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Benny began his walk back to the ferry, pulling his backpack tighter onto his back. He hadn’t realized how far he had walked to the busted dock and finally, two miles from town, he stopped to rest on the side of the road. Across the street he spotted a wooden crescent, covered in peeling white paint. He lit a cigarette and surveyed the box from a distance. Three cars passed. Benny stood.

  Benny crossed the street and approached the box. He placed his hand against the uppermost edge and pried the lid from its body. Peering inside, Benny saw only darkness. He rolled himself into the box and pushed the lid back into place over himself. Benny used to be afraid of the dark, but his mom once told him that if he was very quiet, there was nothing to be afraid of. Nothing would find him. Later, when his mother was slipping away, she had told him she was afraid. He told her to just be quiet. Nothing could find her in the darkness in she would just hush.

  Benny reopened the lid. If he didn’t continue walking, he would miss the ferry

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On the footpath which led away from the preserve, Benny spotted a dock, broken and washed up to the shore. Leaving the path, Benny knelt down next to the dock, crouching close to warped boards made green by the tide and time. Reaching out his now sunburnt hands, he put one finger to a rusted nail and felt the stubbly roughness. He remembered the way his dad’s face had felt when he had tried to grow a beard, like he imagined sailors and fishermen had.

  His mother had always talked about the fishermen on this island with a sad sort of admiration. They worked all day tearing their backs, skin dry and red from the salt and sun. She imagined they strained for the wives and children they must have at home—they’re so young she would say, but later, Benny could remember seeing them coming from the bar, stumbling after girls who came from away for the summer. Benny formed a fist around the body of the nail and pulled until the entire dock had unraveled. He packed the chain and tinder into his bag to bring home. He thought his dad might like it.

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Finishing his sandwich, Benny put its wrapping back in his backpack and removed a box of cigarette papers and a small bag filled with crumbled green herb. He folded the edge of the paper and shook some keef out along the crease. He carefully twisted the paper into a smooth cylinder and licked the edge for effect. His dad had always said that people who smoked didn’t have a future, that they were not grateful for the health and money that the Lord had given him. Benny did not think about smoking until he found a small tin case in the pocket of one of his mother’s coats, a gray wintery thing with pockets that went on. The case had a box of Zig Zag rolling papers, half gone, and a sandwich-sized Ziploc. Creviced into the corner of the bag was a dull green wad of weed, apparently crushed from some manner in which the coat had been stored.

  Benny took it to his room and practiced rolling scrawny joints with some cotton from a hole long ago ripped into his pillow. The first time he had switched from cotton to weed, he used three papers, tearing them and licking, trying to repair the mess of soggy white and green on his desk. It took him months to become good at rolling. He thought his mother must have been an expert by the time she died. Benny lit the joint and flopped backward onto the grass.

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Benny read the names around him. Coombs, Avery, Lane. The names were ordinary and foreign to him. Henry Coombs, brother and son, age thirteen. When Benny was thirteen, he was dreading high school. At his middle school, kids treated him with sympathy. Occasionally they would slip—That’s what your mom said last night followed by shocked expressions and quick apologies. They would look down. They would always look down, as if his mother were buried underneath their adolescent feet, as if they were paying their respects to the woman no one could quite remember. I

  t would be worse in high school. People would know not to ask or talk about their parents, but occasionally he would get invited for dinner and a mother would dote because it’s just so sad. Next time he was home, he would tell those mothers about Henry Coombs, brother and son, age thirteen

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Near Lane’s island, he threw his cigarette to the ground and stubbed it out with a muddy hiking boot. It was raining, as it always seemed to be on Vinalhaven. When he was a kid, his dad had brought him on a walk to Lane’s Island Wildlife preserve a few miles from where they had been staying on the island. He could remember the mud that had gathered on the trail that was woven around the island. He ran ahead of his dad, splashing through the gritty wetness, until his boot was sucked off his foot. His dad had laughed as Benny somberly handed him both his boot and the mud-coated sock that had been underneath, but when they returned to the house, his mother had scolded him and made him rinse the sock out in the sink. The way the brown water ran in lines down the drain reminded him of that mudded path.

  Benny pulled out another cigarette, lit it, and let the smoke drift from his mouth in one perfect stream, which bent and wove its way along the path that lay in front of him. He followed it and reached a graveyard. The Lane family cemetery contained a dozen stones, worn and leaning. Propping himself against one, he took a sandwich from his bag and surveyed his surroundings.

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As the ferry docked, Benny anxiously removed a cigarette from the box in his pocket. There was no smoking on the ferry and two hours was a long time for Benny’s ten year nicotine addiction. Across the wharf, Benny saw a woman carrying trash bags from her house and out to the curb.  She wore one of those loose cotton dresses, deep red, like he could remembered his grandmother wearing, dragging from her cigarette and telling Benny he would find a good girl someday. “Not like that slut Caroline,” she would say. Going into her yellow house, Benny imagined the woman might be trapped there like the lobsters her husband would bring home to sell. 

  Benny joined the line gathering at the ticket booth. The last ferry for the mainland left at five. After buying his ticket, Benny tightened the laces on his boots and walked along the street, past shops and cafes where locals spoke of things familiar to only them. In three minutes, Benny was out of the town, walking along a coastal road that led to the east.

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When Benny was very young, his mother told him it was okay to see things. Looking at a painting, Benny would see trees swaying and hear the painted children wailing. Most people only see still images, maybe the pretense of motion in sweeping strokes or emotions in a color palette. His dad told Benny that when his mother felt like she didn’t have long left, they had taken the family to an island off the coast, Vinalhaven. One morning, when the family was praying, Benny had snuck to the park. When his parents found him, he was lying in the grass, facedown, apologizing for blowing over the gazebo. But it was dying, he had said, so I gave it to the wind in dust and ashes. Later that week, his mother died. His dad told him that while he tried to call the ambulance, Benny had knelt close to the body, whispering. He could only make out the words “Hush, little gazebo…”

  A decade later, his dad brought Benny and Evan back to the island again. He thought it would do the family good, but Benny was sixteen. He refused to go the church and spent most of his time on the island stealing his dad’s beer and trying to buy weed from the local teens. When his dad caught him smoking a joint under the front porch of the rented beach house, Benny told him it’s okay, you’re supposed to see things when you’re stoned. They caught the early ferry away. Benny did not come back for another twelve years.

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Benny knelt down next to the decaying dock, crouching close to boards made green by the tide and time. Reaching out his sunburned hands, he put one finger to a rusted nail and felt the stubbly roughness. He remembered the way his dad’s face had felt when he had tried to grow a beard, like he imagined sailors and fishermen had. Benny formed a fist around the body of the nail and pulled until the entire dock had unraveled. He packed the chain and kinder into his bag to bring home. He thought his dad might like it.

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Across the wharf, Benny saw a woman carrying trash bags from her house and out to the non-curb curb.  She was wearing one of those loose cotton dresses, deep red, like he could remembered his grandmother wearing, dragging from her cigarette and telling Benny he would find a good girl some day. “Not like that slut Caroline,” she would say. Going into her yellow house, Benny imagined the woman might be trapped there like the lobsters her husband would bring home to sell. 

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Benny approached the gazebo, vined and mossed despite the town’s efforts to keep it shiny.

      “Little gazebo,” Benny whispered, “please stay still. This will only take a moment.”

Sliding his hands between the leafy fibers, Benny began to push.

      “One,” Benny said, spreading one foot behind him.

      “Two,” Benny said, shifting weight to his back foot and leaning into the gazebo beam.

      “Three,” Benny said, squeezing his eyelids together as the vine covered gazebo gave, toppling over and blowing away with the wind.