For no good reason, people tended to become a friend or a foe of Dan Swardstrom. He was not particularly benevolent, nor was he physically or intellectually intimidating, but there was something dangersome and chancy about him. Perhaps it was the crookedness of his smile, the boyish, cocksure gleam in his mercury eyes, the way he positioned his body while sailing as if he were about to take a punch on the chin, or the way he somehow, through no fault of his own, ended up with your girlfriend sitting on his lap at the end of a party.
Despite his modest demeanor, Dan Swardstrom stood out among his peers; a consummate gentleman among pirates, assholes, vandals and picaroons–words that accurately describe every last one of his friends. His wintery hair and smart, mercurial eyes were deceiving.Your only warning of what he was truly capable of lay just below his right eye where a broken halyard once lashed out and left him with a compelling story to tell over a drink.When he smiled at you from the other side of a bottle of rum, the little scar frowned at you.
Dan Swardstrom proudly steered his race boat through picturesque Lake Union, a Farr 30–a class of sailboat well regarded in the Seattle fleet. It was sleek and fast, designed to carve through water as smoothly as a Ferrari devours blacktop on a racecourse. The wind was at his back, blowing his thinning hair out in front of him, obscuring a fresh, excited face. Only a few scattered cumulous clouds speckled the sky. The sun was out, and the day was young.
“Sir, I need you to kill your engine!”
Harbor 1, the Marine Patrol unit that operates a 37-foot, cabin cruiser with twin 540-horsepower diesel engines patrols the busy waters of Lake Union. It was called to the area to intercept a party boat, but what the captain found instead was S/V Nefarious; its sails stowed, motoring speciously along the cut at an easy pace. No wake. Five knots, not fast enough to disturb the charming houseboats or the posh restaurants with diners enjoying an early lunch. Why would a broken dock be tied to the sailboat? The captain stowed his binoculars and picked up his bullhorn.
“Sir, did you know...”
“Yes,” Dan said, nodding at the flotsam. “It’s mine. My bowman neglected to untie us, and my crew didn’t notice it until you started tailing us.”
“Well, that solves one of our problems.”
The captain motioned his pilot to close the distance.
“Have you been drinking, skipper?”
“Most definitely,” Dan said. “Problem three?”
Harbor 1 drifted closer and the captain was not amused by the smirk on the skipper’s face: a handsome face with a neatly trimmed, silver beard stuck to it. He set down his bullhorn and turned off his flashing lights.
“A woman reported that someone on your vessel yelled ‘hot soup’ and then emptied a bucket of urine overboard onto her kayak.”
Dan scratched his beard.
“Yes, that’s true,” he said, “but, to be fair, she did not give me right of way while approaching my vessel.”
The crew was quiet, like refugees caught in the night, and it was a miracle that they resisted the urge to sip their beers, or drink from the lucky bottle of rum.
“Isn’t your vessel equipped with a head?”
“Let me ask you this,” Dan said. “Would you ask the owner of a Ferrari if there was a toilet under the seat?”
The captain boarded Nefarious. When he stepped on a beer can, he sneered at the skipper. This was unsafe. This was sloppy yachting. He removed a fresh citation from his pocket and looked hard at the refugees as they pretended to be sober.
“Skipper,” he said not looking up from his citation. “What is the destination of this vessel?”
“Race Week,” Dan said.
The pit-girl stepped up to the bar. Pink, fuck-tower, six-inch heels with little tassels tied into bowline knots. Pink lipstick. Pink pantyhose, lacy and torn for fun. Pink eyelashes, and for good measure, a pink satin ascot.
“What’re you having?” the bartender asked.
The pit-girl’s blouse was a vintage navy uniform with silver first class stars buttoned to the sleeves, borrowed from Esther, her adorable godmother whose closet was full of swooshy, jazzy, swing-town fun. In her day, Esther took zero-shit from the world, lived free and loved free; she dated negros, degos, wops and, as it turned out, she had a real special thing for sailors in uniform.
“Let me ask you something,” the pit-girl said to the bartender. “What do you think a woman dressed like me would order?”
The bartender looked her over slowly, pausing thoughtfully. Her sheer skirt was pink. Her vinyl nail polish was pink. Her blush was pink, and it sparkled on her pink-polished,freckled cheeks like the Fourth of July.
“A Pink Pussy,” he said.
“Good!” the pit-girl said and smacked the bar. “I’ll have twelve.”
The bartender began pulling out martini glasses and lining them up one by one.
“You’re not from around here are you?” he asked. “Mind if I ask you why you’re in town?”
“Race Week,” the pit-girl said.
Ortun Hurley kissed his sleeping girlfriend on her fair-skinned cheek. He was restless and drowsy because the night before he’d dreamt of a watery chasm swirling downward into a warm, pinpoint of eternal light. The vision wasn’t terrifying, but it awakened him suddenly, and for the rest of the night he grappled with an itch in his arm that radiated outward from his bones, veins and centered on a stinging sensation near the nave of his elbow. Ortun knew it was that time of the year again, and that there was only one of two ways to scratch the itch.
She awakened; reluctantly opening one eye and then the other.
“Good morning,” she said skeptically.
Ortun was busted. He was already carrying his guitar, slung over his shoulder like a rock star, his canvas bag and a six pack of Coors Light–on account that he was a diabetic.
“Where are you going?” she said sleepy and sweet, as if she didn’t already know.
“Race Week,” he said.
The writer sipped coffee at Starbucks. He was angry with the fabled company for removing the nipples from their little mermaid insignia and was busy drawing them back onto his paper cup when he received a text.
HI, DARLING, his girlfriend wrote.
HIYA, he replied.
WHAT RU DOING? she asked.
WRITING, he replied.
The phone rang and he answered.
“No you’re not,” she said. He could barely hear her through a crowd of singing sailors on the other end. “Are you drawing tits on coffee cups again?”
“Awww,” she said sympathetically. “Pack your shit and meet me in Oak Harbor.”
“What’s going on?” he asked.
“Race Week,” she said.
Kai opened the curtains and went over the numbers again, this time without a calculator. A calculator could not gauge emotion. It could not approximate passion. Once you considered these intangibles, there was no other way around it. He stared out at the rising sun as it crested the rough-hewed Cascade Mountains. The scene was just like the sun rises he’d seen back home: golden-amber, glorious. He poured a fresh cup of Ceylon tea, creamed it, watched the sun’s colors brighten. In the courtyard, a tent was being perched and the morning’s amber light made it look magical. Another year had passed and Oak Harbor was coming alive.
No, there was no other way around it. Not when you factored in the heartbreak, the envy, the false hope and the pain. The time had come to make a run at it. A real run. This year, there were no columns for hope and wishes on his spreadsheet. That kind of calculation, he had learned, was for suckers and sentimental fools.
Yes, Jupiter was a passion.
Ney, he thought, a fetish.
A pet tiger shark restrained by a studded, leather leash—which required blood sacrifice.
And owning a pet tiger shark was swagy, which sure as hell got him laid.
By his new estimations, being the owner of a Farr 30 triggered the same neural pathways as taking a cold shower while burning thousand dollar bills; only each time you lit one on fire, the dominatrix you’d hired pointed at your junk and laughed. That’s what it was like to sail a Farr. And the other skippers knew it, too. They used their boat as an extension of their cocks and every year a new gaggle of novices lined up in the crew-circle; all doe-eyed and ready to sail. So what if he only selected the pretty ones? Sure, the smart ones moved on, like Nefarious’ pit-girl, but some of them stayed. Robin Mac Brádaigh was too good for the fleet anyways, so when she moved on after racing for Jupiter, he didn’t take it personally. Crewing a woman was a tactical advantage. If you found a sturdy woman to man the pit, it equated to less weight on deck, allowing for larger men, who easily outweighed their counterparts in the amount of beer and steaks they consumed alone. Mac was a prize, and would soon turn pro. Earning her salt on a Farr 30 would get her a spot on a Santa Cruz 70 next season, then maybe a sponsored boat, then America’s Cup. Everyone around Mac knew what she was after, and It didn’t take her long to master Jupiter, or its skipper.
Kai sipped his tea, licked his lips and speed dialed his broker.
“Fly the kite,” he said into the phone, the slang for raising a spinnaker with the wind at your back. “Fly it, now!”
“I haven’t changed my opinion,” the broker said flatly. “Numbers don’t lie.”
“You work for me, big guy!” Kai barked.
Kai called everyone ‘big guy,’ on account that he was short.
“You’re not my boss,” he said. “I’m the Skipper.”
“Very, well,” the broker said. “I’ll deposit twenty-seven thousand into your Seattle account.”
“Forty,” Kai said.
“Fine,” the broker clicked his tongue and Kai could hear him typing on his computer. “That leaves you with little room, sir.”
Kai looked down on the courtyard where Scamp Rum, the event’s biggest sponsor was untangling the main event tent. He watched in contempt as the workers who were erecting it, a hideous, maroon and gold monstrosity that looked like afterbirth, pulled on the ropes to raise the canopy. In Thailand, only the poor peasant farmers and fisherman, whose sad eyes misted in the sweltering heat, worked this hard.
“I don’t need a lecture from you, big-guy,” Kai said. “I worked my way up from bottom rung! Lest you forget, you work for me. Now, give me my money or I pull everything! No more ballet classes for your pretty blonde daughter.” The idea that his broker wouldn't have enough money to afford dance classes was ridiculous, but he cursed at him anyway. ”She’ll have to learn square-dancing with hillbilly Bob, or learn to ‘drop it like it’s hot’ with boys from the south end.”
The broker hung up the phone.
By now, the fleet was headed to Oak Harbor and the skippers would moorage their boats in little rows resembling rice paddies along the harbor, but he had the best spot in the marina: Dock 1A. It was the spot where billionaires like the Gates and the Macaws parked their boats, right in front of the bay side window of the clubhouse. Five-hundred dollars per day for five days; chump change for the elite, and he was not elite, not financially, and tuning the boat cost him a shit-load. In a month’s time, he had replaced Jupiter’s sails with faster mylar sails, re-rigged her with halyards with glassy kevlar, speed waxed the hull and hired a diver to clean her before every race. But half of the money had been spent on the non-material, professional sailors he’d hired to sail Jupiter to victory and housing them was a small fortune.To keep them from convorting and partying with the other sailors, he put them in Oak Harbor’s finest establishment, far away from the marina. At this very moment, they were probably eating Dungeness crab and caviar like it was cornflakes.
Jupiter would win the day.
The lackeys in the courtyard pulled hard on the corners of the rum tent, filling it with air and space.
Kai smiled while he imagined the air being sucked right back out of it as he took the trophy into his hands at the annual, post regatta bash. As the winning skipper, he reserved the right to throw a themed party, and this year it sure as hell wasn’t going to be a Dan Swardstrom toga party.
The devil was bored, so he took up sailing and made friends with Dan Swardstrom. He mastered the craft instantly, of course. Really, there was no place better for him to be other than Race Week. July in Oak Harbor, after the steeping tide washed up carcasses that had suffered a long, pitiful death, wrapped it its clutches, left to rot in the very water that these men would sail upon–well, let’s just say, he wasn’t homesick.
The devil walked the shore looking for things that made him smile; a seagull tearing out the abdomen of a live crab; a critter that only hours prior had taken part in culling the flesh from a dead baby seal after a transient killer whale took a bite out of its flipper, played with it like a beach ball in the surf and then left it bleeding on a muddy flat. In a tide pool, he chased a sculpin with a stick into the waiting arms of an octopus. Bedazzled, he closely surveyed the cephalopod as it murder the fish with its secret beak. When the butchery was complete, the water stilled and the octopus’ skin changed from cinnamon to red.
“What ch’a doin’ here, mister?” A group of teenagers with skateboards approached him and with eyes the color of the octopus, he turned to face them. “You a tourist? This is my ol’ man’s beach. No trespassers!”
“If we forgive those who trespass against us,” the devil said, “our Heavenly Father will in turn forgive our tresspasses.”
The teenagers stopped.
“Never mind,” one of them said, and they all backed away.
The devil smiled, looked them up and down and focused on one of the boys in the group who showed promise. The boy was wearing a leather flight jacket, stolen from a retired airmen stationed on the island. The airman was a Vietnam vet who flew more than five-hundred strafing missions and dropped thousand pound bombs on villages, leaving only tears to fill the craters he left in his wake. In that very jacket, the airman had fathered a dozen bastards, left their mother’s with diseases, and once, on a dare, he drank enough whiskey to rape a nun. But this morning when the jacket embroidered with a laughing devil suddenly went missing, the sins of his past began to creep through his veins like poison, and crystals of fear took root in his heart.
“I haven’t seen this in years.”
The devil slowly approached and touched the jacket, transporting the teenager to a garage where an old man was coughing and gagging in a cloud of smoke. In that instant, the teenager understood who was touching him, and saw how the jacket had insulated the airman from the hell he had personally raised on earth. Through a fog, he saw that the airman had sealed his garage with wet towels so that the fumes from his car would stop the pain in his heart, forever. The teenager coughed, tried to tear away from the devil’s touch, but he was frozen, and the air was thick with poison and the motor droned like a death rattle. The airman fell to his knees and then to the floor. He called out, but there was no sound, no sweet air to inhale or scream into, and no one left in this world to care about him, or forgive him– only the teenager standing above him, cloaked in the jacket, gazing at him in horror.
“Don’t worry,” the devil whispered in the teenager’s ear. “I’m only here for Race Week.”
The devil walked down Main Street and admired the quiet little stores busying themselves for a week of sopping up every sailor’s last dime. Soon, the taverns would be filled and he imagined the whispered secrets and deeds to be done. Beer, amber to golden, would flow into pint or pitcher. Good whiskey would be ruined in syrupy cocktails and decorated with those awful little umbrellas. The odor of sex, salt and fried things would linger and impregnate their clothing. They would take the smell home with them and not recognize it until they were clean again.
At the end of main street, he stopped at a vista and congratulated himself.
Deception Pass was a marvel, even by his standards. These sailors would have to navigate it, a narrow pass that injected two-hundred and forty-five cubic feet of icy-water through a rock infested inlet. It was forbidden for boats to race here, but sometimes the conditions were just right and a skipper might be tempted to catch a rogue wind and ride the tidal surge. If they weren’t mindful “The Eye” would appear, a whirlpool caused by an ebbing tide when the water was drained back into the Salish Sea. The sleeping eye would open and anything it saw was taken forever into its languid, bottomless dream.
The Eye was not evil. There was no “evil,” only carelessness. It was the actions of people who made negligent decisions near the channel at high tide that was evil.
On the beach, the devil smoked a Marlboro and watched a sand castle disappear into the sea. The tide was coming in and the waves would not be very large in the protected bay, so he stayed long enough to watch the entire thing fall flat. First the waves lapped at the walls, slowly eroding the base as bits of it slipped under the murky water; drowning and dissolving into silt.
The devil let out an audible sigh.
This was only the edge of time and space; just one tiny portion, merely a fractal, imbedded in a fractal that stretched out into an ocean that opened into a sky filled with chaos. There were stars hotter than hell, and nebulas tearing at them, pulling them apart, recycling them into new stars, and planets and oceans for sailors to die in and for their loved ones to write stupid sea shanties about.
Power they could never understand. Not in verse, or song, or craft.
The sea was a force, but the violence it was truly capable of took its own sweet time, and this is exactly why no one believed in him anymore. Real destruction takes its sweet time. There were no rivers of blood, or demons, or hellfire or brimstones. All of those things were figments of human imagination. Real destruction was beyond their comprehension.
The devil spotted Dan Swardstrom in the marina and smiled.
“Captain,” he said and saluted. “Reporting for duty.”
“You again,” Dan said. “I already have a tactician.”
“Ah,” the devil said, trying to make him smile so that he could see the little scar under his eye. “Ortun! The musician. But will he actually show up?”
“He texted me an hour ago,” Dan said, not returning the smile. “Says he’s on his way.”
“Yes, but is he up to the challenge this year?”
Dan knew what the devil was talking about, but he didn’t let on. Ortun was known to go AWOL, sometimes before your very eyes while you were talking to him.
“He did a fine job for us during nationals,” Dan said.
“Swiftshore is for pussies!” the devil cursed.
“Listen,” Dan set down his box of supplies. He’d heard enough. The devil of all people, knew better than most that offshore racing along British Columbia wasn’t for pussies. It was premier racing; dangerous and fast. The only reason he liked racing with this lot was because these sailors were not professionals and, therefore, easily tempted by distractions. In the winter, they did not train, they did not travel to latitudes which suited their talents, instead, they drank, they slept, they remained walled by their professions of dentists, contractors, and real estate agents; they came out to play when the time was right and their habits permitted. Some of the better ones moved up to more serious programs, but most were content to remain semi-pro. “You give me the willies, you really you do. Why don’t you head over to the crew circle, see if some of the other skippers need an extra hand?”
“Oh, I only sail with Nefarious, you know that, Captain.”
Dan picked up his box again.
“I already have a tactician.”
“I can do mainsail,” the devil said.
“That’s like asking the Pope to officiate a farmer’s wedding,” Dan said. The devil could surely handle the position, no problem. Mainsail was more brawn than brain, a position that required a strong crew member to keep the sail in its full, powerful shape. This was the gas pedal and what gave a sailboat it’s power to accelerate or to slow down when needed.
“Besides, I have a full crew.”
The devil flinched and put his hand on Dan’s shoulder.
“How are you this year?” he said, frowning.
“What do you mean?”
The devil knew the news before Dan. He let in hang in the air a beat, then spoke in a patronizing tone.
“You know, Kai is really gunning for you this year,” he said changing the subject without Dan suspecting anything. “Our deal is that you sail and you throw a party in my honor when you win. That’s all I ask.”
“I know the deal,” he said. “I always sail to win.”
The devil looked off into the perfect, blue sky.
Then he gazed out at the lovely green water.
“Have you ever built a sand castle?” he asked.
Dan stopped and opened one of the beers he was loading onto the boat, looked at the water with the devil.
“Sure, when I was a kid.”
“When did you realize it was futile endeavor?”
“What do you mean?”
The devil took a beer from the case.
“You know, when did you realize that no matter your efforts, the tide would soon come and wash away your work.”
Dan thought this through for a moment. “Honestly, I never stopped making them,” he said. “I made that one over there just a little while ago.”
“Ah, yes. A fine effort,” the devil said spotting a lumpy mess. “But why?”
Dan thought again.
“I don’t know,” he was getting annoyed, and the scar on his face started twitching. “I suppose because every time I build one, I want it to be better than the one that was washed away.”
The devil smiled.
“And how long could you go on doing this? Rebuilding and rebuilding, chasing after some ideal castle that can never exist?”
“Forever,” Dan said and pulled a swig from his beer.
“Exactly,” the devil said. “That is why I can only sail on Nefarious.”
In a waking, twilight dream, the writer drove at a deliberate pace to Oak Harbor and watched a hundred and twenty miles blur through his windshield. He drank coffee to stay alert, smoked cigarettes and tossed them out the window, worked and reworked the threads of words that rooted and sustained him.
No, he thought. A peach is to be relished, not eaten. Andevery verb owns a past, which you create by adding‑ed. Then, he reasoned, a verb became a word in time, hedged by the moment with the future lurking near. Verbs were life and all of them were soon to be devoured by the past.
Relished, he decided.
He’d seen her first inspecting a pyramid of sweet Georgia peaches in the fruit aisle at a grocery. In slow motion he pushed his cart past her, fully engaged in the intimate embrace; a sassy, brazen assault on his senses. He, captured by this embrace, fell into a yawning fissure before him and now he began to fill it with the greatest myth of all; the past-participial form of love.
There was something exotic about pit-girl and there was something wrong with him, or worse, there was something wrong with the world he lived in. The writer adored her knowing very well that she was not to be adored, only worshipped. In another life, she was born a verdigris princess in line to for the crown, and another, a pagan priestess, and another, the headmistress of a cowboy brothel, and in this life, she was a fiery woman-sailor who required sure hands, loyalty, collusion, but most of all, sacrifice. He knew this the instant he’d met her, and like any good writer who bumbles into an archangel at a grocery store, he opened pandora's box and carefully observed, waiting for the story to unfold.
Through the windshield he saw her pluck one of the fruits from the display and watched the pyramid collapse as a single peach, the one she was set to harvest, fell to the floor. He knew very well that archangels required sacrifice, and that his would be his heart.
The color of a California sunset.
The fiery orange of autumn.
The crimson red of blood.
The writer watched it come slowly to a halt at his feet, looked up at her, asking with his eyes if it would be permissible for him to retrieve the wayward fruit and offer it as sacrifice, as proof that she’d seen the moment unfold. If she accepted, he could love her forever.
He retrieved the fruit.
Handed it over to her.
She smiled and took a juicy bite.
On the ferry to Oak harbor, he finished writing the poem.
Peach on a Tree
(A Note to Eve)
Not an apple...
By design, better than an apple.
It is to be seized, savored
and rollicked on the tongue,
its nectar rived and quaffed.
Not the apple,
bitten and chewed
the way a cow masticates cud.
No. A peach is relished.
Silk on the skin, a sweet, slow game of
Eve was wrong to choose the apple.
Perhaps the peach tree was hidden in another part
Of God's garden,
A place where she could not find it,
behind a wall of figs or mangos.
She'd never look there.
Had she done so, the bite would have been worth it.
She'd have kept her tears at bay.
Adam would have understood,
And so would his father.
We'd be thanking her instead.
Their first date was that evening.
“What exactly does a pit-girl do?” the writer asked.
The pit-girl put her hands in his.
“What do these hands feel like to you?”
He was honest.
“Rough,” he said.
“Exactly,” she said. “I tie shit down and it stays there until I want it to move.”
“You tie knots?”
“I lock down the mast,” she said. “And when the boat needs speed,” she said releasing her grip on him. “I let it loose, a little at a time.”
“Sounds like an important position,” he said.
“You have no idea,” she said, sipping a pink pussy.
Their next date was at the marina; he was lost amongst the hundreds of boats, all different, but the same.
“HOW DO I FIND U?” he texted.
“FIND THE FARRS,” she replied.
“WHAT DOES A FARR LOOK LIKE?”
She texted a shark emoji and he looked to the end of the pier where a crew was busy loading a slick looking boat with cases of beer and equipment. A Farr, indeed, looked as fusiform and sibylline as a dangerous shark. Sleek lines, white, flawless skin, a razor sharp nose. Her mainsail was up, knife-edged, taut, and in the gentlest breeze, she pulled on her stays like an animal.
“Are you ready for the ride of your life?” pit-girl said batting her eyes.
It was a grey Seattle day, misty and windy, but she commandeered gear from the crew to keep him warm. This was his first ride on a race boat, a shake down before the summer racing season.
“Yes,” he said.
The writer drove aboard the ferry, parked at the front and looked out upon the evening sky. He intended to get a cup of coffee in the galley, but instead he napped, dreaming in shades of change, tinged with melancholy. When he awaked, he walked the stern and looked back at the distant city, a lighted jewel captured in a ring of indigo. He gazed upon the city and watched it disappear. On the black water, far from the lights, the stars blazed like faraway demon pyres. New constellations appeared. Ones he’d long forgotten.
Reminiscing, he thought back to a time before pit-girl had taken a bite from that fruit. He was lost in his own sad sea, fraught with disappointment and the slow a steady ache of disappointment. Back then, the Seattle sky was forever grey, ever foreshadowing, ever and always hiding the light.
It was in his constitution to smile at the clouds; smile at the world, hoping it would burn a hole through his troubles. But at the end of it all, after his wife’s addiction, infidelity and heart surgery for one of the boys, he sat on his patio listening to her words as she explained the divorce, where the kids would be, where the things would go, how the debt would be split. She’d already found a place to live and a friend to loan her money.
This was the past.
Before the pit-girl, that is.
She had found him holding his tears; chin up, staring into a fire that closed in on him in all directions. The flames were close enough to hear: the snapping and hissing fall of burning cedar. She was a forest nymph, bare feet, nude slipping through the haze, nubile, her eyes smoky and wild.
The ferry closed the gap, crossing the Salish Sea in quiet, lonely dignity. It would be easy to find the pit-girl on the island. Find the seediest bar; enter. Follow the noise.
When he found her in Oak Harbor, she was hoisting a pink cocktail, leading the crew in a sea shanty.
We’re the crew of Neffy
wherever we may roam
we own the seas we sail on
so we’re never far from home
We’re the crew of Neffy
we sail both far and near
and if we’re late to the starting line
we’ll be on time for beer!
We’re the crew of Neffy
You’re in for a hell of a ride
and if you think you’re gonna get sick
then go to the leeward side
We’re the crew of Neffy
we’re here to have some fun
we’ve got the beer, a boat to steer
and a big ass bottle of rum!
The writer lifted his pussy cocktail and joined in on the song. He only knew the “Hey”, but part, but it didn’t matter. The crew sang merrily without him in their pink uniforms. Their sponsor was the William T. Hass Foundation for breast cancer research, and the debauchery that would ensue was for a good cause.
Kevin Jonson followed an eagle in the sky–a dark shadow on the black breast of night. He watched it soar above the silhouette of a tall cedar, circle and then land in the dark branches. The whaler’s moon was stuck in the sky, crescent with two jeweled stars hanging at its side.
A feather dropped from the tree, lit by moonlight. Before it touched the ground, he stabbed his harpoon in the sand and caught the feather gently in his grasp, rolled the quill in his fingers, looked out at the straits.
The tide was flooding.
Makah relied on the eagle to spot the whale, signaling them that the time was right to enter the long narrow straits of Juan De Fuca, paddle into the flooding tide and ripping current, wait for the animal to breathe. The thunderbird hunted whale. It used two lighting serpents, tossed down from its wings to chasing the animal into the waters of Neah Bay.