Kori sat at the computer feeding labels to the printer. Gil ran down the stairs, Max fast on his heels. The basement air which filled the room like a cumulous cloud parted, making room for their testosterone-laden, electro-energy. Gil bounded over to Kori and peered over her shoulder.
“Making address labels.”
“It looks like the letters are marrying.”
“What do you know about marriage?”
“Mom and Dad were married.” Kori reached out and grabbed Gil around his waist, pulling him in close for a hug.
“I’m bored.” Gil said.
“Why don’t you guys go outside and play?”
Gil sighed and Max yawned exposing a full and threatening set of teeth.
“Guess not,” Kori said. “I know. Why don’t you invent something.”
Gil looked to Max for approval. Max yawned again and sprawled on the carpet. Gil shook his head at Kori, dismissing the plan. “What else?”
Kori scrunched her nose in contemplation. “Why don’t you go outside and help Jack,” she said, smiling to herself. Gil looked at Max who wagged his tail at the mention of Jack’s name, but made no sign to go.
“Okay,” Gil said, and Kori released him. “C’mon, boy.” Gil snapped his finger at Max and the pair ran up the stairs, disappearing over the horizon of the top stair.
Jack lay on a creeper under Kori’s car, his feet sticking out the side. At least under here, the infernal wind wasn’t so bad. He’d already replaced the rotor cups and pads, and was moving on to an oil change, a simple enough job, but for the below freezing temperatures. He rubbed his hands together to warm them before loosening the nut on the oil pan.
“Hey, Jack. Whatcha’ doin’?
Startled, Jack clunked his head on the oil pan. He rolled out to find Gil, squatting at the front tire. Dressed in a down parka and wearing a hat with little jingly bells hanging from three triangular flaps, Gil looked like an elf. Max sat beside him wearing a pair of reindeer antlers.
“Don’t you know not to sneak up on people like that?” Jack rubbed his head where metal had hit flesh.
“I wasn’t sneaking. Sneaking is when you tiptoe and go shhhhh, shhhhh, shhhhh. ” Gil demonstrated, putting his index finger to his lips.
“Kori told me to come out and help you,” he said, finger still at his lips.
“If Kori wants her car finished this century, you better do something else.”
Jack pursed his lips in irritation and rolled back under the car. Gil squinted after Jack’s dark form, still pleading his case.
“But you said I could try it,” he whined. “You said the next time you worked on the car I could go under with you.”
“In a minute, Gil. Just let me get this — oh, man.” Wheels on macadam followed a sloshing sound and the glug, glug, glug of oil being loosed. Moments later the oil pan clanked to the ground. Jack emerged, sliding past a still squatting Gil.
Gil giggled and covered his mouth.
“Shut up. If you say one word I swear to God…”
Gil handed Jack a rag lying on top of Jack’s tool box. Jack grabbed it out of his hands and began to swab at least a cup of oil out of his viscous, gleaming hair. He laughed despite himself.
“Did you know that a single quart of oil is enough to cause a two-acre sized oil slick on the surface of the water? Do you know how big an acre is? A little more than 43,000 square feet. So that would be 86,000 square feet worth of oil slick.” Jack listened with half an ear while he rubbed, trying to absorb the clingy liquid.
“And as you are currently demonstrating, oil is not easily removed from hair, let alone say cormorant feathers or seal fur. And not only that. It kills the aquatic organisms that the fish live on. You know how? It chokes ‘em. Binds up the oxygen and then they can’t breath.”
“If you’re referring to the oil I just spilled, let me assure you of two things. One – most of the spilled oil is in my hair. The rest is safely in the oil pan. And two – I don’t think there are any cormorants or seals for some miles from here.”
“But it’s not just that. Did you know that a single gallon of oil is enough to poison a million gallons of freshwater? Do you know what a million gallons of freshwater is? It’s a supply big enough for fifty people to drink and bathe and cook with for a whole year.”
Jack grimaced and poked a corner of the rag in his ear, soaking up drips of oil.
“And even though much of the earth is covered with water, only one percent of it’s potable. You know what potable means, right?” Gil said.
Jack nodded and rolled his eyes. The oil in his ear was slick and evasive, covering his skin like it was a second one.
“And even though we only need to drink about two to two and a half quarts of water a day, we each use about a hundred and twenty-five to a hundred and fifty gallons a day for all the other stuff. Very wasteful. About forty percent more than necessary, I think.” Gil stared at him, wide-eyed. “I’d be willing to give up baths to save water, you know.”
Jack rubbed the oil-stained rag roughly over his head and gave up. “What are you, the Encyclopedia Britannica?” He threw the towel to the ground and sighed. “Let’s take a break. Get a drink while we’re waiting for the last of it to drain. So we can be quite certain I’m not further contaminating our precious water supply.”
“Yeah, because fragments of those little spilled oil spots on driveways and roads can also end up in our water supply. When it rains it gets washed into the storm drains, and when it rains really hard, into the combined sewer outfalls which empty into the river. You know what that means, right? Sewer and rainwater together. That’s really gross.”
“Are you done now?”
Gil stood up, extending his hand to Jack. Jack grabbed the proffered appendage and allowed Gil to pull him to his feet. He rubbed his greased stained hands on his pants and together they walked inside.
to be continued. . .
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