finalmente

 

zeropointOIL IN WATER

Pam Lazos

Chapter Eighty-Two

Four months later, Gil, Avery, Kori and Hart walked the perimeter of a building inside the Philadelphia Naval Business Center. After careful deliberation, Hart had decided not to use Akanabi’s existing plant, but to build fresh. Hart walked slowly, surveying the area, while the Tirabi children followed him like sheep behind the shepard.

“I’ve got the contractors lined up. We’ll start construction next week. We’ll have to sequester the blue prints. No one gets a full set. Just bits and pieces. Enough to keep them working on their part.”

“But we already have a patent,” Gil said.

“That we do,” Hart said. He winked at Avery who blushed. Avery’s endless hours at the library had paid off several days earlier with the arrival of the official seal of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

“We have affirmative rights,” Avery said to Gil. “but that doesn’t mean somebody couldn’t steal the idea, or maybe improve on it and get their own patent. Even if they incorporate it wholesale, we’d still have to sue them to get them to stop.”

Hart turned to Kori. “I’ll need Gil to take a little time off from school. He’ll have to be on the floor while we’re in the construction phase just to trouble shoot.”

Kori scowled at Hart, exuding denial.

“I’ll get him a tutor,” Hart said. He walked over and wrapped an arm around her shoulder. “It’ll be alright. I promise.” Kori nodded and relaxed a bit.

“Can we have ice cream?” Gil asked.

Kori checked her watch. “It’s only 11:00 o’clock.”

“I know,” Gil said. “But I’m hungry.”

“Tell you what. Let’s go down to 9 th and Catherine. There’s a little deli called Sarcone’s . They make the best hoagies you ever ate. It’s all in the bread. They got a veggie one – spinach and roasted peppers.” Gil turned up his nose and looked the other way. “You gotta try it. If you don’t like it, we’ll go to Geno’s and get you a cheesesteak.”

“But I want ice cream,” Gil said.

“Ah, but you didn’t let me finish. Afterwards we’ll go to John’s and get the best water ice you ever tasted.”

“Like Rita’s Water Ice?

“Rita? Never heard of her. But I can assure you, Rita don’t know nothin’ about nothin’ when it comes to water ice. I’m tellin’ ya’. This is the stuff.”

“Okay, but I want half kiwi-strawberry, half mango.”

“You got four flavors. Chocolate, cherry, pineapple and lemon. They may have added one in the last twenty years, I don’t know, but if they did, it won’t be kiwi-strawberry,” Hart said.

Gil frowned. “Whatever. Can we go now? I’m starving.”

“Why am I not shocked,” Avery said, following Hart out.

Gil stole a last glance around the deserted floor and ran to catch up.

➣➣➣

Hart started the car and pulled out of the parking lot.

“Estimated time of arrival, sixteen minutes,” Hart said. Avery sat next to him in the front seat, Gil and Kori in the back.

“I don’t think I can wait sixteen minutes,” Gil said. “I’m so hungry, my stomach is soon going to eat the rest of me. I’m also thirsty.” Gil made notes in the blue folder on his lap, his head bowed in concentration.

“Why didn’t anyone remember to bring snacks and libations for this child?” Hart kidded Kori.

Kori rolled her eyes and rummaged around in her purse, coming up with an old, yet edible peppermint which she handed to Gil. Gil tried ripping the paper off, but it had melted on in sections and the job was too tedious. He handed the mint back to Kori who yanked it out of his hand.

“Can’t you do anything yourself?” she asked, picking lint and other sundries previously living in the bottom of her purse off the stale, hard candy. Gil shook his head. When the mint was wrapper-free, she handed it to Gil. He popped it in his mouth and crunched it to bits within seconds, then looked again at his sister.

“That was it. I don’t have anymore,” she said.

Gil went back to his notebook. Several minutes later, he raised his head, capped the pen and closed the folder. “Hey, Hart?” Gil said.

“Yo.”

“Did you ever hear about the Zero Point Field?”

“No, but I’m sure you’re going to fill me in,” Hart said. Gil smiled and looked at Avery before grabbing Kori’s purse.

“Hey, you little brat,” she said, but made no effort to retrieve it. Gil began routing around, looking for more candy.

“The Zero Point Field is a constant backdrop in all physics equations. The theory is well known,” Avery said, “but not in the way Gil is working on it. Because it’s a constant, it used to be something that physicists subtracted out of everything.”

Gil found another peppermint, this one more tattered than the first. He handed the peppermint to Kori and she peeled the plastic off in strips. He grabbed it from her outstretched hand, picked off the last few pieces of lint, and chomped it up as quickly as the first one.

“But for the last thirty or forty years, a few pioneers have been tinkering with the idea that there’s more to the Field than the need to remove it from a few equations,” Avery said. “Some of the brave ones have begun a series of experiments, mostly in isolation. Collectively, their work points to a phenomenal result. It turns out that the Zero Point Field, what used to be thought of as empty space, is this massive, cohesive unit of energy that runs through everything , not only on the planet, but in the entire universe.”

Gil licked the sticky peppermint off his fingers. “Anything can happen in the Field” he said. “That’s why sometimes they call it the Zero Point Field of All Possibility.”

“Sounds like science fiction,” Hart said.

“Yeah,” Gil said. “Did you ever see on Star Trek when they heal somebody without medicine and without surgery? They were tapping into the Field.” Hart laughed out loud and Gil blushed.

“He’s not kidding. The Field will make our ideas of modern medicine obsolete,” Avery said.

“If you get shot or a tiger bites your arm off and you want somebody to reattach it then you’ll still need a doctor,” Gil added.

“Yeah, but not for the stuff like cancer or arthritis or Alzheimer’s,” Avery said. “You won’t need to take drugs.”

“Yeah, because you can just go back in time to the “seed moment” and fix it before it gets to be a problem,” Gil said. He stuck his hand in Kori’s purse and fished around for more candy. She yanked it away.

“Enough,” she said.

“What’s a seed moment?” Hart asked.

“Well, these physicists who are studying the Field say it’s the time of the conception of a disease. Or actually, the exact moment before when all the pathways are coalescing to form what will become the disease.”

“And you’re saying you can go back in time and cure it even before it manifests itself just by accessing this mysterious Field,” Hart asked. Gil nodded.

Hart mulled this information over for a moment before speaking: “What if it wasn’t a disease, but an accident. Could you change it then?”

Avery looked at Gil who shrugged.

“Does it involve more than one person?” Gil asked.

“Yeah,” said Hart.

Gil thumbed through his folder and rubbed his chin just like his father used to do. After a minute he closed the folder. “Too many variables,” Gil said. “You can talk to God, but you can’t have his job.”

Hart’s expression sank as he exited the highway. Gil caught Hart’s eye in the rear view mirror and smiled, forcing Hart to do the same. Hart shrugged.

“Anyway….” Gil handed Kori the blue folder. On the cover, in large type it read: “Plans to Solve the World’s Health and Energy Problems Using the Zero Point Field, ” by Gil Tirabi. At the bottom of the page in smaller type it read: “ I give this five stars.”

Kori read the cover and turned to stare at her brother. “You – are kidding me. You never gave anything five stars.” Kori flipped through the folder. “What? Did you prove the existence of God or something?”

“Something,” Gil agreed. He fidgeted in his seat and made a goofy face, one that belied the intelligence lurking beneath.

Kori dropped the folder on the seat next to Hart who at present was maneuvering deftly around a car double-parked in the driving lane. He cast his eyes down to the folder lying next to him and read the title. He looked at Gil in the rearview mirror.

“Are you serious? Because if this is true, Gil, we better hire some better security, and pronto.”       

“Well,” Gil said, “maybe you should start interviewing.” 

THE END

 

synomymous with Edison

Andromeda-Galaxy-640x353OIL IN WATER

Pam Lazos

Chapter Seventy-Seven

At exactly 10:00 a.m. the next morning, Bicky arrived at the Tirabi residence uncharacteristically dressed in a pair of khaki pants and a polo shirt. Kori and Jack were sitting at the kitchen table when he knocked at the front door. Kori jumped.

“You expecting company?” Jack asked.

“No.” She had called Jack the minute Bicky pulled out of the driveway the previous night and Jack had picked up on the first ring as if waiting for her call. They’d talked into the small hours where night blurs into day and the grandest ideas are born. After a marathon phone session, Jack showed up on the front step looking hanged-dogged and hopeful. Kori invited him up to her room where they’d continued their conversation, among other things, and now they were pleasantly exhausted. Maybe it was the sleep deprivation, the fact that they hadn’t seen each other in a while, or that Jack had made sufficient reparations along with all the right promises, but whatever it was, when Jack proposed that they get back together, Kori acquiesced. And she hadn’t again thought, until this precise moment, about Chris Kane. So while she sat, still as garden statuary, wondering about the odds of him being on the other side of the door, and if so, how to explain it away, Jack got up and answered it.

“Kori’s in the kitchen,” she heard Jack say as he and Bicky entered the kitchen. Kori let out every cubic inch of breath she’d been holding and smiled.

“Good night, I see,” Bicky said.  Kori introduced the men.

“I heard all about you yesterday,” Bicky said, extending his hand.

Jack shot Kori a quizzical look and she blushed. “I was dreaming,” Kori said. “I’ll tell you about it later.”

“And I’ll keep all further comments to myself except to say that’s a very special lady,” Bicky said. “Should you have the good fortune for her to turn her unwavering gaze upon you, I suggest you rise to meet it.”

Kori popped up, planting a wet one on Bicky’s cheek. “I take back all the bad thoughts I had about you yesterday” Kori said. She gave Bicky a squeeze which he accepted stiffly, clearing his throat.

“It’s like hugging Gil,” Kori said to Jack. Bicky blushed at his own ineptness.

“They’re out in the barn,” Kori said. “Just Gil and Hart. Avery’s at the library working on the patent.”

Bicky nodded and whispered into Kori’s ear, loud enough for Jack to hear, “I think, my dear, that a mid-morning nap might do you wonders,” and he closed the door behind him.

“I think it’s an excellent idea,” Jack said, pulling Kori close. “No time like the present.”

 ➣➣➣

The strains of Yo-Yo Ma’s cello on the soundtrack to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon filled every crevice, corner and cobweb in the barn. Gil practiced the martial arts techniques he learned from the movie using a broomstick and Max as his opponent. Hart reclined on the hammock, reading a backdated version of Omni magazine, one that waxed prophetically about the brilliance of an as then little known scientist by the name of Marty Tirabi who harbored radical theories and an insatiable appetite for breaking down paradigms. The article, written in 1983, donned Marty the proverbial new messiah of the scientific world, said his star was quick and rising, and that it was just a matter of time before he stood, not only the scientific community, but the world at large on its ear with some scintillating new breakthrough.

Hart stopped to watch Gil who executed first a side and then a roundhouse kick, both flawless. He poked the air with the broom handle while Max chased the other end. Waves of tenderness flooded Hart’s chest and rippled outward to his arms and legs, his fingers and toes, and kept on rippling until he felt the room go electric with it. God had given him back something that he’d been horribly denied, something minute yet infinite, small yet limitless. He breathed in the smell, like the air after a lightning storm, both burnt and wet at the same time, and gratitude filled him up so much that he got vertigo. He tossed the magazine aside and planted his feet on the floor. He felt like he’d received a divine download, a specific, yet wordless instruction from a source higher than himself. With guidance, this child could pick up the mantle his father was so unexpectedly forced to set down. And you’ll guide him…

The knock at the door made Hart jump and set Max to barking, but both relaxed when Bicky walked in. Hart walked over to greet his father-in-law, but Gil bumped past, throwing his arms around Bicky’s neck and his legs around his waist. Bicky reeled, then caught his balance, holding firmly to Gil with one arm and a support beam with the other. It was a light gesture, yet it landed in Hart’s stomach like an unexploded grenade, threatening to detonate with the import of it. The grandson Bicky would never have.

“What took you so long?” Gil yipped right in Bicky’s ear.

Bicky grimaced, patted Gil clumsily on the back, and set him down, slow and deliberate.

“You guys had a good day yesterday, I see,” Hart said. He lowered the volume on the stereo.

“Thank you.” Bicky said, rubbing his ears. Gil’s smile effloresced, a flower in full bloom.

“He’s got all kinds of ideas for marketing the TDU,” Gil said to Hart, “and he said that we can build a special wing in Akanabi and dedicate it to my Dad. Maybe even rename part of the company. But whatever we do, people are going to know all about him. By the time Bicky’s done, he’ll be as big as Thomas Edison.”

“Bigger,” Bicky said.

“Who do you think made the bigger contribution?” Gil said. “Edison or Bell?”

“Those are just the common names.” Hart said. “What about all those physicists, toiling away in anonymity. The ones who come up with the big theories that advance our understanding of the universe. Somebody needs to thank them. It can’t all be about the light bulb.”

Gil sat down on his stool, set his lips in a tight line and moved them back and forth across his teeth, apparently in deep concentration. “I think it’s got to be about the light bulb. Without that invention, everyone else is in the dark. Eating in the dark, swimming in the dark, making phone calls in the dark, even inventing in the dark.” He looked to Bicky for confirmation.

“Then we won’t stop until his name is synonymous with Edison. How’s that?”

“Excellent.” Gil smiled and jumped off his seat. “Let’s get started then. C’mon over.”

Bicky followed Gil to the TDU and stood in front of it. “So this is the machine with a hundred and one uses,” Bicky said. He pulled open the metal door and was met with a full blast of hot air. “Whoa,” he said and took a step back.

Gil nodded and raised his eyebrows. “Should have warned you. It gets pretty hot in there. Let me show you how everything works and then we can sit down with the drawings.”

“You joining us?” Bicky asked Hart.

“Go ahead,” Hart said. “Gil and I have already talked this through a bunch of times. I would like a fresh pair of eyes, though, in case there’s something we’ve missed.” Bicky nodded.

“Okay, Mr. Bicky.” Gil said. “This machine is small for what we want to do with it. In a real facility, the scale could be increased as much as you want. Twenty to one. Fifty to one – whatever.” Gil said. “In here,” Gil opened the TDU’s door and another blast of heat escaped, “is where we feed the beast. My dad excavated it twenty feet down to a fully-lined pit. Those side doors over there slide open,” he said, pointing to the wall. “We back the ATV into the barn. It’s got this little hydraulic cylinder that raises the front of the trailer bed – just like a dump truck – so the trash slides off the trailer right into the machine.“

“By the way, I called the bank and told them I no longer needed the financing,” Hart said, returning to the hammock.

“Thanks,” Bicky said, flashing a lopsided grimace.

Gil went over every square inch of the TDU. For his part, Bicky was unwavering in his focus and seemed enthralled, both in the presence of genius and in that which genius had wrought.

 

➣➣➣

Half an hour later, Gil finished his tutorial and sat down on the swivel stool. “So. What do you think?” he asked. He pushed off and began spinning.

      “I think,” Bicky said, “that this may be the most important, money-making invention I’ll see in my lifetime. It’ll reshape the world. Maybe even put us in Bill Gates’ league.”

Gil’s stopped spinning to scrunch his nose at Bicky, clearly not the answer he wanted.

Bicky let out a long, breathy sigh: “I’m sorry… that I never met your father. What vision. And now his dream — ”

“More like his nightmare, you mean.”

Gil jumped. Everyone turned around to see Jerry Dixon emerging from the shadows in the corner of the barn. “Because if you had the opportunity to shake his hand, well then that would mean he’d be alive and you wouldn’t be taking his product to market for him.”

“What the hell are you doing here?” Bicky hissed.

“Where did you come from?” Hart asked.

“How’d you get in?” Gil said.

“Through the door, buddy,” Jerry said. He walked over to Gil and tousled his hair as if he were a toddler. Gil grimaced and leaned away.

“I’ve been hanging out listening to all this lovey dovey crap. It is indeed heartwarming.” He glanced over at Hart. “No pun intended.”

Gil smoothed his straight hair over to the side- and scowled at Jerry.

“Just came by to see how it all turns out now that everyone’s become such fast friends.”

“Hart, get him out of here,” Bicky said.

“Bicky, what’s going on?” Hart asked.

“I fired him a few days ago.”

“Fired?”

“Fired. Just like that,” Jerry said. “Can you believe it, Hart? After thirty-three years of loyal service. And for what?”

“I’m going to give you five seconds and then I’ll remove you myself.”

“I’ll tell you for what. Because Bicky Coleman, our Commander-in-Chief, the man we’d follow blindly into battle without a care for consequence, was disappointed in me. Who knew disappointment carried such a huge price tag?” Jerry huffed, walked over to the wall phone and pulled the receiver from it’s cradle.

“Hello, Operator? What’s the number for disappointment?” He smiled at Bicky, a sardonic, dripping thing, and yanked the phone off the wall, tossing it to the ground. “She doesn’t know,” he said. He shrugged, walked over to Gil and shooed him off the stool.

At first nonplussed, Gil’s confusion over what was happening changed to obstinance. He stalwartly refused to give up his stool until Jerry gave him a shove which sent him spiraling to the floor. Max lunged at Jerry, nipping the fleshy part of his hand, before Jerry managed to put Max in a choke hold and press him to his chest. Max stood with two paws off the floor, alternating between sucking air and baring his teeth.

“I’ll break his neck.”

“No!” Gil yelled.

Hart grabbed Max’s collar and Jerry released his grip. Max collapsed on the floor, panting for air. Hart picked him up, all seventy pounds, and deposited him in the hammock.

“Jerry, what the hell is your problem?” Hart was at Gil’s side, pulling him to his feet, dusting him off. He scooped Gil up and placed him in the hammock next to Max. “Stay,” he said to both of them. Bicky stood in the corner, eyeing the bulge in Jerry’s trouser leg.

Jerry rubbed his temples with both hands as if he had a headache. “Because I had a little dalliance with a woman that he cared nothing for, other than to control her,” Jerry said, responding to a question that no one had asked.

“Dalliance, my ass,” Bicky quipped. “She left you billions of dollars. Billion does not equal a dalliance. Just how long were you screwing her?”

“It really doesn’t matter, does it, Bicky? What matters is money. It’s all that matters.”

“You son-of-a-bitch,” Bicky said. He lunged for Jerry, swung and caught him with a glancing blow to the side of the jaw. It was like hitting granite.

Jerry neither reeled, nor blinked, but caught Bicky squarely with a sucker punch to the mid-section. “Oh, does that feel good,” Jerry said on contact.

Bicky groaned and doubled over, but pulled up and swung again. Jerry blocked Bicky’s fist and returned it with his own while Max barked in time with the punches. Gil watched in fascination as if these were the recorded antics of daytime television. Jerry’s military training gave him the upper hand, but Bicky’s years spent working out with a personal trainer made him a worthy opponent. Hart stared at them, momentarily stupefied, before his brain roused his body to action. The men were locked in an angry embrace, each fueled by years of swallowing their own bitter disappointments. Hart broke up the fight and held them at arms length, a referee between two boxers.

“Knock it off, dammit. There’s nothing to be done,” Hart said.

Bicky and Jerry stood glaring at one another, less than a few feet between them, inhaling each other’s fury, fueling their own. The ambient air, dank and fetid with the ghost of so much lost love, reeked of hopelessness.

“She’s dead. You both lost.”

“Why’d you come here, Jerry?” Hart snapped. “You have a hefty inheritance. Take it and go buy an island somewhere. Have some respect and leave the man to his grief.”

“Grief? The only thing Bicky Coleman grieves for is a bad investment,” Jerry said. He spit at Bicky’s feet, splattering the warm Italian leather. “Nothing else matters to him.”

“Why don’t you say something back” Gil said to Bicky, a note of pleading in his voice. He walked over from the hammock, Max in tow. Both fear and loss were reflected in Bicky’s crystal blue eyes. “Don’t let him say those mean things.”

“It’s you he needs to say something to,” Jerry replied. “Isn’t it, Boss?” Jerry smiled grimly, a gargoyle at the palace gate. “Something he’s going to have a hard time telling.” Jerry shook Hart off and sat back down on Gil’s stool.

Hart turned to Bicky. “What’s he talking about?”

“Still didn’t tell him?” Jerry asked. “Why am I not shocked.” Gil stared wide-eyed, alternating between Bicky and Jerry. Hart moved Gil and Max back to the hammock.

“Get out,” Bicky said.

“You know, son, here’s a lesson for you. Before you go into business with someone, make sure you have a good idea of their character. And barring that, make sure you get yourself a damn good attorney,” Jerry said. “At least do a background check.”

Jerry picked at his nails as if he had all the time in the world before looking Gil straight in the eye. “Do you know if it wasn’t for this guy, you’d still have parents?”  He reached down to the leg of his trousers.

“What does that mean?” Gil asked. He turned to Bicky. “What does he mean?”

“Get Out!” Bicky yelled, his rage sputtering up, threatening to blow its sides. He took a step toward Jerry just as the former head of security for Akanabi Oil stood and pointed a 9 mm. at Bicky’s mid-section. Bicky halted in mid-stride.

“I mean, Bicky ordered me to have someone tail your parents the night they were killed. He really wanted those papers over there,” Jerry said, motioning toward the desk. “Told me to use all means, which, of course, I paid extra for.” Jerry cleared his throat. “It was me, by the way, torched your porch. I’m real sorry about that. In hindsight, it was sloppy and uncalled for.”

“You’re lying!” Gil screamed. He jumped down and grabbed the closest thing he could find, a snow globe. It was a clear plastic hemisphere sitting on a pink base and filled with water and faux snow. Plastic tropical fish swam inside and stirred up snow whenever someone shook it. The globe had been purchased during a family trip to Florida and for two months after, Gil slept with it every night. Now he heaved it across the room as hard as he could. It glanced off Jerry’s shoulder, hit the floor and landed with a distinct thud . Water leaked from the newly formed crack in the plastic and spread into a small, round puddle.

Bicky grunted and lunged for Jerry’s gun. Jerry fired and for an instant the room went quiet: the only sounds a whoosh of air as the bullet hurtled through time and space to its target, the sickening sploosh as it made contact. Hart pulled Gil and Max back. Bicky screamed in pain and collapsed in a heap on the ground. Gil’s head poked out from behind Hart’s back, his face a mixture of horror and awe.

Jerry smiled at Bicky, heaped on the floor like discarded packaging, clinging with both hands to his oozing thigh. Blood spread out, covering the distance in phases as it soaked into the fine cotton twill of Bicky’s pants, the smell of it acrid and strong. Jerry raised the gun to Bicky’s head and started to laugh, a maniacal, full-bodied thing that, like the whirling dervishes of Islam, showed no signs of relenting.

 to be continued. . .

it started 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?”

“Nothing.”

“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?”

“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

dangerous beasts

finches audobonOIL IN WATER

Pam Lazos

Chapter Sixty-Four

He had spent every afternoon of the last two weeks brainstorming with Gil and Avery, reviewing plans, dreaming of possibilities, discussing permutations. Pizza and Chinese take-out had been the dinners of choice for the majority of those nights, but on the evening of the thirteenth day, Avery decided to cook. He made a fabulous dinner of moussaka, spanikopita, and Greek salad. They topped it off with a healthy helping of Aunt Stella’s baklava – Aunt Stella adored Hart – and by the end of the night, it seemed that he and Avery had discovered simultaneously what Gil had known all along: Hart was their man.

Back at the hotel, Hart grabbed a Sam Adams from the small refrigerator and sat down at the elegant desk. He drew a crude sketch of the TDU on the small Sheraton notepad, then did some calculations regarding the square footage needed to house the machine. In order to bring investors to the table, he’d have to sell the complete package, not just the conversion from trash to oil, but on to refined oil and gas. The problem was going to be with the refining.

Refineries were dangerous beasts. To convince investors to ante up for the revolutionary TDU was one thing. There were more than a handful of nouveau riche with not only the collateral, but the common sense to invest in such ground-breaking technology. But would those same people also wish to invest in the construction of an oil refinery to complement the TDU.  The reduction in air quality, the potential for spills and explosions, the astronomical construction costs, and the staggering cost of liability insurance were all good reasons not to build a new facility. The last new refinery built in the U.S. was in 1976 in Louisiana. Would anyone really want to start again now?

Hart stared out at the shimmering city lights, his mind ticking through a list of possibilities when a broad smile crossed his lips.

“Of course.”

Hart took his Sam Adams and the newspaper article about Gil and the TDU and headed down to the front desk in his bare feet. He handed the paper to the concierge and wrote down a fax number.

“Would you fax this for me? Now if possible.”

“Certainly, sir.” The concierge retreated to the back room. Hart stood at the counter and drank his beer, tapping his foot nervously. The concierge returned in a few minutes and handed Hart the newspaper article along with a confirmation sheet.

“Thanks,” he said and returned to the bank of elevators.

 ➣➣➣

Minutes later, back in his room, Hart telephoned Houston. Bicky picked up on the fourth ring.

“Hello,” Bicky croaked.

“Am I waking you up?” Hart belatedly checked the clock. It was 2 AM.

“No, I’m generally up at this hour,” Bicky replied, his voice thick with sarcasm.

“Did you check your fax?”

“As is my habit in the middle of the night. What’s up?”

“Well, I’ve been officially on sabbatical for two weeks and I’ve already found what will take us to the next level, economically, and environmentally. Want to hear about it?”

“Do I have a choice?”

“Everybody’s got a choice.” Hart said. Bicky took so long to reply that Hart thought he’d fallen back to sleep.

Finally, Bicky sighed. “Go ahead.”

“How about this? A machine that converts trash into oil.”

Bicky began a hack so violent, Hart had the hold the phone away from his ear.

“Hey, man, are you all right? Drink some water or something,” Hart said. He heard the phone drop onto the night stand as the cough receded into the background. After several minutes, Bicky returned.

“What the hell did you say?”

“I said, how about a machine that converts trash, you know, from a landfill, into petrol? Would you invest in that? And before you say another word, believe me, this is for real. I saw it with my own eyes.”

“How? Where are you?”

“In Philadelphia?”

“I thought that machine was south of the city, out in Delaware County?”

“Huh? You heard of it before?”

“Ah – something about it, but I’m not sure from who.”

Hart’s eyes narrowed and his nose twitched involuntarily, probably because his body smelled a rat, but his brain couldn’t make the connection.

“You saw this machine?” Bicky asked.

“I did.”

“You talked to the inventor?”

“Yep. Been hanging out with them for the last two weeks. Well, the actual inventor is dead. A tragedy in every sense of the word.”

“How’d you find out about it?” Bicky’s voice was coarse with sleep, which served to obfuscate his impatience so Hart didn’t notice.

“I read a newspaper article on the plane. It was luck, I think. Something weird.” Hart squinted into the past, trying to piece the events of that first day in Philly together, but like fragments of a dream, they scattered, leaving nothing but their fuzzy imprints.

“Bicky, I know you need time to think about it, but the implications…. This is beyond breakthrough.”

“I think you’re cracking up. You better come back to work before you go over the edge.”

“Listen. This machine eats trash. We install machines like this across the country and not only are our landfill problems eradicated, we are no longer dependent on foreign oil. And I’m not talking about in situ burning that releases harmful carcinogens into the air. And not trash to steam. We’re not replacing one problem with another. We’re solving two problems at once. It even helps with greenhouse gasses since that trash won’t be sitting in the landfill breaking down for a million years.”

“Yeah, yeah. You said this was in the paper?”

“Yes.”

“Which paper?”

“The Philadelphia Inquirer. Go check your fax machine.”

“That means a lot of people know about it already.”

“It doesn’t matter. This kid wants to work with me. We. . .bonded.”

“Oh, Christ. Now I see where this is going. You don’t have any kids of your own so you’re out looking for some without parents.”

“That’s not it,” Hart said. “I got the feeling that he chose me, but how, I’d be hard-pressed to say.” Hart took another swig of his second Sam Adams and sat back in his chair. “If you think about it, you really can’t write a check fast enough.”

“Did you try buying him out? The board will want complete ownership.”

“We can’t buy him out, Bicky. He’s only ten.”

“Ten! Does the phrase ‘candy from a baby’ mean anything to you?”

“His father invented the machine.”

“So you said.”

“I did? I didn’t think I said that.”

Bicky started coughing again, so Hart waited until he finished.

“The kid idolized his father. He’s tweaked this machine to maximum efficiency.  It’s . . . well it’s a beautiful thing.”

Bicky sighed. Hart could sense the conversation was winding down.

“We don’t need any investments. We’re making enough money on the product we have.”

“You’re being short-sighted. What happens when your supply dries up?”

“It’s not going to dry up anytime soon. The Middle East has plenty of oil.”

“It’s going to dry up, Bicky. Maybe not in your lifetime, but probably in mine, and definitely by the next generation.”

Bicky was silent for a minute. “I don’t have any grandkids. What the hell’s it matter about the next generation?”

Hart felt the barb in the pit of his stomach. “Kids or grandkids, we have a moral obligation.”

“Hey, maybe we’ll find a cure for AIDS while we’re at it,” Bicky snarled.

Hart almost hung up the phone, but tried one more time. “Just think about it. From where we sit, with our dwindling resources, this invention rivals the Internet.”

“Shut up, already. You’re sounding like a National Geographic article. When are you going to stop worrying about everyone else and start worrying about yourself?”

“When you stop worrying about yourself and start worrying about everyone else.”

“Very funny.” Bicky coughed again. “I’ll send somebody down to look at it.”

“Don’t send somebody down. I’m already down.”

“You quit.”

“I’m on sabbatical, remember?”

“Did you even ask him about selling?”

“They’re not selling.”

“I just want to know if you asked.”

“Someone needs to help these kids, Bicky. Both their parents are gone.”

“So are mine, but you don’t see me crying.”

“Oh, Jesus,” Hart said, utterly exasperated.

“All right. Truth be told, I’m not interested. Now can I go back to sleep?”

Hart’s anger rifled through the phone like machine gun fire. “Just so we’re clear. I’m going to get this thing built, with or without you, and when it’s done, my company’s stock is gonna shoot so high you’ll need a telescope to see me in the night sky.” Hart could hear Bicky breathing into the phone, but no words were forthcoming. “Whatever. Go back to sleep. You always have been anyway.”

“Goddamn it!” Bicky barked. “What are you going to do? Flood the market with Akanabi?”

Hart hoped his silence conveyed the fact that he was smiling.

“Go ahead, you little prick. I can withstand your assault, you stupid. . . .”

Hart held the phone away from his ear so he didn’t hear Bicky’s last insult.

“You hear me, Hart?” Bicky screamed. Hart caught the echo.

He balanced the receiver on his index finger and watched it sway back and forth like the scales of justice. He could hear Bicky’s disembodied voice yelling after him, his tirade continuing unabated. With his free hand, Hart lifted the phone and dropped it in its cradle. He sighed, like a man who has just taken his last bite of a memorable meal, sat back and folded his hands over his stomach. After allowing several seconds for it to disconnect, he took the receiver off the hook, and laid it on the table. A minute later his cell phone started ringing. He switched the ringer to mute and opened another beer.

to be continued. . .

read the rest starting here

copyright 2012

love for oil

deep-sea-coral-betsy-a-cutler-OIL IN WATER

Pam Lazos

Chapter Fifty

A fairly starved Gil started right in on the plate of eggs, sausages, and toast with butter and raspberry jam that appeared like magic before him. He didn’t care whether anyone else would be joining him. He would not be participating in conversation. He could not spare a single brain cell for anything other than the food in front of him and the inner workings of his own mind, occupied as it was, with gears, gaskets and temperature adjustments.

He could see the TDU clearly, behind the eye, all gleaming steel and aluminum, its curves and junctures, the placement of each nut and bolt. He’d studied the drawings for hours, had known since the time his father had asked what needed to be done how to correct the problems, but it was only now, with his father’s blessing, that he allowed himself the luxury of dwelling on the actual mechanics of its completion. Still, maybe fixing it was not at all what Marty was trying to tell him….

Gil missed his father terribly and wondered why his belly hurt now, months later, and whether those two things were connected. Maybe it was his Dad’s refusal to speak last night that reminded him of the truth of things. Since his death, Marty had so often visited Gil on the astral plane, that magic place where dreams intersect reality, that Gil had tricked himself into believing his father was still alive. But last night, Marty wouldn’t talk to him, no matter how much Gil pleaded. And now with Robbie…. A lump formed in his throat, a sensation he wasn’t used to, and he gulped down a mouthful of milk to wash it away.

He wiped his plate clean with the last bite of toast, downed the rest of his milk and belched. Max raised his head, wagged his tail, and went back to sleep.

“Gil!” Kori’s voice shook him from his reverie and he giggled. Avery stifled a laugh and took a bite of his eggs.

Kori was looking at him weird, like his mother used to. The resemblance was amazing, and when Kori stood and gave him a hug, he felt for a moment his mother’s arms around him, shuddered as her spirit passed over his bones. She’d want him to sleep, they both would, because his eyes were red and his nose still runny from being outside for so long, and she wouldn’t want him to get a cold. Still, he wasn’t tired, but wired with an unending series of thoughts and fractions of them. He didn’t want to sleep, he also didn’t want to think anymore; just wanted his mind to wait a little. And he sure as heck didn’t want to fight with Kori. Better go upstairs. Pretend to do what she wanted.

“May I be excused?” he asked.

Kori nodded acquiescence. “What are you going to do now? Watch a movie?”

“I’m going to go take a nap,” Gil announced.

“Oh, really.” Kori raised her eyebrows in disbelief. He smiled at her and mustered his most innocent facial expression.

“Bring your plate to the counter then.”

Gil obeyed, placing his plate and cup in the sink. “Good night,” he said and turned on his heel. He smiled to himself as he left, pleased with the deception. Max jumped up with alacrity and followed Gil out the door.

“I need to run some errands this morning,” Kori called after him. “Avery will be here if you need anything, but you probably won’t because you’ll be sleeping.” Gil turned and from the corner of his eye saw Kori and Avery exchange a glance; he feigned obliviousness.

“Okay,” Gil said. Mother instinct. They must be born with it . Plans foiled, the smile left Gil’s face as he and Max rounded the stairs to his room.

➣➣➣

Gil waited forever while Avery ran the snow blower up and down their winding driveway and Kori shoveled out the walks. He was waiting for his chance to escape to the barn. He needed to decide whether to fix the TDU and maybe looking at it would help him. He paced the floor, indulging his impatience, then sat down on the floor, closed-eyed and cross-legged, concentrating on his breathing like Avery had taught him, but neither helped. After forever and ten minutes, he threw himself on the bed, pulled a blanket up to his chin, and stared at the ceiling. Patience was not his forte. Visions of valves and pistons danced in his cerebral cortex. Gil sighed and drew a deep breath.

“You almost need an oil company,” Marty said. “Otherwise, how do you think we’ll get the oil to the dealers? UPS?”

Gil laughed. My father, the card.

The back door slammed and Gil knew Avery had come inside. He sat up and looked around, rubbed his eyes. The room was empty.

“Rats.” The clock said he’d given the last four hours to Morpheus.

Gil listened at the top of the stairs and heard Avery banging around in the kitchen. He sniffed the ambient air with a deer-like adeptness and his stomach rumbled in response. Heavenly smells wafted toward him, threatening to derail his plans. Melted ham and cheese. Impulse and hunger almost threw him over the railing.

Gil found Avery bent over the toaster oven, fiddling with the sandwich makings inside. He looked at the table set for two and a satisfied smile crossed his face. He snuck up behind his brother and peered over his shoulder.

“Whatcha’ doin’?” Gil asked.

Avery jerked, slamming the door to the toaster oven as he did so. “You…have got…to stop …doing that,” he said, turning to his brother in slow motion.

Gil shrugged, smiled. “What’s for lunch?”

“Ham and cheese.”

“Chips?”

“You know where they are.”

“When’s Kori coming home?”

“She went to Jack’s. It’s anybody’s guess.”

Gil retrieved the chips then watched as Avery pulled the melted deliciousness from the toaster oven. His mouth watered at the sight of his second favorite food in the entire world, his first being roasted pork cooked with loads of garlic, rosemary and sage, and a heaping pile of mashies on the side. Despite his culinary dispositions, Gil hadn’t thought much about how indebted he was to the pig. He opened the bag of chips, laying a handful on each plate, routed around the bag, found and stuffed the biggest chip in his mouth, and sat down.

Avery set a glass of milk in front of him and they ate in silence while Gil did a little happy dance in his chair. He finished his sandwich, downed the milk and raised his plate.

“More sandwich.”

Avery raised his eyebrows and looked at Gil point blank.

“Please,” Gil said.

Avery retrieved a second round of sandwiches from the little oven, placing one on each of their plates. Gil leaned in close and sniffed in a lung full of ham and cheese. He held it a moment, before taking a whopper of a bite.

“Avery?”

“Hmmm?”

“Did Robbie really go to Iraq for oil?”

Avery dropped the hot pad on the counter and took his seat. “I don’t know. Sometimes I think there were some factors other than economic, perhaps humanitarian, but then I think about what the real legacy of the current administration will be and I wake up.”

Gil stared at his brother, perplexed. “What are you talking about?”

“Never mind.”

Gil rinsed his food down with some milk. “Kori thinks it was for oil.”

“Kori’s a cynic. But… she’s probably right.” Avery looked over at Gil’s crumby, milk-kissed mouth and handed him a napkin. “Does that upset you? I mean, would it upset you more?”

“You mean if he died for oil instead of something else important?”

“Yeah.”

Gil nodded, gazing out the window. “Uh-huh. Especially if I can make oil out back.”

“Do you think he did?” Avery asked. “Died, I mean.”

Gil shrugged. He’d been unable to formulate a coherent opinion on the subject, and all sources of help he might have received, divine or otherwise, weren’t talking. They finished their sandwiches in silence.

“You gonna do what Dad said?” Avery asked. “Fix the TDU?”

“I’m not sure yet.” Gil shoved a few chips in his mouth, but didn’t respond.

“If you decide to, I can get a few startup loads of trash.”

Gil dropped his plate in the sink, wiped his mouth with the sponge and grabbed his coat.

“Hey, Gil.” Gil turned.

“First of all, that’s gross.  Second, I don’t think Robbie’s . . . dead.  But regardless, the world still needs Dad’s contraption. Even if you don’t have a reason to build it.”

Gil gave Avery the briefest of hugs, rounded on his heel and ran out the door.

to be continued. . .

start here. . .

copyright 2012

keep the birds warm

OIL IN WATER

Pam Lazos

Chapter Forty-Five

The Wildlife Rescue Center in northeastern Maryland, a one-stop emergency room for oiled birds and other mammals, was brimming to capacity. Trained staff and volunteers littered the aisles like road debris, working as quickly as possible to address the backlog. The temperature was set to a balmy eighty degrees to keep the birds warm, a temperature which worked quite well outside, especially with a nice crosswind, but not inside a building packed with so many CO2 breathing mammals. People were sweating profusely; a few of the workers looked like they just took a dip in the river.

The Wildlife Rescue Center was a coalition of the local SPCA, the Friends of Waterfowl, a local, well-known, bird conservancy, as well as federal, state and local government partners. The building itself was huge, about fourteen thousand square feet in the shape of an open rectangle, cordoned off with moveable walls to accommodate the varying resource needs. The largest area was set aside as the trauma center. The building sat, idle yet prepared, to be used only in the event of an oil spill. It was the coalition’s greatest hope that the money they’d invested in this building would go to waste and that the facility and its equipment would sit and collect dust. Unfortunately, today that hope was not realized as dozens of veterinarians and trained volunteers worked side-by-side, attempting to undue what might not be capable of being undone.

Doctor Alyssa Morgan, a veterinarian and Director of the Wildlife Rescue Center, was on the phone in a small walled office at the back of the room, gesticulating animatedly. Lapsley and Hart walked into the middle of the trauma center and looked around, lost children waiting for direction. Dr. Morgan caught sight of Lapsley through her office window and waved, the scowl on her face softening. Lapsley took that as a good sign.

By the time they reached the door, she hung up the phone and ushered them into the office. The office was a mere eight by twelve feet and harbored a desk with a phone, a couch which at present was a catch-all for a miscellaneous reports and papers, and a credenza with a coffee pot. Two more people could fit, but only if they took turns breathing. Realizing rather belatedly the ridiculousness of this arrangement, she hustled them out.

“Vic,” Dr. Morgan said, extending a hand. “Long time.”

“Hey, Alyssa.” Lapsley took her hand, holding it a few seconds longer than necessary. Dr. Morgan blushed.

“This is David Hartos. Chief of Engineering for Akanabi Oil.” Hart extended a hand which Dr. Morgan accepted, but the bloom faded from her face, replaced with a cold, hard stare.

“Lyss, he didn’t go out and dump the oil himself,” Lapsley said. One side of his mouth quirked in a wry smile. The joke worked.

“So what’s going on?” Lapsley said.

“You’re looking at it,” Dr. Morgan said, extending an arm in a wide arc.

“You look like hell,”Lapsley said, his gaze fixed on her face.

“Thanks. You look pretty lousy yourself.”

“You know what I mean,” Lapsley said.

Dr. Morgan nodded. “I was up most of the night cleaning oiled birds. They’re still coming in. And it’s not just the Rescue Team. Fishermen are bringing them in now. It doesn’t look like it’s going to slow down anytime soon.” She gazed around the room and back to Lapsley. “We need backup.”

A lock of hair fell into her eyes. Lapsley resisted the urge to brush it back.

“Why don’t you just put out a couple radio ads? Akanabi’ll pay for it.” Lapsley looked at Hart to make sure this was, in fact, true. Hart confirmed.

“I’m sure plenty of people would be willing to volunteer,” Hart said.

“First time at a Rescue Center, Mr. Hart?” Dr. Morgan asked. Lapsley detected the note of satisfaction in her voice and suppressed the urge to smile.

“Actually, I usually repair the leak before it gets to this stage so this is a bit out of my range, I’ll admit,” Hart said. “But I’d be happy to help.”

“You can’t. You’re not trained. All our volunteers have had a two-day intensive training. To allow you to work on these birds without the proper training would rise to the level of malpractice.”

“There’s got to be something we can do,” Lapsley said.

Dr. Morgan scanned the room. About fifteen de-oiling stations had been set up, all but one presently occupied.

“Check each of the stations and make sure they have sufficient quantities of Dawn dishwashing detergent, rags and trashbags.” Dr. Morgan said.

“I guess that means you want us to hang for awhile?” Lapsley asked.

“For awhile. You mind?”

Lapsley shook his head and smiled at her.

“When did you last take the training?” Dr. Morgan asked Lapsley.

“Probably ten years ago,” he replied. She sighed.

“Alright, you better stick close to me.” Lapsley looked at Hart and winked. He could think of nothing better he’d like to do this morning.

to be continued. . .

to read how this came to pass jump here

copyright 2012

murky water with low visibility

OIL IN WATER

Pam Lazos

Chapter Forty-Three

Hart descended into the murky realms of the Delaware River, enjoying the cocoon-like warmth of his wet suit. He had opted for it over the dry suit even though the water was on its way to below freezing. The dry suit would keep him dry, but not warm enough, not in these arctic-like conditions. Ah, but the wet suit, that was a suit of a different color. It sported an insulated neoprene hose which tied onto the outside of the umbilical, ran down the side of his body and attached at the spider, a three-way valve at the waist of his suit. The hose was fed by a hot water machine that had an oil-fired burner and a digital thermostat to control the temperature. Under usual circumstances, water to feed the hose would be drawn from the water body the diver found himself in, but given the petrol load the Delaware was carrying, Hart directed the hot water machine be fed with water from a local fire hydrant and transported via garden hose. The hose was threaded around the interior of Hart’s wet suit and one hundred degree water escaped through the little holes poked in it, entering in myriad locations and keeping his whole body warm. The hose could even blow warm water through the cuff and into Hart’s smaller gloves making the large, bulky, but warmer three-finger gloves unnecessary. Hart closed his eyes, allowing himself to bask for a few moments in the warmth before proceeding down the ladder into the water.

The Delaware river, a murky water with low visibility on a good day, was even worse today because of the impending storm. Hart reached a level that he assumed would be the bottom of the ship’s hull, but without touching it he couldn’t distinguish metal from water. He dropped another few feet, holding fast to the traveling line, but the scenery didn’t change.

“Great. Now what?”

“What’s up, Boss?” Smith’s voice crackled through Hart’s umbilical flooding the inner chamber of his helmet with sound.

“I can’t see a damn thing. What are they puttin’ in this water anyway?”

“Lots of industry around here. Ships going up and down the channel churnin’ up the bottom. The Army Corps always dredging it to keep the depth right. Then there’s the farming,” Smith mused. “I’d say you got some sediment, some debris…”

“It was a rhetorical question, Smithy.”

“…and, I’d leave it at that. You don’t want to be thinking too hard about what you’re swimming in unless you want to puke in your helmet.” Smith cracked up at that, and Hart joined him, his body quivering with silent laughter.

“Smithy. Help me here. I can’t see the ship. It’s no where in sight, far as I can tell.” Hart flicked his headlamp on and off, looking to bounce the light off of something. He wrapped the tow rope around his leg before reaching his hands out in front of him, groping vainly in the darkness. “I got nothin’.”

“The traveling rope should be about three feet in front of the Ryujin . So if you’re facing in the right direction, you could jump…”

Before Smith could finish his sentence Hart jumped, using the traveling rope for leverage, and after a forward propulsion in slow motion, his helmet came to rest against the hull of the Ryujin with a resounding thump.

“What was that?” Smith asked.

“My brains getting rattled.” Hart moved his hands along, feeling for the bilge keel, the fin-like projections from either side of the hull that helped stabilize a ship in rough seas. He cast his light directly on the hull and found he could see somewhat better. Hart’s thin gloves allowed for greater movement, but also meant he’d be more prone to cuts and scraps against jagged metal. He proceeded with caution moving down and around the bottom of the hull, alert for sharp metallic pieces of the ship’s frame.

After several dim minutes, Hart’s glove snagged on a sharp object. He trained the light in its direction and found a hole, about fifteen inches wide and half as long. He reached his hand in, feeling the emptiness of the space where the oil used to be and shuddered. The boulder, or whatever it was, had ripped a hole right on a seam of the hull, a faulty one at that. Hart’s eye followed the rip in the hull until it dissolved into blackness. He pulled out an underwater tape measure and after ascertaining the width, proceeded down the length of the hull looking for the end of the rainbow. Eight and a half feet later, the gaping stopped. Now it made sense. Hart had been wondering how in the hell so much oil had come out of what he was thinking probably looked like a small gash in the bottom, given both the pilot and captain’s descriptions of impact. With a small hole and entrainment, most of the oil would have stayed put while the ship was moving. But this was no small hole. The impact had given way to a split seam on the hull. With a hole this size, no matter how fast the ship had been going, the oil was coming out. Zenone was right: time to retire the single-hulled vessels. The expense to the company was nothing compared to what it was doing to this river. He’d talk to Bicky about it as soon as he got back. Bicky would have other ideas, but he’d never been on Site for a major oil spill either….

“Hey, Boss.” Smith’s voice interrupted his thoughts. “Time to come home. Coast Guard just issued a squall warning. They want all ships and other non-necessary personnel out of the water, pronto.”

“I can’t see a damn thing anyway, got so much oil on my face-plate,” Hart said. “I’m on my way up.”

to be continued. . .

click here to see what led to this state of affairs

copyright 2012