Saturday, September 22, 2007

Powder Burn Flash # 46 - John McFetridge

In the Harbour
by John McFetridge

Gary Wilkes was standing on the deck of his brother-in-law’s lobster boat stacking the traps and running lines when he saw the black Hummer driving down to the dock. Gary’s brother-in-law, Alvin, decent guy and they loved him for marrying Annabelle, saw it too and said, “Not exactly sneaking up,” and Gary said, no, they want us to see, “Supposed to scare the shit out of us.”

Alvin said, yeah, well, it’s what they do, and went below.

Gary watched the Hummer stop and the two guys get out; early thirties, jeans and tee shirts, sunglasses and leather jackets, of course. They looked up and down the dock, a dozen boats, fishermen all minding their own business, and came up to Alvin’s, looking right at Gary.

One guy took off his sunglasses and said, “Didn’t waste any time, you right back at work.” French accent, they were from Montreal, Gary knew. Came all the way down to Shediac, New Brunswick just to talk to him.

Gary said, “Get the fuck off the dock.”

They looked at each other like he’d made a joke, like they were gonna laugh, but instead they came on the boat. The one that was taller than Gary said, “We gonna talk.”

They probably didn’t even know it, these two thugs, but that’s how this started for Gary, talking to some guy from Montreal. Gary had his own boat then, took over his father’s when the old man’s cancer moved into his bones and he was done. Had two cousins working for him, that was three families counting on him; three men, three women, seven kids and Gabrielle was pregnant again. And no fucking lobsters, or not nearly enough. Every season another guy lost his boat, lost his family, lost his will.

And Gary met this guy from Montreal, knew he was a biker right away. They don’t ride bikes anymore, they’re not about freedom and rebellion and the open road, no shit, it’s all business now. Now they drive Hummers. The guy Gary met had a plan. They were bringing coke up from Columbia and they were going to pack it in lobster traps, dump them in the water right off the coast and lobster fishermen would pick them up along with their other traps. The guy said to Gary, “You ever bring up a trap worth twenty grand?”

Of course they got busted. Started in Montreal, big organized crime investigation, surveillance, wire taps, they even had an informer, led all the way to Shediac and Gary’s boat. He was the one actually picked up with the coke in his hands.

Cop, local mountie out of Moncton, said to him, “These fucking federal lawyers are going to pressure you to give up names, but they won’t protect you for shit after.” One maritimer looking out for another.

Gary said, hey, I did the fucking crime, “I’ll do the time.” He gave them everything he had, names, dates, amounts in every shipment. All the money he made was in his boat, refitted engine, new navigation system, new traps. He was a couple months away from actually breaking even with just the lobsters, three families not going broke. They seized his boat, sold it at auction for a quarter of what it was worth to some guy from Cape Breton.

Now the tall one was saying, “You think this is done? You think you give up that many people, do two years in slam and it’s over?”

“It’s over for me.”

Two years in Dorchester Federal Penitentiary and now he was thankful to be crewing on Alvin’s boat, thankful his little sister Annabelle made her husband hire him.

But the bigshots in the deal, the top guys in Montreal, they were just coming up to trial now. Their rich fucking mob lawyers using every trick they had to delay it, to stall, question every piece of evidence, get to every witness, but now it was going to happen. And Gary was going to testify.

The short one opened his mouth for the first time, saying, “Don’t be so fucking stupid. It’s too easy for accidents to happen on boats.”

Gary said, yeah, “They happen all the time.”

The two bikers from Montreal staring at him, giving him their evil eyes.

Gary threw the trap he was holding, hit the tall one right in the face, staggered him back.

The short one was pulling a gun out of his belt and Alvin punched him the face, two, three times. Gary was on the tall one, spun him around, grabbed his greasy hair and smashed his face onto the rail, blood splattering everywhere.

Alvin had the short one’s gun and was smacking him with it, the guy was holding his arms over his head so Alvin kicked him in the balls, steel toes doing their job.

Gary grabbed the tall one by the belt and threw him off the boat and Alvin ran the small one over the side, the two assholes landing on the dock ten feet from their shiny Hummer. They stood up, legs shaking like they were standing on the deck in a storm, blood all over their faces, and tried to look tough. It was almost funny.

Gary looked down and said, “The next time I throw you off a fucking boat, it’ll be two miles out,” and he pointed at the north Atlantic.

Alvin was pointing the short one’s gun at them.

And up and down the dock, every other boat had two or three guys standing on deck holding something; pick axes, wrenches, big fucking knives.

The short one managed to say, “You’re fucking dead,” and pointed at Gary, but he got in the Hummer fast and they drove out like they were being chased.

Alvin looked at the trap that Gary threw at the tall one and said, “You have to fix that again?”

Gary said, no. “I was just starting that one, hadn’t done anything to it yet.”


Gary looked up and down the dock. Everybody else was back to work, too.


BIO: John McFetridge's first novel, Dirty Sweet, was published in 2006 and his second, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere will be published in 2008. He has had flash fiction published by Out of the Gutter and on Muzzle Flash. Check out his website at

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