reeking of lemons, we proceeded to be ridiculously drunk. The salmon skins became something funny. My overalls being snatched off my body like a breakaway jumpsuit, leaving me half naked out on deck, also funny.
I had gone to my apartment, been thoroughly cursed out by my roomate, my neighbor (himself a former sternman of Bob's, coincidentally), and my neighbor's girlfriend for the stink coming off me. I stripped down to my underwear on my porch, forever scarring a whole generation of kids playing baseball on the field behind the apartment house, I'm sure. In the shower I had packed for a clinical-grade decontamination: anti-bacterial soap, a quart bottle of lemon Joy (an ultra-concentrated dishwashing detergent),two flavors of shampoo, and two lemons cut into halves, just in case. I proceeded to scrub my skin until that shit was shining like a new penny. I squeezed the lemons over my head, rubbed them all over (except for one pass in a sensitive area... After I stopped screaming, I gave that part of me a wide berth with teh citrus).
Normally, a good shower with a decently strong bar soap will rinse off the fish smell.
Anyhow, an hour later I was headed for the bar, and Bob and I proceeded to be our drunk, stupid selves, and it was a good time. About 2-3 hours later, sitting at the bar, I started getting a whiff of...something. Something that made me hungry.
"Jesusss, Bob. I shmell like a sammin dinna!"
"Yeah, me too, buddy. I started getting that earlier. That shit won't come off."
"You know, my skin feels... good. Healthy. S' the oil, maybe. You know the weirdest part? It doesn't smell bad... it smells like a good cut of salmon, fresh out of the oven, with lemon, and everything. Jeez, I'm friggin' hungry now, and I'm broke. I'm going home and raiding the fridge."
It was the same story come Sunday. With slow fishing, we took the whole weekend off. Sunday morning, I called Bob to see if he felt as hungover as I did. Bob outdrank me, and he weighs at least 75lbs less than I do. We each cursed ourselves, ("Why, Paul ?Why?"), and I went down to my parents house. Before I left, I scrubbed down again in the shower, using my last lemon in the process. I hadn't seen my parents all week, so it was nice to come into their house and catch them reading the Sunday paper.
The first thing they said to me was "You smell like fish!"
TO BE CONCLUDED in part 4... where we learn whether or not the stink is improved by 3 or 4 days underwater.