Guest contributor: Crash Barry

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

categories: Cocktail Hour


“Then he spotted the VW Bus parked 10 feet in front of his wharf, the rising sea lapping at the driver’s side-view mirror.”


The tide was halfway to high when I drove The Dotted Eye toward the dock and nearly crashed into a Volkswagen bus. I threw her in reverse and backed down hard. Donald, who’d been astern and was almost thrown to the deck, came running forward. “WHAT THE HELL?” he hollered. Then he spotted the VW parked 10 feet in front of his wharf, the rising sea lapping at the driver’s side-view mirror. “What the frig?”

“The lobsters loved the junk pile.”

Turns out Pierre, the upstanding island official, finally decided to clean up his dooryard, which meant getting rid of the VW bus that hadn’t run in a decade and had been cannibalized for all usable parts. Pierre wasn’t gonna pay a hundred bucks to ship the vehicle on the ferry to be junked on the mainland. He got rid of it the island way.

Unbeknownst to us, earlier in the day, at low tide, with help from his pals, Pierre had pushed and pulled and rolled the bus down the beach. He hadn’t intended to leave it in front of Donald’s wharf, he claimed. The bus got stuck in the mud and mussels, Pierre said. So he’d lashed an old hawser, with a buoy on the end, around the VW, and called it good.

At high tide, Pierre returned in his brother-in-law’s boat and grabbed the floating buoy. He took in the slack and hitched the thick rope to the stern. Then he put the boat in gear and towed the submerged bus across the harbor bottom, dragged it around the Indian Ledge and out to the deeper backside of the breakwater.

Without ceremony, Pierre slashed the rope, freeing the VW, which sank and joined the dozens, if not hundreds, of dead cars and trucks buried in the watery junkyard. The vehicles created an artificial reef shunned by the lobstermen, but not because of the batteries and oil left behind. They didn’t want their traps to get snagged on mufflers, or stuck in a trunk, or hung up on a smashed windshield. The lobsters loved the junkyard during the warmer months, spending their time darting in and out of vehicles, taking naps on deteriorating bench seats and finding secret hideaways in glove boxes and wheel wells.

Donald wasn’t pissed about the way Pierre was getting rid of the VW. He was just outraged that Pierre had the audacity of leaving the van in front of his wharf. Donald didn’t give a damn about the environment. The ocean was his trash can. A couple times a week he brought a paper bag of trash out to haul, mostly glass and tin, and threw it overboard. He’d been throwing plastic of all sorts into the sea for years, but stopped after his grandkids harassed him about it. So he burned the plastic, along with paper and cardboard, in his 55-gallon burn barrel in the back yard. The smoke was thick and black and the smell lingered in the neighborhood long after the fire was out.

But it’s pretty damn tough to get rid of a large household appliance via boat or burn barrel. Mary-Margaret bought a new washing machine, so Donald and I lugged the old one into the back of his pick-up and drove to the aptly named Steep Banks, the island’s tallest cliff. There, we pushed the washer off the back of the truck, to join a rusting white and avocado-green trail of appliances that reached the water’s edge and was visible a mile away.


Next week: A rich fella drives into a lighthouse.


[To read Episode 7 click here][To read Episode 6, click herel[To read Episode 5, click here][To read Episode 4, click here][To read Episode 3, please click here][To read Episode 2, please click here][To start at the beginning with Episode One, please click here]



Crash Barry hasn’t crashed into any motor vehicles in over 25 years. These days, he lives near a marijuana grove in the foothills of western Maine. His column One Maniac’s Meat appears monthly in The Bollard, and details his exploits as a sailor in the U.S. Coast Guard fighting the “War on Drugs” and the “War on Haitian Refugees.” His rollicking novel Sex, Drugs and Blueberries and the complete version of Tough Island are available at Maine bookstores and libraries or via or on Amazon. His latest book Marijuana Valley, Maine: A True Story will be published this fall. Crash occasionally blogs about turning a novel into a film at



  1. Debora writes:

    Hi Crash!

    Another winner! How do you do it? I’m still pecking away at an essay I started weeks ago!

    Love that VW (last week’s piece is my favorite illustration of course–Matisse with Gaugin’s color pallette?!! AND it was my favorite scene, despite my objection–you got it all exactly right! I was posting in a hurry and maybe didn’t express my joke very well 🙂

    • Crash Barry writes:

      Hey Debora,

      I’ve always said that a writer’s luck is his/her history. that’s the only reason i have good stories.

      Glad you like the drawings? What kind of crayons did Matisse and Gaugin use?


      • Debora writes:

        Yes, I do love the drawings. Oil painters, both. Well, you have quite a history…must be fun to talk with at the bars! You definitely keep me laughing.

        • Debora writes:

          Are these pastels?

          • Crash Barry writes:

            Hey Debora,

            I’m fun at the hash bar and glad Bill and Dave let me crash their cocktail hour… as for pastels and/or other mediums, I use whatever I can get my mitts on.