Oracle projects some otter fate in 2019

PHOTO: Michelle Bender, Flickr CC

Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range blogger, author, radio producer and columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

Pssh. Sploink. Pssh. Sploink. Pssh. Sploink. Pssh.

This is unlike any steam boat I’ve ever been on. Come to think of it, I’ve never been on a steam boat. So this is a first.

For one thing, the vessel appears to be homemade. Milk jugs keep it afloat. Twine holds it together. And the paddle wheels comprise of discarded election signs. Moonlight shines off the wet placards as they rotate: “Metsa,” “Wardlow,” “Swanson,” “Pawlenty.” Clearly these names meant something to the ancient peoples of earlier this year. Now they pass like ghosts as they propel this forsaken craft up the St. Louis River to the edge of the Sax-Zim Bog.

It is time once again for me to visit the Oracle.

Most interesting is the little otter piloting this ship. The otters often rouse me from my sleep at the Oracle’s behest. Their command of human language is generally poor. However, this small gentleman speaks fluent English. He identified himself as Jake when he called on the phone.

“I’m first generation,” said Jake from his post at the pilot’s wheel. “I grew up speaking both languages and now I probably speak more English than I do otter. In fact, I’ve forgotten most of the nuanced adjectives for “clams” which is half our language.”

We diverge into a small channel entering the bog. Amazingly, the steamship mechanically converts into a land vehicle.

“Amphibious?” I ask.

“Actually, otters are mammals,” says Jake.

“No, the paddleboat.”

“Actually, the paddleboat is a machine. It’s not alive.”

“I mean it goes on land and water.”

“Yes, it’s otterific!”

Soon I see the silhouette of Stump Tower, the garish structure erected by the Oracle’s opponents two years ago. The place still stands, but appears worse for wear.

“The feds raided the tower this year,” says Jake. “No one knows what they found, but all the critters in seersucker suits have been pretty scarce since then.”

The Oracle appears from among the tamaracks enveloped by her peculiar green aura that looks much better than it smells.

“Oracle!” I call. “Tell me what awaits us in 2019!”

She gazes into the crystal orb on her staff. It’s not magic. That’s where she keeps her phone.

“The president will be implicated in felonious activities, various ethical quagmires, and a thick circle of verifiable lies,” she says.

“That already happened,” I reply.

“But people will notice.”

“Oh, I think they’ve noticed.”

“But they will be bothered by it on some objective level.”


She hedges. “Well, about 61 percent of them, including 54 percent of independents.”

“That’ll get you the popular vote, but what about the Electoral College?”

She grimaces. Her hand wavers. “Fifty-fifty.”

I sigh. This can’t be the only thing happening in 2019, can it?

“There is more,” she says. “Social media will change in ways no one predicts, affecting how people use it forever more.

I can live with that. What else?

“A crafty deal will change the mining landscape on the Iron Range.”

That sounds interesting.

“Downtown businesses will expand, but a big box will bite the dust.”

Haven’t heard that in a long time.

“One more thing,” she says. “Nothing you know will stay the same.”

“That’s kind of heavy,” I say. “What can I do?”

“The thing about change is you have to get useful to it,” she says.

“You mean ‘used to,’ right?”

“No,” she says. “Useful. Get useful and change is nothing to fear.”

I thank her. She nods. Jake the Otter stokes the boiler of the paddle craft. His lithe frame leans into the pilot wheel as he deftly steers us back to the din of society.

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, Jan 6, 2019 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

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