AUGUST 03, 2014




So anyway, Summer suddenly happened with a day of 80 plus temps along the coast and triple digits out past Concord. The Almeida family enjoyed the unexpected wealth of Pedro taking a few days off fishing to recover from the injuries he sustained when the net hauled in a Great White that nearly killed him and did some damage to the boat.

Nick Tongzhi, the Asian man who rented the slip one over from Pedro's commercial boat paid him a cool $1,500 in cash for the fins, which Pedro knew was a blackmarket transaction, but what the heck. It would help pay for some of the damage the thing had caused thrashing around like some fishy stationwagon, for it easily had been bigger than that. Pedro could have bartered higher, but after what had happened he just wanted to get the thing off his shattered deck. Other people paid him for chunks of shark steak, so the destroyed stanchion was nearly paid for just with this fish.

"Where your dog?" asked Nick.

"Gone to the Mountain," said Pedro, their communal reference in banter to that place from which no man or dog returns.

"Ah. That is bad. He was good dog," Nick said. "I look in his eyes and see Satori. I burn incense for him."

Of course no payment can replace a devoted friend. Tugboat's body went down near the Farralones and he would never caper upon the wharf ever again in this life.

Gawpers came to stare at the famous boat which had taken a fifteen footer Great White and at the splinters and pellet holes from the shotgun and all the blood until Spiro helped Pedro hose everything down as Pedro's leg was in a cast and Spiro laid a plastic tarp to shield things until repairs could start.

Over at Boatworks, the evaluator looked things over and asked, "How the heck this happen?"

"Great White," Pedro said.

"Yeah? Heavy losses."

"Yeah. Lost a cabinmate."

"Say no more. We'll fix you up."

So the time came around, because Tugboat had been more than just a work animal around the house, that the inevitable had to be endured.

All of the Almeida clan, including the Irascible Teen and the Baby with the Bottom, went over to the Island Shelter. There were plenty of breeds and hounds and pups of distinction. The teen seemed enamored of the young Weimariner. The Baby with the Bottom favored the daschund puppy. Mrs. Almeida preferred the pitbull pup, for she had defense of the chicken coop in mind.

In the far corner Pedro found a cage with a pup that had bandaged paws. When he reached in, the animal snapped at him at first, then regarded him balefully with angry eyes from the corner where it crouched on top of a towel.

"O that one," the shelter staffer said. "He was found in a crack house after a police raid. Looks like he was pretty much abused and he will need a lot of TLC. His mother died soon after she arrived because of the abuse. His name is Fairy Boat. At least that is what the linestaff named him."

"What's going to happen to him?"

"O, a dog like that will be put down if he doesn't behave and nobody adopts him. He sure don't act like a Fairy Boat that I ever seen."

Pedro sat down and looked at Fairy Boat and said, "Well how is it going to be?"

In a little while, with all the Almeidas engaged in vigorous disputation and the Baby with the Bottom having made his fame twice to the point that the kids were wanting to put him in the cage with the excitable daschunds, Pedro came walking down the path with a puppy in his arms, a puppy with bandaged legs. "Everybody, meet Ferryboat."

That night the young opossum crept along the fence and under the woodpile to the garden where he was fond of nibbling the potato plant shoots. As the waning moon arose in a crescent he looked with longing at the tomatoes, well guarded by nylon mesh. From there he ambled in young discovery up to the big house with its old woodframe windows, many open due to the recent heat wave. At the back sill, he peered in and was confronted by a woolly face who regarded him with some distrust mingled with some curiosity while all within snored asleep, enmeshed in watery dreams.

Dog meet opossum. Opossum meet dog. "Woof" went Ferryboat, and the nameless opossum snarfled, dropped down to the ground and ambled along the ivy-clad fence to such opossum destinations as make sense to opossums engaged in any activity that is not playing dead.

Having successfully defended his new territory, the young Ferryboat descended to his basket and curled up there in a satisfied sleep.

In the still of the cooling summer night, the homeboys rumbled in their sleek machines with chromed mags, purple highlights, frames lowered to less than an inch above the pavement, and hair slicked back, looking for places and people to impress now that the sideshows all were done. Barefoot girls sat on the hoods of the quietly ticking engines, sipping Red Tail from the bottle as a soft sizzle of brief rain glistened the ends of their hair just so much it was July merging into August with all the hills so far away gone golden with that imported European grass and the nightbirds calling: Summer. It is Summer.

It is the summer of four Supermoons, when anything is possible.

It is the Summer of incredible things. The tomatoes in the Valley have yet to burgeon into something amazing. Once upon a time, these fruit -- cousins of the Deadly Nightshade, were considered to be poisonous, and strong women swooned upon the steps of the Philadelphia courthouse when a farmer courageously ate one before the assembled multitude. It is the Summer, right now, in this moment, when the Brazilian soccer crowd all stood to applaud the victors with honor and grace as their own hometown team went down in terrific flames before the eyes of the entire world. It is the summer when the Oaktown A's smashed one home for this underdog city. It is the summer when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame evicted Alan Freed. It is the summer when Love came to Town. It is the Summer you will always remember. It is the summer of California's terrific and horrible drought when the entire cherry crop failed; did you know that? It is the summer of magnificence and wonder. It is the summer of four Supermoons, when anything is possible. It is the summer when the street scene is fraught with anger and recriminations and pictures of cops doing terrible things to people. It is the summer of incredible courage and cops performing courageously, but . . . just not in your town. It is the summer when Kid Viper, Golden Gloves champ, gunned his Chevy and laid down a patch half a block long downtown, nevermind the sideshow ban. It is the Summer of the Ebola virus outbreak and the zombie apocalypse. It is the summer when the girl put out the bedroom light and in the loft, so soft, silence and surrender, followed by explosive knowing. It is the summer when we came to the comet instead of the otherway around. It is the Summer when you, incredibly, did something. And so, what then, did you do this summer . . . ? What is it that you will always remember? You will never ever have another chance at this very same summer of chances. Time is a spherical prison and there is no escape. Do now what you may not be allowed to do later. Bite that tomato. Drink down the juice. Right now. Do it while you can.

Marlene stepped out into the ironmongery garden with the struggling vines attempting to make something of themselves. They had been watering with recycled bath water but the lack of sun this year had hit the crops fairly hard. The tomato plants had scarcely achieved bush status knee-high when they began producing. Alone, a solitary cherry hung on a sere branch. Marlene took hold of it and it came loose easily and took it inside.

In the quiet of the evening the young opossum scampered along the fence and toward the area that was all protected by mesh, possibly in hope that the succulent greens there would somehow be rendered naked for consumption. There it paused, considering the barrier and the unreachable Eden beyond with desire. The opossum did not reflect long upon desire thwarted. Instead the creature continued on to the next yard where oranges remained on the untended trees, and there he availed himself of orange opportunity.

Inside the house, Marlene bit into the tomato and experienced all the flavors and wonder of pure nature without maturation gasses and trucking and insecticide and years of over breeding. In short, the flavor of pure tomato. No wonder things like ebola and crop rust happen upon us.

From far off across the water came the ululation of the throughpassing train as it trundled from the glowing gantries of the Port of Oaktown with their sentry lights, letting its blues cry keen across the flickering waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, through the cracked brick of the old Cannery with its leaf-scattered loading dock, its ghost-haunted, weedy railbed, between the interstices of the spectral chainlink fences until the locomotive click-clacked past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off out of memory's shadows on the edge of town past the old Ohlone shellmounds to parts unknown..