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*****
The Cranky Yankee - reprinted from the South Shore Puzzle Journal, Issue No. 42 - September, 2009
By Stephen Martin

      Here they are, Cranky I and Cranky III, back from the garden with two bushel baskets, one full of freshly picked corn, and the other of dewy string beans. Sitting on the back porch, Cranky begins shucking the corn. After peeling off the squeaky, green husks and removing the fine strands of blonde silk from between the plump white-and-yellow kernels, he breaks off the stalks and tosses the gleaming ears into a big pot. The boy starts brushing the dirt away, snapping off the ends and dropping them into a smaller pot. The string beans look so delicious that one of five never makes it to the pot. They're so crisp, and popping with sweet juice.
      "Don't eat too many of those beans," warns Cranky. "Or you'll find yoahself back out theyah fillin' up another basket."
      "When we're done, can we go fishin'?" the nine year old asks.
      "Well now, I think some nice, pan-fried trout with buttah and lemon would taste great for lunch. I've got some leftovah night crawlahs. What do you think?"
      "Okay," says the boy.
      With poles and a bucket, they walk down the crunchy gravel road to the pumping station, set on a sunny green hilltop. The pond is stocked with rainbow trout every spring. A clear brook runs from the pond down the hill, and twists through a peaceful pine forest. They sit down upon soft needles, leaning against two brook-side hemlocks.
      Cranky hands a night crawler to his grandson, who holds it in one hand, the hook in the other, and freezes. He is assured that worms don't feel pain in the same way we do, but the novice piscator can't bring himself to impale the wriggling creature.
      The elder gently takes the boy's hook and threads it through the night crawler. "You know, this worm's pain right now is probably no wuss than the pain the fish will be feeling when we're done with them," he says. "Why worry about the worm and not the fish?"
      "I'm not going to eat the worm," the precocious tyke replies. Cranky pauses, and then breaks into laughter. The boy wonders if the corn feels any pain when it's snapped from its stalk, husked and thrown in boiling water.
      Dropping their skewered worms into the brook, they loosely loop their lines around their fingers and wait in satisfied silence. The chattering laughter of faraway children seems half-hidden in the brook's burbling music. A blue jay screams above.
      With a sudden twang, the line tightens around the boy's finger. He feels the strength behind the flashing, splashing fish's urgent struggle to remain alive. Reeling in until the pole dips just above the brook's surface, he lifts, turns and drops the flip-flopping fish in the bucket, half full of water from the brook.
      "Whoa! Here's his mate," says Cranky, hoisting out another twisting trout and depositing it in the bucket.
      Iridescent rainbow scales gleaming coral and aquamarine in the sun, their fish slap against their legs as they stride home side by side.
*****
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