Lester had been fishing since before he could remember. His earliest memories were riding down to the docks with a bamboo pole to fish for snapper. When the snapper were running in June and October all you had to do was throw your line in the water. He could fish a few hours and catch enough for his five brothers, two sisters, mother and father to have dinner. Riding home with a bucket full of fish was about the proudest feeling he could recall.
His sisters would clean the fish until their hands, hair and cheeks were littered with silver scales, their hands were bleeding from the spiny dorsal fins, and there was a bucket full of snapper guts. His mother would bread the fillets in flour and fry them on the stove or bake them with tons of butter. Fish and potatoes, that was all he needed to survive back then.
By the age of 16 he had quit school to sort out the keepers on his uncle’s dory crew. By 21 he was captaining his uncle’s second boat, running the winching truck - flooring the old truck in reverse into the surf and launching the dory over the breakers so the crew could set it’s nets. He was bringing more money than his father.
At 23 he met the love of his life, in a little restaurant in Amagansett that an old Greek couple owned. They served greasy homemade chicken noodle soup with a heel of crusty bread. The soup itself was mediocre but it warmed the bones after a cold fall afternoon and the service was worth paying for. Every summer they hired a new handful of red-haired, green eyed, porcelain skinned Irish girls fresh off the boat. By Thanksgiving the girls were all gone back home.
Lester and his Uncle would pay to watch the ruby headed beauties fly around the dining room, the buzz of their Irish lilt in the air. Faeryn stood heads taller than the rest - she tall, thin, and graceful. Everything about her had a fluidity - from the way she strode across the dining room to the way she deftly distributed their steaming bowls of soup, all the while an easy grin highlighted her face.
Lester spent an entire summer and fall admiring Faeryn from afar, only exchanging nervous pleasantries when she brought him soup. However, Lester knew that more often than not, the girls didn’t return after going home. Come late October his rapport with her grew to pleasant conversations, by the second week of November they went on their first date. A week later Lester and Faeryn found themselves wrapped up in a whirlwind, passionate engagement.
Lester’s parents weren’t too sure of Faeryn at first, at the time the Irish were looked upon almost as a locust that descended upon the Island every summer, plucking up all the jobs and cramming as many people as possible into cheap seasonal rentals. Had it been one of his sisters bring home a Paddy or Michael they would have been disowned, but rules were different for the boys.
Lester and Faeryn were married in a family ceremony two weeks before Christmas, afterwards Lester’s father took him aside and told him in no uncertain terms that Faeryn was not welcome in his home - Lester’s belongings were packed and he was to leave immediately. That was the last time he talked to his father, Lester moved into the home Faeryn had been renting. Two months later his father was left a vegetable thanks to a massive stroke. He wouldn’t live through the winter.
Life moved quicker than Lester could have anticipated. Less than a year after their wedding Faeryn gave birth Deirdre and then Fiona a year later. Faeryn hemorrhaged giving birth to Fiona and nearly died, she survived but was left unable to have anymore children.
At the age of 30 he had captained his own dory, cashing in on the seemingly never ending supply of Striped Sea Bass that migrated along the coast of Long Island. When times were at their best he had two dorys, three winching trucks, and and a dozen strong backs to do all the work. Then things started to fall apart.
It started with city dwellers who considered Baymen like Lester a pimple on the face of their aesthetically pleasing summer wonderland. They turned cries of saving the Piping Plovers, a small bird that made nests on the beach, to a thinly veiled attempt to pop that pimple. And it worked. Restrictions on where he could fish hamstrung him, but Lester was still able to make enough money to make fishing worthwhile. Then they went after the bass.
They said fishermen like Lester were catching too many Bass, that they weren’t spawning at a high enough rate. He didn’t want to give up, he mortgaged his home to keep both crews up and running but they wouldn’t be stopped. Eventually they took it all, the Bass became endangered or protected or something like that and they told him couldn’t catch them anymore. Thousands of men like Lester had everything taken away from them because they didn’t fit into the world these city dwellers imagined.
It wasn’t long after that he got an under the table construction job and started drinking. One night he came home late to find Faeryn crying in bed, telling him that their life was falling apart, that she wasn’t sure who he was. A week later his wife left with his two daughters while he was at work. Lester wasn’t about to chase her, he was too deep in his own sickness and without her around he had no one that he could disappoint, no one to let down anymore. As sick as it is to say, he had a weight lifted off his shoulders.
Lester started drinking just to function, it was a vicious circle that cost him everything. Last year the bank came for his house after he got fired from his under the table construction job and couldn’t afford the mortgage he had taken out on his house to save his crews. His livelihood, his family, his home, and now his pride - it was all gone.
Now, well now Lester was about as down as a human being could get. He had spiraled out of control to the life of a drifter now. Days were spent panhandling as much as he could get away with. By mid-afternoon he had enough to quit for the day. Whatever money he was given went directly to Kelly’s Liquor Store. After a quick stop behind a deli to pick through the dumpster for a day old Bonac Burger or whatever else he could find, he would take his bottle and the few belongings he had left to the nearest beach. A mile of so walk down the beach would provide him with enough seclusion to set up a small camp and drink until he forgot what he had lost.
More and more, the booze ignited a fire in his belly. He found himself yelling at the ocean, cursing it for giving and taking away so easily. Like the tide that leaves clumps of dead seaweed and crustaceans in it’s wake, Lester was left with rotting reminders of his life. He resented the fact that he had to walk through the waste of what was leftover every day. He would take rocks - as many as he could find - and fill the pockets in his pants. He would then wade with whatever booze was left chest deep into the ocean until he froze, he had nothing to live for but he was a coward. He would stand there, staring at the horizon, feeling the current trying to tug him deeper. But at the point that he felt himself being pulled beyond he could control, he would stumble back until he could reach in his pockets and heave handfuls of rocks as far as he could throw them - cursing his cowardice in the process.