My uncle Boyd flees human company in the slithery brown way of a muskrat. He picks his way in and then effortlessly slides back out again.
He takes his small green john-boat out into the middle of the marsh, where he traps muskrat and shoots duck, at any hour, like a tireless turtle. He must go in there three hundred times a year. He probably never gets himself or his fished traps stuck or lost among the reeds and mud banks as he paddles down the torturous muddy streams, called guts—brown slices of water running between the reedy banks.
He does not speak much, my uncle, but I think he's kind. I have rarely seen him in my life, and perhaps his three children, all of them older than me, must carry a rare, twenty-year-old picture of him to remind them of what he looks like. He never ages, so a picture of him then would look like him now.
It's hard to get to know him. One time, at a church dinner in the up the road church hall, he was serving, though I have yet to actually see him in church, and I made myself known to him. Or else, he would have likely not spoken. He speaks or sees little of the family. He was friendly then, but no closer. He never will be, and with him goes my only chance, slim as it is the older we become, to ever go out into the marsh where I can gaze on the distances from the middle. I have never been in the marsh far enough. The road running by the marsh is as far as I've ever gone.
My uncle owns much of Monie Bay marsh. In his boat, he has seen its distances surrounded by soft green grasses. He's looked through the tall reeds up to the church on the hill, the church where we'll all be lying someday, while all around him, the reeds float atop the curving guts and wave casually in the muddy silence.
I guess I'm trespassing. The creek where I am is dark. It's on the other side of the marsh, across from the great white church on the hill and its tiny gravestones clustered close. Clouds are in the sky. My uncle has strung a huge oyster net across the creek, from bank to bank, and I cannot go in any further on foot.