From the Office and Backyard to the Road, Boat, or Plane–Backstories and
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Archive for August, 2018

Excerpt from “Front Ocean,” a new story in MAINE:

Ginger the yellow retriever is pushing on my elbow from the backseat of the four-seater Cessna. Her nose is wet and cold, and we’ve just met.

The friendly dog hopped onto this Penobscot Island Air plane with a man who’s also flying out to Matinicus Island from the Knox County Regional Airport on the peninsula of Owls Head, just south of downtown Rockland. “She flies a lot,” the man tells me, “and she’ll nose you.”

It’s almost startling how brief the flight feels. This is my first trip to Maine’s most remote inhabited island, some 22 miles offshore. A few pats of the dog’s head, a look down at the midcoast shoreline and the boats in the pale blue water below, and we’re already approaching the island’s landing strip, which is part of an unpaved cross island road. At one end, the runway meets the open ocean; at the other, it continues past a barn and apple trees. And on either side is grass and parked island cars, and then trees and a trailhead. The airfield’s only building is no larger than a backyard shed.

Once we roll to a stop, pilot Shawn Michaud helps everyone out with our bags, then boards the plane again for the return flight. The flight service is busy this weekend—we could hear radio calls coming through during the flight—and Michaud has passengers waiting for pickup on Vinalhaven next. While he turns the plane around and readies for takeoff, a waiting car picks up Ginger and her owner. After the sounds of both engines fade, there we are, just the two of us, out in the Gulf of Maine on the island of Matinicus.

We’d called ahead to arrange for car pickup, too, but the woman who owns the taxi service is on the mainland for a few days. Peter Frank is offered the use of another island car, and the phone conversation goes something like this:

“You seem like a pretty good guy. How many people?”


“You got a lot of stuff ?”


“Any animals?”


“OK. I’m going to make you a deal. I’m gonna trust you. The keys are under the mat. You can drive the car to the cottage, leave your gear, and drive it back. Leave me ten dollars under the seat.”


“Any other questions?” “Yes, how far is it?” “About a mile.”

Complete text of “Front Ocean” in the August 2018 issue of MAINE, the magazine.

– Sandy Lang, August 2018 (photographs by Peter Frank Edwards)

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