Mussel Man

14 Aug



Sophy and I and our grandkids were harvesting mussels in the ocean, a few miles from our house. We chose the spot because of the half dozen roadside shacks selling chorros – mussels. We parked and made our way down a dirt slope to a wide beach. I’d done a little research and knew we had to gather mussels during low tide, when they briefly came into view.

When we got to the beach there was a scattering of Mexicans searching among the rocks. My research on the internet advised wearing gloves, bringing a sturdy bucket and equipping yourself with a screwdriver or garden trowel to pry off the mussels. The Mexicans clambered over the rocks with nothing more than flimsy plastic bags recycled from the supermarket.

I found a bed of smallish-size mussels and was content with that until Sophy pointed and said, “Look at them. Out there. They’re finding huge ones.”

I figured if the Mexicans were doing well further out, I’d go out even further. Beyond the field of black rocks was a single misshapen boulder surrounded by water. I headed out to it, wading knee deep through the low tide. When I got to the rock I saw it was studded with row upon row of barnacle-encrusted mussels. It made me think that this huge sea rock at low tide was like a fruit tree. I set to work, filling my bucket, twisting the mussels free from the rock as though they were recalcitrant oranges. The surf was breaking forty yards away and the waves were swirling around the rock in mounting sets. It didn’t occur to me then, but later I would wonder about this 61 year old guy further out than anyone, hanging onto a rock, filling a spackle bucket with dinner.

The night before, I’d lain awake in the middle of the night, having premonitions that as we searched for mussels, one of my grandkids or maybe Sophy or me would get their foot stuck between two rocks. We’d pull and pull and we wouldn’t be able to get the foot free. In my imaginings we’d gone out in low tide the way my research had advised and now the tide was coming in high. In the middle of the night, in my mind, we all drowned one by one, in slow motion as the tide rose.

With my bucket filled, I was careful making my way back towards shore, careful where I stepped, not wanting to tempt fate by ignoring a premonition.

Back home, Sophy and I had a romantic dinner. She ate the mussels with lime and hot sauce; I ate mine with drawn garlic butter. The dinner wasn’t romantic because of music or candlelight; it was romantic because we enjoyed talking with each other.


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