playing with food

seeds2

Fancy me. I’m making progress in my personal green revolution. Not only am I growing lettuce, basil, cilantro, and tomatoes, but I just planted purple carrots.  I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself Ida Skivenes, but well, you know. I’m doing what I can to green up my world.

I’ve been wanting to compost, but living solo, I just don’t generate enough green waste to reach practical critical mass. Even considering my habit of buying more produce than I can possibly eat in a week and throwing out an obscene amount of food, it’s still not enough to justify investing in a personal 100 gallon composting unit. Like my (brief) foray into READ MORE HERE

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

let’s make a deal

Starfish1OIL IN WATER

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.”

“Hmmm?”

“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

a hundred years from Monday

budbreakOIL IN WATER

Pam Lazos

Chapter Fifty-Five

A few days later, Kori was pulling out in Ruth’s minivan when Jack cruised up the driveway, forcing her to slam on the breaks to avoid a head-on collision. He stepped out of his car, an impish smile on his face, and walked over to the driver’s side. She looked beautiful.

“Better watch where you’re going,” Jack said. “You could hit somebody.”

“Better you than me.”

“Nice to see you, too.” Kori stared straight ahead, ignoring him.

“How come you haven’t returned my calls?”

“You called?”

“Very funny, Kori. What the hell’s going on?”

“Nothing. Why do you ask?”

“I’ve been calling you all week, is why I ask, and I know you haven’t been home because I’ve driven by a dozen times. Then last night one of my buddies says he saw you and some flunky out having dinner.”

“We’re just friends.”

“Oh yeah? When was the last time you lip-locked a friend?”

Kori shrugged.

“Answer me, dammit.”

Kori stared at the woods to the side of the house. Jack yanked open the driver’s side door and pulled her out by the arm.

“Ow….”

“Oh, now I have your attention….”

Kori shook loose from his grip and stalked off across the lawn. Jack ran ahead, hampering further progress.

“What in God’s name has gotten into you? Why are you so angry?”

“Because you’re a self-centered bastard. You waste your time watching sports when you could read a book. You prefer a night of drinking with your friends to the movies with me. You have no interest in my work. But most of all, because you wouldn’t go to the Goddamn public meeting with me!” She said the last with such venom that Jack thought she was going to strike him to hammer the point home, but she just turned on her heel and walked back toward the car. He stared after her, dumbfounded, before running to catch up.

“I’m sorry. If I’d have known it meant so much I would’ve gone with you.”

“You did know.”

“I didn’t. I swear. Come here.” Jack pulled Kori in and hugged her to his chest. “I miss you. Please don’t do this.”

Kori raised her face to him.

“Besides. Robbie told me to take care of you.”

Kori grimaced and shoved Jack as hard as she could. He lost his balance and fell backwards.

“And Robbie told me to watch out for you,” she said, “but not the way you think. Anyway, Robbie’s dead. Gone. Just like you. Just like everybody.”

Jack jumped up and grabbed the back of her neck. He pushed her chin up and kissed her gruffly. “It would be a shame to lose what we have.” He wound his arms around her and whispered in her ear. “To walk away just so you can be the first to leave is a horrible waste of time. Sometimes there are things bigger and more satisfying than an indulgence of your pride.”

“Like what?

“Like happiness.”

“Oh, pull-ease”

Jack released his grip and took a step back, putting air between them. “Are you afraid to be happy with me?”

“I was happy with you until I saw what an egotistical prick you are.”

“C’mon, Kori. This is stupid.” He kissed her again and this time she responded with her mouth and her body. After a minute, she released him. He was electrified.

“Alright. You win.” She reached out and gave his dick a little squeeze. He shivered at the touch. “Call me, say, a hundred years from Monday. That should put us squarely in the next lifetime.” She strode to the van, slamming the door after her.

Jack watched as she put the transmission into all wheel drive and drove through the small forested grove to the side of the driveway, pulling out onto the road before he even registered what happened.

➣➣➣

Jack walked around to the back of the house and, hearing music, followed it to the barn. He banged on the door, but Gil didn’t hear him over the bass. He peeked in the window and saw Gil holding Max up by his front paws and dancing to the Bacon Brothers, Philadelphia Chickens. Jack knocked on the window and when Gil saw him, he screamed and dropped Max to the ground.

Gil lowered the volume on the stereo and opened the door. “You can’t sneak up on a person.”

Jack laughed. “It’s not like it was hard.”

“Where’ve you been?” Gil demanded.

“Home. At work. Out. You want a list?”

“Why not here?”

“Your sister’s not talking to me.”

“So what? I’m talking to you.”

Jack tilted his head, shrugged his shoulders and gave Gil a lopsided smile. “Gilly.”

Gil looked askance at Jack, set his lips in a grim straight line, and closed the door.

“Gil, come on,” Jack said, knocking again.

Gil locked the door and turned up the music.

to be continued. . .

to get caught up start here

copyright 2012

wildlife sanctuary

OIL IN WATER

Pam Lazos

Chapter Fourty-Four

It was a wind like only January could send down, brutal and unforgiving. Zenone cursed under his breath and stumbled back inside the command post trailer, the wind slamming the door shut for him. It continued to beat against the trailers sides, rocking it inexorably, and he wondered if he and the command post might not end up in Kansas with Dorothy and Toto. In sharp contrast to the chaos, whipping white caps across the river, the snow clouds cast a calm, eerie light across the sky, beautiful and surreal like the color of Mars. By mid-afternoon, the increasing pain in his wrist told him the weather had all but arrived. With that ample warning, he had the foresight to shut down all beach cleanup operations for the day and radio in all seafaring vessels allowing them sufficient time to dock. So far, nine out of ten of the boats had radioed in, safely ensconced at various locations up and down the Delaware.

Zenone felt it his duty to stay put until the last boat was in and all personnel were present and accounted for, but what he really wanted was a beer. It had been a long day, eighteen hours if you counted the two hours he put in before he arrived at the command post. He knew if he drank a beer right now he’d be sleeping in the trailer, but he checked the small fridge anyway, hoping for a bit of a miracle. It was empty but for a pint of half-drunk chocolate milk and a jug of orange juice. He turned his nose up at the juice. The acid would rake his stomach and he didn’t need a full blown case of heartburn. He grabbed the chocolate milk, opened the carton and sniffed the contents, recoiling at the smell emanating from within.

“Aachhh.”

He set the milk down on the desk and made a mental note to stop at a store on his way home, that is, if he didn’t fall asleep at the wheel. He was bone weary from lack of sleep and his stomach rumbled, adding to the mix. A cheesesteak would be good right now.

The wind howled and the trailer throbbed, driving all thoughts of food from Zenone’s head. He took a stool at the drafting table, ran his hands through his hair. Outside, snow started to fall. Zenone stared at the phone, willing it to ring. The silence crept into his inner ear, as pervasive as the oil on the Delaware, making its bunk up for the night. The storm would go a ways toward breaking up the oil, but there was still too much in the water. If it could have just waited until tomorrow when they had recovered more. Then Mother Nature could get to work. He scanned the computer generated simulation Lapsley had brought him. The Coast Guard had sent a helicopter up on an overflight mission to map the extent of contamination – an aerial view of the spill was immensely helpful in these circumstances – but it was only partially successful due to the weather. The heavy cloud cover made it hard to distinguish the slick, while the clouds’ shadows cast what looked like dark stains, easily mistaken for oil, upon the water. After ascertaining the imperfection of purely visual analysis, the overflight team notified Akanabi who sent up their environmental consultant. He snapped a bunch of photos with infrared light cameras which produced a much clearer picture of the spill, then fed the reconnaissance data into a computer. The program crunched the spill data, mixed in environmental conditions such as wind and weather, and simulated the spill’s course and dispersion rate. The conclusion was that the oil was heading toward the Delaware Bay where it would likely be contained and, as a result, wouldn’t reach the Atlantic Ocean. Duh. Although in open ocean waters computer modeling could be extremely helpful in determining the direction of a spill, in this case, the Delaware only went two ways and the odds were staggering that the oil would return to the Bay with the outgoing tide.

“I’d say they got ripped off,” Zenone said. He tossed the aerial map aside and rested his head on his closed fist.

Zenone’s guys had managed to sufficiently confine the oil just short of the Bay before having to abort the mission. At that time, and by some good will of the gods, only the Pennsylvania side of the shoreline had been affected. But the way the wind was bandying the oil about now, the shores on both sides of the Delaware and likely the Bay would be gummed up by morning.

He grabbed the shoreline cleanup manual off the desk and thumbed through the various clean up methods looking for something he might have missed: removal; steam cleaning; high-pressure washing; chemical and hydraulic dispersion. Chemical and hydraulic dispersion . The eight-foot waves would take care of the hydraulic part. He would have preferred a good surface washing, lying down some rip rap and hosing off the beaches. Then they could collect the oil off the rip rap and dispose of it properly. But now the waves were going to wash the oil back into the river where it would sink to the bottom. Chemical dispersants would break it up, but…

Zenone removed his hat and scratched his head, then ran his fingers through his hair. He hadn’t thought about chemical dispersants because the Delaware was a fresh water body and chemicals had a certain degree of toxicity. What if the dispersants could be placed before the storm came, an emulsifier that would break the oil down into smaller pieces and drive it into the water column where it would more easily biodegrade. That and the oncoming wind and large waves would break it up fast. But the chemicals . The heavy oils were less toxic; they tended to sit on the surface of things rather than penetrate them, but they were tough to remove – like picking up gravel with tweezers – and smothered the smaller organisms that lived on the shore. He flipped through the manual looking for guidance. The Coast Guard had some pre-approved areas where emulsifiers could be used – he wasn’t sure without looking where they were – but how the hell were they going to get the stuff in the river before the storm, especially now since he’d recalled all seafaring vessels. He could go out himself maybe…

“Oh my God, I’m losing it.” He closed the book and pushed it aside, wishing again that he had a beer. He checked the cell phone. No new calls. He grabbed the trailer phone and laid down on the small couch. Just until I get the call . He closed his eyes and because of his exhaustion, rapid eye movement began almost at the outset.

Zenone stood on the shore watching large waves crash against it and taking with them, back to the river, the blackness that covered the land. He smiled. The oil was dissipating. Once again, Mother Nature prevailed. The snow clouds cast an eerie orange light, enough for him to see. It was all going great until the waves started dropping things on the beach; a loud thump, followed by a scattering of black, rounded clumps of solid mass.

He walked over to investigate. A large, oiled bird lay on the ground, half-dead and shivering from hypothermia. Zenone touched the animal as it opened its eyes, blinking back the oil, trying to clear its vision. He felt his own eyes sting with tears. Zenone wiped the bird’s eyes with his fingers, then his hands, removing what oil he could, but the task was impossible, like removing water from a well with a slotted spoon. He was so engrossed, he didn’t notice the wall of water behind him. The wave crashed on the shoreline, knocking Zenone to the ground and taking the bird with it. He climbed to his feet and staggered down the beach. Another crashing wave, another thump , followed by another, and another. Zenone looked up to see birds lying everywhere, landing on the beach with each successive wave. He dropped to his knees and crawled to the nearest bird. A glob of oil was stuck in the bird’s esophagus. He reached in and tried to dislodge it. The bird fought him, flapping against both the intrusion and the lack of oxygen. It clamped down hard on Zenone’s fingers and he yelped in surprise and pain.

➣➣➣

“Rise and shine,” Lapsley said, squeezing the fingers of Zenone’s hand. Zenone shrieked and Lapsley jumped back, almost dropping the pair of coffees he carried. He set the carrier down, removed his gloves and handed Zenone a cup of the steaming brew.

“What time is it?” Zenone croaked.

“Five forty-five. That would be a.m.,” Lapsley said. “You look like hell.” Lapsley noted the dark, foreboding circles under Zenone’s eyes, but said nothing more

“You’re no prince charming, yourself,” Zenone grumbled. He accepted the coffee and took a big swig. “Goddamn, that’s good.” He took another swig, walked to the table and pulled at the bag Lapsley brought, extracting a whole wheat bagel with cream cheese.

“Hungry?” Lapsley asked.

Zenone nodded and consumed half the bagel in a bite. “Never got dinner.”

Outside, the water looked choppy, but calmer than the night before.

“Chocolate mousse,” Lapsley said.

There was a loud bang at the door and Zenone jumped again spilling coffee on the table. “Damn,” he said and grabbed the bag for some napkins. He spoke through a mouth full of bagel. “Come.”

Hart entered carrying several cups of coffee and a box of donuts which he set on the table. Zenone smiled at the offering.

“If you bring food, you’re always welcome,” Zenone said, shoving bagel in his mouth. He nodded to a seat which Hart took.

“Lap and I were just talking about chocolate mousse.”

Hart raised an eyebrow. “All I brought were Munchkins.”

“And that’ll do.” Zenone routed through the box and popped one in his mouth. “You know, when oil becomes aerated, generally after the second or third day, it starts to look like chocolate mousse.”

“He’s head of engineering for Akanabi Oil. He probably knows that,” Lapsley said.

“You never know,” Zenone replied. “It’s a hell of a state. All whipped.”

“Like you before you got divorced.” Lapsley said. Zenone ignored the slur.

“In the summer, the oil turns into tarry clumps and ends up on the beach,” Hart said.

“Asphaltine,” Lapsley added. Hart nodded and Lapsley smiled. “Sorry. We’re used to dealing with the public.”

“Do you know if any of it has sunk yet?” Hart asked. “The Arabian crude is pretty heavy. It’s probably just a matter of time.”

“We’ll find out today,” Lapsley replied. “Once the water has a chance to settle.”

“I got a helicopter on standby equipped with sonar. If there are globules on the bottom, large or small, we can track it,” Hart said.

“Hey, remember that one spill?” Lapsley asked Zenone. “These big globs of oil were up and down the river like bouncy balls, back and forth with the tide.”

Zenone’s cell phone rang.  The command post phone was also blinking.  “Damn.”

“It came in around eleven,” Lapsley said, intuiting the source of Zenone’s concern.

“How do you know?”

“Because they called me when you didn’t answer your phone.”

Zenone nodded and sat down, visibly relieved.

“You don’t need me this morning, do you?” Lapsley asked.

“Whaddya got goin’ on?”

“We’re going to take a ride to Chesapeake to the wildlife sanctuary. Want to go?”

A shiver ran down Zenone’s spine and he stared off into space for a moment, looking at something Hart and Lapsley couldn’t see. “Nah. Go ahead.” He waived a hand to dismiss them.

“I’ll check in at Tinicum Marsh on my way back. I haven’t heard from anybody yet. Hopefully the booms held.”

Zenone drew a deep breath let it out slowly.  “With a little luck….”

to be continued. . .

read how we got here, here

copyright 2012

honor among thieves

copyright 2011/all rights reserved


OIL IN WATER

a novel by

PAM LAZOS

CHAPTER SEVEN

Bicky rustled through stacks of reports, shoving things around his desk in haphazard fashion.  He picked up the receiver and buzzed Phyllis.

“I still can’t find the yearly report.” he snapped.

“Did you look on your desk?” she asked.

Bicky snorted.  “Would you come here and lay hands on it please?”

He was still holding the receiver when Phyllis materialized.  He pushed his chair back, making room while the flurry of Phyllis’s hands restored order to his finite universe.

“It’s not here,” she said, straightening.

“I know that.  I’m thinking that eventually you’ll tell me what you did with it.”  Phyllis raised an eyebrow in response, the equivalent of a shove.

Bicky rolled back an imperceptible inch. “Well, it didn’t walk out of here by itself,” he mumbled.

Phyllis shot him another arrow which he dodged by walking to the window.

“Did you stick it in your briefcase?”

Bicky’s briefcase sat perched on the mocha leather couch, the two leathers barely distinguishable.  Bicky watched Phyllis peripherally, pretending to gaze out the window as she rifled through the bag.

“If I had put it in my briefcase, I wouldn’t need you to look for it now, would I?”  Bicky turned and met her gaze with the temerity of a spoiled child.

Phyllis addressed him as one:  “You can get your own report if you use that tone with me again.”

He turned back to the window.  From this angle, Phyllis’s slate blue eyes would do less harm, only able to bore holes into the back of his goddamn skull as opposed to his own eyes, risking his soul.  He watched her reflection in the window and she watched him watching her.  She snorted and he sighed, looking down at his feet, battle lost.  After all these years, Phyllis Steinman had no trouble handling Bicky Coleman.

“Get me my calendar at least,” he half-pleaded.

Phyllis turned and walked out the door returning moments later with the calendar.

“Who was here today?”  Phyllis scanned the calendar entries.

“Every meeting you had today was either in the conference room or away from the office. Except for the one with Graighton which was here and which you were present for, I presume.”  She scanned the pages again nodding her head once to confirm.

“Graighton didn’t take the report.  He’s got his own,” Bicky barked.  “Nobody else was in here?”

Phyllis scanned the pages again and stopped.  Her face contorted slightly and she slammed the book, regaining her composure.

“What?” Bicky asked.

“Nothing.”

Bicky opened the book and checked the entries.  It was all as Phyllis had said.  He sat mulling over the days events then narrowed his eyes at her.  “Sonia.”

Phyllis shrugged.

“How long was she waiting?”

“I don’t know.  I was away from my desk when she got here.”

“Well, find out.”

“What does it matter?  You know Sonia.  She probably thought she’d use it as ammunition to get her husband out of Iraq.”

“Her husband is out of Iraq.”

“He’s not home yet.”

“I need that report.”

“I’ll order another one.”

“They’re $32,000 a copy.”

“You just gave yourself a $4 million bonus.  What’d you do?  Spend it all?”

“Very funny, Phyllis.”

“What is it exactly, that you would like me to do?”

He turned back from the window to face her.  “I want you to get the first one back.  It’s dangerous for her to have it.  You know that.”

“Why?  Because only a select few are privy?  Besides, how do you know she has it?”

“Oh, for God sakes, woman, don’t act stupid.  It doesn’t suit you,” Bicky said.  “Sonia was the only one in here today.”

“That fact alone does not unequivocally prove that Sonia nicked your report,” Phyllis said  wryly.  “For all we know, somebody off the street could’ve marched in and grabbed it.”

“Well, unless Jerry’s lying dead in the lobby, how do you think that would be possible?”

“Maybe we have poltergeist,” Phyllis sniggered.

Bicky sighed.  “Just call her…please.”  He said the word please under his breath.

Phyllis shook her head.  “Forget it. I’m not getting involved.  This is between you and your daughter,” she bristled, “and if she’s got a bone to pick, it’s with you, not me.  She probably wants a little attention.  Maybe she’s trying to get you to make up for the last thirty years.”

“Spare me the armchair psychology.”

“It’s tough to swallow so much crow.”  Phyllis patted his hand.  “But you’re a tough guy.”  She said, closing the door behind her.  Bicky snorted as he watched her go.

to be continued. . .