Cape Cottage, Maine

Mrs. McNeil wears a scarf, 
knee-high boots and gloves like oven mitts.

Seven year old me in shorts and flip-flops 
toting a sand pail and shovel.

She walks down exactly 67 steps to the rocks below 
striding from memory.

Me hanging on the rail putting the next foot down
like a toe into hot lava.

She sidles along the breakwater to where the buoys bob, 
starts a whistling.

Young me leaving the path to where 
the narrow spit of sand beckons.

She grapples lobster cages out with a gaff and a song,
throwing back

the babies and the berried females,
removes the chickens into a black-strapped duffle,

baits and heaves the empty traps, 
takes the keepers home for dinner tonight,

retraces steps along the shore 
to my burgeoning sand castle, says

Anybody home? 
Frowny-faced me turns back-to, don't say nothing.

Mrs. McNeil plops down her bag, deep-breathing.	
Hows about some help young Bobby 

as she pulls an armored monster out of her poke and pops it 
in my pail, turns and starts to climbing. 

Startled me can't do nothing, 
staring over at my bucket now suddenly

scritching and scratching, 
a claw coming over the top, complaining.

Only thing I can do is take 
my shovel and bop him - he lets go.

Mrs. McNeil halfway up the hill 
turns and waves leaving me on my own.

Smart for his age me figures out a scheme 
involving putting the pail

on the next step then using two hands 
and the rail to pull myself up.
He don't make it any easier, 
scolding and clattering, occasionally

hoisting himself on his giant arms above the rim 
until I duel him with

my sword-shovel prodding and poking until he gives way.
65..66..67 and there is Mrs. McNeil grabbing my bucket, 

saying what a good job I done, disappearing through 
the porch-screen-door.

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Lobster Pail

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