First Things First

First thing to do was take a deep breath. It was always colder and windier, the air cleaner to breathe over the ocean. Cold at that hour. Before dawn, the sky unbroken, dark, dark, dark.

Bluish-white islands of light lit the fishermen hunched over rods, smoking cigarettes, blowing steam from coffee cups.

The light stopped at the rails, with under, over, and beyond the pier, only darkness, and the of sound of the ocean.

The pier moved underfoot, a living thing. Like a boat. Like a church.

We ate breakfast in a cafe at the top of a wide wooden ramp leading up to the pier. The cafe had warm lighting, the same color as the cypress wood panels. Mrs. Stroop ran the cash register, and handed you the menus.

You could sit at a table, as soon as one opened up. Or on a stool, sit at the counter and eat elbow to elbow. I always ordered two eggs over light with bacon, grits and toast, a glass of milk and a cup of coffee. Petesy had biscuits and grits, a big bowl, and black coffee.

If the fish were running, it would take a while to get served. Petesy was happy when the grits arrived. No eggs, no meat. On just grits, he put pepper and butter and salt, and blew the steam off, not to burn his tongue. He took it slow, spooning from the edges, so the grits stayed creamy, ate his way round and round the bowl, adding butter, and salt and pepper, leaving no stiff grits on the edges. He mopped the bowl clean with toasted white bread. Then we went fishing.