earth day (g)

QofL Cover Amzn ver1a

For thousands of years, we’ve used and reused the same water as the dinosaurs, Galileo, Genghis Kahn, and Jesus. Until now. Now the water is chock full of contaminants that the ancients didn’t even know how to pronounce. That’s because Mama Nature doesn’t know how to remove radionuclides, usually held safely within the earth’s crust, and other chemicals found in the fracking wastewater that’s slowly making its way into Her rivers, lakes, and streams. Until now, we’d been sipping the same stuff as Adam and Eve. Until now.

Enjoy an excerpt from THE QUALITY OF LIGHT:

          She died that night. Doc attended the funeral along with dozens and dozens of ranchers and their families all come to pay their respects to this great woman, one of the “stickers” whose family had come in the late-1800s during the first boom and bust era of timbering and mining and oil and construction and who had stayed on to make a living. They worked the land for what it would produce – cattle. So when the time came and they asked if anyone wanted to say anything on behalf of this fine woman, Doc’s hand raised itself, his body stood up, and he took over the funeral.

“Twila’s great-grandfather was thrilled when the first oil men knocked on his door with a check and a promise. They may not have tamed the harsh out of the land, but at least they made it more hospitable. They built roads and paid well, and the ranchers loved them. That was the heyday when oil flowed like free love out of those great big underground reservoirs. Sweet gas, they called it. Back then a whisper could’ve coaxed that oil out of the ground.”   To read more of this post, click here…

four stars



Pam Lazos

Chapter Eighty-One

Gil coughed and opened his mouth, pushing with his tongue. His eyes flew open and he found his face pressed against Max’s coat, a mouthful of the course bristly stuff, dry as cotton, poking at the insides of his cheeks. He coughed and spit the hair out, whacking at it with his unencumbered hand. The bushy mane turned, like a giant rock rolling away from the cave’s opening, and yawned. Max lay on his back, paws in the air, and whined, waiting for Gil to rub his belly. Gil grabbed his water bottle from the night stand, took a big swig and swished it around in his mouth.

“Yuck.” He sat cross-legged next to Max, adjusted his sling, then began to rub in slow, deliberate circles with his good hand, putting them both in a trance. Max moaned in ecstacy, scratching the air one front paw at a time until Gil stopped in mid-stroke.

“Oh my God.” Gil looked at Max. “I had a dream, Max. I had a dream.” Gil got up on his knees and bounced. “I had a dream, Maxie. A dream!” Gil stood up on the bed and began jumping up and down, then dancing in a strange, cohesive rhythm, singing all the while. “I had a dream. I had a dream.” He danced and sang and twirled, “I had a dream. I had a dream,” until his foot accidentally landed on the discarded water bottle and he toppled to the floor. He stuck the landing. Max stared over the side of the bed after him. For a moment Gil looked at him with wide-eyes before bursting into peals of laughter.

“I gotta tell Kori and Avery.” He leaped up and in two giant, awkward strides, he was at the door. “C’‘mon, Max. Let’s go.”


Hart sat on the couch with his laptop and a cup of coffee. Avery sat at the other end reading the Sunday Inquirer . Kori and Jack snuggled together on the recliner. They could hear Aunt Stella, whistling in the kitchen while she made breakfast.

“I still can’t believe it’s a week already,” Avery said.

“Can we not talk about it please?” Hart asked. “I’m better if I just don’t think about it.” Hart sighed. Had Bicky, in a single and unlikely courageous act, not saved Gil from probable extinction at the hand of a man whom Hart had at one time considered to be his close friend and ally, things would be vastly different right now. For the past week, Hart had struggled to redefine his relationships with both men, but the matter was too close, the parameters too large, so he filed it under the category of Life’s Mysteries and Conundrums, the kind that need time and space for disentanglement. Kori’s yelp roused Hart from his reverie.

“Aaaah, your feet are cold,” she said. Jack rubbed his bare feet against Kori’s calf. After a few seconds of squirming, she wrapped both her legs around them.

“God, I love you,” Jack said, nuzzling Kori’s neck. “I come to you with cold feet and you embrace them.” He hugged her to him and whispered in her ear, “I really love you.”

“I love you, too,” Kori whispered back.

“No, I mean I really love you,” Jack said. “Really, really love you.”

Kori poked Jack in the ribs and he grabbed both her hands. She squirmed free just as Gil came running down the stairs, Max barking in his wake.

“I had a dream,” he said, jumping up and down. “I had a dream.” He stopped in the center of the room and did a little jig. Max jumped around Gil’s feet, barking until Gil picked him up by the front paws and danced with him.

Hart stared at Gil and Max, a smile gracing his lips. Drawn by the commotion, Aunt Stella waddled into the room.

“What was it?” Kori asked, sidling up next to Gil. Used to the last week’s worth of uber-mothering, Gil stopped his little dance and raised his face to Kori so she could feel his forehead with her chin. “No fever,” she said and shrugged.

“He’s alive,” Gil said. Robbie’s alive.”

Aunt Stella covered her mouth and folded into an armchair. Kori yelped as if she’d been poked and dropped to her knees. “Tell me.”

Avery joined Kori on the floor and Gil sat down next to them, wrapping his good arm around Max’s neck to keep him still.

“He’s someplace with a lot of water.”

“Water? Iraq’s a desert,” Jack said.

Gil shrugged and ran his closed lips back and forth over his teeth. He looked at Jack.

“Ssshhhh,” Kori said to Jack. “More,” she said to Gil.

“Well, there was a desert in the background, but there was so much water everywhere that I’m just not sure.” He scratched at Max’s ears and drifted off, back toward the dream.

“More,” said Kori.

“Robbie was wearing a robe and one of those head thingees,” Gil said, rubbing Max’s wide side. “And the people traveled by boat. Well, really by these little canoes. And they used poles instead of paddles to move the canoe through the water.”

“Interesting,” Hart said. He assessed Gil with his brilliant hazel eyes before typing something into the computer.

“More,” Kori said. Her eyes didn’t leave Gil’s face.

Gil thought for a moment, his mouth animated, his eyes and nose scrunched in concentration. “Oh yeah. He was digging a hole. He was using a little shovel and this long cylindrical thingee that was open at the top and bottom and some of the sides.”

“An auger?” Jack asked. Gil shrugged. Aunt Stella sat, fanning herself with a dishtowel.

“Got it,” Hart said. “Is this what you saw?” He turned the laptop’s screen toward Gil who jumped up and ran over to look at it.

“That’s it! That’s it!” Gil said.

“Where is that?” Avery asked. Everyone leaned in to peer at the screen.

“That, is the Fertile Crescent,” Hart said. “It’s in southern Iraq. And if you believe the bible, this is where civilization got its first leg up.”

“Wow,” Gil said.

“Are you sure that’s where he is?” Kori asked.

Gil nodded. “Looks exactly like it.”

“So how do we find him?” Kori asked.

“Depends. He might not want to be found,” Jack said. “He’s supposed to be dead, remember?”

“Which means…” Kori said.

“…that he faked his own death,” Avery finished.

“He doesn’t want to see us anymore,” Kori said, a crack in her voice.

“No. It’s not like that. He’ll come back,” Gil said. “When he’s done.” Gil nodded his head with enthusiasm.

Kori gave Hart a look which he interpreted as a need for deliverance.

“I’ll put feelers out,” Hart said. “See what I can come up with. I do have some contacts in Iraq….”

“Is that safe?” Jack asked.

“I’ll be discreet,” Hart said. He looked to Kori. “Okay?”

“Okay,” she said, hugging him so hard he yelped. She ran over to Aunt Stella whose eyes appeared to be leaking then floated back to her spot on the recliner.

Avery grabbed Gil by the shoulders and looked into his eyes. “You sure?” Gil nodded assent. Avery pulled Gil to his chest and let out a long, haggard breath.

“Of course he’s sure. He’s a visionary,” Hart said, smiling. “Okay,” Hart said. “Now — Gil. You feeling up to a little work?” He patted the seat next to him.

“Sure,” Gil said, and flopped down on the couch.

Hart smiled and gave Gil a brief hug, avoiding the sling. Gil, startled by the gesture, sat very still for a moment before awkwardly patting Hart on the back.

“I give you four stars,” Gil said, looking pleased with himself.

“Who? Hart?” Jack asked. “Why does he get four stars?”

Gil looked at Hart with complete admiration in his eyes. “He just does. And if he moves in with us for good, I’ll give him four and a half.”

Hart cleared his throat, blinked his eyes and stared at the screen, suddenly at a loss for words. Gil leaned against him on the pretense of following Hart’s gaze.

“Okay,” Gil said, “show me what you got.”


shutting down

pondscum2OIL IN WATER

Pam Lazos

Chapter Seventy-Five

“All this,” Jack said, placing his hand on Kori’s heart, “is highly combustible. When things heat up like this, it always gets a little dicey.” Jack removed his hand from Kori’s heart and pulled her to him. “It’s all about chemical reactions, Kori,” Jack said. “The most dangerous part of the process is starting up and shutting down. That’s when things are the most precarious.” He squeezed her hand and smiled. “But you already knew that.” She smiled back despite herself.

“Are we starting up or shutting down?” Kori asked. She hoped her voice didn’t belie the need in her.

“That depends on if you can stand the temperatures?” Jack asked.

“Well, how hot’s it gonna get?” Kori asked.

“As much as thirteen hundred degrees Fahrenheit for some of these processes,” Jack said.

“What processes?” Kori asked.

“Refining processes,” Bicky said.

“What are you talking about?” Kori asked. She took a deep breath and rose back to the surface of consciousness opening first one eye and then the other. When she realized where she was, she groaned and squeezed both eyes shut.

“Boiling points, my dear,” Bicky said. “The beauty of crude oil is that it’s not just a single chemical compound but a mixture of hundreds of them. They’re hydrocarbon chains and they each have different boiling points. Refining is simply heating the crude to higher and higher boiling points and pulling off the vapor through the process of fractional distillation. Then you condense the vapor through cooling in the distillation column.” Bicky glanced in the rear view mirror. Kori’s scowled at him, but Bicky continued. “Each different hydrocarbon chain is useful for something. With a chemical process called conversion you can convert the longer chains to shorter chains depending on demand. You can also combine fractions to give you yet more usable products. Of course, much of it needs to be treated, but that’s a small price to pay. There’s a reason why crude oil’s called liquid gold. It’s one of the most versatile compounds known to man. Actually it’s a shame that so much of what we do with it is make gasoline.”

“Now who’s showing off?” Gil asked.

Bicky smiled. “Don’t blink now, ladies and gentlemen or you’ll miss it. To the right is the crude oil distillation unit and to the left is the delayed coking unit. Beautiful aren’t they?” Bicky asked.

“What a geek?” Kori mumbled under her breath. Max’s tail brushed her nose and the combination of smelly dog and too much expensive perfume from the pedantic idiot up front was making her head hurt. She sneezed and turned back to the window.

“Hey, Sleeping Beauty,” Avery said. “Have a nice nap?” Kori stared at Avery long enough to convey her distaste before returning her gaze to the storage tanks that looked like hundreds of giant white gum drops floating by her window. “You were snoring,” Avery said.

“And drooling,” Gil added.

“Shut up,” Kori said. Avery held his hand up for a high-five and Gil whacked it.

“I just want to go back to sleep,” Kori said, desperate to see how her dream would end.

“That’s the tank farm on the left, if you’re interested, Kori,” Bicky said.

Kori couldn’t be less interested. She yawned, rubbed her head and smacked Max’s twitching tail away from her face.

“Knock it off, Kori,” Gil yelled.

“I told you to keep his tail out of my face, you little brat.”

Gil scowled at Kori and pulled Max closer to him. “You better watch it or I’ll set him loose on you.”

“Yeah, right,” Kori snarled.

“No blood, please,” Bicky said. “It’s a rental.” Both Kori and Gil stared out their respective windows.

“So. As I was saying, there’s many different processes that occur in a refinery. There’s separation and conversion, and treating and blending. Crude oil gives us lubricating oil, tar, asphalt, petrochemicals which are used to manufacture things like plastics. And , it’s a model for recycling since many of the end products are used as feedstock to create new products.” Bicky craned his neck to look out the window. “See over there? That’s the catalytic reforming unit. And over there’s the catalytic cracker,” Bicky said.

Kori insulted Bicky under her breath and looked over at Gil to gauge whether he’d heard her, but Gil was listening with rapt attention to every word that came out of Bicky’s mouth.

“So far the TDU only makes oil and gas and there’s some mineral byproducts. But maybe we could make other stuff,” Avery said.

Gil nodded.

“Are we going home anytime soon?” Kori whined.

“That’s the hydrofluoric acid alkylation unit,” Bicky said. “And over there is the sulfuric acid alkylation unit. And that, I believe, is the light ends distillation unit.”

“Do you know how all these units work?” asked Gil.

“Years ago, when I first started out, I devoured chemistry and I knew the ins and outs of all these machines,” Bicky said. “It’s been awhile, though. I think I may have forgotten.”

“You don’t ever forget, really,” Gil said. Bicky looked at him in the rear view mirror and when their eyes met, Gil smiled.


At Gil’s insistence, they had stopped at Wendy’s for dinner, because Gil wanted a frosty. Although Bicky detested fast food, he acquiesced after Gil reported he was prone to car sickness brought on by a lack of snack food. Bicky smiled inwardly. The kid was clever. Bicky smiled and watched him in the rear view mirror, Gil’s countenance serene in sleep.

Recognition shot a bolt of adrenaline through his solar plexus as memory upon memory of a ten-year old Mason came flooding back to him. Although Gil looked nothing like Bicky’s brother who’d died around Gil’s age, Gil’s canny mind, crooked smile and clever dialogue lent him a whole six degrees of separation aura that Bicky couldn’t shake. A shiver ran through Bicky’s body, as if Mason himself had reached out beyond death to whisper in his brother’s ear. Bicky squeezed his eyes shut to quell the flood of memories, then opened them and focused on the lines in the road.

It was after 10:00 p.m. when Bicky pulled into the Tirabis’ driveway.

“Sorry about the time,” Bicky said. “I didn’t realize it was so late. You’ll be tired in school tomorrow.”

Avery shrugged and looked at Bicky with kind eyes.  Any malice he felt for the man had evaporated like distilling crude oil. “Thanks for showing us the refinery…how everything worked.”

Bicky dismissed the thank you with a wave of his hand. “You’re most welcome.”

“Kori could probably have done with something less than a marathon tour,” Avery said, but she’ll get over it.”

They turned to glance at Kori who, along with Gil and Max, was fast asleep in the backseat.

“He’s got a huge appetite,” Bicky said, watching Gil.

“Oh, yeah. Thanks for dinner.”

“Stop thanking me already. That’s actually not what I was talking about. It’s his voracious appetite for knowledge.” Bicky turned back to Avery. “You all have it.”

Kori snored, a small, inconsequential noise, but a snore all the same. Avery raised his eyebrows and looked at Bicky for confirmation.

“Yes. Even Kori,” Bicky said.

Kori issued another strange, guttural sound, waking herself up.

“We’re home?” she asked.

“You spent most of your day sleeping,” Avery said.

“I dreamt we were little. Before Gil was born. The three of us were asleep in the backseat.  Gil wasn’t even born yet.  Dad said he and Mom should carry us all in at once so no one would be left alone. Mom said she’d wait with two while he brought one in, but Dad said that still left someone alone, but on the inside. He hated to see anyone be alone.” She rubbed the sleep from her eyes and yawned wide, opening a fissure as deep as the Grand Canyon. “Mom had Robbie and Dad already had you Avery, and was leaning in, trying like hell to pick me up one handed. I peeked and he saw me, so I shut my eyes real quick, waiting for him to say I should walk inside since I was awake. But he didn’t say it – just carried me in, pretending I was still asleep.” Kori’s gaze grew wistful and her head lolled back against the seat. “Weird. The stuff you remember.” She got out and offered Bicky her hand. “Thanks for dinner. Sorry about how I acted before.”

“My pleasure,” Bicky replied his gaze falling once again on Gil. “How about I carry him?” He looked at Avery and then back at Kori and smiled. “You, on the other hand, will have to walk.”

 to be continued. . .

read what led up to this state of affairs

copyright 2013

devils at the door

lucifer1OIL IN WATER

Pam Lazos

Chapter Seventy-Three

As Gil’s slippered feet hit the carpeted stairs, Kori was opening the front door. Gil froze. Sunlight blazed in through the door obliterating the man’s visage, but Gil could see the silhouette looming and spreading across the space between the door frame. Kori exchanged pleasantries which Gil didn’t catch because his ears were buzzing. She gestured toward Gil on the stairs and the large man in the Armani suit stood in the middle of the living room moving his mouth, but with no sound coming out. The man smiled his giant toothy smile, waiting for Gil to say something, Gil was sure. Kori slammed the door behind the man and Gil ducked at the sound. The man had one foot on the second stair now. Gil’s throat emitted a strange noise, even by his standards, as the man held out his hand for a shake. Gil grabbed Max by the collar, ran upstairs and locked himself in his room.


Bicky stood with his foot on the stair, his hand outstretched in the gesture of greeting. He watched Gil’s lithe body retreat until he crested the top of the stairs and disappeared. Bicky turned to look at Kori, his arm still outstretched.

“Was it something I said?”

“He gets like that. He’s really smart. It comes out in weird ways.” She ran a hand through her hair and looked Bicky over, the Armani suit, the soft hands with nails more expertly manicured than her own. “Maybe you want to come back after breakfast? He’s usually pretty communicative after a meal.”

Bicky’s face contorted into something that had the capacity to be a smile, but fell short somehow.

“How about I talk to you for awhile?” Bicky said.

Kori shrugged. “I guess that’s okay.”

“Maybe your other brother, too. Is he home?”

Kori narrowed her eyes and opened her mouth as if to speak.

“The newspaper article,” Bicky said, intercepting her query.

“Oh. Okay.” She turned and led him to the kitchen. Avery looked up from reading his magazine, but his expression did not change.

“Avery, this is Mr. Coleman. He owns Akanabi Oil. He wants to talk to us about the TDU.” Bicky held out his hand for a shake, but Avery ignored it. Instead, he stood, coming eye-to-eye with Bicky, and sneezed.

“Excuse me,” Avery said, and walked around Bicky holding a hand over his nose to hide the runny mucus. He sneezed again, grabbed a few tissues and blew out a noseful of snot. He tossed the tissues in the trash can, then held out his hand to Bicky who dropped his own hand to his side. Avery sneezed again, but it was only the first in a continuing series.

Kori counted ten sneezes before she said, “Why don’t we go sit in the living room and wait until Avery’s done.” Bicky nodded and retreated. Kori glanced back over her shoulder to see Avery pulling out the tissues three and four at a time.


Bicky settled himself in an armchair as Avery continued sneezing in the kitchen. Neither Bicky nor Kori noticed Gil sitting in the shadows at the top stairs, peering through the banister.

“So, I read about you kids in the newspaper. I understand you’ve invented an amazing new piece of equipment.”

“Actually, we didn’t. My father did.”

“Yes. I’m sorry about your father,” Bicky said with as much emotion as he could muster.      Kori nodded, sighed and drew a deep breath. “We don’t know what we’re going to do with it yet.”

Bicky kept the emotion in his voice well-checked, and continued. “Perhaps I’ve come along just in time.”

“In time for what?” Avery walked into the living room holding a box of tissues.

“You done now?” Kori asked. Avery nodded.

“Sorry. It’s like I breathed in something toxic.” He looked directly at Bicky’s impassive mask.

“You sound all stuffy now,” Kori said.

“I feel like someone sprayed caulk up my nose.” Avery said. Gil giggled from his spot on the stairs and covered his mouth. Bicky turned toward the sound, but said nothing.

“So, Mr. Coleman,” Avery said. “I’m sure that as the head of Akanabi Oil you’re acquainted with one David Hartos.

“Yes, I know one David Hartos,” Bicky said, struggling against the dozens of facial muscles tugging valiantly at the corners of his mouth, pulling them toward a full-fledged smile. “He works for me.”

“It was my understanding that he’s currently on sabbatical from the oil industry so technically speaking, he is not working for you at all, but rather, for himself at present.”

“You sound like every lawyer I’ve ever hired.”

Avery held his smile in check with a stern, tight-lipped countenance. “Kori, can I see you in the kitchen for a minute?” Kori gave her brother a weird look, but rose to go.

“Excuse us, Mr. Coleman,” Avery said. “We’ll be back shortly.

As soon as Avery and Kori had left, Bicky smiled, his first genuine, uncoached smile in years.


Avery pulled Kori out the back door onto the deck, leaving the door ajar.

“What is wrong with you?” Kori asked. “First the gnarly sneezing and now you’re being so rude. This guy’s the head of a big oil company. He probably wants to buy the TDU and if that’s the case, I say good riddance for all the trouble it’s caused.”

“What about Hart? We told him we’d work with him.”

“You didn’t sign anything, did you?”

“Listen to you!”

“No, listen to you, Mr. Lawyer. If you didn’t sign anything, where’s your obligation?

“We made a deal to work with him, me and Gil. Gil thinks the guy walks on water. And I think we can trust him. He’s out looking for financing, right now. I’m not going to call him up and tell him the deal’s off.”

“Spare me the drama.”

“I’m serious.”

“So am I. If the TDU is so fantastic, investors will be pounding down our door.”

“Well it looks like that parade might have just started.” Avery poked his head in the door and strained his ear toward the living room. He could hear nothing.

“He might be about to offer us some serious money, Avery. And I think we should take it. Wouldn’t it be nice to be out of debt for a change? I mean, this morning…”

“We can’t do that, Kori. I don’t like him. And I don’t trust him.”

“You don’t even know him.”

“I know I’m having an allergic reaction to him.”

Kori rolled her eyes. “That is the dumbest thing I ever heard. You’re not going to take his money because of a few sneezes?”

Avery blushed.

“Give me one good reason why we shouldn’t work with him, Avery.”

“Dad.” Avery said. “Dad would never sell out.”

Kori stared at her brother and when she spoke, her voice was quiet, reluctant. “Well, Dad isn’t here to provide for us anymore, Avery. And we need to pay our bills and keep food on the table and all those other things that parents do for their kids, but we now have to do for ourselves.” Kori turned to go inside, but Avery grabbed her wrist.

Avery drew a deep breath. “All right. We’ll listen to what he has to say. But no decisions until we talk to Hart. Okay?”

“All right.” She sighed, squeezing Avery’s arm. “Let’s get back in there.”


Gil strolled down the steps with Max. Bicky heard them coming, but acted surprised when they entered the room. Holding Max by the collar, Gil took a seat on the couch and stared at Bicky until even the unflappable Coleman became a bit unhinged.

“What?” Bicky finally said.

“What?” Gil replied.

“What are you looking at?”

“What are you looking at?”

“I asked you first.”

“I asked you first.”

“Is this some kind of joke?” Bicky shifted in his chair, annoyed.

“Is this some kind of joke?”

“You’re not one of those idiot savants, are you?”

“You’re not one of those…”

“Oh shut up, already. I get the game.” Bicky huffed as if the very idea was ridiculous to him. “My own daughter used to play it all the time. I didn’t like it then and I…”

“What happened to your hand?” Bicky covered his bandaged hand with his free hand in response.

“What are you doing here?” Gil asked.

Bicky looked Gil over, the piercing, intelligent eyes, the purposeful posture, the fact that he had his own hand resting lightly on the neck of a seventy-five pound ferocious looking dog with a mean set of teeth. In that instant he knew this child, for that was what he was, could not be trifled with, and moreover that it was more than intellect working in that compact, graceful body. He decided instantly, subconsciously, that truth was the best course of action.

“Well, I’m not here to help, obviously. I’m a businessman and businessmen do not become successful by helping,” Bicky said. True confessions.

Gil nodded, a beneficent king waiting for his subject to continue.

“But I’m not here to steal anything from you either. I’m willing to pay the fair market value for the product you’ve invented, and should that not be possible given the scope and reach of the product, then I’m willing to bring you in as a partner, to a limited extent, of course, given that I’m taking all the financial risks, and to make sure your family receives money from the development and sale of this product for years to come. You’ll never have to worry about money again, that’s for sure.”

“I’m ten. I don’t worry about money now. That’s for Kori and Avery to worry about.”

“Well, what do I have that would interest you? I’m sure there’s something I can give you to make this deal not just acceptable, but attractive to you.”

Gil shook his head slowly back and forth. “We don’t need you. We have Hart.”

Bicky smiled slightly, relishing the delivery of this news. “Hart works for me.”

“I know that. But he’s not doing this with you. He’s doing this with us.”

“Hart can’t give you what I can give you.”

“He can get as much money as we need to build a factory.”

“Hart’s a very rich man and I’m sure he’ll be true to his word. But have you thought about the expense of not only developing your machine, but building, staffing and maintaining an oil refinery? It’s not just the cost, but the labor that’s very intensive. The insurance alone on a facility like that’ll kill you. I can offer you a fully functional, completely operational facility. Already built and running and only a scant thirty or so miles from here.”

“We already have one in the backyard,” Gil said.

Bicky’s raised his eyebrows, but he didn’t say anything.

“They’re not hard to make if you know what you’re doing.”

“Surely you don’t think you’re going to build something of this magnitude in your backyard?”

“I told you. I’m only ten. That part’s up to Avery.” As if on cue, the backdoor slammed and Bicky heard strangled whispers and two sets of footsteps approaching. And given the four seconds he’d spent in the presence of the sixteen-year old – for Chrissakes was everyone in this family a prodigy? – Bicky knew he needed to make his move now or lose his chance forever.

“The plant will be a monument to your father. I’ll even rename the refinery after him. By the time we’re finished, not just the U.S., but all the world will know how great he was. We can even market some of his other inventions. I mean, he didn’t create something like this in a vacuum. The man was obviously a genius.” Bicky paused for effect. “Of course, I’ll leave it up to you whether you’d like to pursue those other avenues.”

“Hey, Gil,” Avery said, coming into the room. “I see you’ve met Mr. Coleman. He…”

“He’s taking us on a tour of his oil refinery this morning,” Gil said, before turning to Kori. “Do we have any pop tarts? Me and Max are starving.”

“Ah. Okay,” Bicky said. “Shall we take breakfast on the road?”

 to be continued. . .

read what came before

copyright 2013

let’s make a deal


Pam Lazos

Chapter Seventy-Two

“Do you have any collateral, Mr. Hartos?”

“As a matter of fact, I do.” Hart opened his briefcase and displayed stock certificates for tens of thousands of shares of Akanabi Oil. The banker raised his eyebrows and picked up one of the certificates, analyzing it for authenticity.

“So what do you need me for?” the banker asked, setting down the certificate and folding his hands across his ample belly.

“I don’t, actually,” Hart said wryly. “Not if I sell that.” He nodded toward the briefcase. “But I don’t want to sell. Not yet.” Hart opened Sonia’s brown leather backpack and pulled out a thick business plan.

“I’ve been working on this all week,” he said, pushing it across the table toward the banker. “I’m prepared to give you a twenty percent return on your money for the first five years in exchange for an unlimited line of credit.”

The banker pitched forward in his chair and laid hands upon the document.

“Uhh uhh,” Hart said, shaking his head. “Not before we make a deal.”

“How can I make a deal if I can’t examine the business plan?”

Hart pulled a confidentiality agreement from Sonia’s backpack and placed it in front of the banker who read it.

“It bars you from even speaking about this matter to anyone who is not intimately involved in the release of funds and then it’s only on a need-to-know basis. After you read the plan, you’ll understand the paranoia. This is revolutionary technology. The urge to steal it will be strong.”

“This bank is not interested in anything illegal or immoral, Mr. Hart.”

“It’s nothing like that. But it will be the greatest invention since the advent of the industrial revolution. And you have the opportunity to be a part of it.”

“What’s the catch?”

“No catch. I need a line of credit. You’re in business to make money.”

“But why not do it yourself?” the banker asked, motioning toward the stock certificates.

Hart smiled and leaned back in his chair. “Once the first plant is built, that won’t be enough to cover the cost of expansion. It’s gonna spread like the wildfire, I guarantee you. Cities, states, municipalities – they’ll all be clamoring for it.

Interest piqued, the banker signed the confidentiality agreement and opened the business plan. Hart watched his face change as he read the one-page introduction.

“Either you’re crazy or a genius, I’m not sure. But if it’s true, I take your point. There’s no telling how big this could get.”

“So, we have a deal?”

“I need to look this over in detail, but my preliminary response would be yes, we most certainly have a deal.” The two men shook hands.

“I’ll call you later . . .”

“Absolutely not.”


“I’ll sit and wait until you’ve finished reading.”

“Mr. Hartos, a line of credit of this magnitude will require the acquiescence of the bank’s Board of Directors. And it’s not going to be granted on a verbal request.”

“That’s fine. After everyone signs the confidentiality agreement, you get a copy of the business plan.”

“Okay, well I’ve signed, so I’ll keep this copy.”

“Not until you’ve approved the line of credit.”

“But I just told you…”

“Look. I don’t know how you’re going to do it, but until I get everybody’s signatures . . .”

The banker shook his head. “We just don’t do business that way.”

“There are plenty of banks on this street. Someone’s going to lend me the money.”

“Not without the proper paperwork.”

“Suit yourself.” Hart collected his papers and stuffed them in Sonia’s backpack. “Remember. You signed an agreement. Not a word. Because if I hear one, I’ll own this bank.”

Hart smiled broadly. “Good day.”

 to be continued. . .

catch up here

copyright 2013

be home more

headlightsOIL IN WATER

Pam Lazos

Chapter Seventy

Kori walked in the back door and dumped a pile of mail and the Sunday paper on the kitchen table. She shot Avery a dirty look which he didn’t catch because he didn’t bother to look up from his magazine.

“Hi to you, too,” she snapped. Avery took a bite of his cereal.

Kori got close to his face: “Hi!” she yelled.

Avery pulled the honey pot over, forcing Kori out of his immediate space. She crossed her arms and stared at him as he rolled the honey dipper around inside the pot. He pulled up a ball full and drizzled honey over his Cheerios, making little swirly patterns with the sticky golden liquid.

“Are you going to say something?” Kori asked.

He replaced the lid and pushed the honey jar away before turning his full attention to his sister. He scowled, contemplating his options.

“Yeah. I’ll say something. Don’t you think you’re behaving outside the scope of what constitutes a good role model?” He took a sip of his juice and rather than waiting for an answer, turned back to his magazine. Kori watched him, mouth agape.

“What the hell’s that supposed to mean?” she shot back.

Avery pushed his chair back and crossed his legs. In that moment, he felt he’d become one with his father. He felt agitated and fatherly, a lecture for the child’s latest transgression poised on his tongue.

“It means, you’re acting like a….” His mouth formed a “w,” but no sound came out. Avery’s face felt hot. He dropped his chin and looked at his stockinged feet.

“What? Go ahead and say it.” She threw a piece of junk mail at him. “Say it!” The envelope bounced off his shirt and fell to the floor. “Say it, you little dweeb.” She threw a stack of napkins at him. They fluttered to the floor like baby birds falling from the nest. “Who the hell are you to judge me? Huh? Do you know how hard it is being me? Keeping all this together?” She waved an arm behind her, a gesture so dramatic it may as well have encompassed the entire world, not just the pots and pans.

Avery rubbed the bridge of his nose, exactly the way Marty used to do to hide his smile.

“Stop it, you little bastard.” Kori lunged at her brother, intent on strangling him.

Avery had a good deal of upper body strength to his credit despite his lanky frame. He grabbed Kori with ease, stopping her in mid-lunge, holding both arms, their faces inches apart. He looked closely at her now, at the worry lines on her face, at the dark, puffy circles below her eyes, and he softened. He released her and she sat down opposite him, looking pitiful and embarrassed. Avery returned to his magazine and pretended he wasn’t moved.

“Just say it, would you?” Kori choked out the words.

“Okay. You need to be home more. Not just for Gil. For me, too.” He pushed his cereal bowl away. “I can’t remember everything. I have school, you know? And there’s laundry everywhere and grocery shopping and Gil’s homework to check and I got my own homework. I mean, look at that.” He waved his hand in the direction of the gargantuan pile of mail. “I think subconsciously I didn’t pick it up because I know there are bills due and I’ve got no money to pay them with. I never know if there’s going to be enough and I keep hoping that Social Security will make a mistake and send us two checks so I can pay off some of these credit cards that I’m using, not to buy fun stuff, but to buy groceries.” He dropped his head to his hands and stared at the floor.

Kori rubbed his back, but he shrugged her off and pulled himself together.

“You gotta get back to work. You have jobs waiting. Clients who can be tapped for other clients. Otherwise we’re gonna drown here, Kori.”

“Avery,…. I’m sorry. I didn’t realize.” Avery rolled his eyes.

“Alright, I did. But I was trying to hide from it, too.” She flopped down in the chair next to him. “Sorry.”

“It’s all right. Let’s just get back on track, okay?”

“Okay.” Kori slumped in her seat. “Anyway, I broke up with Chris.”

“You’re kidding. You and Mr. Wonderful are through?”

“He wasn’t so wonderful.”

“That’s not what you said last week.”

“Yeah well, last week my head was in a bubble of love and this week the bubble’s burst. Life’s much clearer without the filmy soap residue.”

“What happened?”

“Same old, same old, I guess. My “last man on the totem pole” complex. He’s so wrapped up in his work. I didn’t see that much of the time he was dedicating to me had to do with the story he was unearthing. His interests have been waning ever since the story ran on Gil. I got tired of ignoring it.”

“What did Chris say?”


“So you didn’t tell him.”

“I don’t think I need to.” Kori sighed. “Please don’t beat me up about it.”

Avery shrugged. “What good’s it do to beat the animal that pulls the plow?”

Kori wacked him on the back. “Are you calling me a cow?”

“If the yoke fits,” he said.

“Bastard.” She smacked him on the back again.

“Hey. Mr. Right’ll come along. What did Mom say? For every pot there’s a lid?”

“Are you calling me a pot now?”

“Jesus, you’re a bitch,” Avery said. “Now leave me alone, please so I can finish my gourmet breakfast.” He pulled his cereal bowl over and took a bite, but spit it out. “Uch. I hate soggy cereal.”

He dumped the mush in the sink and poured a fresh bowl. The doorbell rang.

Kori looked at the kitchen clock. “Who’s coming over at 9:30 on a Sunday morning?”

“Could be your new Prince Charming,” Avery said, pouring milk into his bowl. Kori scrunched her nose, looking distraught.


“What if it’s Chris?” Kori asked, doing her deer in the headlights impersonation.

Avery laughed at the look on her face. “What if it is? You broke up with him, right?”

Kori didn’t budge.

“You better answer the door before the bell wakes Gil up.”

“Will you get it? If it’s for me, just say I’m not here.”

Avery drizzled more honey into his bowl. “No. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m eating.”

“Fine,” Kori huffed, and stomped from the kitchen.

to be continued. . .

go backwards to the start

copyright 2013

the first attempt

abu-dhabi-liwa-desert-sands_29506_600x450OIL IN WATER

Pam Lazos

Chapter Sixty-Eight

Some saw it coming, although they couldn’t have predicted its speed. Both Syria and Turkey, and to a lesser extent Iraq, began dam building projects in the 1950’s diverting the Marsh Arabs water for their own agricultural projects. Their water, along with a five-thousand-year old way of life, had begun drying up. It would have happened eventually, but Saddam Hussein helped it come like lightening.

For five thousand years, the Marsh Arabs were a self-governing people, managing to fly below the radar, breaching their own dams and flooding their homes, retreating to the marshes when the many conquering armies came through the region. But in 1980, following the revolution in Iran, many of the Shiite leaders sought refuge in the marshes. And the Marsh Arabs, themselves Shiites, took in and hid these refugees. Afraid that a similar revolution would sprout among the Shiite population in Iraq, Saddam started a systematic campaign of arrests and executions removing the male heads of families and forcing the expulsion into Iran of the women and children left behind. That was his first attempt. The second was in 1991 and it was clearly more insidious, aimed not just at dismantling their families, but the way of life of an entire region.

At one time there were as many as five hundred thousand Marsh Arabs living in the marshes, today less than forty thousand.  Commissioning four drainage canals, several dams and a third “river” he called “The Mother of All Canals,” Saddam redirected quadrillions of gallons of water that fed the marshes, dumping them uselessly into the Persian Gulf. He claimed that the redirected water was to be used for agricultural purposes, but not a single project was initiated as a result.

It was really a campaign of genocide against the Marsh Arabs for their part in the 1991 Shiite uprising, a three-week insurrection prompted by the Americans and the British following Desert Storm. The Shiite Muslims answered the American call, but when Saddam turned on them, so did the Americans. They were left stranded in the desert, and without their water which was being diverted to the Persian Gulf, they had no place to hide. Many were imprisoned, many others assassinated, and still others packed off to refugee camps in Iran where they still live today.

to be continued. . .

read more here

 copyright 2013

The Philadelphia Enquirer

Northern-lights-in-Canada-006OIL IN WATER

Pam Lazos

Chapter Sixty-Two

Waiting on the tarmac at the airport in Houston, Hart tried both Lapsley and Zenone, but was unable to raise either on his cell. He checked his watch. Even OSCs deserve Sunday night off .

After take-off, a stewardess gave him a choice between The Houston Chronicle and The Philadelphia Inquirer . He chose The Inquirer, a nod to a new life, and dropped it onto the empty seat beside him. Hart stared out the window into the upper reaches of the troposphere, a stunning black freckled with starlight older than any one of his lineal ancestors. He wouldn’t say he was at peace, but there was a calming feeling that came with his decision to take a leave of absence from Akanabi. He lowered his seat into the recline position, shut the overhead light and closed his eyes, but after an hour of chasing an elusive sleep, he flipped on the light and pulled out the Employment and Business sections of the paper.

He scanned the front page of Business first; nothing caught his attention. He flipped through until he got to B-5 where his eyes met those of a smiling Gilliam William Tirabi, inventor extraordinaire. The headline read Inventor Turns Trash Into Gold , a somewhat inflated view of the process as admitted in the first line of the article since alchemy was only involved figuratively. However, it wasn’t the headline that caught his attention, but the face itself, and the feeling that he’d met this child before. The article, written by staff writer Chris Kane, recounted the tragic death of Gil’s parents and the MIA status of his older brother. It discussed Gil’s reluctance to complete the trash project until recently when he came to terms with his father’s death and decided it was “okay”.

Hart closed his eyes and thought about this kid’s life. When he opened them again, the face of Gil Tirabi was staring right at him. Hart studied the picture until he thought he saw Gil’s lips move. He shook his head, tossed the paper aside and shut the light.

At dawn, the plane touched down in Philadelphia. Hart grabbed his carry-on and moved into the aisle.

“Sir, would you like your paper?” the stewardess asked.

“No, thanks,” Hart said. But a moment later he turned, picked up the business section and stuck it under his arm.

Hart stopped for a latte, paid the woman, and dropped the newspaper in the process. A customer behind him handed it back.

“Thanks,” Hart said.

Hart took his change, shoved the paper back under his arm and stepped out of line. He stood, lost in thought for a moment, then walked to a nearby trash can and tossed the paper in, but the face of Gil Tirabi stared back at him. Hart chuckled at his own ridiculousness and left the terminal.

Outside he flagged a cab, turned over his carry-on to the Indian driver, threw his briefcase into the back seat and climbed in after it.

“Where to, sir?”

“The Sheraton on 2nd Street.” The cabby nodded and started the meter. Hart closed his eyes and slept until the cab pulled up to the hotel. He paid the driver, retrieved his briefcase and got out of the cab and stumbled toward the lobby of the Sheraton.

“Sir. Your paper.” Hart accepted the cabbie’s offering, shoving the paper in his briefcase before heading inside to check in.

to be continued. . .

to read what came before click here

copyright 2012