Myalarm goes off at four in the morning and I literally roll out of bed and make myway to the bathroom. I throw on work clothes, an old t-shirt and jeans that havebeen washed way past their limit. Then it's down the stairs to the kitchen, whereI throw the kettle on the stove to make a cup of coffee for the long ride ahead.I slump into a chair at the bare kitchen table. It won't be inhabited again formany hours. I plop my head on my arms, using them as a makeshift pillow while Iimpatiently wait for the whistle of the kettle. When it finally shrills, I get upand make my thermos of coffee.
This done, Ryan, a friend of my dad's andmine, comes down the driveway right on time. Ryan is my partner for the day andthe summer. I notice he has his parking lights on. That's a sign that he's in agood mood. I grab my coffee, glance at my father and settle on the couch to makeit look like I have been waiting for hours, but the exhaustion on my face givesme away.
My father is sitting in his recliner, coffee in hand, the newsblaring on the TV. A surprised expression crosses his face when he sees me. Hesays good morning in a mocking tone because he knows I'm barely conscious. I sitand wait, trying to act awake as Ryan comes whistling through the door. He givesme a wink, says good morning, and gives Dad a chuckle.
This is about thetime Dad looks up and says with a grand smile, "Are we ready?" With agroan and a stretch, I stand. We get into the cab of my dad's white Dodge RamSport that I love, and leave Bucks "Habah," spelled harbor butpronounced without R's. We turn on the country music, and ride.
Ryan and Ising for 45 minutes until we arrive at the shop. I'm always excited when I seethe 18-wheeler parked in the side of the lot. I really do enjoy working with Dad.By now it's 5:15 and we're ready to go to work. I take my last sip of coffee andhop out of the truck. I grab the bag of tags with the harvest and shipping datesI stamped on them the night before. I run to the shop, give the door a hardshove, and walk in.
A sharp mixture of smells comes at us: clams, quahogsand water on cement. We hear the clunking of empty clam shells and shuckingknives collide with a steel table, and the faint sound of an old tape playerspitting out worn country tunes.
I give Ryan a playful shove and run intothe room where the sounds come from. Four women are standing behind a long steeltable shucking clams and putting them into clear containers. They look at Ryanand me with a grin and say good morning. In the middle of the room are fourpallets of quahogs. I imagine the cooler in the other room that I know is full ofpallets holding more and I get my staple gun and a handful of tags. Ryan followsme and we make our usual game of it. I place my first tag on one side of thepallet and he places his on the other. Crunch, crunch, crunch is all you hear aswe staple a tag to each bag of quahogs. We race from pallet to pallet trying tobeat each other.
We have finished when Dad comes in to ask who wants to gowake up Dave, the driver of the 18-wheeler. Ryan volunteers because he knows I amtimid around this broadly built man with his New York accent. When Ryan leaves, Ihead to the back with Dad. Opening the cooler door, a chill runs through my body.I walk into the cold tomb and look at row upon row of green netted bags full ofthose golden hard-shelled clams, or that's what they call them in New York wherethey're headed. Quahog isn't a very appealing word, I suppose. I start taggingaway with Dad until Ryan comes back. Then Dad leaves to talk to Dave to get thetrip organized.
By this time we are both covered with quahog juice andsmell like we just washed up on shore. We get the last pallet tagged, and checkover the shipment, after which we call it a day. Ryan and I watch my dad and Davetake the electric pallet jack and load the quahogs onto the truck. When the jobis finally done, I am barely tired anymore. My hands are sore from the heavymetal staple gun's pressure, but that's my only complaint. We hose down thecement floors, pick up any extra tags and make our way back out the door. I runto the truck while Ryan and Dad watch Dave maneuver the large truck. Finally,they join me in the cab and we head for home.
On the ride home we don'thave any heavy conversations, we just listen to music and joke around a bit. Weknow when we get home Mom will have a big breakfast of pancakes, eggs, toast andbacon waiting, and by this time we definitely can eat. We pull into the drivewayat 9 o'clock. Our workday is over, but the day has just begun.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.