A bay girl’s blues

NOTE:  this is another combined deal for SS prompt #161 “Confession” and making up for missing an early ESC assignment—some missing, misinterpretation, misunderstanding went on…  Anyway, the assignment was to draw from youth for first person fiction.  I was in a hurry, so lucky you ; )  The title’s inspired by Micheal O’s “The Bayman’s Blues” which I listen to at least once per day, for that voice, those guitar solos.  I once lived near Ozona, FL,  used to know shrimper, Captain Tom, used to go to SPJC, used to live on a bay, and some of my best memories were made there : )

ozona11a.jpg picture by pemerytx

I wound along Bayshore Drive where the ocean breeze pushed harder into the sandy land.  It pushed all warm, clear and spirited past me, through to the live oaks dripping down spanish moss.  It rustled leaves and tinkled bells and chimes on the old crackerbox palaces and the new ones on pilings.  The last week of the summer semester had gone on and on, all glaring and unbearably hot, and landlocked as I’d been, I was crazy for a fun time.  Ozona was singing its wild song and I bent toward its music like a palm tree in the wind.

I turned in to Captain Tom’s Marina and parked over by the bait shop with its beat tin roof and makeshift signs painted “Tackle,” “Live Bait,” and “Beer.”  The place looked like it was fixing to tumble into the sound, board by pitted board, but it was built solid, all of it.  The weathered clapboards were as smiling old salts, guardians of the interior:  thick, wide floorboards worn wavy and smooth like a longtime lover; and great brown walls, knotty with character.  Signs were tacked up everywhere, made of everything—paper, wood and those rich, old-time, rusty tin signs that made even chewing tobacco look good.


I scrambled out of the old Monte Carlo I’d scrounged a couple hundred to buy, a huge maroon beast with a hanging-down headliner, cracked dash, and a hood a mile long.  The nearly six liter engine crackled and hissed and stunk as I ran flip-flopping by it, across the blinding white stones and crushed shells to the bait shop door.  The little shopkeeper’s bell jingled as I pushed inside blinking and looking around, hoping like mad that Captain Tom would be there and maybe take me out on his boat or go with me up to Fast Eddie’s for lunch.  When my eyes had adjusted I saw no one at all.  The place was left to its own sweet reserves.  I waited, delighting there, thinking about Captain Tom, picturing what all I’d say when he walked in the door and how things might go down.


The bell on the door jingled and I started, looked, trying to balance eagerness and coolness.  It was just Beau.  Beau was a go-getting cracker trying with all his might to make good, make something of himself against the damnedest odds of bad mojo in general.  He was older, like late thirties, like Captain Tom, and he was the Everything Man around the marina.  He lived just down the street in a beat-up shanty on a tiny piece of land left to him by his lost hobo daddy.  Countless times the City had tried to buy Beau out or to condemn his shack, but Beau’s neighbors would always rally around and help him rectify whatever the enforcement order listed as being in violation.


Beau came blustering in blinking, and when he saw me, he stopped just short of me and stepped back, his face brightening.  He regarded me with a satisfied smile.  “Why, Miss Emmeline!  You lookin’ finer than fine today!  You gonna go catch y’self some rays at the beach?”


“I just might,” I said, blushing.  “Say, Beau, have you seen Captain Tom?”


“Sure ‘nough!” Beau said, grinning.  “Cap’n Tom took Miss Lilly out on the trawler earlier.  Came in from shrimpin’ last night, slept for a coupla hours and he was up and at ‘em gettin’ ready to go out again.  Then I seen Miss Lilly drive up and I says to myself—”  Beau stopped, lifted my chin with the crook of his first finger and exclaimed, “Wouldya look at that sweet lil face!”  He cocked his head around slightly, examining my eyes and different angles of my face.  “Why, Missy Emmy!  You got a way big thing for Cap’n Tom doncha?”


I snapped my head away, angry.  “What makes you say that?”


Beau laughed.  “Sheeit, girl!  Just look atcha!”


“Christ, Beau, give me a break!” I begged him, my eyes starting to tear up.


Beau put his arm around me, gave me one of those side hugs, and whispered in my ear, “You too good for the likes of Cap’n Tom, Princess.  That one, he ain’t never gonna settle down, an’ he got an ornery streak twenty-five mile wide.  Trus’ me.  You deserve a good, lovin’ man, an’ Cap’n Tom ain’t that!”


I smiled.  Beau made my heart glow, he was so sweet.  He gave me one final squeeze and let me go.  “Now, Miss Emmeline, what can I do you for?” he asked, laughing.  “I bet you be wantin’ some beer, am I right?”


I stood there, head down, twisting one flip-flop around on the floor, pondering.  It was sort of my secondary plan, getting some beer and seeing who all was down on the causeway.  But that was a lie, I guess, because it felt all wrong now.  I looked up at Beau, his face so tender and earnest, and I just said “I don’t know, Beau.  Right now I’m just gonna go out on the dock and think for awhile, alright?”


“Suit y’self, Missy,” Beau said.  He patted my shoulder and winked at me.  “’Member what I said ‘bout Cap’n Tom, now, girl!  I ain’t talkin’ jus’ to hear myse’f talk, now!”


I smiled at Beau.  He was a good, good man.  “I hear ya, Beau” I said to him.  I jingled out the door and walked on down the steps toward the dock.  It was a short dock, not like the one down a way, south of the breaker, with 52 slips.  Here there was just seven on one side and the other side was for the trawler.  This dock was all worn like the floorboards in the bait shop and had as much character.  I walked down to the sad, wooden end, sat down and swung my legs to that wild, Ozona tune.  I watched my feet swing and felt that pushing ocean breeze smoothing over my face and back through my hair, like it was trying to tell me this was nature and everything in it is OK.  I didn’t believe it.  I only wanted to believe vigorous, humorous, mighty Captain Tom was for me, him and his smiling, sea-blue eyes.


I looked up, stared out across the sound, out toward Honeymoon Island, thought about how beyond that was the Gulf of Mexico all wide and looking endless, like there was no more land after that, like Ozona was the end of the Earth.  But it wasn’t.  There was Texas and Mexico and the wide open Pacific and if you kept on going you’d end up right back here at this very dock.  I smiled, dreamed on, let my staring eyes glaze over, and soon enough the piercing gulls’ cries dulled down to what sounded like women’s voices, millions of them, riding the pushing wind.  The voices were whispering, laughing, confiding, confessing: Listen, listen…I could have done better…I followed my heart…I didn’t live fully…I never loved you…I loved you…  It was all so rich and heady a thing that I impulsively added my own confession to the wind: It was your free-spirited power I wanted, wild Captain Tom, but I see now that I have my own.






JMike Inferno aka Land of Orz

TO LISTEN: click here

For more Michael O music: SoundCloud; YouTube Channel; ReverbNation

LYRICS, supplied by the the man himself:  


I’m sitting here in Clamtown digging my heels in the sand

Thinking about a way of life needing more than a helping hand

You know the fish are getting smaller and the oyster beds ain’t what they used to be

The Fish Island factory has all but been claimed by the sea


Well it’s the story of an American dream long gone and it feels all wrong now

The locals want to know why a man like me wants to come along now

The life of a bayman ain’t nothing but an empty shell

And the folks down in Clamtown got nothing but a story to sell

And they’re gonna sell it to you


Well you can smell the history driving down old Seven Bridges Road

If you know what I’m talking about it means you’re probably getting old

Well San Fran had the gold rush and Clamtown had the fruit of the bay

West coast gold turned to silicon, this East Coast town fades away


Well it’s the story of an American dream long gone and it feels all wrong now

The locals want to know why a man like me wants to come along

The life of the bayman ain’t nothing but an empty shell

And the folks down in Clamtown got nothing but a story to tell

And I’m gonna tell it to you





Photo from http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2373/2325915137_b81a3ee9f8.jpg?v=0



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Missalister’s “A bay girl’s blues,” copyright © 2009, was spun off the Sunday Scribblings prompt “#161 – Confession”  Click here for more on prompt #161 from other Sunday Scribblings participants.

14 responses to “A bay girl’s blues

  1. Hey, you da bay man! And you know, man, you are sooo sweet to put “The Bayman’s Blues” first up on your set list, playin’ live and nationwide…for lil me…and for you, especially for your illustrious self ; ) Big hugs et al : )

  2. If Kerouac and F. Scott Fitzgerald would come together and write a piece of story it would be like this. :) Its more about the style of the writing – that carefree, thinking by the sea and soaking in the setting sun while thinking about all the choices you made in life – right or wrong. I can picture the girl (you?) dressed in that 60’s fashion, hair blowing in the breeze and walking along with heavy sadness around you… The last paragraph instantly reminded of the closing lines of On The Road.. I am sure you have read it several times, but with due respect to Mr. Kerouac, I am reproducing them here:

    So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the children must be crying in the land where they let the children cry, and tonight the stars’ll be out, and don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear? the evening star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie, which is just before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all rivers, cups the peaks and folds the final shore in, and nobody, nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old, I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty.

  3. I’ll nod here in agreement with your “get out of the way” response over at the law of averages. I talked elsewhere of your spring day story seeming birthed; this beauty, to use your language, definitely seems received, like you’d been out all day with Captain Tom, casting your nets and pulling in this gorgeous bounty. You’re right, it’s not just the “skill” of slicing and dicing the story to the bone: there is so much in the seeming “inactivity” of attending: we as midwives do everything and nothing, all at once. And whereas the economy of song is a treasure to behold when it is on, it can preclude the gorgeousness of so much of what is very fine in this very fine story, its waves on waves (obviously) of beautiful text. I don’t exactly know what makes the difference between a law of averages and a bay girl’s blues, but you do. This one seems nestled down in your piscean self and inside that, there’s a girl of wonder who sees the world with a Yemayan eye, deep knowledge and love, we hear her and feel her not only in the breaking waves of these beauties, but also in the love and exuberance of your comments. She spans and transforms the “personal tortures.” Yemaya, Ozona – call her what you will: SHE is your writer. Make sure she’s always in your chair, when you get down to the real soul people.

    Shout out to Drumster for the gift to all of us of Jack at his (no surprise here: March 12th) piscean, Whitmanesque, oceanic best.

    There is so muchness to love in this one, Lady Much, from “board by pitted board” to those sexy flip-flops and on to the sirens’ stirring chorus. Bless you: you blessed us.

  4. I’ve lived in Florida a bit and you captured the feel, smells, and sounds so beautifully. I was sitting on that dock with you for awhile back in my younger self….
    I loved the gulls cries turning into women’s voices – perfect!

  5. What is it about the sea that draws our souls beyond us, walks on water to the horizon and beyond to mingle in the ancient matter of the universe? I never feel more at one with my consciousness than staring at the horizon at twilight, feet beneath the sand, waves teasing my ankles. You manage to extract the salt from the sea and write these words as a stream of whiteness trickles from your fist. You are so connected to this story, and you paint it with celluloid clarity. I have smelled the briny mildew of Captain Tom’s bait shop and kicked the crevices of the floor boards. This is an actual memory of mine. I’ve been in a bait shop just like it, and there are not just two. They all have this quality don’t they? Be they in Ozona, the rocky coast of Maine, or along my Jersey Shore. I could go on. Drumster and Paschal have hit on so much more than I could illuminate. I love this story. And I’m sure I’ll keep on loving it.

  6. this memoir of your young girl in this environs just SCREAMS!!! versatility once again while ringing of the truth in the fiction – a very delicate and complimentary balance between your gung-ho’s and your carefully doled pieces — that angst of those years filled with not always equal measures of joy and longing, dreaming and wishing, secretiveness and scream out loud about life and love comes so clearly from the dock that i may once have been on a similar dock filled with a similar bundle of hopes and dreams reawakened by miss emmaline, darlin’!!!

  7. This breezy piece has real appeal, I agree! But just for the sake of discussion; Perhaps Law of Averages was a bit didactic- but then it also lacked the ocean breeze, soaring birds, and the Florida sun. Your ability to notate the nuance of motive and emotion is what carries me along- and you don’t rewrite the same story over and over. Maybe it’s like the difference between encouragement and inspiration. The one holds a microphone and the other a mirror. Both stories spoke to me though in quite different ways- maybe now I’m guilty of thinking too hard.

  8. Enjoyable across the board miss a. I’m sitting at the bait shop, looking at the makeshift signs and smelling the ocean smells and feeling the warm salty breeze. Your descriptive words are friendly and inviting and the interactions between Beau and Miss Emmeline are real, believable. I like how you tied the end together with contemplations and self-realizations. Great!

    I sure do like the Kerouac/Fitzgerald reference : ) I haven’t read much F. Scott Fitzgerald to date, but I’m very affected by Kerouac. I love Beat writing, writing that rolls and rhymes and goes, or “spontaneous bop prosody,” as Ginsberg once called Kerouac’s “On the Road” days style. And I love it whenever I’m able, in some freak moments, to get out of my own way—as Paschal and I were talking about—to get out of my blind and nervous way to let that kind of writing happen. I phased in and out of those freak moments to arrive at this bay girl piece that’s mostly about language as you say—rolling, visual language—and less about story. I hope for the day when existing in that out-of-my-own-way state is not a freak thing, but an easy and steady thing, triggered maybe by the feel of the keyboard, maybe by memories on breezes, but always triggered to sing a true song ; ) So add my voice to Paschal’s shout out for laying down the beloved Kerouac words! You can come back here with the first paragraph and keep on going, paragraph by paragraph until you get back to the end again, and I sure wouldn’t mind : )


    My heart stirred around on that last paragraph of yours, dearest friend. It stirred complete with throat lump and hint of tear. If I wasn’t so petrified of experiencing raw emotion I’d have been a mess : ) The brief feeling and acknowledgement of it was supremely lovely enough and I immediately set about marveling, getting a Dean Moriarty high off that reminder of the power of words to attach to themselves spirit, soul, passion, to carry emotion in tact infinitely for anyone, anywhere who reads them. And I guess that’s part of the difference between dead and live words, law of averages vs. a bay girl’s blues, contrived thought vs. true feeling. And the ability to express true feeling seems to come when humans get out of their own way, meaning ego is quiet enough for spirit to whisper through. And if that happens, I feel like there’s no such thing as economy. Words alone or words with music can be like the best drugs (and the latter takes so much less effort to receive than the former) so just think how high I was off Michael O’s words and music while writing my words! Whoo! ; ) LOL!
    Say, on seeing your mention of our man Kerouac’s birthday, I realized I’d never thought to look that info up. Mine’s March 11…many years later but I got such a kick out of that!
    And, I got a 96, an A, from ESC on this bay girl piece, btw :-) I’ll tack the professor’s review up on the fridge when I’m over next, if you’re not home : )


    Good to hear! And many thanks for the compliment :-D


    Be still, my heart! I wish you had gone on. What glorious words, like ones whispered while the ego was away : ) Yes, to the briny mildew and floor boards of the universal bait shop, yes to it all. And most invitingly yes, why does the sea evoke that? I ponder and ponder this. I feel like the reason is more than being faced with the power, the magnitude of majesty, for the tallest, craggiest mountains, as breathtaking as they can be, don’t do it for me like the sea. There is infinitely more power felt when by the sea. And I wonder if the power of its pull has to do with being watery as we humans are 90% water…the ocean being a living, breathing mass of water as we are…living, breathing like the water we were born from, the source of life….all this water moved together, pulled by the tidal forces of the Moon and the Sun, the gravitational force that pulls us as objects in the time-space continuum along and around other objects, infinite objects in our solar system, galaxy, universe, and possibly multiverse. I don’t know! But I love to dream of it : ) And I’ll keep on loving this comment. As Ozona is both the beginning and end of the earth, it seems inspiration has come full circle : )


    Haaaa, I loved this comment, too. The assessment of the balance between gung-ho and carefully doled was well put and astute, I must say…well, it all was. The highest compliment would be if you were on that dock. And if you could be in those swinging flip-flops it wouldn’t be too bad. Even driving around in a great maroon beast was a good memory. I did have something for Captain Tom, too, but it was admiration, not a crush. He was, probably still is, a good, good man : )


    Another good one. I can see how you’d say Law of Averages was a bit didactic, and certainly I’d say now that the moral of that story was, as Bukowski would say, “Don’t try.” Your observation regarding motive and emotion and all was appreciated, helpful for staying on track with one of the gazillion facets to be aware of in this fiction game. And I really liked the encouragement/microphone and inspiration/mirror bit. Live or Memorex? Sounds good, cracks windows. I buy it. All in all, I think Law of Averages or any story could have big appeal if done in at least the same, but preferably better, groove as this was written in. Profound, eh? LOL!


    Why thank you, Ms. P : )

  10. The heat, the yearning, the intoxicating ocean spray — all of it just felled me. Loved the idea of a place left to its “own sweet reserves,” loved this girl wrestling with hard truths, wrenched into new perspectives; reminded me of an Escher transformation, the fish who turned into a bird, took flight. Just beautiful!

  11. ANNO
    I am so glad someone noticed the sweet reserves thing. Only your nuance-sensitive self, anno : ) It just got spat out and when my brain found out about such a ridiculous thing, it was put off. It huffed and puffed and looked into the black and white of it, saw if it was legal, even feasible to say such a thing. It snooped around its favorite dot com dictionary. It sniffed and sniffed and ground and churned and finally it gave my spirit the OK. And my spirit, being used to associating with my ego, just nodded, was already three quarters done with this piece. I fancy the Escher transformation, love his drawings. Glad as always to see you’ve visited : )

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