Ten Bells’ doors opened at 5:30 a.m. so that dock workers could get a quick snort before work, or to offer amber consolation if there was none. In the past, and perhaps even into the present, the bar was known as a place where captains, short of men for some dangerous journey or another, would troll for crew, make them paralytic with drink, then carry them on board on stretchers and lay them out like corpses in the hold. And that was exactly how Duncan felt the next morning.
“Sassafras,” he croaked, without opening his eyes. Thanks to several more oyster shooters after dinner, Duncan had already reached his waterline by the time they left Slocum’s apartment, then he took more onboard at Ten Bells. Bottom shelf bourbon, $3.05 a shot. He’d ended up, somehow, fully clothed on the sofa in his office and woke to the sound of a rally outside his window. Annuncia’s basso profundo voice blared through a loudspeaker. “A clean sea is a profitable sea!” she shouted. It was 10 a.m.
He curled tighter into the ball he was already in and pulled his windbreaker over his head. He’d forgotten that he’d told her that she could launch her Boat Garbage Project from Seacrest’s loading dock today, but it was coming back to him loud and clear now. He had assumed she meant at the end of the workday, but of course, she would want to do it early enough to catch that evening’s news cycle.
The crowd started to chant, and the steady noise bore through his eardrums like seaworms. “Bring the garbage back to shore! Bring the garbage back to shore!”
Annuncia quieted them down and continued speaking. “We complain about the crap from outfall pipes and pollution on our fish, and then we throw our own garbage overboard. What’s up with that?”
The crowd emitted a low boo, and he could hear Wade’s voice leading the pack. Even though Annuncia was at the microphone, this project was really his baby. On Earth Day that spring, instead of cleaning beaches with the other volunteers, he decided to motor from boat to boat asking for garbage. When they saw how successful he’d been, a group of kids started making the rounds every weekend in a pedal-driven barge built from plastic water bottles, and it wasn’t long before some of the fishermen and pleasure boaters started to bring it in on their own. The problem was, as always, that there was no place to put it. Often the bags were just left on the docks at the mercy of the gulls and crows, and that meant debris scattered everywhere, on land and water. Annuncia hadn’t realized the extent to which everyone had been throwing their trash overboard before that. It was against the law, but they had to catch you first, and the ocean was a mighty big place.