I shot Muldowney, and you would've shot that double-crossing low-holer too. Except once I tell you what he did, you would've filleted him out and fed his bones to your dogs, meaning between you and me, I'm the one who showed restraint. Course everybody always figured it, but nobody could prove it, so I was left alone on the water for 40 years to tend my traps. But now they stuck a camera up my ass and I'm going to die of cancer, so I don't mind who knows it.
I shot Muldowney, but the only surprise is it took so long for somebody to pull the trigger. A mean man not improved by alcohol or hard work, he never met a person he didn't hate.
There are men who think a lobster buoy is a corner marker, and once they drop a trawl, they own the water. But after getting my ass shot at in 'Nam for a couple of tours, 2 flights a day, 6 days a week, I considered my retirement to be deferred hazardous duty pay. You don't get it unless you make it home, and a lot of my friends didn't. Hell, I got shot down once myself. I had a family, I had a kid, I was still young. Isn't the American Dream to do a little better than getting by on a pension? Besides, after ‘Nam I only felt human on the water
Today they got names for this stuff, and I probably had PTSD; lord knows I didn't know what to do with myself around my wife and my daughter or anybody else when I came back. So wor, I dusted off the old man's boat and spent the winter building traps like he and I did before I went off. It was all I knew, and building something instead of destroying something felt good. 420 traps, at 7 traps to a trawl, that was 60 trawls in the water. I'd done the math, run the numbers, and figured that if I socked it all away, I could put little Bessie through college. I even gave the boat a fresh coat of paint and put her name right on it.
I got drafted into the lobster wars, just like I got sent to ‘Nam. That first season, I lost a third of those traps. Muldowney or some other Down East prick who thought I was trespassing on their unclaimable surf would cut my lines whenever they saw them. One day, Muldowney shot a gull off of his transom trawl board, and the bullet zinged off the water on my starboard side as I bent over to pull a trap. You don't make mistakes like that by accident. After that, I put my dad's thirty-ought six carbine in an oilskin bag and slipped it into a cubbie under the bow.
They say Muldowney killed a man once at the Old Bridge, beat him to death in the Alley out back and claimed it was self-defense. It worked too, because nobody would testify. The 'Bridge is of those bars where the alcoholics start gathering well like hair in a shower drain before respectable men get off work. They sell piss beer in thick frosted mugs that only hold 12 ounces and half of that is foam. You gotta work pretty hard to you get your load on drinking like that. And they always do.
I stopped there exactly once. It smelled like a fish house, and every bloodshot eye turned to me when I walked in. Conversation stopped until I walked up to the bar, then Muldowney said, "War hero. What's it like bombing women and children?"
One thing about going to war, you learn what's important and what isn't. I'd been called every name. Ironically, sometimes it was nice: you got to get mad at somebody else for saying all of the things you say to yourself. My beer came and I took a long pull, then without turning I said, "I think it might be your kind of job, Maurice." At first, all I could hear was the blood in my ears, but then the room erupted in laughter. Nobody ever called him Maurice. Hell, if that was my name nobody would call me that either.
The corners of my mouth were just turning down in a sardonic grin when he hit me in the back of the head with one of those damn mugs. It near stove my skull in and took my legs out from under me. When I hit the floor I rolled over fast as I could, but everything was in slow motion and lights looked like tracer bullets. He was standing over me, lolling like a catshit-eating dog. He drew back his Timberland and cracked me in the short ribs for good measure.
After everything I'd been through, there was no way I was going to die on the floor of a piss-soaked bar. With what sense I had, I pulled back my foot and drove one into the old nutsack. When he fell over, I realized he was as drunk as I was concussed. I rolled over on top of him and got my fingers into his throat. He was puking up Michelob and I was keeping it in, him beating on me with less and less force when they pulled me off and dumped me in the alley.
Yup, you could say we went way back but you couldn't say we were friends.
Like I said, I learned what was important. You never wear the bastards out, but eventually, they decide you aren't going away and pick on somebody else. You find your own water, keep your own peace, and foolishly think your presence has been accepted.
It went on like that for a few years until in the spring of 1980 when Bessie got hit by the car while she was riding her bike home from school. It's not the kind of thing you expect in a sleepy New England town. They said it must've been a drunk driver; there were no skid marks and her body was dragged one hundred yards. I never did let my wife Angie look at what was left, and she never forgave me. Add her to the list, I thought, as I drank more and spent more time on the water, the one place I felt human. Some days, I didn't pull a trap. Just stood there looking east until something knocked me out of my reverie. I don't remember much about that time.
The day I shot Muldowney, a Sou'wester was coming in. You hear about the Nor'Easters, but it is the rarer Sou'Wester with their 3000 miles of fetch building longer swells that are really dangerous for your trawls. They'll pick up all seven traps, tie it in a bundle and set them right down on the beach, smashed like a typhoon in a kite factory.
Angie, came down to breakfast for the first time since the accident. Oh, hell – call it what is was – murder.
“Don't go out,” she said.
“I need to,” I said.
“I need you,” she said.
I stood up, bent over and kissed the top of her head. “They'll be gone if I don't pull them and take them to deep water.”
“Let them go.” I smiled at her like it was a small request, but you ought not to ignore your woman like that.
Muldowney's beater blue and white F150 was the only other truck in the lot when I headed out. When I got to my first trawl, I knew I was in the shit. The two end buoys were wrapped together. That bastard Muldowney had picked up one buoy, and run it in circles around the other so that the traps between were all in a tumbled knot on the bottom. That was over 500 lbs. of cement plus the wood, and no way would my winch haul that. It took me 45 min of good daylight to undo Gordian's knot, and by the time I stood up, crick in my back, I was side-on to a 12 foot swell. I slammed the throttles forward and slewed up it, still attached to the trawl. I finally got them in and added lines to the buoys. I pulled the next two just fine, stacking traps all over the boat so I could run to deep water and dump them.
When I got to the fourth trawl, it was another knot. I stood up and looked out at the horizon. The sun was now a hazy red fist above it. Depending on how much hate he'd expended on this, Muldowney might've come on a plan to just put me right out of business. I'd have to find the trawls he didn't sabotage and write the others off.
I was staring out over the swells when his boat suddenly appeared on the crest of one of them, already coming back from his first trip dropping in deep water. He passed within hailing distance and was laughing. "Better get your pension-sucking ass in gear, hero, if you want to survive the storm." That's when it hit me: the Old Bridge afternoons, the truck, the blue and white paint on the bicycle. I bet you that drunk fuck didn't even know he hit her.
I just stood there, boat pointed into the waves, then I went below for the carbine. His boat was just cresting a wave when I sighted on him. He hung there for an eternity. They found his boat that afternoon, his body draped across the wheel so it was making large, lazy circles, half full of water from broadsiding the waves. By then, my carbine was in 300' of water by the Isles of Shoals and so were what was left of my traps. Yeah, I shot Muldowney, and you would've too.