The construction effort was indeed massive, gargantuan enough to attract the attention of a local news helicopter where the news feed would later appear on a local news station as a topical human interest story. Two great elongated vessels had been barged in from shore and were at this moment being slid into Platform Esther’s midsection using enormous floating cranes that could have been utilized in pyramid construction in a bygone era. Clearances were tight and a worker of small stature had to place himself in a dangerous area to direct the crane at the same time avoid getting crushed.
Paul and Donna watched from the drilling floor above.
Carlos and Len were there as well, remaining apart at his usual spot on the far railing. It had been a grueling month for everyone, and Carlos wasn’t making it any easier for anyone. He was always there, watching. He was the first on the pier at four in the morning, standing in the shadows. He was first on the boat, first on the platform, and last to leave.
These were fourteen hour days. At the end of the day on the boat ride back to the pier the fatigue was palpable. If you didn’t appear like a Bangladesh refugee Carlos would immediately suspect drug use. Not a week went by where noticeable faces would disappear only to be replaced by happier ones until given the word to look solemn and weary or accept the risk of getting drug tested.
Paul was increasingly becoming resentful of Carlos. He kept having reoccurring images of ‘The Caine Mutiny’ and ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ movies reel in his head.
“Think they’ll finish today?” Donna asked, breaking the silence.
Paul quickly glanced at Carlos. He looked back as well. Paul looked at Donna, then averted his attention back to the activity below.
“Probably,” is all he said.
She was making small talk. She felt guilty inside and was attempting to distract Paul from the real issue inside her. It refused to be still. She felt she had betrayed him and the company she represented.
Donna had endured much hardship, having to withstand the lustful stares from men who found it inconceivable a woman normally found swinging around a pole in a topless bar would be guiding their construction efforts.
Her ambivalence towards Carlos had secretly softened as well.
When the project had initially gotten under way she had secured an apartment nearby in Sunset Beach.
Unbeknownst to her Carlos had done likewise, having grown weary of his daily commute. His wife was more than happy to be apart from a man she considered a memento of twenty years service above and beyond the call of matrimonial duty.
Sunset Beach is a small seaside community and on a recent weekend night Carlos and Donna had run into each other on the strand. The two were out walking separately, enjoying the sea breeze and casually looking into storefront windows.
She didn’t see the danger of sharing a meal together. Carlos was actually quite engaging. She made the discovery that while away from the platform there was indeed an interesting pathos within the man capable of reaching out and tugging at the emotional strings of her soul.
While he lay atop her resting, his throbbing member still inside her, she realized a terrible mistake had been made.
Her integrity had been compromised.
Her self-esteem had been eroded.
“You kids playing nice?”
It was Carlos. He had quietly approached from behind.
Paul and Donna returned smiles and the three remained in place watching the cranes muscle the vessels into place. The angry high pitch screams of fifty tons of unlubricated steel being forcibly dragged across the platform was almost unbearable. It also seemed to be upsetting to the gulls as well who had gathered en masse above the platform, screeching their disapproval.
“I’m gonna go down there,” Carlos commented, continued on walking past them and disappearing into the stairwell leading down to the activity below.
“He seems happier today,” Paul commented.
Donna didn’t answer. She could see him staring at her out the corner of her eye.
Maybe it was the body language, or the nonchalance of Carlos and Donna. Maybe Paul was simply intuitive. In any case, his next words mortified her.
“You slept with him, didn’t you?”
She winced and looked away.
“Donna, when are you going to learn?”
It wasn’t a question. It was an admonishment. Paul slowly walked away allowing his hand to slide along the handrail. He was compelled to distance himself from her. He too walked into the stairwell to the platform below where the vessels were still being inched in. He was trying to put her out of his mind. He was in denial. For the past three months he refused to believe he was in love with her, rationalizing it was simply pure lust. Throughout his entire life Paul had been incapable of rising to the level of spontaneity required for the spark of love to ignite and had devoted his life to engineering. He now felt empty and alone. He had secretly been pining for her since the day she said hello. At that moment he thought he had detected a twinkle in her eye, only to learn later that this twinkle was shared with everyone.
The entire work floor was bustling with workers running ahead of the vessels, dragging gas hoses for the welders burning away any steel that might possibly interfere with the path of the behemoths entering a gutted floor space. Huge cables had been attached to the vessels and routed to the far wall connected to hydraulic pullers laboring to drag them into place.
Amidst the noise and confusion Paul noticed a banner erected nearby that wasn’t there yesterday. It was a blue collar American tradition for workers to put up banners to indicate loyalty to the project, safety recognition or some sort of patriotic slogan.
This banner was neither.
It depicted Donna and Carlos in a provocative pose.
Carlos was standing in front of it, inspecting it closely. Paul cautiously approached. He noticed Carlos’ chest heaving.
Without warning a violent explosion erupted behind them. The two instinctively bolted away. Turning, the scene was horrifying. A half dozen workers were rolling on the floor in pools of blood screaming. One of the cables had snapped and ricocheted back, corralling them with a one inch angry metal bullwhip.
“Goddammit!” Carlos shrieked and marched over.
He went to each downed man checking the extent of their injuries. Others began assisting their fallen comrades while Carlos stood in place screaming into a cell phone.
“Get over here Paul!” Carlos screamed with the phone still at his head.
Paul ran over and looked down. Before him a dirty young man quietly lay looking up to him with pleading eyes and three bloody ribs protruding from his chest.
“Get down there and put your shirt on it!” Carlos barked.
Dropping to his knees Paul ripped off his shirt and applied it to the grotesque wound, placing his hands firmly over the shirt. He noticed the young man’s eyes were fixed and glazed. Paul bent down and listened for a heart beat. There was none. He felt the man’s neck.
Looking back into the young man’s eyes Paul could see the color in them cracking before him, taking on a seemingly mosaic appearance. Raising his head he began to take stock of the confusing triage taking place all about him. There was no sound. He watched Donna in anguish cradling a man covered in blood. Gary and Carlos were each feverishly administering CPR. All the injured had similar wounds to the midsection. Workers were running about madly with cell phones to their heads. Others simply stood in place bawling. He began to feel disconnected. The thunderous pound of a helicopter above him landing on the platform momentarily brought him back. He looked down at his hands. They were covered in blood. He passed out.
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