You Take Your Pick

a tale in six parts                                                                        

A Fool’s Errand

The Fool has heard a muffled metallic bang; but it was that pulse felt through his body that wakes him from his reverie. There is this hollow THUMP, felt not heard that makes his bones vibrate as if some steel girder, maybe hundreds of feet long supporting his feet, has slammed against a massive stone structure. There’s this resonance not unlike the hollow low ring of a huge gong in some pathetic 1930’s gorilla movie. But, of course, that gigantic resonance is immediately swallowed by the vast mass of the nighttime sea.

Holy shit, what is it now!

The Fool’s been in a foul mood all night. How do you expect him to be in any better mood? Really? How would you feel, if it was you working and living in this beat-up un-repaired wreck, this twisted joke of a boat?

This is a Ship, Boy! This ain’t no “boat”!

OK, motherfuckers, “Ship”!

Keep ’em happy. It’s not worth the fight.

But really, how would you feel if you were stuck out here among these obscene oil rigs, scattered in bent rusted clumps of, I don’t know, four, six, sometimes more than ten-in-a-group…bent rusted clumps of what seems like salvage? How would you feel, surrounded by enormous, badly maintained oil field travesties towering above the Gulf of Mexico like some lame redneck joke on Mamma Nature?

Not a few of these monstrosities are farting off smelly, poisonous flames of methane gas the size of small office buildings. Other obscenities of industrial architecture are peeing into the ocean with huge continuous volumes of oil-well effluence. And believe me, this particular clump of (what is it, eight this time?) scattered petrochemical structures are by no means alone in this abused Southern Gulf. There’s nothing else visible from this cluster of structures, even in daytime. But I tell you, out there, across an area the size of three or four Southern US States are certainly hundreds, maybe thousands of these clusters of metal crap, each one of them containing three or four (or maybe nine or ten) huge parasitic memorials to greed. The Fool likes to call this vast horror “The Chevron Archipelago”. Maybe you might call it “Petronesia”. You might be more imaginative than the poor Fool. But anyway, how would you feel, stuck out in this rusting steel seascape, more likely nightmare-scape? For, indeed, it is this night that our poor Fool is roused from his more pleasant reveries by that awful rattling of metal colliding against metal.

So now we see our luckless Fool stumbling across this nocturnal junkyard the size lengthwise of a football field, maybe a lot smaller, you say? But that’s how it feels. He’s gotta find out about this BANG! Or was it a THUMP? So, he’s aiming for that oddly new, uneven stack of inch-thick steel plates spread out across the bent metal cargo deck of this “ship” like a dozen or so playing cards dropped by a giant, intoxicated card dealer. But the Fool sees something incongruous to him. He isn’t drunk. He’s just goddamn tired this bullshit. All he needs is more confusion in his mind that further hands him more of the same insulting dissonance that is life in this oceanic joke.

He’s up alone tonight. The rest of this small five-folks crew is asleep. It’s his turn to be the Watch tonight. No one had wanted to play cards late with him; and there’s nothing worth shit on the boob tube to view. So he’s been up on the bow peering into the dark waters, gazing up into the stars he can see tonight, or trying to avoid looking at the brightly lit up tangle of metal that goes up, I don’t know—you tell me, is that 20 or 30 stories high? It is as tall as a goddamn Houston skyscraper up there, it seems at least. And the Fool don’t know which is uglier: this frightening tangle of towering trash or one of those glass and steel penises all slicked up like they was…..was…..well you get the picture. Both types of obscenities are always lit up like airports (like anybody would really want to look at ‘em). And neither has many folks in them that the Fool is likely to want to know real well. Oil field trash or urban cowboys?—You take your pick. Let me know which you like better.

So there’s been this rig crane operating up there tonight. What did we decide? Is it twenty or thirty stories up there? Maybe it’s closer to ten stories. Who the hell knows! The Fool’s not so good at distances. Anyways this rig crane, you know one of those gigantic lifting machines with this very, very long cable made of some inch-thick oily steel that lifts equipment, and material and other such crap from this banged-up ship’s deck to pretty far up there on the rig’s deck, or vice versa…depends. The Fool can’t remember which way it was tonight; but he thinks it’s crap coming down this time, probably. Yeah that’s right tonight there stuff coming down. The Fool is just a deck hand, bottom of the pecking order. It’s not his job to keep track of such business. The guys up on the rig, so called roustabouts, help the crane with the loading and unloading. The Fool works on the boat, not on the rig.

But, as we were saying, our poor pathetic Fool is stumbling across this swaying stage called a “ship’s” deck. And tonight the Gulf has decided to make it more interesting with ten foot waves playing with the boat like it was a simple toy in some brat’s bath tub. Up and down it goes. Tonight it’s uuuuuup 10 feet or so, downnnnnn 10 feet or so, uuuuuup 10 feet, downnnnnn 10 feet. And by God, this thing goes sideways also, all the time! Ohhhhhhver 15 feet. Baaaaaack 15 feet. Always moving, this boat (No! it’s a ship!) never, ever stops moving. Ever. And these waves tonight are slugging this always-moving boat against the permanently rock-stable rusting jungle-gym called an oil rig.

The Fool used to get seasick. Well nobody ever stops getting seasick. You just learn to accommodate it, some better than others. Those that aren’t so good at it, stop coming out on the Gulf. They’re the smart ones. Those that can learn to tolerate it, mostly by ignoring it, and a few other tricks like watching what you eat (DON’T eat pork), those folks are able, through a very difficult Spartan effort, to become accustomed enough to attain a high enough level of stupidity to keep returning over, and over, and over to this insanity. Yep, people really do this shit, all their lives, really. Really.

But why is it that you keep distracting me from my story?

As I was saying, this Fool is stumbling across this nighttime ship’s deck cluttered with all sorts of rusted flotsam and, what’s-that-other-word? Jetsup or some shit. Anyway there’s a lot of oil field crap all over this deck, sliding around as the deck bounces about and thuds against the oil rig. So the Fool’s got to watch himself as he stumbles, all pissed off and depressed, across this dangerous obstacle course of large, moving pieces of trash towards that incongruous object among all those huge scattered steel “playing cards”.

And up above, not so far really, and swaying dangerously from side to side like some pendulum from a Saturday afternoon, old-time horror flick he once saw on the tube, is this very heavy hook contraption from the end of that long steel cable whose other end is way up there dangling from the lifting crane up on the oil rig deck. How many skyscraper stories did we decide that deck was up above us? I don’t remember. This heavy hook-pendulum is swaying in no safe way just above head height…we hope. Well, the Fool’s somehow got himself convinced that it is his job to go reconnoiter that incongruous object for some reason located among all that debris.

Among all this gray and bullet-colored rusted steel is a brand-new bright yellow plastic…toy?…or something.

Yes, I know, I know. Stay the hell away from that shit! But the Fool won’t listen to me. Why should he listen to you?

But look how dangerous the deck is, you say? Look at all those loose plates of steel! Look at all them chains sliding around on the deck! Why just one of those pieces of bent metal, sliding about, could cut a man in half, if it hit him hard enough. And look how fast it is moving! Why wasn’t it tied down?

Why wasn’t it tied down for Christ’s sake? And, My Lord, how did all that shit show up in the first place? It’s not like it just fell from the sky or something.

Fell from the sky………

Oh. My. God.

That thick steel cable pendulum is still swinging back and forth just above head height.

And we now see the Fool, over there, looking closer.

The Fool sees that the yellow “toy” is actually a grimy yellow, plastic hard-hat leaning against the two-foot high pile of flat steel plates. But it’s not moving, it’s stuck to something, while just about everything else, including the Fool, is banging around on the deck.

It is stuck to something firmly held beneath all that piled up steel.

Looking closer, he sees clearly now that the hard hat is still attached to somebody’s… head.

The phone in the “ship’s” galley can be heard ringing. There it goes again.

The Fool’s never been good at acting in emergencies. He just stands there. And stares.

The phone rings again. A now larger wave slams the “ship” into the oil-rig, everything is sliding now; and the Fool tries to steady himself.


And yet another of the loose, huge rusted pieces of bent steel slides past fast, just missing the Fool. It bounces a bit off one of the mangled walls of ship’s bulkhead, leaving a large now-permanent hole torn in the inch thick metal. Sliding swiftly along the bulkhead, the steel trash tears off paint, digs ruts into the metal, finds a gap, and plunges off into the roiling Gulf of Mexico.

It’s, gone, now!

Let us now bow our heads in thanks to the Good Lord that it was not our dear friend, the Fool.

The phone rings again.

Still disoriented, and now terrified, the Fool no longer has time to be depressed. But, searching for something around which to organize his actions he decides to go answer the phone.


Coming next: A Dope on a Rope

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1 Comment

  1. NMLiz

     /  June 24, 2012

    OMG. Waiting with bated breath for the next installment…


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