Guest contributor: Crash Barry

Serial Sunday: Crash Barry’s “Tough Island,” Episode 22

categories: Cocktail Hour

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With the Fishes


My replacement as Donald’s sternman, Hughie, only spoke to me once, just minutes before he killed himself. It was a Sunday afternoon in August and I was chillin’ on my wharf, getting high and enjoying a cup of tea, when Hughie roared down the dirt road on the Hondamatic motorcycle. He braked hard and almost crashed into a five-tall tower of traps piled on the side of the road. In a cloud of dust, he jumped off the bike and ran toward me.

“Where the fuck is she?” he screamed. “Lora! Get your ass out here!”

“Dude,” I said. “What the fuck are you talking about?”

“Where’s Lora?” he hollered. “Where the fuck is my girlfriend?”

I had no idea. I wasn’t screwing his old lady. Barely spoke to her when I saw her at the well or post office. Never more than a “Hello, how do you do?” She was cute, for the island, and young. She lived with Hughie in my drafty old room, overrun with mice.

He glared at me, his eyes crazed with rage, not sure what to do. I was bigger, tougher and meaner than him. And he knew it. He didn’t say another word. Climbed back on the Hondamatic and sped away.

Hughie raced over to Jimmy’s shack, where a couple other sternmen were hanging and smoking herb. He wanted to borrow a gun so he could kill his girlfriend. But Jimmy refused to lend him a murder weapon. So Hughie stormed off and ran along the shore path. Jimmy and the other fellas watched as he climbed down the ladder on the Steamboat Wharf, took Donald’s skiff and headed toward the moorings.

From Jimmy’s shack, they observed Hughie’s strange behavior. He lugged two 50-pound bags of salt from the bait scow and hauled ’em into the skiff, then motored over to The Dotted Eye. He put the salt on the gunwale and climbed aboard his boss’ boat. He took a long piece of rope, then sat on the gunwale and lashed both bags of salt to his body. And pushed himself overboard. And sank to the bottom.

Captain Donald

When Jimmy realized what had happened, he sprinted around the shore, jumped into another skiff and rushed out to The Dotted Eye. By the time he got there, it was too late. In 20 feet of water, Hughie was dead. At least, that’s what Jimmy said, though he didn’t dive in to confirm it.

Instead, Jimmy motored ashore and called Donald. Then Jimmy donned his wetsuit and met Donald at the Steamboat Wharf. They returned to the mooring together. Then Jimmy dove and untied the corpse and brought him to the surface. He and Donald muckled the body into the skiff, went ashore and put Hughie in the bed of Donald’s pick-up, then drove up to Donald’s house to call the Coast Guard.

The Coasties wouldn’t send a boat all the way to Matinicus to pick up a dead man, but they agreed to meet halfway. So Donald and Jimmy returned to the harbor, loaded the body into The Dotted Eye and steamed toward the mainland. Ten miles from the island, they made the transfer, turned around and came home.

Hughie, who had no family or money, was given a pauper’s funeral. Knox County seized his only asset, the Hondamatic, to defray the cost of burial. Donald never actually sold the Honda to Hughie. But after the suicide he had no interest in the bike. So Jimmy rode it down to the ferry the next month and the motorcycle was sold at auction in Rockland. And Donald had to find another sternman. His third in a year.

Had Hughie learned the truth? The girl was screwing around on him. With another sternman, not me. She was pregnant. And most of the island knew it.

Wanna listen to an in-depth Maine Public Radio broadcast with Crash discussing marijuana? Click here.  Wanna see Crash offer to get a pair of TV interviewers high? Click here.  Wanna buy a signed copy of Marijuana Valley? Visit

To read Tough Island to this point, click here.

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