Original Composition Date: Sunday, May 23, 2010
At six am in the Cranberry Bog, during the harvest, there is a smoky sunrise slowly seeping across a brilliant rose sky. Our family is harvesting the cranberries late this year. The last shipment date accepted passed two days ago. But the word from the boss is we’re harvesting anyway. The crew is set to leave for the northernmost bog. We’re wearing long fly- fishing boots up to our waists and carrying nets.
“Think we’re going fishing for little red fry?” I jokingly ask my littlest brother, who’s just been added to the crew by my dad.
“Sure”, he grins back at me, “I’d like to see ’em struggle”.
The jeep is late to pick up the gang, so we start walking the road, that it will take to get us, and take us to the cranberry bog. An hour later, it still hasn’t arrived, but we know by now that some-thing’s not right. We keep walking there, anyway. When we arrive, it’s 8 am, and getting sweltering hot. The other tribal family crews are almost done their share, but have kept a choice location unharvested for us. We climb aboard the small skiff, and head out. I have a feeling in my bones, it’s not going to get done today. As if we haven’t already had enough bad luck for one day, the motor on the boat starts smoking a black acrid smell, chokes itself and dies out. No amount of coaxing, seems to be able to bring it back to life.
Now, we’re stranded in a desolated backwater of the bog, with only our lunch sandwiches to eat. There’s one oar. It’s going to take a while to get us back. I start poling the oar down to the bottom, to get the boat turned around. Everyone else is silent but tense. There won’t be any pay today, when we get in. Some family members can’t afford to loose even one day of work.
Things seem to be turning around now, as we take turns rowing the boat with one oar, back to the dock. It isn’t far now, only half a mile more. My brother begs to take over and give me a rest. I let him. He needs to feel that he’s contributing.
As we arrive an hour later, with no cranberries harvested, and no working motor, we’re met by the jeep driver who has finally caught us up.
“Guess you’re having just a rotten day all around!” he says to the harvesting crew, as we file up to the jeep.
“Can we at least get a ride back in the jeep now?” my little brother asked him. He looks exhausted, and we had no cranberries to show for our efforts today. I’m wondering what dad will say, when we get back.
“Sure, if you don’t mind sitting on a ton of fish” says the jeep driver with a sheepish look. “I’m working for the competition now! The pay is a lot better than what you can pay me!”
We all look in the back of the jeep, and realize, there’s no room for anybody back there.
“If you’re working for the competition, then why did you come here?” I ask him. I’m beginning to not like this guy very much.
“You mean you haven’t heard the news?” he says, in a mocking tone. “I guess I’ll just have to tell you then. The government’s closed up these here cranberry bogs, ’cause some big shot mining outfit from the south has found uranium underneath them. You’d be better off going into the fishing business with me now. Radio-active fish taste real good, I’m told.”
My little brother didn’t think, but stepped up behind him and just pounded him.
Then the whole crew of cranberry harvesters, stepped up onto the back of the jeep, sat on his darn radioactive fish, and waited as my little brother stuffed the driver back behind the driver’s seat, bloody nose and all.
“Now drive!” he growled, “and don’t stop till your little red radioactive fry have hatched and turned luminous!”
We drive all the way back to the next big city that night. No one was allowed to get out or go home. We stared at each other with a mute kind of tense determination.
Everyone knew what my little brother had on his mind.
There was going to be a show-down at that mining company’s offices, the next day, radioactive fish or not!