The Mid­dle Ground

The Iowa Review - - CONTENTS - Daniel Mueller

I’m think­ing of the way John Hersey taught me to broil fish in 1992. It was how he wished me to pre­pare the blue­fish we’d caught that af­ter­noon, trolling the Vine­yard Sound and the fu­ri­ous, blue-black oil slicks the schools turned the sea when they fed. He coated the fil­let with a glaze made by mix­ing minced, sautéed scal­lions and gin­ger with may­on­naise and soy sauce, but I’ve for­got­ten the ex­act pro­por­tions. I re­call John hav­ing in­cluded the recipe in his valentine to fish­ing, Blues; in mo­ments, a copy is in my hands. I open to the ti­tle page—it’s ad­dressed to my fa­ther by John’s sec­ond wife Barbara—and though in the hazy, grief-stricken af­ter­math of my own fa­ther’s death four years ago I asked my mother if I could have it, I don’t be­lieve I’ve cracked the book open in the al­most quar­ter-cen­tury since I mailed it to him from Martha’s Vine­yard. Barbara’s in­scrip­tion reads:

Septem­ber ’93 Dear Jim Mueller— How John would have liked to sign this book for you! In Dan and John’s last sum­mer to­gether, your son brought friend­ship, pro­tec­tion, and joy to John. He has been equally won­der­ful to me this sum­mer. He is a beau­ti­ful hu­man be­ing. This comes with my warm­est good wishes to both his par­ents. Barbara Hersey

John Hersey, the au­thor best known for Hiroshima, had passed away the pre­vi­ous March at age seventy-eight at his win­ter home in Key West, Florida. Ear­lier that sum­mer, I’d taken part in a memo­rial ser­vice for him at the tiny, white-fenced ceme­tery on the road from Vine­yard Haven to the end of West Chop, a route I of­ten jogged in the af­ter­noons

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