Global warming. Sea level rise. Floating Community. Attempted Robbery at a pearl farm.
None of This is Personal
Ted arrived at the Amberjack Restaurant, a few minutes after 5 that afternoon, accompanied by Eric Mann, Andalib and Xavier. At that hour there were very few regular customers in the place. Most of the people who came here for dinner usually began arriving a few minutes after 6.
There were also about a dozen non-residents, seated in a pair of back to back booths along the rear wall. These visitors were all in their late teens or early twenties; some wearing tee shirts with the name and insignia of the "Shellfish Justice League" printed on them.
Eric said, "Those are the demonstrators who I saw through my binoculars."
One man in his mid-thirties sat among the college age visitors. He was Quin. He looked at Andalib and Xavier and hesitantly waved. Xavier looked away while Andalib stared at him, no trace of a smile on her face at all.
Xavier said, "With what's going on, we are gonna have to talk to him."
"Not while I'm eating." She said.
She, Xavier, Ted and Eric Mann sat at a table besides the waist high railing along the establishment's front, with the floating walkway between them and the main channel. They each ordered a beer.
A giant flat screen TV hung from the ceiling above the bar. It was turned on and tuned to the Evening News. The now quiet demonstrators sat in their booths calmly watching the report, along with Quin, and the local people.
Up on the screen the Anchorman spoke.
"Animal rights activists have arrived in the floating community of Shellfish Shoals, protesting what they call the 'tormenting' of oysters in a local oyster farm, where cultured pearls are produced. BNN News reporter Carlton Grabel is on the scene."
The visitors in the booths now showed excitement, but remained relatively quiet.
The TV News Show presented a videotape taken earlier that day, of the demonstrators who'd stood upon the sailboat outside the MacKenzie's facility, while they'd chanted, "Murderers! Nazis! Stop torturing the oysters!" and "The shellfish are screaming!"
They held signs displaying similar words.
Carlton Grabel's voice said, "The day long demonstration, by members of the Shellfish Justice League..."
Ted repeated, "'Day long'? They were only there for about 20 minutes, and they were only chanting like that for as long as the camera was on. Then as soon as the show was over they left."
On the TV, Carlton Grabel told the viewers, "A spokesman for the group had this to say."
On screen, Quin was shown being interviewed by Carlton Grabel, with the demonstration in the background.
Off screen in the Amberjack, both the League members and townspeople, all turned their attention from the videotaped Quin, to the booth where the live Quin was now seated. He looked away from them all.
On the screen he was saying, "It isn't only the tormenting of oysters that we of the Shellfish Justice League, along with all the members of the Animal Justice, and every Social Justice Organization are protesting. That's just a small part of the problem.
"You see," he went on, "All these floating communities are endangering the marshlands."
The visitors in the booths all nodded or spoke softly in agreement, while the local citizens all rolled their eyes and moaned softly.
On screen, Quin went on, "When global warming melted the polar ice caps, raising the sea level by 30 feet, it was nature's way of establishing justice, by reclaiming the coastlands from humankind's total destruction, and by setting up a natural barrier against any further damage. The vast majority of the people living along the coastlines did the only enlightened thing, and moved inland."
It was at that moment that Andalib's voice could be heard on the TV, calling out to Quin as he continued to talk to Carlton Grabel. Everyone in the Amberjack remained quiet, Quin looked uncomfortable but did nothing. Expecting to hear the rest of Andalib had said earlier that day, the visitors remained quiet but were delighted to see that major editing had been done on the footage.
"However," Quin continued as though nothing had happened, "Millions of the backward thinking masses refused to move. They listened to the unenlightened saying, 'When the water's rising, get in a boat.'"
"Excuse me." Carlton Grabel asked, "How is that saying 'unenlightened'. It sounds like good sense to me."
"Sometimes," Quin spoke to the TV audience, "what seems like 'good sense' can be the most unenlightened thing that anyone can do; and that's just what the masses did. They actually built hundreds of thousands of boats, barges and all kinds of nautical craft, and constructed floating communities just so they could stay where they were, and continue their thoughtless damaging of the environment.
"The time has come for these floating communities and their unenlightened masses to be removed from the marshlands, so the ecology can finally begin to repair itself."
Again the visitors nodded, speaking softly in firm agreement. Then they saw the local customers looking very annoyed with them. The visitors quieted down.
On the screen, the picture again focused on the demonstrators while they continued chanting.
Inside the Amberjack, Xavier shouted, "Hey Quin! Those are the same words you read to me, off your laptop last week!"
"That's right Xave!" His former partner called back. "It's unfortunate that the unenlightened masses have to keep having the same message repeated to them, over and over! It's also unfortunate that you and Andalib have chosen to be among them!"
"I ought to beat the living crap out of him!" Xavier began to stand up.
Eric Mann raised his hand. "No. Stay down. Don't start trouble."
Andalib said, "You'll forfeit your bail!"
"Right." Xavier sat back down. "I'll wait 'til there're no witnesses."
Smiling, he called out, "Unfortunately, the news didn't show you wet yourself after what Andalib told you over your cellphone, during your demonstration today."
Again, Quin paled but said nothing as the picture on the TV changed, showing Clarissa Kellington seated upon the open deck of the Venus on the Half Shell.
Carlton Grabel's voice-over said, "The Emmy Award winning television actress Clarissa Kellington, who just happens to be spending a few days docked aboard her yacht in Shellfish Shoals, is a strong supporter of Social Justice."
Ted said, "What do you know. She's fully clothed."
The TV Star was saying, "It's caused me a lot of soul searching, but I've come to the conclusion, that I will no longer be wearing any jewelry that contains a single pearl. From now on, I intend to see to it, that nobody I know, nor anyone else who cares about social justice, will be purchasing a single pearl."
The visitors in the booths spoke in agreement. "That's good. That's right."
The local people were startled. They all looked over at Ted.
"What is she doing?" Ted spoke. "She's putting me and my family out of business! She's putting everybody who produces cultured pearls out of business! Everyone who sees this'll be too afraid these "Social Justice" thugs to buy any cultured pearls from now on!"
On the TV, the News Show went to a commercial break.
"Oh please!" Andalib shouted, "She was wearing pearls the first time we met with her!" She glared at the town's visitors. "A great big pearl necklace and matching bracelet! You remember, don't you Quin?"
Outside the Amberjack, the BNN News Motorboat now came along the channel, and stopped beside the floating sidewalk, across from the restaurant's entrance. Carlton Grabel was seated in the vessel, along with the same crew that had accompanied him to the MacKenzie's facility, and covered the demonstration.
Xavier said, "Now I am gonna beat the crap out of this guy, and I don't care if I get thrown back in the clink!"
Andalib put a hand on him, "Well I do." She smiled at him and then instantly removed her hand when she heard Ted's voice.
Ted told them, "He's come for the interview I arranged with him."
Glancing at Andalib and Xavier he saw their close connection but said nothing. There was nothing he could say or do about that.
Inside one of their booths, a Shellfish Justice League member shouted, "Here he is!"
Then all the League members, including Quin, quickly slid out of the booths, hurried across the floor and out onto the floating sidewalk. They gathered around the News Network boat, where Carlton Grabel, his cameraman and soundman, had climbed up onto the sidewalk.
The reporter, his two technicians and all the members of the League were now outside the Amberjack. They moved over in front of the spot where Ted, Andalib, Xavier and Quin were seated on the opposite side the railing.
The camera and the microphone were turned on, and the League members began chanting again.
"Murderers! Nazis! Stop torturing the oysters!" and "The shellfish are screaming!"
Carlton Grabel faced the camera and spoke into a microphone he was holding. "This non-violent demonstration has been going on all day, all over the floating community of Shellfish Shoals."
At the table, Andalib turned to Ted. "You said, that we're supposed to 'love them' and 'pray for them'?"
"That's what Jesus said." He thought it over. "The Bible also says, 'If your enemy is hungry feed him. If he is thirsty give him something to drink.'"
Ted got up from his seat and stood besides the railing, where he beckoned to Carlton Grabel. The reporter came over to him.
Ted asked him, "Is there some way I can talk to these people?"
The man held up his microphone. "I can switch this over to amplify, but I don't know if it'll do you any good."
"Well I can try."
The reporter tapped a button on the mike, and handed it to Ted.
Eric warned him, "Forget it Ted. You'll just be making a fool of yourself."
Now Ted spoke into the mike. "Hello everybody!"
The sound of his voice, coming through an amplifier aboard the motorboat, was just about equal to the volume of the crowd, who all quieted down for a moment.
"My name is Ted MacKenzie!"
A woman among the chanters called back. "We don't want to hear anything you have to say!"
The others began jeering.
Ted asked, "Have any of you eaten yet?"
The jeering stopped. Everyone in the crowd was startled by the question.
One of them called out, "No! We've just been having drinks!"
Now Ted asked, "Are any of you hungry?"
Some of the crowd members nodded their heads.
"Then if you want to stop this demonstration and come back inside, I'll buy dinner for all of you!"
They all looked at Quin somewhat puzzled.
Quin spoke to Carlton Grabel. "We've done enough demonstrating for the camera today, haven't we?"
Now the crowd moved away from the spot where they were standing, and returned through the entrance into the Amberjack. They quietly headed back toward the booths where they'd been sitting.
Ted sat down again and spoke quietly. "Andalib. Remember at the Bible study last week? Carol quoted the scripture, 'A soft answer turns away wrath'. It looks like that's what's just happened here."
Quin remained standing outside the entrance, beside a puzzled looking Carlton Grabel.
From her seat besides the railing, Andalib called out. "Hey Quin you commie atheist! The Bible says, 'A soft answer turns away wrath'!"
Inside the Restaurant the woman who'd told Ted, that they didn't want to hear anything he had to say, came over to his table. She looked uneasily at him, Andalib, Xavier and Eric Mann.
She spoke uneasily. "I just want you to know that none of this is personal."
"'Not personal'?" Eric Mann spoke, in a voice loud enough for everyone inside the Amberjack to hear. "You want to destroy this man's livelihood, along with a major part of the income of every member of this entire community, and you say it's not personal?"
"Well you can all apply for Government Assistance."
"And you call us 'unenlightened'?"
Now Ted looked out at Quin who remained standing on the walkway beside Carlton Grabel and the Network News motorboat.
"Mr. Quin!" Ted called out to him, while remaining seated at the table besides the railing. "Will you please call Clarissa Kellington on your cellphone? Tell her that I'm inviting her and her husband to join us here this evening for dinner, and that I'll be paying for it all!"
"What?" Andalib exclaimed. "Ted, that's -- "
"That's what Christians do." He smiled.