Arrivederci, Beni Perlini.

Beni Perlini was one of the first fishermen I ever met. He was short and round, with a huge guffawing laugh, and his generosity and spirit could not be contained within any four walls.

He was a troller out of Port Hardy who would come in off his boat, the Darlene D, and strut into the commissary like a five-foot peacock in an old, grubby angler’s hat and an infectious smile. He pontificated in loud, Italian-accented English about whatever caught his attention, leaning on our counter and saying things like, ‘by Gum!’ to punctuate. His canned salmon was the best on the coast, but if you told him that, he would just nod secretively. I do remember that he could sign his signature, but I think he was one of the ones who needed the commissary staff to write the amounts on his cheques. He drank homemade wine with my first godson’s grandfather, and they remembered The Old Country together, toasting decades-old memories with gusto.

If you let your eye wander off the three-ring circus that was Beni, you’d see Darlene in the background. Willowy-tall with a deep tan and ash-blonde hair, frosted lipstick thick on her lips. She really should have been a circus act unto herself. But her life was Beni. She smiled dreamily as he pontificated, and she planned which flowers she’d put next in the windows of the little wooden troller that was her namesake. Mostly, she loved her Beni. “Bein’ ashore’s nice, but there’s nothin’ like bein’ anchored out in a little cove, just me and my Beni,” she’d say, smiling and lighting a Virginia Slims cigarette and going to look through our free book box.

Beni, happy fishing wherever you are. Darlene, I am sending you love. After so long loving him, you must be in pieces. Be strong, lady. I know you are.

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