The following is a piece of short fiction by Scott Nagele that was originally posted on a website or blog for fiction writing.
A Pilgrim Makes Some Progress or Why Mr. O’Shans Left the Civil Service
(Originally posted on Musings of Mistress of the Dark Path – Thanksgiving theme)
“Please pass the cranberry sauce,” Squanto asked in the direction of the head of the table.
Governor Bradford and Captain Standish stared at each other. “Do what now?” Bradford asked Squanto.
“Cranberry sauce,” Squanto reiterated. “Could you pass it please?”
“Well, I could, if I knew what it was,” Bradford replied. “What-berry sauce is this?”
“Cran. Cranberry sauce.” Squanto made sure to enunciate carefully.
Bradford shrugged toward Captain Standish to show his opinion of such crazy talk. “Never heard of it. What’s it look like?”
Squanto quickly rolled his eyes at Massasoit, sitting next to him. Ever the diplomat, he did not allow impatience with his hosts to be heard in his words. “Well, it’s red, or rather maroon-ish. And although it’s commonly referred to as sauce, it is oftentimes more of jelly, taking on the shape of the gourd it is packed in. Surely, you’ve seen it before.”
Bradford shook his head. “And it’s made from a berry?”
“The cranberry. Hence, cranberry sauce.”
“Nope. Never heard of it,” Bradford assured him. “But it’s very interesting. We do appreciate berries around here. Hell, we practically lived off them for about a year. Tell us more of this wonderful fruit that has the power to make a gelatin into a sauce.”
Since it was clear that he was not to have cranberry sauce with his dinner, Squanto would have been content to let the topic drop. But he prided himself upon being a gracious guest. “They’re little, red berries that grow in the wetlands. They’re super good for you, and they have just the right blend of tart and sweet in the taste.”
Bradford nodded profusely as he leaned over toward Standish. “Are you buying any of this magical berry nonsense?” he whispered into the captain’s ear.
“Sounds a lot like that snipe they had us hunting all last winter,” Standish whispered back. “I’m sure he’s pulling your leg. Who invited these guys, anyway?”
“They just sort of showed up,” Bradford whispered before turning his attention to his assistant, Mr. O’Shans, seated on the other side of himself. “Mr. O’Shans, pray have the turkey served,” he commanded. Then he smiled broadly at Squanto. “This cranberry sounds like a marvelous ingredient for sauce.”
“The sauce is good, but the juice is better,” said Squanto.
“Oh indeed,” bubbled the governor, exchanging a quick, knowing look with Standish, “there’s juice too! Do tell!”
“Well,” Squanto began, as he served himself some turkey from the tray just now set down before him, “we like to blend it with other things to make juice cocktails.”
“Splendid!” The governor clapped his hands together with glee while sharing a private wink with Standish. “I want to hear all about it!”
“For instance,” Squanto explained, “one of the more popular drinks we make is cran-maize cocktail. Another one is cran-beetroot cocktail. There are a lot of really great combinations you can do. In fact, Massasoit here has been mixing some wonderful cran-cod concoctions lately.”
“Wonderful! Wonderful!” the governor beamed at Squanto as he tapped his foot playfully against Standish’s shin under the table. He turned again to his assistant. “Mr. O’Shans, pray make a list of these wonderful elixirs so that we may reproduce them at our leisure.”
While the governor was addressing his assistant, Squanto took the opportunity to have a bite of turkey. He struggled to hide a grimace. “This turkey is dry as a bone,” he whispered to Massasoit.
“I can handle dry,” Massasoit whispered back, “but this bird is burnt crispy.”
“Just keep smiling and try to choke down some squash,” Squanto advised. “We’ll pick a deer up on the way home.”
A short time later Squanto announced that they had to run. Everyone shook hands and the groups separated, whereupon everybody felt more at ease. The governor addressed his assistant. “Mr. O’Shans, pray venture into the wetlands and collect a sample of this cranberry.”
When the assistant had gone, Governor Bradford jiggled with mirth. “That ought to keep the little fool out of my business for a while,” he told Captain Standish. “He’ll be wandering around the woods for days, searching for this mythical cranberry. Meantime, I’ll be free to tweak the colony’s finances, if you know what I mean.”
“What if he gets lost out there, with no sustenance?”
The governor cupped his hands around his mouth as if he were calling after his long-gone assistant. “Mr. O’Shans, pray make yourself some cranberry juice cocktail! See how long that sustains you!” he giggled.
©2012 Scott Nagele