At the end of a narrow road, at the bottom of a hill that slowly rises away from the water, lies the pier. Brightened early each morning and darkened early each evening by way of its eastern facing vantage point, the pier chatters and cranks and clamors at all hours with the sound of fishermen dispensing their harvests. Above this din can be heard the laughs, gasps and conversations of the visiting vacationers who line the decks and walkways while the brute ballet of ocean life plays out before them.
The fishermen pay little attention to their guests. Perhaps a quick glance, a smile aimed at a baby, a frown towards the parent; little else is passed between these castes apart from the meals lying in wait, quivering in bins on the boats. These fishermen were hardened by the water, shaped over generations like the sandstone of a canyon.
The village surrounding the pier was home to many of the fishermen, their lives already requiring too much devotion than to expect a commute of any length. Most drove their pickup trucks to the dock from homes along the shore or from just deeper into the town. For nine months a year, the village was quiet, isolated, and operating in a realm of serene impoverishment that had come to define these coastal hamlets.
When summer arrived, so too did the tourists, with their foreign cars and domestic attitudes, they seemed as corporations unto themselves. The village become a bustling ocean resort, with children towing rafts to the shore, couples pedaling rented, ill-fitting bicycles to ice cream shops, and the locals creeping back into the shadows, coming out only to provide the necessities that money could not import from elsewhere. The first cool breezes of September carried these visitors, and their wealth, away every year, and the village returned to the business of its quiet, desolate destiny.
And so on it went, year after year, as regular as the tides.
Russell “Russ” Massey had fished the waters that extend out from the pier for many years. Like his brethren, he was a hard man, known to take to drink and women whenever it struck him to do so. In other circles and circumstances, this might not blend into the fabric of the community so seamlessly, but the tides of the ocean seemed to cover the wounds of the village en masse. Russ, along with any and all of the other inhabitants, were freed from societal norms and pressures that existed outside the village lines, yet were still slavishly directed to serve their commerce.
Russ had known many women, and several had tolerated him long enough to produce his children. Several he claimed and occasionally supported, while several others quietly carried their questions about town with them, receiving no more or less attention from Russ than any other soul he encountered. All of the townsfolk knew Russ to be withdrawn, fiercely private, and many thought him to care for nothing save for his day’s catch and his next drink. What no one knew was that far down the road that goes down the hill to the pier, up back where the pines had entrenched themselves against years of storms and the houses grew larger and less frequently inhabited; there was a quiet dirt driveway leading to a small modest cottage. And in that cottage lived the one thing that Russell Massey truly loved.
Theresa Lentini was a tall, blonde attractive woman the night she first met Russ Massey at the bar where the fishermen gathered and the tourists quickly learned to avoid. She spent her days running errands for her father, who owned the local hardware store, a job that had stuck when her teaching degree proved useless in obtaining work inside of a day’s travel; and with her father getting on in years, she did not see moving as an option.
After years spent in the village, watching all of the marriageable men come and go with the summer, Theresa resigned herself to finding company with a local, however much of a compromise she realized this would be.
In retrospect, Theresa was never able to determine if it was desperation, attraction, or a perverse blending of the two that had first brought her to Russ, but she quickly resigned herself to the terms of their awkward, inefficient romance. As so often happened in the village, the struggles of being a fisherman’s woman turned Theresa away from caring for herself, away from society, and away from the passing of time.
It was December when Theresa broke the news of her pregnancy to Russ. They had ventured to a neighboring town, at Theresa’s insistence, to a relatively upscale eatery. Theresa had hoped that the setting might help instill within Russ a sense of duty and responsibility, but Russ simply sat quietly at the table, eyeing the pretty, foreign wait staff. Theresa’s announcement firmed his silence into a barricade, and he barely acknowledged the news of a pregnancy now four months along, and the baby boy that was set to be upon them in the spring.
Finishing their meal, Theresa pleaded for Russell's company that night. Drunkenly obliging, Russ promised to meet Theresa at her cottage later in the evening; he had business to attend to. As Theresa sat in her cottage, quietly sobbing amongst the candles she had arranged in her den, Russ attended to his business, then slowly drove the narrow roads to Theresa’s home. Mournful country music quietly leaked through his truck’s old, sea-battered speakers, and an air of complacency fell over him. He resolved himself to do the right thing with this situation he was faced with. Other women had been much more keen to rid themselves of Russ, but Theresa pleaded with him to stay, to make things right for their forthcoming child. His brain moved like it never had.
His headlights lit the drive of her cottage, illuminating Theresa’s anticipating outline in the window, where she stood with her candles and flowers, prepared to make her stand.
The conversation flowed forward through the night, the two distant lovers plotting their future together in the warm, quiet den of Theresa’s apartment. Theresa explained how she had always wanted to leave this town, to find a better life away from the sea, and how she felt this was her chance. Russ listened to every word, and when asked his opinion, he obliged.
He explained to Theresa that he too wished to see a life away from the village, and the shackles it fastened to him over the years of hard life and emotional neglect. He confessed his brokenness, and of his affection towards Theresa and their unborn son. Turning somber, he then explained how this could not be, how the toll of his deranged life had spoiled his soul, and how he could have no place in a life with such untainted promise. His vision was instead to act as a benefactor to the boy, an unseen hand providing as much comfort and luxury he could afford. He had seen the wealthy on their summer pilgrimages, and he envied the ease at which they moved through their lives. It was his decision to place into their society his son, so that his seed would find pastures far greener and more comfortable than would ever be possible if he, Russell Massey, were to rear the boy.
“We should give him one of those names that sounds rich, like a name you weren’t even sure was a name until you heard it,” he explained, “I think we should name him Spaniel.”
He went on to explain that his family had owned a small, modest cottage. It lay down the quiet dirt driveway far down the road that goes down the hill to the pier, up back where the pines had entrenched themselves against years of storms and the houses grew larger and less frequently inhabited, and that Theresa and the boy could live there, in quiet comfort. The words flowed from Russ peacefully, thoughtfully, drawn from a spring of emotion he had yet to tap during his hard, salty life. Also, Russells' earlier business had been to obtiain and ingest eighty milligrams of oxycontin, and he was composing much of this false dream as he spoke.
Wiping a tear from her eye, and buzzing from the wine she had been drinking, Theresa said “okay.”
Spaniel Massey Lentini grew among the pines and sand-reared shrubs of the quiet road, a secret to the village and the families that surrounded him. At the age of fifteen, he authored “The Inevitability of Consequence, Discussions on Destiny.” The police who were dispatched to investigate a foul odor coming down the quiet dirt driveway discovered the manuscript, along with the partial remains of Theresa Lentini, and several other unidentified souls.
On the screen door of the small, modest cottage hung a sign that read “Gone Fishin’”.