The Lobster War - a fiction short story
Sam and Jenny
Jenny hit the publish button on her keyboard, and her in-depth story about the southeast Maine coast lobster controversy was electronically sent to the copy editor at the Boothbay Record. Now, just so the copy editor didn't butcher her story she had worked on so hard for the past week.
"Jen, is the lobster story done?" asked Bart, her editor at the Boothbay Record, called out from his office.
"Yes," said Jenny. "Just this minute and its been sent to copy editiing."
"Great work, Jenny. Thanks so much for your hard work. I know it's been difficult with the new baby and everything." Bart walked out of the office. "I really appreciate you coming in this week to cover this. You're my best writer and researcher, Jenny, and I needed your 'expertise' on the lobster matter," he said gratefully. "No one else could do this story but you."
Her husband, Sam, was a lobster fisherman and was embroiled in this lobster controversy. It seems some Canadian ships were coming south along the Maine coast to fish for lobsters. They were suppose to stay one hundred miles off shore, but were not. They were coming in closer and fishing in the same waters that Sam and the other Maine fishermen were fishing in. The Canadians claimed they were able to fish in any waters they wanted to because lobsters "swim" which meant they could be caught by any fishing vessel from any country.
The Maine lobster fishermen insisted the lobsters "crawl along the continental shelf" and were not "swimmers" , which meant the Canadians had to stay in international waters to fish. The Canadians and the Maine fishermen were really 'parsing it out' over their different interpretations of whether lobsters "swim" or "crawl."
Jenny had been thrilled when Bart called her to cover this controversy. With Sam being a lobster fishermen, her knowledge of the lobster business and understanding of the Maine fishermen's plight gave her a great perspective for writing the story. Even with the recent birth of Paul, Jenny had jumped at the chance to cover this story.
Jenny smiled, and looked down at her and Sam's newborn, Paul, only four weeks old as he squirmed in the carrier. Officially, she was on maternity leave until September, but Bart had called her into cover this important story. Although she had been exhausted from the birth, Jenny couldn't wait to cover this story. This was the first real hard news story she had covered since writing for the Boothbay Record for the past two years. This lobster controversy affected so many of the lives of the lobster fisherman, their families and the people of Boothbay Harbor.
There was a real chance of this story being picked up by the Portland newspapers and the Associated Press. For her by-line to be printed in newspapers across America was a dream to Jenny.
"Well, Bart, I can't thank you enough for allowing me to bring Paul to work with me this week and putting up with the breast feeding. Not to mention, you playing baby sitter and changing diapers when I was out on interviews. You know," said Jenny, "You are the only other person Sam would permit to watch Paul."
"Not a problem, Jenny. Paul is a pleasure to have around. He smiles, sleeps and poops. He doesn't even cry. Even a crusty editor can put up with that," laughed Bart. "I just can't figure out - will he grow up to be a newspaper man or a lobster fisherman - will he take after mom or dad?" asked Bart.
"If Sam has anything to do with it, definitely a lobster fisherman. If I have anything to do with it - anything he wants to be," said Jenny as she lovingly pinched Paul's chubby cheeks as he smiled up at her.
"Well, we are on our way home, Paul. We have to get Daddy his dinner tonight. We have already had lobster three times this week, so its time to put the lasagna in the oven," laughed Jenny.
"See ya, Bart. Call me if you need any follow-up stories. We'll just keep it a secret from Sam," said Jenny teasingly.
"Ok, Jen, and thanks again!" said Bart.
Sam had just finished up cleaning the lobster boat and packing away the lobsters for his customers. He jumped into the truck and headed for home. Inside on the seat, was a brand new computer for Jenny he had picked up that morning before going out on the boat. He was going to surprise Jenny with her own computer. The old one at home was his and he was always using it for the lobster business. Jenny needed her own computer.
Now, may be she could 'work from home,' instead of taking Paul to the Record office with her. Although, Paul was only four weeks old, Sam didn't have the heart to not support Jenny when Bart asked her to cover the lobster controversy. This was her first real chance to cover a hard news story and front page news for the Boothbay Record. This was Jenny's chance to cut her teeth on a real controversy brewing among the lobster fishermen of southeast Maine. And, Sam could help her with her research.
Sam and each lobster fisherman in Maine had a mapped out territory where they were permitted, by the state of Maine, to catch their lobsters. The lobster fishing trade was regulated by the state and had been by the 1800's. Lobster fishing territories were sacrosanct and a fisherman could not invade another's territory. Lobster fishing rights were passed down from fisherman to fisherman. Sam's had come from his father, who received it from his father and so forth back generations.
The lobsters were a protected species. Only a certain number of lobsters were permitted to be caught each year, so that the lobster population wasn't depleted. But, starting in March large lobster catching ships had been coming down from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Canada. Their lobsters had been diseased and so their lobster population was low. Although they claimed to be in international waters, these ships were really stealing lobsters from the independent fishermen like Sam and others who fished from Cabot Cove, Boothbay Harbor, and the southeast coast of Maine. Then, the Canadians had decided lobsters "swim" and therefore they had a right to fish in any waters they wanted to. Jenny had been covering the controversy for the Record this week. It was big news around Boothbay Harbor.
At home, Jenny had just finished feeding Paul and his eyelids were heavy with sleep. The aroma of cheese and tomato sauce filled the house as the lasagna was near ready to eat. Jenny put the large bowl of salad on the table and just then Sam came through the front door with a humongous box.
Paul, hearing Sam walk in, immediately woke up and squealed with delight, wide awake now as Sam set the box on the floor.
"What's this?" asked Jenny.
"Hi, babe," said Sam as he kissed Jenny. He bent down and picked up Paul and gave him a big smackeroo. Paul giggled. "How are you, son? Glad to see you and mom home from the Record. Now, maybe life can get back to normal around here!" exclaimed Sam.
"Is this a computer?" asked Jenny.
"Yes," said Sam, "and it's your very own computer,Jenny. Now, we won't have to share one computer any longer. And, you" he paused and smiled, "can work from home if Bart needs anymore writing from you. I know you, Jenny. Even though you're on maternity leave, I know you won't want to really stop work with this lobster controversy going on and with such a news writing break falling in your lap," said Sam as his eyes twinkled.
"Thanks so much, sweetheart. I do love you," said Jenny. "I think this can be connected or tied into our computer program or system at the Record, and I will be able to work from home. It will be so helpful and actually I prefer to work from right here. I'm sorry this all happened right when Paul was born. Thank you for being so understanding this week," said Jenny as she turned in for a long, passionate kiss with Sam.
Paul squealed for attention and Sam and Jenny laughed as they both kissed him, too.
After dinner, as Jenny rocked Paul, Sam set up and connected her new computer at the kitchen desk. The telephone jangled and Sam picked it up. Jenny heard him talking quietly for several minutes and then he hung up.
"Who was that?" asked Jenny.
"Tom Steele," said Sam. "There's a meeting in half an hour of the fisherman association. He needs us all there - I guess there's some new news on that front. I'm finished with the computer hook-up and this should work now. I'm going down to Boothbay for the meeting. I should be back no later than eleven."
He bent down and kissed Jenny and Paul and went out the front door. Jenny, holding Paul, waved out the front window as Sam pulled out of the drive in the truck.
The next morning, Jenny was making breakfast for Sam and Paul was still sleeping, miraculously. Jenny had been asleep when Sam came home last night, so she hadn't had a chance to talk to him about the meeting. It was still dark outside as Sam loaded the truck with some supplies for the boat and then came back in to eat.
"Be careful out there today, Sam. Don't join into any of the fights I heard the men are getting into," said Jenny. Is that what the meeting was about?" asked Jenny. "The sea should be able to provide enough lobsters for everyone," she said.
"Jenny, it's not that simple. We have rules and regulations and certain territories. These big company ships from Canada just can't come down here and invade our fishing territories. As independent fishermen, we have to stand up to them or lose our livelihoods," said Sam as he got up from the table and went into the bedroom. When Sam came out of the bedroom, Jenny gasped. Sam was holding an automatic rifle.
"Where did you get that - that thing- and more importantly, why do you have it? gasped Jenny.
"Tom had a gun dealer last night at the meeting. The big ships are armed, so we have to be also. This is war, Jenny. It's a lobster war," said Sam.
"Sam, don't be ridiculous. Someone is going to be seriously hurt or killed - and that someone could be you. What about Paul and me?" asked Jenny. "Do you even know how to shoot one of those things?
"Yes, Jen. You remember, I'm also a hunter. Maine boys know how to shoot guns."
"You had that, that gun in the bedroom last night. What about Paul? We have a baby in the house now. Sam, babies and guns don't mix. I don't want that gun around Paul. I don't even want him seeing it."
"Jenny, Paul is only four weeks old. He can barely focus his eyes and see more than shadowy blobs," said Sam.
"That's not the point, Sam. Accidents happen - I don't want him growing up with a gun in the house," said Jenny. "And, I don't want him growing up without his father because he was killed in some 'lobster war,'" said Jenny.
"Jenny, please understand, we have to protect what is rightfully and legally ours," said Sam.
"Well, you can't start an international incident with Canada. They're suppose to be our friends. Can't the authorities do that? That's why we have police and the Coast Guard. They're the ones who should be toting guns, not you fishermen," said Jenny,.
"Yes, and by the time the authorities get on the scene, one of us could be gone," said Sam. "Jenny, you have to let us men take care of and defend our businesses," said Sam. "This is our livelihood," said Sam as he kissed Jenny and walked out the door.
"Men? More like adolescents playing battleships," said Jenny as she watched Sam leave.
As she walked to the bedroom to get dressed, Jenny looked at their wedding photo on the wall and Paul's first baby picture." Lord, please don't let this 'lobster war' destroy my family; my new family," thought Jenny.
Precisely at eight am, Jenny picked up the phone and called the Boothbay Record. Bart answered on the third ring.
"Bart," this is Jenny. You're not going to believe this, but our lobster men are armed with guns and are dangerous out there on their boats today," said Jenny.
"What?" asked Bart. "Did I hear you correctly - guns?" he asked.
"Yes, Sam went to the boat today with an automatic rifle - they were handed out last night's association meeting. He says the big Canadian ships are armed and dangerous and the fishermen have to defend their 'lobster turf,' said Jenny. "I'm stunned and scared about this development, Bart. Can you call the Coast Guard? Sam's calling it a 'lobster war.'"
"Jenny, are you serious? What kind of gun does Sam have?" asked Bart.
"An automatic rifle and he says he knows how to shoot it. I don't know what life he was in when he learned to shoot an automatic rifle - I certainly wasn't around," said Jenny.
"Automatic rifle? Good grief - that's serious," said Bart. "Yes, I'm calling the Coast Guard. If what Sam says is true, and the Canadian ships are armed, the Coast Guard needs to know about this and investigate - they can't be trading shots off the coast of Maine - someone could get killed - we can't start a war with Canada over lobsters," exclaimed Bart.
"Exactly," said Jenny,
"Jen, take it easy and stay at home. Call some other wives and see what their thoughts are on all this. This is crazy. I'm calling the Coast Guard now!" exclaimed Bart, "which is what Tom Steele should have done."
"Bart, I'm writing an editorial about this from a wife and mother's point of view. I'll e-mail it to you," said Jenny.
"Okay, Jen, and we'll print it in tomorrow morning's edition," said Bart.
Jenny wrote and sent her article by e-mail to Bart that afternoon and Bart edited it for print the next morning.
Jenny was playing with Paul, who had just awakened from his afternoon nap, when the phone rang.
"Hello, MacAllan residence," Jenny answered.
"Hello, Mrs. MacAllan? This is St. Andrew's Hospital calling," the nurse said.
"Yes, this is Mrs. MacAllan," said Jenny with concern in her voice.
"Mrs. MacAllan, please come to the hospital immediately. Your husband, Sam, has had an accident and has been admitted to the hospital," said the nurse,.
"What's happened to Sam?" asked Jenny with panic in her voice.
"Mrs. MacAllan, your husband is okay and in stable condition, but you need to come to the hospital. We will explain what happened at the hospital. Can you come now?," she asked.
"Of course," answered Jenny. I will be right there." Jenny hung up the phone, scooped Paul up and put him in the carrier, tucked several blankets around him for warmth, and headed out the door for her car.
"Something's happened to Daddy, Paul," said Jenny as she looked at Paul. Paul looked back at her with big large solumn eyes. No smile was on Paul's face now. He seemed to sense something serious was going on, thought Jenny.
With Paul in the car, Jenny drove slowly and safely to the hospital when she really felt like pressing on accelerator pedal and racing there. Sam, her Sam had been in an accident. She knew it had something to do with this 'lobster war' mess - and guns. She pulled into the parking lot and found a parking spot close to the door. She picked up Paul in his carrier and walked briskly into the emergency entrance. She noticed the wives of other fishermen she knew also hurrying into the hospital.
When, Jenny entered the emergency room with Paul, she found pandemonium. Police and Coast Guard officers were interviewing injured fishermen. EMS workers were still bringing in injured fishermen. Nurses and doctors were running around. Jenny saw blood everywhere and she struggled not to throw-up. Her panic rose up again. She finally found a nurse she could talk to.
"Sam MacAllan - where is he and what happened? I'm his wife, and this is his son," said Jenny in a rush.
"Sam MacAllan? He's okay - one of the first brought in - shot in the shoulder, but the bullet when clean through - he has been cleaned and bandaged up - his arm is in a sling right now and for the time being.
"Shot?" Jenny exclaimed. Her worst fears had come true. "Can I see him?" she pleaded.
"Of course," said the nurse. "Right this way."
When Jenny entered the emergency room cubicle with Paul, Sam was in bed, arm in a sling and being interviewed by the Coast Guard. Sam was explaining this was a 'lobster war' and that Sam and the other Maine lobster fishermen had exchanged gunfire with the New Brunswick and/or Nova Scotia Canadian fishermen.
Jenny couldn't believe her ears. She slowly sat on a chair to keep from collapsing while listening to Sam continue,
"These Canadian fishing vessels have to stay one hundred miles off the coast of Maine if they want to catch lobsters here. They are invading our lobster territory - we have to protect our livelihoods. The Canadian's shot first, then we returned fire - we are just defending ourselves and our lobster territory," said Sam. "I was shot in the shoulder by some Canadian on their vessel. Lobsters are "crawlers" not "swimmers." The Canadians can't be this close in to the Maine coast to fish for lobster."
Tears filled Jenny's eyes. Why o why did the fishermen think they had to take this into their own hands.?
"We're in contact with the state capital and Washington DC to get confirmation on what the 'lobster agreement' is between the U.S. and Canada. Thanks for your information and we will be investigating this," said the Coast Guard officer.
Jenny put Paul up on Sam's lap and kissed Sam. "Are you okay?" she asked, tears in her lovely eyes.
"I can't believe you had to use that gun," Jenny said crying softly.
"It's all right, Jen - I'm fine," Sam said as he hugged Jenny and Paul, the two most precious people in his life - his family. "It was a close call, but I'm fine", he said as he kissed Jenny. With his one good arm, he warmly embraced Jenny and Paul and he knew he would be getting rid of the gun for good.