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fishing village

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1966
Every night I watched the men coming in, heads bowed. They had never heard of suntan lotion, but they were so black already, almost like Africans, that the drops of sweat that dribbled from their faces ran down skin miraculously unreddened by the noontime sun. Their brown bodies clotted together like rivers pushing through cracked deserts, and even against the brightness of a Caribbean sunset I was never able to tell them apart. In El Mariso, they were all fishermen. The women hid from the bright sun, having children in the dark damp shacks that lined the town like herons quivering on stick – thin legs. The men spent their lives crouched in boats that rocked dangerously on the smallest waves, waiting for the tentative tug of a fish. Sometimes they caught big sharks. Once I spotted a man, far out at sea, hollering and jabbing a big grey shape that trailed red. By the time I got to the beach, everyone in town was there – women shrieking, babies crying, all clustered around a hammerhead, its soft grey head plowing deep furrows in the sand as its gills flexed in and out, struggling for its life. It died eventually, grey body bleeding from some stones that the children threw. The men brought out big knives and cut it up and I ate some when my friend Elena urged it on me. It was soft and salty in my mouth, and I liked it, even though some of the kids spat theirs on the ground, where the seagulls plunged for it with hoarse shrieks.



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