Guest contributor: Crash Barry

Serial Sunday: “Tough Island” by Crash Barry (Penultimate Episode!)

categories: Cocktail Hour / Serial Sunday

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A Close Shave

I was lucky to have been accepted to the University of Southern Maine, because my writing was getting worse and worse. I had practically stopped using punctuation. I called it “free verse” when it was merely “lazy.” My big beard, round glasses, flannel shirt and typewriter didn’t help me understand grammar, sentence structure or onomatopoeia. I needed to learn those things, and that wasn’t gonna happen while lobstering on a rock 20 miles off shore. With lots of encouragement from Edwin and Nan, I made preparations to head to the big city and the university, to a louder, busier life. Thanks to the GI Bill, I had money. Thanks to Alice, I had a place to stay.

Before and After

I decided to get rid of my beard before I left the island. Couldn’t attend the university looking like a lumberjack. I’d visited the Portland campus the month before and it was filled with hotties and hipsters. And my long beard and flannel shirt wouldn’t be in style for a couple more years.

Five nights before I moved off Matinicus, Edwin and Nan invited me up for supper. I trimmed, then shaved off all my whiskers before showering. When I sat down at the dinner table, my skin was red, scraped and bloody, but Nan said I looked five years younger, like I was 18. Like a college freshman.

I should have waited to shave. When Edwin and I went out to haul traps the last couple of times, the sea spray iced up my face and the January wind froze my cheeks. I worried my face would fall off from frostbite.


On my last day on the island, I hurried to pack. A charter plane was scheduled for 1 p.m. to pick up me and my boxes of stuff. Books, mostly, and lots of bad poetry and failed short stories. Plus my sea bag full of fisherman clothes mixed with remnants of Coast Guard and Russian sailor uniforms and Grateful Dead-wear. And my boots, oilskins, stereo, typewriter, tea kettle and toaster oven. Almost all of it fit into the borrowed car I was driving.

Heading up Harbor Point Road, a station wagon surprised me. My pal Tommy pulled out of a path in the woods that motor vehicles never used.

I swerved to avoid collision and drove off the road and over a cliff. It was a small cliff, compared to the others nearby. Five feet to the left or right and I would have plummeted to my death.

Crash’s Crash

Instead, the car landed about 10 feet below road-level, nose down on a dirt-covered ledge protruding from the rocky slope that ran down to the cove. Unscathed, but scared shitless, I climbed out of the car. The rear wheels were still spinning. I clamored up the rocks and crawled to the side of the road.

Tommy was surprised to see me alive. We jumped into his wagon and headed up to Max Ames’ house. Max was a bad-ass biker, but a sweet fella at heart. He owned a backhoe and, luckily, he was home. Ten minutes later, we were back at the scene of the accident. We attached chains to the rear and Max plucked the car up with the backhoe and dragged it back onto the road.

Max, having heard I was moving, didn’t want a dime. He wished me luck and went home. I drove to the airport and unloaded my boxes, which were undamaged by the crash.

I made one more trip to my shack for odds and ends, then back to the airport with a couple minutes to spare. The single engine Cessna from Owls Head landed on the runway. The pilot had removed the extra seats on the mainland to make room for my boxes. Together, we quickly loaded the plane, then strapped in and took off.

I asked him to circle the island once, to fly over the Lower Harbor and Edwin’s fishhouse. That’s when I waved goodbye.


Crash Barry will be speechifying about the joys of marijuana  on August 9 during the Southern Maine Cannabis Expo in Eliot. Signed copies of his books Marijuana Valley, Tough Island and Sex, Drugs and Blueberries are available via

To read all the previous episodes of Tough Island, click here.

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