Originally published April 8, 2020
Vendetta, my father told me, was an art invented by the Catalans. Hot, cold, mild, or spiced, Catalan’s mastered it. That was where I left it until I moved to Maine. There I learned it was a bit more complicated.
The first time I met Mr. Pierce, the Cap’n, corrected me promptly. “That’s Purse.” I apologized to Mr. Purse, and we went on about the business of scraping Psyche’s hull.
The next day Psyche’s Master was in conversation with someone who I assumed to be Mr. Purse. I greeted him and got whip edged: “that’s Pierce!” Thoroughly confused at this point, I went back to scrapping the hull.
The Cap’n later informed me that Mr. Pierce, pronounced Purse, and Mr. Pierce, pronounced Pierce were twins, hadn’t talked for over thirty years. Both were respected boatbuilders on opposite sides of town, and may the Lord help you if you got the names wrong.
I saw them regularly, as they visited the Cap’n while we worked doing the never-ending spring maintenance on Psyche. Greeting them was a stressful event because I couldn’t tell one from the other. One day in frustration, I set to the Cap’n about knowing Mr. Purse from Mr. Pierce. He laughed at me and pointed out that Purse wore blue work shirts and Pierce khaki ones. What about in summer? Or if they went to church? He shrugged: “They don’t go to church.” What about if they weren’t working? Now he gave me a look that said: “My son in law is an idiot savant.”
I asked how the feud had started. The Cap’n sighed, did his little ritual with his pipe: filling it, lighting it, and puffing it to life. Pointing the stem at me, he paused again.
He said: ” It was an argument. Over either the curves of a boat or the curves of a woman. Neither got the contract for the boat; the woman married a Gray down east to Searsport.”