memories of nantucket

IT STARTS WITH THE SOUND of a car roaring up Orange Street in the dawn time haze and doors slamming as the Irish girls who clean our rooms and launder our bed linens, rinse out our sinks and set our breakfast buffets tiptoe in after a wild night with the local boys. They are loudly excoriated and admonished by the owner, a stubby Yankee woman with one of the ominous local names like Coffin or Starbuck, who have populated this island since the days of British rule. Yankee fire, Yankee brimstone. All of this in a Nantucket kitchen at 5 am. Our room is upstairs left, colonial style, big bed, closet of a shower and toilet, and a cot for me, as I squint through the faint light and try to make out some ghostly shape. Supposedly there are a lot of ghosts on Nantucket and I keep trying to see one, but never have much luck. This is way back in ’90, a forgotten time if there ever was one, way back before the boom, when Nantucket was kind of seedy, and the theater where we watch the documentary The Gray Lady is covered in popcorn and the sticky sugar slick from overturned sodas. Amidst wall-to-wall trash, we view the documentary, of which I remember nothing but the title and some opening scenes full of mist. At the breakfast buffet, several hours later, there’s plenty of cranberry bread, cranberry juice, and anything cranberry. There’s some writer living here too, in the back apartment, but he broke his arm. A younger writer, dark hair, nice guy smile, like some fusion of John Cusack and that kid from Back to School. Maybe he should start writing with his left foot, like in that movie? My whole world is a mosaic of useless film references. This is how we spend our time, at some inn on some lane at some outpost of the North Atlantic. At dinner last night my parents had an argument about whether lobster was better broiled or boiled. This gave way to successive, daughter arguments about how lobster is best enjoyed. In the end my father gave up and threw his hands in the air, sulking over the red carcass of his mutilated Crustacean. “Can’t I just enjoy my broiled lobster in peace?”

written 20 march 2019/revised 9 september 2021

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