Gerard's 12th Birthday


9 pm and the phone rings.

Gerard can’t get his television to work.

“I’d better go honey,” I tell Suzy.

“Don’t have a drink – you’ve got to be up at 4 tomorrow to go fishing,” she says.

So I go and have a drink with Gerard.

I don’t even own a television.

Turns out it’s his birthday.

“I’m 12,” he answers when I ask which one.

He’s alone with his cat and the burbling of his aquarium.

“Was fishing scallops with Black Dan,” he says.

“And we were everywhere – Cheticamp, Arisaig – everywhere.

Anyway we were right into the scallops and we had to hire a new guy.

So we were off Arisaig in 60 feet of water and I’m getting the drag over and my glove catches on it.

Over I go.

I’m underneath the drag goin’ down and I can’t get my glove unhooked and I’m thinkin’ I got to get on top of this thing before it strikes bottom.

So I get on top of it and it hits bottom and I’m thinking they’ve got to start missing me soon.

And I look around and there’s scallops everywhere.

And they’re just blasting themselves away from the drag.

Like we’re only getting 10 per cent of them cause the little buggers are just moving out of the way.

Anyway, up on the boat, Black Dan comes out of the wheelhouse and looks at the new guy, who’s just there shucking scallops and says, ‘Where’s Gerard?’

‘I don’t know – he was there a minute ago.’

‘Holy Fuck,’ Dan says. ‘Holy Fuck.’

Then I can feel the cable hauling tight and the drag coming back up.

I don’t know if I’m gonna make it.

So I get to the surface and Dan says ‘Gerard, you alright?’

And I says, ‘You wouldn’t believe how many scallops are down there!’

‘You crazy fucker’ he says and grabs me.

That was Black Dan, there was a White Dan too.”

And Gerard offers me another drink as he gives my dog a treat.

And I want it.

And I want to hear more stories.

But I’ve got to get on that boat in the morning and tell Charlie as we haul traps about Black Dan and scallops swimming, or whatever it is they do to move themselves, out of the way.

When I get home, I think about Gerard and his cat and the burbling aquarium and the broken television and the present he just gave me on his 12th birthday.

Aaron Beswick