Joyous News Emerges at LobsterFest
Today was LobsterFest in The Village. I didn’t know that beforehand — it was just luck that I went to The Village today instead of going to The Town — but I don’t think anyone in The Village knew it either. LobsterFest, like so many things in the smoky haze of Village life, seems to happen whenever enough people feel like making it happen.
I had purchased a new batch of hot dogs, so I took them with me to The Village. Even though I got there at about ten in the morning, I found Summer and the wiry tattooed guy on the beach, huddled around a small campfire that seemed to consist primarily of smoldering plastic bags and sputtering milk cartons. We broke the branches off a willow shrub, peeled them smooth, and began roasting the hot dogs in the cool smoke. No one seemed to care that the dogs took on a bluish sheen as they cooked.
But then Summer, who had apparently been up all night drawing warmth from the trash fire and the wiry guy, suddenly straightened and grinned. “Hey,” she said. She probably would have said “Hey, Van!” but I doubt that even now she remembers my name. “Hey,” she said, “let’s do LobsterFest today!”
The wiry guy grunted, which probably summed up both his mood and his vocabulary, and it was on. Today was LobsterFest.
When the British attempted to quash the parboiling rebellion stirring in the New England colonies, Paul Revere and William Dawes were ready to announce their arrival and spark the Minuteman to action. One if by land, two if by sea, and all that. They galloped through the sleepy farming villages, shouting and pounding on doors. Very quickly —within sixty seconds, if the Minuteman legend is to be believed — the farmers threw off their sleepwear and donned their militia costumes, loaded their muskets, and made ready to mow down the advancing British Army. The preparation had been thorough, and the response was lightning-quick.
The Villagers responded to the call to action in exactly the way that the Minutemen didn’t. Summer trotted over to the Pad to make the announcement to the tangle of bodies strewn on the floor, and she didn’t come out for forty minutes. I don’t want to know why.
But eventually, the Villagers were gathered — sleepy, pale, vomiting — on the beach. Most of them had done the LobsterFest thing before, so they knew what to do.
One small cluster of hangovers took the old metal rowboat and struck out for the mainland, armed with enough cash to fetch some corn, French bread, and wine. The guy on the oars pulled anemically, but the tide was with him. The boat drifted feebly toward the distant shore.
Another group led by Maple gathered driftwood for a fire, and a third bunch dug a pit on the beach. A few people, including Summer, pulled seaweed from the shoreline.
But it was the final group that represented the heroes of LobsterFest. Five people, including Wiry Guy, set out in the outrigger canoe. They pulled away from the island — Wiry Guy was a lot stronger than the emaciated shrimp on the other boat’s oars — and they aimed directly for the nearest lobster float. It wasn’t far away, so I had a good view of the action. Once they got close to the float, all five of them grabbed it and began to pull. A few minutes later, a lobster trap broke through the surface. Wiry Guy pulled two lobsters from the trap, and the gang tossed it back into the water. The lobsters were unceremoniously dumped in the bottom of the canoe, and Wiry aimed for the next float.
The whole thing made my hands hurt just watching it.
A few hours later, they had almost four dozen lobsters crawling around their ankles. I wasn’t sure what to think about it all. On the one hand, they were stealing lobsters, and I know how hard Archie and the other lobstermen work to make their catch. On the other hand, it promised to be a great party and a terrific feast. I decided to puzzle out the ethical angle later.
That night, the bonfire roared, the wine flowed from throat to throat, and a big pile of lobsters, stuffed into the pit along with corn on the cob and hot stones and coals and seaweed, turned from green to delicious red. Guitars and bongos threw hearty cacophony into the dark sky, and people danced furiously between bites and gulps. The Villagers ate more food than I thought their skinny bodies could handle. Crustacean shells littered the beach, promising to be replaced by large piles of seagull poop at first light.
And throughout it all, Bo and Eliza did little and said less. They were edgy, off-center, flinty cold. Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I grabbed a passing bottle of wine and a partially eaten lobster, and I walked over to where they sat in silence, on a cold rock at the edge of the fire’s light.
“Hey!” I grinned. “Great party! Want some food?”
I thrust the gnawed lobster toward them. It still had a lot of meat dangling from cracks in its shell, which would have delighted most of the Village people. But Eliza and Bo declined. They passed on the wine as well.
I sat down on the next rock over. The granite was cold on my butt. I took a swig of the wine — red, cheap, and harsh — and then looked at my friends.
“What’s up, guys?” I asked. “You seem pissed or something.”
Eliza bit her lip and stared off at the black waves rolling in from Africa and dying against our rocky beach. Bo looked at me, his black eyes glittering and mad.
“Eliza,” he said slowly, his bass voice measured and clipped, “wanna tell him?”
Eliza continued to stare at the ocean, watching the waves rise and fall in gentle, potent rhythm. The stars flickered on the water’s surface like tiny fireflies, making Eliza look more beautiful and sexy than ever. I wanted more than anything right then to be reincarnated as a warm flannel shirt so that Eliza would wear me on chilly evenings.
“It was an accident,” she said.
Someone’s dead? l glanced over at the fire. Summer was there, dancing with a bottle of wine in her hand and some unknown guy on her arm. Wiry Guy was there, too, stretched out on the chilly rock, apparently shut down for the night. Mitch, the previous winner of the talent night, was there, as was Celia the Red-Haired Ice Queen. I didn’t detect anyone missing, but in the tangle of limbs and lobsters, an absent body or two would be hard to notice.
“What accident?” I asked. “Who’s hurt?”
“We are,” Bo said with disgust, his dark skin looking otherworldly in the deepening night. “We’re the ones who are hurt.” He stood up and walked away in a huff, not heading toward the fire but marching off into the cluster of Village shacks.
After a long silence, Eliza turned and looked at me as though she hadn’t realized I was there. She noticed that Bo was gone — I could see that in her face — and then her eyes fell on me again.
“Pregnant,” was all she said.
— Donovan Graham, “The Shadowless Writer”
Read previous blog entries in the Island Wars story by clicking here.