Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

The Seagulls Call My Name

(After graduating from Wheaton in May 2009, Sam Kestenbaum headed back to his hometown, Deer Isle, Maine, to work on a lobster boat. This is the tale of that summer.)

Onboard the boat, the seagulls call my name. They call my name all day. To them I am a legend, a source of sustenance, their very survival hinges on me. Emptying old bait from the traps, I dump small bags of herring off the side of the boat. The water sloshes and splashes; the seagulls cry and descend on the old, soft bait—it’s lunchtime.

There are thirty, maybe forty seagulls that follow our commercial fishing boat through the day. They hover around us as we haul through our gear—as we gaff buoys, pull rope through the hydraulic winch, pick traps, measure lobsters, toss crabs and jellyfish back into the ocean. The seagulls perch on the bow of the boat or float on the water, moving with our wake. They wait. They wait for their breakfast; they wait for their lunch and dinner—that moment when I empty the old knit bags of bait overboard. They scream my name.

At this point in the season we haven’t begun to catch many lobsters, meaning we aren’t making any profit. But I say to myself, “at least we’re feeding the wildlife.” The gulls squawk and laugh.

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