Not only is his book The Four Hour Workweek one of my personal favorites, this guy is wicked smart! Happy Movie Friday!
Did you know? Up to 80 percent of all life on our little blue planet is found in the oceans. . . and oceans contain 99 percent of the living space on the planet. More than half of the oxygen needed to maintain life on Earth comes from marine plant life.
“I pray to the birds. I pray to the birds because I believe they will carry the messages of my heart upward. I pray to them because I believe in their existence, the way their songs begin and end each day—the invocations and benedictions of Earth. I pray to the birds because they remind me of what I love rather than what I fear. And at the end of my prayers, they teach me how to listen.”
― Terry Tempest Williams, Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place Read more
OIL IN WATER
Gil coughed and opened his mouth, pushing with his tongue. His eyes flew open and he found his face pressed against Max’s coat, a mouthful of the course bristly stuff, dry as cotton, poking at the insides of his cheeks. He coughed and spit the hair out, whacking at it with his unencumbered hand. The bushy mane turned, like a giant rock rolling away from the cave’s opening, and yawned. Max lay on his back, paws in the air, and whined, waiting for Gil to rub his belly. Gil grabbed his water bottle from the night stand, took a big swig and swished it around in his mouth.
“Yuck.” He sat cross-legged next to Max, adjusted his sling, then began to rub in slow, deliberate circles with his good hand, putting them both in a trance. Max moaned in ecstacy, scratching the air one front paw at a time until Gil stopped in mid-stroke.
“Oh my God.” Gil looked at Max. “I had a dream, Max. I had a dream.” Gil got up on his knees and bounced. “I had a dream, Maxie. A dream!” Gil stood up on the bed and began jumping up and down, then dancing in a strange, cohesive rhythm, singing all the while. “I had a dream. I had a dream.” He danced and sang and twirled, “I had a dream. I had a dream,” until his foot accidentally landed on the discarded water bottle and he toppled to the floor. He stuck the landing. Max stared over the side of the bed after him. For a moment Gil looked at him with wide-eyes before bursting into peals of laughter.
“I gotta tell Kori and Avery.” He leaped up and in two giant, awkward strides, he was at the door. “C’‘mon, Max. Let’s go.”
Hart sat on the couch with his laptop and a cup of coffee. Avery sat at the other end reading the Sunday Inquirer . Kori and Jack snuggled together on the recliner. They could hear Aunt Stella, whistling in the kitchen while she made breakfast.
“I still can’t believe it’s a week already,” Avery said.
“Can we not talk about it please?” Hart asked. “I’m better if I just don’t think about it.” Hart sighed. Had Bicky, in a single and unlikely courageous act, not saved Gil from probable extinction at the hand of a man whom Hart had at one time considered to be his close friend and ally, things would be vastly different right now. For the past week, Hart had struggled to redefine his relationships with both men, but the matter was too close, the parameters too large, so he filed it under the category of Life’s Mysteries and Conundrums, the kind that need time and space for disentanglement. Kori’s yelp roused Hart from his reverie.
“Aaaah, your feet are cold,” she said. Jack rubbed his bare feet against Kori’s calf. After a few seconds of squirming, she wrapped both her legs around them.
“God, I love you,” Jack said, nuzzling Kori’s neck. “I come to you with cold feet and you embrace them.” He hugged her to him and whispered in her ear, “I really love you.”
“I love you, too,” Kori whispered back.
“No, I mean I really love you,” Jack said. “Really, really love you.”
Kori poked Jack in the ribs and he grabbed both her hands. She squirmed free just as Gil came running down the stairs, Max barking in his wake.
“I had a dream,” he said, jumping up and down. “I had a dream.” He stopped in the center of the room and did a little jig. Max jumped around Gil’s feet, barking until Gil picked him up by the front paws and danced with him.
Hart stared at Gil and Max, a smile gracing his lips. Drawn by the commotion, Aunt Stella waddled into the room.
“What was it?” Kori asked, sidling up next to Gil. Used to the last week’s worth of uber-mothering, Gil stopped his little dance and raised his face to Kori so she could feel his forehead with her chin. “No fever,” she said and shrugged.
“He’s alive,” Gil said. Robbie’s alive.”
Aunt Stella covered her mouth and folded into an armchair. Kori yelped as if she’d been poked and dropped to her knees. “Tell me.”
Avery joined Kori on the floor and Gil sat down next to them, wrapping his good arm around Max’s neck to keep him still.
“He’s someplace with a lot of water.”
“Water? Iraq’s a desert,” Jack said.
Gil shrugged and ran his closed lips back and forth over his teeth. He looked at Jack.
“Ssshhhh,” Kori said to Jack. “More,” she said to Gil.
“Well, there was a desert in the background, but there was so much water everywhere that I’m just not sure.” He scratched at Max’s ears and drifted off, back toward the dream.
“More,” said Kori.
“Robbie was wearing a robe and one of those head thingees,” Gil said, rubbing Max’s wide side. “And the people traveled by boat. Well, really by these little canoes. And they used poles instead of paddles to move the canoe through the water.”
“Interesting,” Hart said. He assessed Gil with his brilliant hazel eyes before typing something into the computer.
“More,” Kori said. Her eyes didn’t leave Gil’s face.
Gil thought for a moment, his mouth animated, his eyes and nose scrunched in concentration. “Oh yeah. He was digging a hole. He was using a little shovel and this long cylindrical thingee that was open at the top and bottom and some of the sides.”
“An auger?” Jack asked. Gil shrugged. Aunt Stella sat, fanning herself with a dishtowel.
“Got it,” Hart said. “Is this what you saw?” He turned the laptop’s screen toward Gil who jumped up and ran over to look at it.
“That’s it! That’s it!” Gil said.
“Where is that?” Avery asked. Everyone leaned in to peer at the screen.
“That, is the Fertile Crescent,” Hart said. “It’s in southern Iraq. And if you believe the bible, this is where civilization got its first leg up.”
“Wow,” Gil said.
“Are you sure that’s where he is?” Kori asked.
Gil nodded. “Looks exactly like it.”
“So how do we find him?” Kori asked.
“Depends. He might not want to be found,” Jack said. “He’s supposed to be dead, remember?”
“Which means…” Kori said.
“…that he faked his own death,” Avery finished.
“He doesn’t want to see us anymore,” Kori said, a crack in her voice.
“No. It’s not like that. He’ll come back,” Gil said. “When he’s done.” Gil nodded his head with enthusiasm.
Kori gave Hart a look which he interpreted as a need for deliverance.
“I’ll put feelers out,” Hart said. “See what I can come up with. I do have some contacts in Iraq….”
“Is that safe?” Jack asked.
“I’ll be discreet,” Hart said. He looked to Kori. “Okay?”
“Okay,” she said, hugging him so hard he yelped. She ran over to Aunt Stella whose eyes appeared to be leaking then floated back to her spot on the recliner.
Avery grabbed Gil by the shoulders and looked into his eyes. “You sure?” Gil nodded assent. Avery pulled Gil to his chest and let out a long, haggard breath.
“Of course he’s sure. He’s a visionary,” Hart said, smiling. “Okay,” Hart said. “Now — Gil. You feeling up to a little work?” He patted the seat next to him.
“Sure,” Gil said, and flopped down on the couch.
Hart smiled and gave Gil a brief hug, avoiding the sling. Gil, startled by the gesture, sat very still for a moment before awkwardly patting Hart on the back.
“I give you four stars,” Gil said, looking pleased with himself.
“Who? Hart?” Jack asked. “Why does he get four stars?”
Gil looked at Hart with complete admiration in his eyes. “He just does. And if he moves in with us for good, I’ll give him four and a half.”
Hart cleared his throat, blinked his eyes and stared at the screen, suddenly at a loss for words. Gil leaned against him on the pretense of following Hart’s gaze.
“Okay,” Gil said, “show me what you got.”
Let’s do a time check. Persephone is trapped underground with Hades, thanks to her bad dad, Zeus. It could be that Seph is throwing Skadi around like she means it because she’s had enough. Meanwhile, Kali is getting her party started; making chaos and burning down crops. Athena’s itching for a fight. . .and guess what? It’s ladies’ night, and we have a front row seat.
Are we having climate change fun yet? here’s what we know for sure:
The instability of the climate means rapid changes unlike anything history has demonstrated. Wildfires, heat waves, polar vortexes, flash floods, and droughts are just some of the lovely surprises that climate change has in store for us. It’s all about balance, sustainability, inconsistent consistency, the latter which is what normal weather is like — fickle, but not spiteful. Here in PA, just the extra snow days alone have drained local snow removal coffers. Imagine getting hit with monster, successive storms. Think Katrina and Hurricane Sandy, back-to-back. Who’s going to clean up the mess, rebuild, pay for the damage?
It will take a firm commitment. If we threw more than a few bucks at green infrastructure and got some big thinkers and visionaries working on long-range solutions, maybe we could gain some ground. Instead we’re shrinking funds for alternative technologies – the fusion budget has been cut so the U.S. is no longer the world leader in that regard – even as we continue to provide corporate welfare to Big Oil and Gas. Do the oil companies really need that extra money when they are already turning record profits? I wonder, could I get a tax break if I drilled a hole in my back yard and said I was looking to strike oil?
We can’t win this one, kids. Really. After all the damage, hurricanes, typhoons, tsunamis, and 50 degree evenings in July, we’ve still got people
saying screaming that climate change is bad science. The Earth was here before and she’ll be here long after we’re gone. We all know the truth. It’s time for an intervention. We can help Mother Nature deal with her issues, by dealing with ourselves. We are her issues. The government is not going to save us. Neither are the aliens, in case you were holding out hope, or even just wondering. The only ones who can save us are us, but not until most of us get our collective heads out of our b… I mean, the sand. It’s time to do what we do best as a country — solve problems, innovate, lead so others might follow. The payoff, as if saving the planet and ourselves wasn’t enough, is that there’s a heck of a lot of money to be made in green technology, but first we need to cure our CCD.
Kali called; she wants her Gaia back. She’ll do what it takes, so strap on your Teflon pantyhose honey. Even if we stop abusing the planet now, she’s already warmed up and the punch she’s packing is gonna be a gobsmacker. Here are a few fun facts about changing weather patterns that might just be relevant:
Fact: While global temperature has increased about 1.4% over the last millennium, we are currently heading toward an unthinkable rise of between 2 and 12 degrees by the year 2100.
Fact: An increase of 2 degrees F will result in a 5-15% crop reduction; 3-10% increase in rainfall during heavy rainfall events (increasing flooding risk); a 5-10% decrease in stream flow in some river basins; and a 200-400% increase in wildfires.
Fact: Experiencing extra snowy winters doesn’t mean climate change isn’t real. Rather, the increased water vapor in the atmosphere results in increased precipitation, a Catch 22.
Fact: In the last millennium and a half, global sea level has risen about 9 inches and is expected to rise 1.5 to 3 feet by 2100. The increase in sea level will force coastal dwellers from their homes, maybe permanently, and if that happens, what the heck will it do to Manhattan?
we’re parched here on the west coast. . .and regardless of rhetoric and resource politics, one thing seems clear: extreme weather is the new normal.
Bicky moaned and squeezed his leg above the wound.
“But you said he killed her,” Gil said.
“He did,” Jerry replied. “He just wasn’t in the room at the time.
“He’s already lost a lot of blood, Jerry. If he dies…” Hart stood up. Jerry fired the gun into the floor near his feet. Hart started then froze in place.
“Sit down and don’t ask me again. Sit down and let me finish my story,” Jerry said, waving the gun at Hart. “Sit down!” Hart sat.
“I was about to cross the street to my own car. I wasn’t really comfortable spying on Sonia.” Bicky snorted and Jerry fixed him with a vaporizing glare. “I had to jump back behind the house when the other car came. This one belonged to your mother-in-law.”
“What? Did the whole world visit that night?” Hart said sarcastically.
Jerry’s impatience released itself in a huff. “May I continue – please?!” Hart snorted and looked away.
“Pay attention,” Jerry said. “Because you never get a second chance.”
Hart rubbed his face as if deciding something, and turned back to Jerry.
“I went back to the kitchen window. Good thing your neighbors aren’t close by, because the girls were screaming at each other. Seems Kitty also wanted that report.”
Hart chuckled once, then twice.
“Go ahead, laugh,” Jerry said. “It’s ridiculous, right? Everyone running around like chickens for a few inches of paper. But it’s true.”
Bicky moaned in pain and passed out, his head hitting the floor with a thud.
“Oh! Can’t have that.” Jerry walked over and kicked Bicky in the injured right leg.
Bicky roused, bellowing.
“This is the best part, Boss. Don’t fall asleep now.”
Tears streamed down Bicky’s cheeks. With great effort, he propped himself up on one elbow. His head lolled against the cool stainless steel siding of the TDU.
Jerry knelt down and patted Bicky on the cheek. He grabbed Bicky under the chin and rolled his face from side to side. “It’ll all be over soon, Boss. Don’t worry. I promise.” He gave Bicky another smug pat and returned to his seat.
“He’s fading,” Jerry said. “We better jump to the end.”
Bicky sputtered and began convulsing as if freezing.
“Jerry, please…” Hart said, watching his father-in-law.
“Hey kid, that machine throws off a lot of heat, right?” Jerry asked. Gil nodded.
“Go open the door. It’ll be better than a blanket.”
Gil grabbed his water bottle, walked over and held it to Bicky s lips. Bicky tried to drink, but with his shaking, spilled half a swallow out the sides of his mouth.
“Hey, Florence Nightingale, I didn’t say do that.”
Gil set the bottle down next to Bicky, pushed back the outside grate, and slid open the door of the TDU. A blast of heat burst up and out and Gil recoiled from it. He walked back to his seat and threw an impetuous glare at Jerry as he did so.
“Ah, whatever. I guess it’s good to show a little compassion to your enemies now and again. Keep ‘em close. That’s what I say. You’re a good kid.” Gil held Jerry’s eye, but said nothing.
“Okay, where was I? Oh yeah. Kitty wanted the report, too. To bargain with him,” Jerry nodded toward Bicky, “for her freedom. That night, she finally told Sonia the truth. It was a secret she’d kept for thirty-two years. Nobody knew. Not even me. I got it all after the fact these last few months,” he said to Hart, “or I probably would’ve told her.” Jerry nodded as if in agreement with himself. “She didn’t believe it. Called Kitty a liar. I gotta think it wasn’t because of me, per say, but just the shock of it.”
Jerry furrowed his brow and stared at the back wall of the barn, his voice taking on a somnambulistic quality: “I should have walked in then and stopped it… all that pent up emotion flying out like machine gun fire. Kitty hit her. She didn’t mean to. I just don’t think she realized the toll all those years had taken on her. On them. I mean, if she wouldn’t have had Sonia, she would’ve never stayed in the first place. I would’ve seen to that.”
Jerry cleared his throat as if to dislodge the memory. He shook his head. “Sonia went nuts. I never saw her like that. She threw her tea cup at her mother. Kitty put her arm up – it was still steaming – and it broke all over the floor. Tea and shards of glass everywhere.” Jerry snorted defiantly. “She got a couple nice second degree burns on her arm because of it. Next thing I know she’s running from the house and I’m running after her.”
“What about Sonia?” Hart’s voice was cracked and tinny.
“I didn’t see her fall. Cause if I did, I would’ve gone back. She was crazy with rage. I think she slipped on the wet floor, maybe banged her head on the counter. I heard a noise, but I thought she just threw something else.
“You didn’t go back to see if she was okay?” Hart was on his feet.
“I couldn’t. I had to go after Kitty.”
Hart lunged for Jerry who was unprepared for the attack. He toppled Jerry from the stool and the gun clattered to the floor. Gil reached to pick it up, but Jerry’s foot kicked it away along with Gil’s hand in the process. Gil winced and dropped to the floor holding one hand in another.
The two men struggled, punching, kicking, biting, clawing, rolling up, around and over each other. Bicky crawled toward the center of the floor toward the gun, a painful, slow propulsion. With each inch forward he risked being trampled by the fighters, first a finger, then an arm, and finally his leg, the last of which caused him to lose consciousness for half a minute, passing out where he lay. Gil watched the fight in relative safety from his position in the corner, holding his injured hand, his body following every punch and kick.
Hart’s pent up anger launched him like a heat-seeking missile and he pounded Jerry inexorably with the full fury of it, but anger is not a thrifty shopper and after spewing it all over the room, Hart spent himself, leaving Jerry with the edge. Several minutes later, Hart sat in a heap in front of the TDU, with a black eye, blood dripping from his nose, and a variety of scrapes and gashes that would be telling their story for days to come. Jerry emerged with a gash over his right eyebrow which bled profusely, a broken pinky finger, jutting out in an unnatural position, and the gun. Both men had given and received more than a few blows to the stomach and now prodded their tender mid-sections. Jerry spat out some blood, turned to Hart, and pulled the trigger. It grazed Hart’s elbow. Hart howled and cradled the injured arm.
“Now you sit,” Jerry said to Hart. Blood oozed from the cut above his eyebrow, dripping into his eye. He blinked it away, but it was pervasive.
“I am sitting,” Hart spat back. Jerry raised the gun again, but Gil grabbed a rag and shoved it in his free hand. The gesture grounded Jerry who retreated by lowering his gun. He wiped at the wound before nodding at Gil to take his seat on the hammock, then walked over and dropped the bloodstained rag in front of Hart.
Hart ignored it, ripped off a sleeve of his shirt, and bandaged his elbow. He was sweating, given his injury, and that the temperature in the barn had risen considerably since the door to the TDU had been opened.
Jerry walked over and peered inside to the wide, gaping mouth of the giant stainless steel tank below. “How far down’s that thing go?”
“About two stories,” Gil said.
“Probably what hell looks like.” Jerry took a step back and wiped at his brow. “You can’t build this machine. It’ll ruin the only good thing we got left to us.”
“What are you talking about?” Hart said.
“It’ll kill the oil industry. Akanabi’s stock price’ll go way down and my money’ll be worthless.” Jerry whirled around to face Hart. “Kitty left me all her money, you know.” Jerry smiled sardonically at Bicky who was trying to stand up.
Bicky grabbed the stool for balance, but fell back down with a sickening “oaaaaw.”
“And you know what I’m doing with it, Boss? Huh? Turning a profit, you say? Noooo. I’m giving it all to the environment just like she wanted. And it’ll be in our names. Together on the same legal document. Like a marriage license. Together forever in history.”
“I didn’t care what she did with her money, Jerry. I never did.”
“Hhmph,” Jerry grunted.
“I just wanted…” Bicky’s voice splintered like wood . . .“her.” Bicky took a faltering step up, his weight bearing on one leg, his arm leaning on the stool for support. “And the baby.”
“My baby,” Jerry growled. “Did you know that, Boss? That Sonia was my baby?” Jerry wiped at the dripping blood now mixed with tears that cascaded down the side of his face. “We may not have always known it, but we belonged to each other,” Jerry gushed.
A strange gurgling noise arose from deep in Bicky’s throat. He doubled over, first coughing, then hacking, then vomiting. When he was finished he stood taller.
As the fire in the TDU diminished the available oxygen in the room, Bicky began a slow march toward Jerry, stopping intermittently to suck in a raspy, labored breath. He leaned against one of the barn’s dozen posts for support. “I don’t know…what I knew. I just wanted…” Bicky grabbed his stomach and started hacking again. His pant leg, now a dark, saturated red, was plastered against him, the pain drawing him down from the inside. Bicky leaned against a post while gravity, always one to side with a downward spiral, forced him to crumple.
“Kitty said she had always been petrified you’d find out who it was. That’s why she never told me.”
“This is a bunch of crap,” Hart barked in disgust. “Bicky, set him straight, please.”
“Doesn’t he wish. Tell him, Boss. Tell him how you tried and tried to get her pregnant.”
“Shut up.” Bicky said. He pulled himself up by inches. He grabbed the post with both hands and pushed off, a ship leaving port.
“Finally went and got checked out by a fertility doc a few years after Sonia was born. Check the records for Mason Coleman.”
“Shut up!” Bicky hollered.
“It was Bicky’s brother’s name. The one that died. He used it as an alias. Didn’t want the highbrow Houstonians finding out that the great Bicky Coleman’s sperm don’t swim too well. When d’you figure it out, boss? When she left me all the money?”
“Shut…Up!” Bicky roared. He collapsed in a spasm, clutching his leg.
Hart rolled to the side, ready to stand, but Jerry motioned him back with a wave of the gun. Hart ignored him, pulling himself up into a crouching position.
Jerry fired a bullet inches from Hart’s face. There was barely a sound, just the friction in the air as it passed, and Hart fell onto his haunches. With one big breath, Gil sucked in his fear and covered his mouth.
“She wanted you to believe it was yours, but after awhile you knew better, right. You just didn’t know who, huh? Well, me neither.” Jerry grunted and shined his gun on his pant leg.
Bicky crawled to the next post and laid his head against it, catching his breath.
“You coming after me, Boss?” Jerry said, humor mixed with malice. “Well come on then. I promise not to shoot you.”
Bicky rose and took a slow, halting step, and then another, his face contorting in pain with each one. “This machine…will….be…built. With or… without you,” he wheezed. “It’s time…has come. You won’t…stop it.” He cleared the debris from his throat and spit on the ground.
“Watch me.” Jerry’s face contorted and he raised the gun to Bicky’s chest; Bicky continued his funeral march.
Jerry growled and squeezed the trigger. The bullet lodged in Bicky’s forearm. A shot of blood squirted out. Bicky grunted, more than screamed – as if all the screams already had previous engagements – and stood, eyes closed, swaying in the middle of the room. He pitched forward, but latched onto a beam forestalling the crash. He panted like a dog, trying to steady himself before walking, slow and stiff toward his nemesis, a plane locked on auto pilot, unable to alter its course. Jerry may have had the gun, but Bicky had the upper hand.
“Why didn’t you let her go?” Jerry said, the years of anger and longing, bubbling up to the surface like a spring.
Bicky stood within inches of Jerry now. The two men glowered at each other, breathing in rage, breathing out hate.
“I did. She didn’t want to.”
“You lying sack of….” Jerry raised the gun to Bicky’s heart, but Bicky just smiled, unsteady on his feet, yet undeterred, his ragged breath flowing more easily as adrenaline started a quick trot through his body.
“She said you wouldn’t let her go. That you’d disown Sonia if she left you. She didn’t want her daughter to grow up with no father and no money.”
Bicky shook his head. “You were her father. You had money. Not as much as me, granted, but you could have provided for…”
“But I didn’t know!” Jerry screamed.
“Stop it. Just stop it!” Gil yelled, and covered his ears. Jerry whirled to face the boy, raised his gun and shot him. The bullet hit him in the shoulder and came out the other side. Gil hit the floor without uttering a sound; his eyes rolled back in his head and his lids fluttered.
“Noooo!” Bicky grabbed onto Jerry for balance and the two men began an awkward choreography. “Damn you,” Bicky yelled, a strangled curse. He tried striking Jerry with his fist, but Jerry deflected the hit. Each held fast to the other’s arm, pushing, pulling, a scant few feet from the miracle machine, as exhaustion and heat coaxed the sweat from their pores.
“You could have let us go?” Jerry sobbed. “Why didn’t you…?”
Bicky glanced over at Gil who was lying on the floor in a pool of his own blood. Hart crawled to him and checked his vital signs. Jerry and Bicky struggled, edging ever closer to the open door of the TDU. Inside, the fire raged without apology at thirteen hundred degrees Farenheit.
“Gil,” Hart said. “Gil. Can you hear me?”
“Maybe the time just wasn’t right, Jerry. Unlike now.”
Bicky broke free of Jerry’s grip, and with all the force remaining in his battered body, shoved him.
Gravity stepped in again, bolstered by its cousin, Entropy, and Jerry started to fall. But like a magnet, or a mirror that reflects what we truly are, Jerry pulled to him that which was most like him: Jerry and Bicky plunged over the small lip of the TDU together. Jerry only had time to scream once, falling as he was at a rate of thirty-two feet per second per second, an angst-ridden, shrilly noise that reverberated in the barn even after the men had bottomed out.
Hart shuddered. The flames danced, then roared, eating all the remaining sound in the room until there was nothing left but silence.
“Gil? Are you alright?” Hart squeezed Gil’s hand. “Gil?”
Gil opened his eyes and blinked at Hart. “Am I dead?”
“No, but once the shock wears off, you’ll wish you were.” He knelt down at Gil’s side and wrapped his good arm around Gil’s boyish, angular shoulders.
Gil hid, rabbit-like in the crook of Hart’s arm, scanning the room, assessing the casualties. “One hundred and two,” he said, a muffled observation.
“One hundred and two what?” Hart asked.
“One hundred and two uses.”
Hart laughed once and squeezed Gil, crushing him to his chest. He tore off the remaining sleeve of his shirt and wrapped Gil’s shoulder.
Gil flinched. Sweat had plastered his hair to his scalp so that he looked like a preformed plastic Ken doll. His complexion was the color of ash. Tears fell in careless, random fashion down Gil’s cheeks and Hart felt the steel grip on his heart loosen. He squeezed Gil again and brushed back his hair. Hart staggered over to the TDU, slid the door closed, but didn’t look inside.
“Kori can take us to the hospital,” Gil said.
“I’m surprised she hasn’t been out her yet, with all the noise.” Hart said, helping Gil up.
“She’s a heavy sleeper,” Gil said.
Hart laughed for real this time and threw his good arm around Gil’s good shoulder. “Can you walk?” Hart asked. They breathed in tandem, heavy and erratic. Gil nodded and they walked to the door, a pair of contestants in a three-legged race.
to be continued. . .
Gil, Max and Kori sat in the back seat of Bicky’s Lexis so Avery could sit up front and “talk business.” Bicky set the cruise control and the car glided north on I-95 at seventy-two miles per hour.
“Why seventy-two if the speed limit is sixty-five?” Avery asked.
“The police don’t stop you for a five-mile transgression,” Bicky said. “I like to push it the extra mile or two.”
“Guess you get a lot of tickets.”
“I haven’t had a ticket since I was twenty-five.”
“Guess you’re lucky, then.”
Bicky raised an eyebrow and smiled wryly.
“So. Have you figured out the parameters of the deal you’re offering or are you waiting to see how sophisticated we are? The ‘Louisiana Purchase’ comes to mind.”
“I’m not trying to bilk you with a handful of beads, I assure you. My money’s as good as the next guy’s. I just have more of it.”
Avery checked off a note made on a small legal pad. “If we made a deal, we wouldn’t be interested in a lump sum payment. We’d want royalties. And if the stock goes public, we’d want dividends. We’d also want to retain a large portion of the interest. The controlling interest.”
“I’m confident I can meet all your needs,” Bicky’s eyes didn’t leave the road.
“Max, knock it off,” Kori snipped from the back seat. Max flipped his giant fluff of a tail in Kori’s face, his hair snaking its way into her mouth and nose. She pushed his tail aside and rubbed the itch from her nose.
“What about the requirement that Hart still be involved?” Avery asked.
“I told you, Hart works for me. He’s my Chief Engineer right now. Perhaps I could move him up to Chief of Operations for this project. Let him work solely on this.”
“You ever going to give this dog a bath?” Kori asked Gil.
“Let’s see how it sounds to Hart before we make any decisions,” Avery said.
“Because he stinks,” Kori said.
“He doesn’t stink,” Gil said. “He just needs a biscuit for his breath. He had garlic last night.”
Kori shoved Max’s tail out of her face again. “Get that dog’s tail out of my face, before I cut it off,” she snapped. As if in response, Max wacked her in the face again. She sneezed. “Gil, I swear to God…”
“Your sister sounds annoyed,” Bicky said.
“She broke up with her boyfriend this morning,” Avery said.
Bicky nodded slowly as if all had been revealed. “I know a little about that.”
“Come here, Max,” Gil said, pulling Max down to him with one hand. The other hand gripped an open package of Pop Tarts which Gil bit into two at a time. He broke off a piece and handed it to Max who inhaled it, swallowing without even chewing. Gil then stuffed Max’s tail underneath his body. Thus, both chastised and sated, Max put his head on Gil’s lap and went to sleep. Gil took another pass at the twin pop tarts. “I’m thirsty,” he said with a mouth full of wild berry.
“You should have brought a bottle of water with you,” Avery said.
“But I didn’t.”
“We’re on I-95,” Kori said. “Not a Wa-Wa for miles. Guess you’re just going to have to suffer.” Kori flashed a smug smile and turned to the window to watch the industrialized landscape glide serenely by. Gil flashed his food-laden tongue at her, but she didn’t see it.
“I can’t wait, Avery,” Gil said. Avery turned around and gave Gil a sympathetic shrug. Bicky watched Gil in the rear view mirror, clutching his pop tarts and looking retched. He grabbed his own bottle of Perrier, sitting in between the console, and handed it back to Gil.
“Thanks,” Gil said with a full mouth. He took a swig and handed it back to Bicky. Bicky took one look at the minute traces of Pop Tart, swirling around in the bottle, suspended in crystal plastic and shook his head.
“You keep it,” Bicky said.
Gil nodded and smiled. When he finished the last bite, he said to Bicky, “Do you know that bottled water is responsible for an increase in tooth decay?”
“Well it’s a good thing you didn’t bring any more with you. We wouldn’t want your teeth rotting on the way,” Bicky said.
Avery chortled. Even Kori smiled at Bicky’s quick retort.
“Did you know that in 1990, a little over two billion gallons of bottled water were sold in the U.S and that it’s going to hit over seven billion gallons by the end of 2005?” Gil asked. “And that retailers sell more bottled water than coffee or milk or even soda?”
“That’s a lot of water,” Bicky said.
“Yeah, and you know where it comes from?”
“From natural springs?”
“Yep. From natural springs fed by groundwater that belongs to everybody,” Gil said. “Did you know you were paying for water that already belongs to you?”
“How’s that make you feel?” Avery asked.
“Cheated,” Bicky replied.
“That ground water that used to be going somewhere else, like to somebody’s well, or to feed a wetland is now being diverted to a little plastic bottle that sells for $1.19 in WaWa.” Gil held up the bottle by way of demonstration. Pieces of pop tart floated in silence.
“Who ever came up with that name anyway? WaWa?” Bicky asked.
“I think it’s the name of a type of Canadian Goose,” Avery said.
“Still, what’s that have to do with a convenience store?” Bicky said.
“Don’t you even care that you’re paying $1.19 for somebody else’s groundwater, and that that somebody isn’t even getting the money?” Gil asked. “Instead some multinational corporation is.”
Bicky turned to Avery. “Is he always like this?”
“He’s just getting warmed up,” Avery said.
“Fascinating,” Bicky said. “Maybe there’s a way we can bottle him.”
“What kind of water do you prefer, Mr. Bicky?” Gil asked. “This?” Gil held up the Perrier bottle.
“It’s true. I confess. I’m a Perrier man.”
“Did you know that Perrier has been sued by citizens of several different states? People are mad because they say Perrier’s using up all their groundwater. Perrier says that doesn’t make good business sense – to use up all of the resource that they’re selling – isn’t that what the oil people do?” Gil mused. “They sell fifteen different brands of water, you know, and pump it from like seventy-five different spring-fed locations. They sell more bottled water than anyone else in the country which means they pump more water, in some cases as much as five hundred gallons per minute from their sources – taxpayer owned sources.”
“Do you know who owns Perrier?” Avery asked.
Bicky shook his head.
“Nestle. The largest food company in the world. A multinational megacompany.”
Bicky looked at Avery as if he’d just thrown up a hair ball. “What is wrong with you people? You’re children for Godsakes. Children don’t behave like this. They talk about things like baseball and the latest creature feature at the cineplex.”
“You don’t have to dry up the entire aquifer in order to dry up your neighbor’s well,” Avery added.
“Did you know that after a certain point an aquifer loses the ability to recharge itself?” Gil said. “Do you think it’s possible Nestle knows what that point is?”
Bicky glanced in the mirror to find Gil looking at him with large owl eyes, unblinking and full of certainty, the way Bicky envisioned owl’s must look before they’re about to pounce on a tasty bit of prey. For the first time in years, Bicky thought, he might be out of his league.
“The thing is, if you watch a water commercial, they’re selling health. Health, health, health,” Avery said. “Pure, crystal-clear, uncorrupted health.”
“Did you know one company pulled water from a well in a parking lot adjacent to an industrial facility that had traces of hazardous chemicals in it?” Gil asked.
“Oh, come on. Now, you’re making this up,” Bicky said.
“Am not,” Gil replied.
“I’m sure there are water quality standards,” Bicky said.
“Huh! You wish,” Avery said. “The EPA regulates tap water which, except for a very few places, is really safe. But it doesn’t regulate bottled water. The companies regulate themselves. “Get it?” Gil said.
Bicky saw Gil wink at him in the rearview mirror, an action so exaggerated it looked like his whole face was winking.
“The FDA’s supposed to regulate bottled water, but they don’t interpret the regs the same way and even worse, they don’t even have a full-time staffer dedicated to overseeing the whole bottled water craze,” Avery said. “EPA employs hundreds of people whose job it is to regulate tap water. Do you see a dichotomy there?” Avery pointed a finger at Bicky. “On any given day a water authority has to give you a list of what’s in the tap water you’re tied into. It’s required by law. Not so for the bottlers. They don’t even have to answer your letters. And tap water isn’t allowed to contain even traces of e. coli, where bottled water has a limit.”
“Oh, this is ridiculous. You’re telling me that bottled water contains e. coli,” Bicky said.
“I’m telling you it may contain traces, and it wouldn’t be prohibited by law,” Avery said. “The National Resources Defense Counsel, that’s the NRDC, they tested a hundred and four brands of bottled water over a four-year period and found about a third of them contained things like arsenic and other carcinogenic compounds. Odds are, tap water is safer than bottled, but people don’t find it as appealing.”
“It’s because the water authorities don’t advertise,” Kori said.
“Another country heard from,” Bicky replied, glancing in the rearview mirror at Kori who didn’t take her eyes from the window.
“She’s sort of in advertising,” Avery said. Bicky shook his head and huffed.
“They say that if bottled water sits on your shelf for more than a year, it might go bad. Whoever heard of water going bad?” Avery asked. “I think it’s the plastic leaching.”
“Do you know the worst part?” Gil asked.
“No, but somehow I think you’re going to tell me,” Bicky answered.
“The worse part is that thirty million bottles a day go to landfill. Only one out of ten bottles is recycled. Did you know that it takes a thousand years for plastic to break down?”
“Enough. I get it. You’ve managed to depress me sufficiently to last for the rest of the millennium. So can we talk about something else?”
“Sure,” Gil said. Name a topic.”
By the time they arrived at the Akanabi refinery, Bicky was more thoroughly drained than a kitchen sink after a visit from the Roto-Rooter man. The car ride with an adolescent, a teenager, and, from what he could tell, a scorned and scornful young woman had left him jittery and out of sorts. Hart was right. These weren’t normal kids. Perhaps he’d need to turn to contingency plan B before the sister – the putative leader of the group got bored and called the whole thing off. Bicky felt his blood quicken as he stepped out of the car. His mouth was dry, his tongue felt thick and spongy, and he wished for about the third time in the last half hour that he hadn’t given his bottle of Perrier away even if the little Einstein was right and the bottle, because of its very existence, would smother the earth’s surface. Who the hell cared? We may be unearthing and chopping down our collective resources at unprecedented rates, but he’d be dead by the time we managed to pave over the entirety of the Eden we called the United States.
Bicky parked and checked the rearview mirror. Kori was asleep, her head resting against the window, her eyebrows furrowed in concentration. On the opposite side, Gil stared wide-eyed at the tank farm directly across from the parking lot. Bicky cut the engine, but made no move to get out, just continued watching the sleeping Kori and insatiable Gil.
“We ready?” Avery asked.
Bicky turned to the third of the triumvirate. “You know what? Since your sister’s asleep, let’s drive the tour route. You can stop me whenever you see something you might want to investigate further.”
“Okay,” Avery said. “Vamanos.”
to be continued
Dreaming of life on a tropical island?