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Dirty Water — Envisioning a Future Boston

By Micah Epstein for Boston Compass (#131)

January 7, 2021

“Ahoy fellow floater! Welcome to the Bay Village ferry, destination Eastie Aquafarm 8. Please board in a non-orderly fashion”

“G’mornin, Rudder. How’s the water?” I asked as I stepped up to the liberated gondola and squeezed in next to Boaz.

“As clean and clear as my maker’s conscience,” It responded, jerkily pointing to the hollow where it’s corporate medallion had sat. The whole work crew shared a good laugh as the gondola began to pick up speed, disturbing the scum of the canal.

“Rising Tide gets more creative with their liberation patches every year, huh?” Boaz said, turning to me.

“If only they put more time into padding these benches and a little less time with clever quips.” “You’re one to talk.” He said with a grin, and pulled his cap low. We had a long harvest in front of us.

❉ ❉ ❉

“Good morning Dex! Another beautiful day, isn’t it?”

“Shut it, I’m late. Get me to work ASAP, take the Commons express if you need to. And reserve me a to-go breakfast at the cantina. Please.”

“You got it. Today’s special is shrimp tacos in nori shells. Yum! I wish I had a digestive tract.”

“Seafood again? Gross. Let’s add an egg.”

“My deepest apologies, but you have already exceeded your farm food quota this month.”

“You’re useless. Please pull up my interface. Filename Gondolier-DeLiberation-Pitch-Final final-copy”

“Right away. How about some neo-jazz while you work? It’s my personalized genre recommendation for you this week.”

“Uhh...sure. Why not. Now begin dictation mode, I’ve got some work to do”

❉ ❉ ❉

I leaned over the edge, watching Bay Village slide by. Dirty yellow kayaks flitted under laundry lines stretched between dour little houseboats. A film of wood smoke and fresh-baked bread smells hung over the petroleum-and-salt stink of high tide. Rudder deftly rounded a bend, and the tarred roofs fell away to reveal the Commons Viaduct. The gateway to the Charles. An imposing arch of bone white carbon-sink concrete, crowned with manicured ivy and ten whizzing lanes of express pod traffic that flashed in the morning sun. Peacekeeping drones had already started to scrape at the Rising Tide’s nightly message. This morning, it read “Tragic Commons”.

❉ ❉ ❉

“The toll deficit from a liberated gondola is significant, but the productivity loss is even greater. It is vital that Bay Village floaters - ugh, recant - residents, maintain a baseline level of corporate loyalty. The Bay Village is a significant labor pool of essential workers, and we cannot allow it to dry up.”

Dex pinches the bridge of her nose and turns away from the interface. She was high up, somewhere along the Commons, and could see one of the gondolas about to pass under and merge into the bustle of the Charles. It’s whole crew of floaters was bent, laboring at the pedal-powered engine, except one - a single upturned face, looking up at Dex’s pod. Looking up at Dex. The gondola passed below, and she realized she was on the edge of her seat. Her hands were on the cold glass, eyes searching the gyres of dirty water left behind. She sat back. “Tint pod windows to opaque. Continue dictation”

—Micah Epstein


Check out all the art and columns of January's Boston Compass at



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