Dead Low

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A widow at eighty-eight, at eighty-nine a bride. Married her high-school sweetheart. My mother-in-law, for whom, now two years on, the tide has turned. She lies

in a hospital bed in the dining room, her nightgown riding up on driftwood legs. I lean, touch lips to cheek, and see through the glassed-in porch, across his fenced-in yard, thin woods where deer sometimes browse twigs, but picture the inlet, as though she sat as once

right as this thing of mine and her daughter’s got real— brown bathing suit, a lipsticked cigarette, likewise a plastic cup of Chardonnay— beneath the roof at the end of the dock.

Near dusk, tide out, how prehistoric the inlet looked, the oyster beds like stegosauruses sunk in silty ooze, the plates on their backs protruding, green spikes too of marsh grass. Beyond the oyster beds and slues, a spit of sandy beach, the “point,” where houses—

“Popsicle sticks,” she scoffed, forecasting another Hurricane Hazel— were going up. And you all’s? I wondered— amid live oaks that cottage, oyster-white.

While puttered past in the creek, an oysterman— red, white, and blue his cap, which spelled out “Pabst,” black rubber boots with coveralls, gray herringbone, tucked in, and yard-long tongs, a rusty rake-toothed “grab,” the jon boat full to the gunwales with oysters,

his season’s first harvest. The last weekend of a summer of skiing it was for my girlfriend. Slaloming hadn’t she been through Charlie’s Cut when out of one of the slues, the oysterman.

In his “no wake,” the ski boat, red, white trim, Mi Toi, her father’s toy, its fenders out for docking, idled. . . . Nowadays when it’s dead low, those houses stiffen, anticipating the turn. Mere high tides comb among the stilts for drift.