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Forecaster Forum: Evans and the Duke

Opinion

Forecaster Forum: Evans and the Duke

It was late winter, early spring in Portland, a Saturday I think it was, as I remember not being in any hurry to get back to Castine.

Evans had been doing well, remission I guess it's called, when a cancer patient is doing well. Of course that's a relative term, as doing well for the rest of us usually has an entirely different meaning. The sun was coming though the windows at a pretty good slant. It was real quiet on that floor and the nurses weren't as bubbly and cute as they seemed to be downstairs. I asked what room, or how to find the room, and they were glad to show me. I was led a short way down the hall to his room.

The door wasn't shut, like his dorm room back in Curtis Hall. He was good like that. If he was around the door was open, sure enough one of the boys. And there he was, he was thicker built, or at least had a bigger face than his brother Obie, who I knew back at the Academy. His face was pale and his cheek bones were kind of sticking out. Of course most anyone's face would be pale in Maine in late February, except Evans' would likely have been red, tan or a little both. He'd have been snowboarding at Sugarloaf, out hauling with his old man, or just out and about in the weather as usual, getting some sun and wind on his face. He wasn't one to lie in bed while the light was streaming through the window, not unless something was up.

Obie, Evans' older brother, was a couple years older than me and went to Yarmouth High, as did Evans, and later Marshal, and a fourth, Jeb I think is his name. Yarmouth was the cross-town arch rival to NYA – North Yarmouth Academy that is – and that's where I went to school. NYA is a prep school for the greater Portland area. Yarmouth is the public school. Of course I had no money, wasn't from the area, and didn't meet Obie, Evans, or Marshal until after high school, but that's another story entirely.

The tall windows in the room looked out to a big brick wall of an adjacent building. There was probably a service road at street level for garbage, supply and catering trucks to access the lower levels of the building. There was enough room between the buildings to let some light in so that was good. He straightened up to shake my hand, as was customary, we were young men you know. At that time, there was this welling in my chest. I don't think I batted an eye, I know I didn't shed a tear, but all the love and feeling in my heart couldn't do a God-damned thing. If I could have thrown myself out that window to get Evans out of that bed, I'd damn sure think about it. But I couldn't, and there we were.

I had a bag and in it were a few old John Wayne movies, a couple magazines, Maxim was big at the time, and some junk food. I switched off the "SportsCenter" and loaded the movies into the DVD player. One of them was an army movie. The Duke kept saying "Saddle up!" to get the troops going, even when he was dog tired and half dead. He got some R&R, got really drunk, slapped a woman and kissed her real hard, something along those lines. That was one of the movies. The two others were westerns. Not much was said. Funny thing, when something's said, you, or I, usually remember how it made me feel inside, but the actual words tend to get mixed up. I didn't realize how much trouble that could get me into until years later, when I got married.

And that was it. I tend to over-analyze and can't help but notice intricacies of situations, settings, climate and conversation, or most often silence that often go unnoticed, or does it? As I sat there, I tried not to ask dumb questions. I knew I had no idea how he felt or what he was going through. As tough as it was for me to watch, it must have been hell on him. Somehow, I thought just being there with him, spending some time, sitting long enough to let the awkward silence of a visiting part-time friend pass. That would get us, or at least make it right in my head, that we had established some type of quiet and mutual understanding. I understood that he was sick, he could have got out of the room, but it was best that he stayed.

That spring there would be no riding around and raising hell, chasing girls, getting sideways drunk and getting up the next morning to grin it all off. Late winter would relax its grip and turn to spring. Spring at Maine Maritime means shipping out. I would make my junior cruise. No doubt Evans would be out of commission for whatever he had planned at the start of the year.

I got stood up, probably two-thirds through the second movie. John Wayne was riding around on horseback, drunk as a skunk, sending poor souls to heaven and hell with cracks from his six-shooter. I hated to leave, but it was time to go. I could have stayed I guess, but I didn't want to see him so weak. It hurt me so damn bad to leave him there, alone with those nurses, IVs, pills, quiet halls and the quiet hum of medical equipment. I'd be right back at it, back with the boys next weekend. One of them would ask, in a moment of clarity, "how's Evans?" If I were sober, I'd say alright. If I were drunk, I'd keep quiet. You can't tell your drinking buddies about the slant of light coming though the window, or the silent rolling and creaking of IV carts down the hallway. There's no need to explain. If they really want to know, they'll find out on their own.

Almost a year passed after my visit, it was the following November and there was a fish chowder dinner and benefit auction for Evans in Yarmouth. Evans was there and looked good. I saw a lot of the "old buffalo hunters," fishermen who I knew through my father. Evans' father, Willis, Willy for short, was there. He's probably one of the most decent men I've ever met. Calm, patient, and quiet, tougher than driftwood and generous too. I found out that a lobsterman from Cape Elizabeth was Evans' uncle – Evans' mother's brother. Now I'm treading into unknown territory, as Evans was my friend, but I don't know enough about his family to comment much beyond what's here. Beyond that, out of respect for Evans and his memory, those people have had enough trouble, more than I did, with his passing, and don't need their troubles spread around town.

It's been a few years now. I'm sitting in my study in Orono, on a rainy, blowy November morning. I'm home between trips as an engineer on a drill ship on the Gulf of Mexico. My wife left not long ago to bring a kitten to the vet and our 3-year-old to day care. I'm far from the Portland waterfront and the halls of Maine Maritime Academy. Those are the places that I knew Evans best. One time they had Evans' class field day in the courtyard at Curtis Hall. That means they're punishing the underclass with the dirty work. I was on my way up from the waterfront and there's Evans, in his MUG blues with an old seagull feather sticking up out of the back of his hat, grinning ear to ear. You think picking up gum wrappers and cigarette butts was work for him? Hell, no. He'd just spent his summer knocking around the bay filling bait bags and hauling lobster traps. That field day was easy. I miss him. And that's it.

About the author

Jesse McIntire graduated from North Yarmouth Academy (1999) and Maine Maritime Academy ('03) and is an engineer/mechanic for Transocean Offshore on a 21-day rotation on the deepwater drillship Disocoverer Spirit in the Gulf of Mexico. He is pursuing an MBA online and lives in Orono with his wife and daughter.

It was late winter, early spring in Portland, a Saturday I think it was, as I remember not being in any hurry to get back to Castine.

Evans had been doing well, remission I guess it's called, when a cancer patient is doing well. Of course that's a relative term, as doing well for the rest of us usually has an entirely different meaning. The sun was coming though the windows at a pretty good slant. It was real quiet on that floor and the nurses weren't as bubbly and cute as they seemed to be downstairs. I asked what room, or how to find the room, and they were glad to show me. I was led a short way down the hall to his room.

The door wasn't shut, like his dorm room back in Curtis Hall. He was good like that. If he was around the door was open, sure enough one of the boys. And there he was, he was thicker built, or at least had a bigger face than his brother Obie, who I knew back at the Academy. His face was pale and his cheek bones were kind of sticking out. Of course most anyone's face would be pale in Maine in late February, except Evans' would likely have been red, tan or a little both. He'd have been snowboarding at Sugarloaf, out hauling with his old man, or just out and about in the weather as usual, getting some sun and wind on his face. He wasn't one to lie in bed while the light was streaming through the window, not unless something was up.

Obie, Evans' older brother, was a couple years older than me and went to Yarmouth High, as did Evans, and later Marshal, and a fourth, Jeb I think is his name. Yarmouth was the cross-town arch rival to NYA – North Yarmouth Academy that is – and that's where I went to school. NYA is a prep school for the greater Portland area. Yarmouth is the public school. Of course I had no money, wasn't from the area, and didn't meet Obie, Evans, or Marshal until after high school, but that's another story entirely.

The tall windows in the room looked out to a big brick wall of an adjacent building. There was probably a service road at street level for garbage, supply and catering trucks to access the lower levels of the building. There was enough room between the buildings to let some light in so that was good. He straightened up to shake my hand, as was customary, we were young men you know. At that time, there was this welling in my chest. I don't think I batted an eye, I know I didn't shed a tear, but all the love and feeling in my heart couldn't do a God-damned thing. If I could have thrown myself out that window to get Evans out of that bed, I'd damn sure think about it. But I couldn't, and there we were.

I had a bag and in it were a few old John Wayne movies, a couple magazines, Maxim was big at the time, and some junk food. I switched off the "SportsCenter" and loaded the movies into the DVD player. One of them was an army movie. The Duke kept saying "Saddle up!" to get the troops going, even when he was dog tired and half dead. He got some R&R, got really drunk, slapped a woman and kissed her real hard, something along those lines. That was one of the movies. The two others were westerns. Not much was said. Funny thing, when something's said, you, or I, usually remember how it made me feel inside, but the actual words tend to get mixed up. I didn't realize how much trouble that could get me into until years later, when I got married.

And that was it. I tend to over-analyze and can't help but notice intricacies of situations, settings, climate and conversation, or most often silence that often go unnoticed, or does it? As I sat there, I tried not to ask dumb questions. I knew I had no idea how he felt or what he was going through. As tough as it was for me to watch, it must have been hell on him. Somehow, I thought just being there with him, spending some time, sitting long enough to let the awkward silence of a visiting part-time friend pass. That would get us, or at least make it right in my head, that we had established some type of quiet and mutual understanding. I understood that he was sick, he could have got out of the room, but it was best that he stayed.

That spring there would be no riding around and raising hell, chasing girls, getting sideways drunk and getting up the next morning to grin it all off. Late winter would relax its grip and turn to spring. Spring at Maine Maritime means shipping out. I would make my junior cruise. No doubt Evans would be out of commission for whatever he had planned at the start of the year.

I got stood up, probably two-thirds through the second movie. John Wayne was riding around on horseback, drunk as a skunk, sending poor souls to heaven and hell with cracks from his six-shooter. I hated to leave, but it was time to go. I could have stayed I guess, but I didn't want to see him so weak. It hurt me so damn bad to leave him there, alone with those nurses, IVs, pills, quiet halls and the quiet hum of medical equipment. I'd be right back at it, back with the boys next weekend. One of them would ask, in a moment of clarity, "how's Evans?" If I were sober, I'd say alright. If I were drunk, I'd keep quiet. You can't tell your drinking buddies about the slant of light coming though the window, or the silent rolling and creaking of IV carts down the hallway. There's no need to explain. If they really want to know, they'll find out on their own.

Almost a year passed after my visit, it was the following November and there was a fish chowder dinner and benefit auction for Evans in Yarmouth. Evans was there and looked good. I saw a lot of the "old buffalo hunters," fishermen who I knew through my father. Evans' father, Willis, Willy for short, was there. He's probably one of the most decent men I've ever met. Calm, patient, and quiet, tougher than driftwood and generous too. I found out that a lobsterman from Cape Elizabeth was Evans' uncle – Evans' mother's brother. Now I'm treading into unknown territory, as Evans was my friend, but I don't know enough about his family to comment much beyond what's here. Beyond that, out of respect for Evans and his memory, those people have had enough trouble, more than I did, with his passing, and don't need their troubles spread around town.

It's been a few years now. I'm sitting in my study in Orono, on a rainy, blowy November morning. I'm home between trips as an engineer on a drill ship on the Gulf of Mexico. My wife left not long ago to bring a kitten to the vet and our 3-year-old to day care. I'm far from the Portland waterfront and the halls of Maine Maritime Academy. Those are the places that I knew Evans best. One time they had Evans' class field day in the courtyard at Curtis Hall. That means they're punishing the underclass with the dirty work. I was on my way up from the waterfront and there's Evans, in his MUG blues with an old seagull feather sticking up out of the back of his hat, grinning ear to ear. You think picking up gum wrappers and cigarette butts was work for him? Hell, no. He'd just spent his summer knocking around the bay filling bait bags and hauling lobster traps. That field day was easy. I miss him. And that's it.

Jesse McIntire graduated from North Yarmouth Academy (1999) and Maine Maritime Academy ('03) and is an engineer/mechanic for Transocean Offshore on a 21-day rotation on the deepwater drillship Discoverer Spirit in the Gulf of Mexico. He is pursuing an MBA online and lives in Orono with his wife and daughter.