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The Salt Loved Him So

Julian’s father was from a family of fishermen so he rose with the dawn. Sometimes, Julian would go with him. He would follow his father’s long strides down the dark boardwalk, always stopping at the same bench dedicated to a Henrietta Winslow who died some years ago.

A brown paper bag filled with cans crinkled, tucked in his father’s coat and a big metal thermos was always nestled in his pocket. Julian drank cooling coffee from a tin cup and munched on silver sardines, slick with olive oil straight from the can. He liked the taste of the spines crunching between his teeth and the feel of the oil sliding down his fingers to his wrists, smooth like rainwater, thick like blood. His father wiped his hands off on his jeans, so Julian did, too.

Julian remembers the way his father would stare out at the water as the sun popped out of it and began to float up into the sky. He remembers the flecks of salt that dried into his father's wrinkled skin and weathered beard. That’s what he had blamed when grey licked the hair around his father’s ears and stray white strands sprouted in his bushy eyebrows. The man would look out at the shore where the smooth, glassy surface began to churn and curl and he would put a hand on Julian’s head and almost sigh. Then he would drop Julian at the house that had been a shack, and before that, a hut, where men who fished lived for six generations. Then he would go to the other side of the boardwalk to work on the construction of a new surf’n’turf shack.

No more fishermen lived in Julian’s house.

Still, Julian remembered that look and how his father’s eyes turned the same color as the sea and how the salt loved him so. Years later he would sit at a bench dedicated to Marcus Roland, because Henrietta’s bench had crumbled, and he would eat sardines slick with oil straight from the can and sip on cooling coffee from a very old tin cup and it didn’t matter if the sun was sinking or floating; it was always one or the other.

On some days, he even brought a little girl and shared his fish and coffee, and she called him Grandpa Julian and watched him watch the sea and she would think; maybe it is possible to be a fisherman and never catch a single fish.



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