Of Sea and Cloud

Of Sea and Cloud by Jon Keller

Book: Of Sea and Cloud by Jon Keller Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jon Keller
He put them on and stayed below with the noise of the engine loud but all of his thoughts and fears stunningly silent.
    â€¢ • •
    He went that night to his father’s camp. He was too cold to start a fire but buried himself in the old bed with piles of wool blankets. He lay on his side with his hands between his thighs. His entire body shuddered. From time to time the trembling slowed enough for him to wonder if he would survive and to wonder at what he’d just done out there on the ocean. He knew he had not meant to go overboard but the fact that he hadn’t cared one way or the other shocked him. He gripped his hands together. He trembled and cried.
    â€¢ • •
    The camp was a single-story cedar shake cottage with a wood cookstove and a small bedroom. Propane lanterns lined the ceiling and a propane refrigerator rusted in the corner. A water line ran from a boiling spring into a soapstone sink and when the ocean was calm the smooth overflow of spring water filled the air.
    The camp sat perched atop a slab of pink granite ledge at the end of the peninsula. A mile-long skid road led east along the southern edge of the peninsula from the pound to the camp but the path was overgrown and rarely used. A small cove shimmered below and spruces towered above. Stone Island protected the cove from wind and surf but the height of the ledge enabled Jonah to see overtop the island and far out to sea. In the morning he searched through some of his father’s things and was surprised to recall that his father had bought the pound and built the camp after Vietnam.
    The previous night echoed in him like a distant memory but no matter the distance it still shook him how close he’d been to the end. He told himself that he’d been drunk and that tale worked only in increments because like a blade came the truth to his chest that for a moment he’d not cared what happened out there.
    â€¢ • •
    Later that day he moved some of his things by boat into the camp. He started a fire in the wood stove and waited as the flames caught and grew. His father’s old Winchester 30.06 hung from a nail on the wall and he took the rifle down and turned it in his hands. It smelled of oil. The stock was scratched and gouged but worn smooth. He opened the bolt and it was empty so he closed it and sighted out the window at a rock on Stone Island. He dry fired once then hung the rifle back from the nail.
    He fed the fire and unpacked his things then took two bottles of beer with him to the wharf and sat on the end with his legs dangling. He watched the cool flight of gulls above Stone Island. The
Jennifer
was moored in the small cove before him. The water was clear green and he could see the shadow shapes of boulders and the tall sway of old growth kelp. In the warm months those kelp beds held fleets of lobsters living lives built on an ancient and simple pattern. In the fall the lobsters fled the icy inshore waters for the relative comfort of the offshore depths. Then returned in the summer as the shoal waters warmed and in those warm shallows they dug their mud caves and shed their old shells only to emerge new and soft and vulnerable. These migrations were huge and the seafloor would seethe as the lobsters fanned like cavalries across open flats then piled atop each other to enter underwater corridors or skirt mountainsides and anything that was in their way was either food or not food and all they did was fight to eat and fight to breed. Fight to live and fight to die.
    That night Jonah lay in his father’s bed listening to the waves touching the rocks and the distant grinding of the sea. The bed smelled like his father even though he’d changed the sheets. The smell was Nicolas despite the fact that Jonah couldn’t remember his father ever smelling like anything but lobster bait and diesel fuel and cigarette tobacco. And occasionally bourbon. Now this familiar and strange scent made him

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