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.