From fifty yards out, signs of the catch are hard to see. Heading North, light lingers in the sky to port. Reflections of the western horizon stain the water ahead. The afternoon breeze has died with the sunset. The old chop fades away. Waves lengthen into the shallow undulation of a rippling a skin, like liquid Mercury.
The afternoon’s clear, gentle sky softens even more. Scattered cumulus dissipate. Long Point and Wood End lights, off to the West, begin to flash. Green close at hand. Red flickering in a notch in the low dunes. Violet stratocumulus streak against pinks, yellows, and brilliant greens. The light runs down to bleed out of this sky. A final glow lingers above the horizon north of where the sun set.
Venus dazzles just beyond the sun’s glare. Jupiter and a few brighter stars pop into view. Scattered across the darkening vault. A dull, steely darkness gathers to the East. Gazing into the trap, the water beyond it has already gone black. The gently undulating surface reflects the gradations of color above. Venus competes with lighthouse flashes. Their reflections snap and jump across the surface of the bay.
Approaching the trap, their vista closes in. Its black piles and dark netting silhouetted against the sky eat away at the remaining light. Picking their way into the Heart narrows their focus. Even before darkness fully swallows their landmarks they lose sight of the greater world around them.
Circling from seaward, they round the Heart and close on the Leader. The failing light behind them. A faint glimmer plays across the tops of the pilings. The netting obscures the horizon. Joe C idles the engine. Nellie & Mary loses way. Her bow drops. Her bow wave pulses away to nothing. A rhythmic Sush, Sush, Sush becomes a longer, gentler Shush… Shush. Popping bubbles trail from her cutwater.
Guided by memory as much as by sight they pass inwards among the stays. The Leader is just out of reach to Port. They enter the Heart. Shutting the fuel-cock, Joe C cuts the engine. Josey, stands in the bowman’s footwell. Reaches high up with his gaff. Hooks the guy line overhead and proceeds to haul the boat silently into the Bowl. Three tons of moving effortlessly. His arm flexes stretching ligaments in his shoulder. The force passes down his spine to his bulging thighs and on into the boat’s coaming. A centaur of sorts gliding through fading twilight, half man, half boat.
Alarm flashes through the confined creatures below. Looking over the side into the black water, the crew guess at their kind and number. A moon-less night reveals comet-trails of phosphorescence. A large fish lunges by the boat. A ring of cold fire surrounds them as the remains of their wake slaps against the rim of net.
Josey turns to Sammy, whispering, “Albacore an’ Bonito? Wha’ da ’ya think?” Sammy turns and nods.
Joe C snaps his head around to face them. Letting out a theatrical, “SUSH!” Pumping his arm, demanding quiet.
Josey hunches, takes a step back on his heels. Sammy ignores it all, gazing into the darkness to port. Stevie slinks aft. Joe C marches forward. Hard fingers clamp around the boy’s upper arm, “Stay right there….”