Runion Island

Today's Writing Prompt: You’ve been stranded on an island with only three things: a bowling trophy, a vacuum cleaner and a mystery item (which you must reveal). How did you get on the island, and why do you have these particular items?

        Raj laid motionless, eyes still closed, desperately thinking of how he could get the man in the apartment next door to turn down his television without Raj actually having to get out of bed, or move, or speak, or really do anything at all. He briefly considered rapping on the wall in morse code, hopeing that somehow his neighbor would hear the sound over the nature documentary he was watching, but Raj quickly rejected this notion when he realized that he didn’t really know any morse code other than SOS and shave and a haircut, which he didn’t think was really morse code in the first place, but it didn’t really seem to matter.         As the rhythm played over and over in his head, the sounds of rushing water and sea birds got louder and louder, as if the man next door was somehow receiving Raj’s psychic message and turning up the volume to spite him. At the same time, Raj slowly became aware of an odd tickling sensation starting at his feet and slowly making it way up the length of his body. As an almost instinctual reaction he reached out for his blanket, but finding only an odd gritty absence Raj slowly opened his eyes, blinked several times, and screamed at the top of his lungs.         As his vision slowly came into focus Raj could just make out two pearl black eyes on the ends of long bony stalks, and a large white shield as it flitted across his filed of view. Raj sat up with a start to see that small white crabs were slowly dancing back and forth across a sandy beach into which he seemed to be half buried. When he screamed all of the crabs suddenly froze in position, as if someone was about to take a photo. Raj looked at the crabs, and screamed again, and then once more - starting to enjoy the sensation - and then stopped. One crab, near where his big toe was sticking out of the sand made a slight twitch, and then all the other crabs went back to their little back and forth dances, occasionally pausing to scrape something up off the sand with their claw.         Raj pushed himself up at the waste, hoisting himself up out of the hole formed by the sand and then immediately wished he hadn’t. Inside the sand he had been warm and cosy, but now Raj could feel the cold air blowing against his wet clothes and a shiver ran through his body. He looked up and down the beach, surveying the scenery, and slowly the events of the previous night came back.

        Raj worked as a teaching assistant at the college, splitting his time between grading journalism assignments and working on layouts for the Runion, the campus newspaper. It was mid October and the paper’s namesake, s small inedible fish, were beginning to make their way back up the local rivers and streams to their spawning grounds. In the late 18 and early 1900’s the event was usually marked by joyous celebrations held by local fishermen who spent the nights in small boats trying to scoop up as many of the fish as possible. Although the tiny fish could not be eaten it was the fisherman’s hope that by catching them in the fall they would fail to lay eggs and so their young would not clog the fisherman’s net the following spring. More recent studies of the fish’s life-cycle had long since proven this to be a wasted effort, but the tradition lived on, mostly as an excuse for the fisherman and later local students to dress up like pirates, rent small boats, and spend an evening out on the water getting drunk and wet and happy.         Raj was usually up for a good time, but coming from the heart of India, hundreds of miles from any source of water deeper than a few inches, he had never learned to swim and so generally tired to avoid the network of lakes, rivers, streams, and small islands that criss-crossed through the area. Living in a Pacific Northwest fishing village might seem like a strange idea for someone with no interest in water of any kind, an idea that certainly occurred to Raj’s parents on a regular basis. But Raj’s test scores and a series of articles about traditional farming culture in his home village had earned him a scholarship to the small school and he had been eager to get as far from India as he could, something geographically at least he has succeeded in.         To mark the occasion of the Runion runs, the Runion newspaper was running a series of themed articles highlighting local groups and businesses that shared the Runion moniker. Just a few dozen years ago the idea of naming something after a fish roughly decried by the local fishermen would have been unthinkable. Among the dock workers the name had come to be a wry euphemism for any number of sinful topics. This was infact the whole point of naming the newspaper Runion, as the paper had started as sort of a tongue-in-cheek subversive jab at the college administration during the 1930’s. However as these things often do, the name slowly became an inside joke in and around the small town; a sort of wink and nod between locals about their shared heritage. When Raj first came to the college the local fascination with the fish had been puzzling, but after a few years he too began to take a silent pride in the local mascot. Local city leader, urged on by advertising firms were quickly turing the Runion into a commodity joke in an effort to attract tourists, but had not yet managed to completely taint the Runion.         Among the articles for the paper’s series there was one written by Samatha Fanning on the touristy bookshops and antique stores in the town square. Raj and most other locals rarely set foot in any of them but the article was kind enough, highlighting some of the college students who worked as clerks. There was an article about a vacuum cleaner repair shop owned by a former fisherman and his wife. One about a local diner specializing in vegetarian food and catering mostly to college students and their uncomfortable visiting parents. There was also an article by a new student, Jayson Perce, about a local women’s bowling league called the Runions, conspicuously renamed as such just in time for the celebrations.         As a final piece in the series Jessica Speck was supposed to write an article about the Runion League, a group of mostly elderly fisherman who every year went out into the sound as a fleet of ships and tried to round up as many Runion as possible to commemorate the practice from years ago, and usually to get drunk and rowdy in the process. After a night out on the sound with the League, Jessica had called in to the journalism office. She explained, over a great deal of singling and general revelry in the background, that her story was finished, but she would not be able to deliver it to the paper before the deadline seeing as she was “three sheets to the wind”, a euphemism that elicited a loud cheer from the revelers in the background. Raj agreed to meet the ship at the docks and give her and her story a ride back to campus.         “Oh Raj too, bring that camera too. We need a shot of this stout crew...”, another cheer, “...for with the article to go with.”