Saturday, October 20, 2007

Week 24: That's the Sound of the Men Workin' on a Chain Gang

Kate's still with us. We've been having trouble getting a hold of her family. A lot of phone tag.

Here's the thing. Pennsylvania has some of the best farmland in the country. We really do. We can grow almost anything here--corn, grapes, apples, wheat, you name it. Jersey's much the same. The thing about agriculture, though, is that it requires a lot of manual labor.

I wasn't sure when I read lead-tag's journal about FEMA the labor camps whether he was kidding or not. Well, not. Kate and I stopped down at a local orchard to get some produce, and we saw all these people out working in the trees. "OK," I said, "guess that's what ya gotta do." But then Kate said she recognized one of the workers.

"That's Lisa--"


"Over there, that's Lisa. She's--I worked with her. She lost her job when I did."

"What's she doing out here?"

"I-I don't know."

I walked up to the kid running the stand. "Hey--what's with the people?"


"Where'd they come from?"

"Oh, they're from the camp."


"Yeah, the camp. Outside of Norristown."

"There's a what?"

"You know, with the trailers and stuff. Refugees, I guess."

"From what?"

"Homelessness, I guess. Look, all I know is they're brought here to pick the apples."

We doubled-back after buying our produce, and snuck into the orchard. There we saw Lisa, up on a ladder.

"Lisa!" Kate's voice was little more than a hiss.

"Kate? Shh! Kate, don't let 'em know you're here."


"Quiet! Look, wherever you came from, go back. You don't want to get caught up."

"Caught in what?"

Lisa looked around, I guess for a boss. Nothing. "After you left, the government came through--told everyone who wanted that they could find work out in the country, and a place to live. So I went. I was tired of being shot at."

"Damn it, Lisa, you shouldn't've left. Arthur would've--"

"Arthur's got his own problems. There's a price on his head."


I laughed. "'Price on his head'--what is he, Robin Hood? Are we back in the Middle Ages now?"

Kate gave me a withering look.

Lisa continued. "A gang. Look, it's a long story. He's got problems with a gang; I got the hell out of there. Jumped on the truck and didn't look back."

"Why didn't you try to get back to West Chester?"

"Um... Because I'm a lesbian and they're devout Catholics?"

"Yeah. Well, I doubt you're gettin' any pu-"

"Shh. Look, guys, get going. Go home. I'll see if I can talk to you later."

Kate said, "I still have my cellphone."


We still haven't heard from her.

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