My father, our guide Prescott, and I were driving from Red Bays to Stafford Creek after fishing the West Side, and Dad and I were sweating and drinking sweaty Kaliks with the windows rolled down and the boat trailing behind us when Prescott slowed the truck in front of a dingy pink cinderblock house and announced, “That’s George’s.”
Prescott leaned over my dad to shout at a woman sitting on a footstool in the kitchen: “Hey! Is George there?”
“Is he home?” I murmured, full of bleary wonder.
Receiving no answer, Prescott hit the gas again.
“Well, that’s George’s house, anyway. And you’ve seen George Rock now, Chelsea. No autographs though. Sorry, Paul.”
George Rock is a dollop of limestone topped by a single janky tree on the west side of the Andros archipelago, on the Great Bahama Bank. When Dad first started fishing in the Bahamas, he regaled me with the myth of George Rock, so named for the guy who totaled his boat there going full speed in the middle of the night over the flats. Dad had asked Prescott if George was still alive and Prescott answered yes, he was, and he knew him and he lived right there on the edge of Red Bays.
This was the answer we always got when we asked after the continued existence of local legends. Yes, they were still around after crashing, or being shot, or the fire, and would we like to meet them and their relatives?
“What about Mary’s Bucket of Blood?” Dad asked.
Prescott was a guide well-versed in the rhythms of the Androsian ecosystem and the plots of the South Carolina “good ol’ boys” in politics bent on destroying it, as well as the minutiae of daily life on North Andros and the story of its every building and person. But this stumped him.
“Mary’s Bucket of Blood,” Prescott stated. He paused. “I have never heard of that.”
“Sure you have,” Dad insisted. “You were the one who told me about it.”
“No, that is not a place.”
“Yeah it is, Prescott. Why would I remember a bar called Mary’s Bucket of Blood if it didn’t exist?”
“Mary’s Bucket of Blood.” Prescott shook his head slowly and no one talked for a while.
“It’s a bar!” Dad said. “In fact I’ve heard the same description of it from two different people.”
“Yeah. Some guy was, like causing trouble and Mary went and shot him in the ass. Didn’t kill him but got the point across.” Prescott was laughing, and bewildered.
“No wonder Mary went out of business, Chelsea,” he said. “You’re shooting all your customers.”
“Just one!” I protested. “She runs a tight ship.”
“Only the ones that needed a bullet—Prescott, listen,” said Dad. “I have a photo. I bet you can google it. I’ll show you when we get back.”
“Mary’s Bucket of Blood.”
“It’s Corned Beef and Something Grape. Sea Grape. Is there a Sea Grape?”
“Yeah, there’s a Sea Grape—“
“Okay, so. How would I know that down at the intersection basically of Sea Grape and Corned Beef—”
“Mary’s Bucket of Blood. Andros Island.” Prescott spoke into his phone.
“Oh, man, look what it says!” Prescott waved his phone at Dad. “It says Mary herself was shot!”
“I’m only teasing.”
“If that place was still in business,” said Dad, “I would go to it.”
“The internet’s not working, Paul. It’s telling me to try again. MARY’S BUCKET OF BLOOD.”
“I literally took a picture of the cross streets; it was probably a block away. David’s seen it.” said Dad.
“Mary’s Bucket of Blood… And they had a sign up?”
“Yeah, they had a sign out front, and it was a little bar that looked like a shack, and they said it was open on weekends. You know I’m onto something, Prescott. Do you know a Mary down there?”
“Yeah, I do…”
“See, and you know Corned Beef. And Sea Grape.”
“You know I’m onto something.”
“Yes. The Mary I know is…”
“I’m guessing she’s 55, or 60.”
“I know two, yes, in Fresh Creek… Corned Beef Alley is Fresh Creek.”
“Fresh Creek,” said Dad.
“Corned Beef Alley… Wow. Solly’d be able to tell.” We hit a stretch of unpaved white dust road. “They need to do some work on this.”
“Here’s what you should do,” said Dad. “Ask Solly, say, is there an old bar—”
“Here’s the guy who’d be able to tell ya.” Another truck was about to pass us.
“Really? Who is this guy?”
Prescott stopped us, opened his door, and jumped out in front of the approaching truck. Our open windows were in line with the truck’s open windows. A man was driving, and two women sat in the passenger seat and the back.
“Hey guys,” Dad said.
“Hello,” they said.
“Hi,” I said.
Prescott stood in front of their car and waved his arms. He yelled: “Hey, why you tryin’ to cross the road, man?” I hoped it was an inside joke so I giggled as they yelled at each other and I didn’t understand them. Dad stuck his head out the window.
“I have a question for you guys. Do you know North Andros well, right?”
The driver grunted in the affirmative.
“There’s an old bar probably that’s not in existence anymore, I think it’s in Fresh Creek… by the intersection of Corned Beef and Sea Grape.”
“Lowe Sound,” the driver said over hum of our engines.
“Oh, Lowe Sound?”
“What’s the name of it?”
“It’s not a bar.” The driver wrinkled his eyes.
“M… M… Mary’s…”
“Oh, Bucket of Blood,” said the driver, like he was remembering an item on a shopping list.
Dad was beside himself: “MARY’S BUCKET OF BLOOD! We gotta winner! Where is that, man, Lowe Sound?”
“Lowe Sound, yeah, the hurricane destroyed that.” He was referring to Matthew, the savage Category 5 Atlantic hurricane that had ravaged Andros the previous winter, leveling houses and mysteriously sparing churches. A bar named after a shooting probably never stood a chance.
“Well, thanks! You passed the test. Prescott failed the test.”
We drove on. Dad was smug and drank his Kalik. Prescott was smiling and shaking his head and Dad began the taunting.
“Prescott, man. You didn’t even know where Corned Beef and Sea Grape is. It’s like, do you think there’s a lot of Corned Beef and Sea Grape streets?”
“I even had the wrong town.”
We rode on in victory until we saw Solomon, another fishing guide, pulled over on the side of the road with two Seattle anglers hanging out the windows while he poured water to cool his engine.
“I’ll see if he needs help,” said Prescott, and stopped again. Dad started yelling right away.
“Solly! Question! The old bar—”
“Yes, Paul!” He came to Prescott’s window.
“What was the old bar near the corner of Sea Grape and Corned Beef in Lowe Sound?”
“The old bar… the intersection of…”
“It’s probably gone now because of the hurricane.”
“You talkin’ ‘bout the little… vegetable place?”
“Oh, Bucket o’ Blood!”
Solly giggled. Prescott laughed. Solly chanted, “Bucket o’ Blood! Bucket o’ Blood!”
“Oh man,” said Prescott. “I’m the worst.”
That evening Dad and I ate dinner with Prescott and Solomon. In the ninety minutes since Dad had mentioned the Bucket of Blood, Prescott’s confidence in telling the legend had blossomed and his voice bounced around the room of tile and pine.
“I don’t trust no Mary with a twelve-gauge!” declared Prescott. “Ten years old, or eighty years old, that’s the same Mary and she pulls that trigger. That Mary was crazy.”
“Yeah, that’s how you get your own bar,” Solly intoned. “She was a tall woman. She had kinda light skin.”
“I wonder if she’s still around,” said Prescott.
“Well when I was here I think it was open on weekends,” said Dad, so—”
“—Mary Junior,” said Prescott.
“Yeah, her daughter!” said Solly.
“Mary Junior runs it now. I betcha Mary Junior had a serious problem finding a boyfriend.”
Solly said, “Well, Mary was a serious woman.”
“And no one here has a problem with this,” said Dad. “That she shot someone.”
“He deserved it,” said Solly, shrugging a dollop of hot sauce onto the rest of his rice. “He wasn’t behaving.”
The next morning we flew back to Seattle, and Alan the 80-year-old taxi driver took us to Andros’s tiny airport.
“Alan. What was the name of the bar at Corned Beef and Sea Grape?” The predictability of this exchange was delightful.
“Corned Beef and Sea Grape…” Alan cocked his head to the side. He was tall, with white curly hair and long fingers that tapped the steering wheel.
“Yeah, in Lowe Sound. Mary’s…”
“Oh, Bucket of Blood!”
“You know it?”
“Do you know what happened?”
“Yeah! Someone was actin’ up so Mary, she shot him in the butt.” Alan giggled.
“What was his name?”
“Neville.” I giggled.
“Where is he now?”
“Lowe Sound.” Dad giggled.
“Really? And the bar got destroyed, in the storm.”
“Oh yeah, sure.”
“And Mary, do you know her?”
“Oh yeah, she’s my cousin. She’s maybe 80 years old. She lives on Nassau now.”
“Really? Your cousin? So she’s still alive?”
“Oh, yeah, she’s with one of her kids! She’s all right, yeah.”
“And you think that’ all right, Alan? That she shot him in the butt?”
“Mary had rules. There was the two cup rule, and the lining up rule. She owned a business. She was very serious.”
When we arrived at the airport, Dad and I shook Alan’s hand and he made his way to a bench outside the terminal. He took a seat with the two other cab drivers of North Andros, one of whom was hitting the ground with a stick. We knew that he would sit there all day, like he did every day, dressed in his white shirt and slacks and tie in that heat. Mary’s cousin was ready to attend with all seriousness to anyone who should fly to North Andros and need his services.