Volume 13, Issue 40 ~ October 6 - 12, 2005

Bay Reflections

In Good Company
by Eugene Melnitchenko

After an afternoon of shopping at the Amish Farmers Market in Annapolis, my wife and I stopped for an early dinner at a local restaurant. The dining room was still closed, and we sat in a corner of a dimly-lit, semi-circular lounge, across from several young construction workers and two watermen, all drinking beer — Bud and Coors, we noticed — some smoking. We ordered two chardonnays from a young barmaid, who was flirting with the men, obviously regulars, having a good time in anticipation of the long Columbus Day weekend.

The two watermen directly across from us were in their 30s, one with long grayish dark hair and a rich beard, dressed in black T-shirt and black jeans. The other, taller with reddish blond ponytail, was in a washed-out sweatshirt and jeans. The taller was filling out some tickets and watching the KENO monitor.

“Merle,” the man dressed in black said loudly in heavy local dialect to his friend, “you’re wasting your time and money. I’ve watched you play this here game and the lottery all these years, and you never win. Besides, you wouldn’t know what to do with the money, if you won, anyway. Let’s face it. We fish and crab, that’s what we do. Our daddies and grand-daddies were watermen and we’ll continue doing what we enjoy till we die.”

“Yeah,” the taller man replied, “but there’s always a chance. I’d get me a better boat. My Rusty is getting rusty.” He laughed, enjoying his own wit.

“How did it go today, Merle?” the bearded man continued.

“Ah,” Merle waved his hand dismissingly, watching the monitor. “Not like the old times. The Bay’s polluted and over harvested. Too much building and too many people. City-slickers taking our way of life from us. I tell you, the government needs to do something to slow down this growth before it chokes the Bay.”

“Yeah, dude,” one of the construction workers broke in. “But without growth, we won’t have no jobs. More people bring new tax revenues for the government, better schools, more hospitals and better transportation. In the end, we all benefit. Besides, you don’t want more government and regulations. What has the government ever done for you, except impose more restrictions on hunting and fishing?”

Merle turned to the construction worker. “My daddy used to say the role of the government is to bring people the greatest amount of happiness. Ours sure ain’t doing that. And the price of gas, it’s gonna drive me out of business. It used to cost me $35 to fill up my truck. It now takes twice that much.”

A young man with a short haircut and a cane walked into the lounge and parked himself on an empty stool next to mine.

“Iraq,” he pointed to his cane and leg. “Getting treated at Walter Reed.” He ordered a Corona. “I’m waiting for my girlfriend. She lives in these parts. We’ll probably get married after I return from my second tour of duty there. I don’t know what you think of the war, but I’m a soldier and go where they send me.”

I reassured him that I am a former Marine and that we’re proud of our soldiers. We chatted until his girlfriend showed up.
Across the bar, Merle lit another cigarette and asked for two more beers for himself and his friend. Although our table was ready, made comfortable by the good company, I switched to Corona. Not in a hurry for dinner, my wife ordered crab cakes.

After retiring from the financial world, Eugene Melnitchenko, of Owings, is pursuing his interest in philosophy and literature. His last story for Bay Weekly, the memoir “As the War Ended,” appeared on May 12 (Vol. xiii, No. 19).

© COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.