Kill Day on the Government Wharf Summary
by Audrey Thomas

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Kill Day on the Government Wharf Summary

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Kill Day on the Government Wharf” unfolds from the point of view of a young wife expecting her second child. She, her husband, and their young son are enjoying a vacation at their recently purchased cabin on an island. The cabin is rustic, although it does have basic plumbing and electricity. The year-round residents of the island are predominantly aboriginal Indians who fish for a living.

The story covers events on a late spring day on the island before the summer residents and tourists have arrived. The wife, her husband, Tom, and son, Robert, have been in their cabin for ten days. She is a city person, yet she is enjoying the simplicity and challenges of the country more and more. She wishes, in fact, that the cabin were more primitive and that she could remain on the island through her pregnancy and delivery, living as close to nature as possible. Tom was born and raised in the country. He is extremely self-reliant and competent in the woods. However, he is more than content with as many amenities as possible and looks forward to their return to the comforts and security of home in the city.

In the morning, the husband and wife are having breakfast, talking about their son and about their quite different feelings regarding country living. Tom says that he would like to go fishing before it rains and try to catch something for their dinner. His wife encourages him, enjoying the unfamiliar image of him as frontier provider.

She has another cup of coffee, does the dishes, and wonders whether she could really go through the pregnancy and delivery on the island, with none of the supports and safeguards of contemporary hospitals. Part of her yearns to do just that, but she wonders whether she genuinely wants to live closer to nature or whether, as her husband would think, she is indulging in romantic daydreaming.

Nevertheless, she recognizes that her competency, assurance, and independence are increasing the more she lives in the country. She has learned how to make and light a good fire, how to cook on a wood-burning stove, how to recognize edible and poisonous plants, and how to treat stings, burns, and injuries. She has planted an herb garden. Somewhat reassured by her accomplishments, she does some baking and then takes Robert to the government wharf to watch the fishermen bring in their catch.

Several men are working intently, scooping the cod fish out of the boats, tossing them on the wharf, clubbing and filleting them, and then packing them in garbage cans so they can be weighed. The men go about their work with great intensity, concentration, and proficiency. At first, the wife feels disoriented, even dizzy, owing to the sights, sounds, and smells; yet she is also...

(The entire section is 730 words.)