I made the call. The voice on the other end of the line was nondescript.
I hesitated, blurting my rehearsed lines, flubbing the name in the process.
"Yeah, sure," he replied. "How much do you want?"
We agreed on a price, and a time and place to meet.
The GPS led us down (up?) Cape Cod from Hyannis for about 30 minutes, the last few winding down a residential street that ended abruptly at a wharf. The smell of sea salt and rotting fish was immediate. We got out of the truck and wandered down the sun-whitened drive of broken oysters shells that led to the sort of ramshackle huts that seem ubiquitous in coastal communities .
This was the place.
A tall, lanky guy standing next to an oversized pickup truck walked toward us. He was wearing wellington boots. His handshake was like grasping a weathered hull of barnacles.
Steve has been oyster farming for 14 years, but the Chatham Shellfish Company where we were picking up two dozen oysters has been around for 40 years. Our call that morning was fortuitous; Steve had been out harvesting, so the briny mollusks he had for us were fresh out of the water.
At a buck apiece, it was a bargain, especially since it's hard to find oyster farms on this stretch of the coast that are licensed to sell directly to consumers.
Watching Mel shuck and slurp oysters just a few miles away on Cockle Cove Beach not long afterward: Priceless.