“Paul? Paul, you alright?”
He opened his eyes to Donna. An emergency technician was hovering over him shining a light into his eyes.
“He’s O.K., but I wanna transport him anyway.”
“What tha hells wrong with you man?” Carlos boomed over the drone of the nearby helicopter, his voice lacking any empathy or concern.
Realizing he was strapped to a gurney he peered up at Donna and Carlos, their clothes splattered in blood.
Oh yea, Paul thought, remembering the days events as he was muscled into the helicopter.
“Fuckin’ pussy,” Carlos muttered as he brushed past the workers milling about and marched to his office.
Sitting at his desk he picked up the telephone and called his supervisor who in turn would immediately call Cal OSHA. Carlos gently placed the receiver back in it’s’ cradle and placing his face in his hands began formulating answers to inevitable questions that will come from the OSHA inspectors.
“There goes my fuckin’ new suit,” he mumbled.
The office door slowly creaked open and Donna stuck her face in.
“Carlos, can we talk?”
He was in no mood but motioned her in anyway.
“Did you see the poster,” she asked sternly.
This was the last thing on his mind but he accommodated her anyway.
“What are we gonna do?”
“What are we gonna do about what?”
Carlos abhorred being defensive.
“Look Donna, about last Friday…”
“Let’s just forget it ever happened, uh?”
“I was hoping you would say that,” her answer being quite sincere.
“Is that it?” Carlos asked, noticing the rolled up spool under her arms.
“It is,” she replied, pulling it from her arms and wielding it like a baseball bat.
“Lemmie have it.”
“I can’t do that, Carlos.”
“Because I want to keep it. Let’s just call it my trump card in the event certain people stop taking me seriously.”
“Whattya mean?” he asked, getting agitated.
“I’ll be straight with you. I want to be treated better or I’ll slap a sexual discrimination lawsuit against Tampco Oil faster than a chicken on a red worm,” she shot back, her Midwestern origins surfacing.
Carlos didn’t like being threatened.
“And another thing. I want you to have a word with the crew of scumbags you hired. I want this shit to stop!” she demanded, waving the poster around arousing a breeze across Carlos’ face.
She slapped his desk hard with the offending poster and marched out giving him a stern look as she did.
“Fuckin’ cunt,” he mumbled watching her leave.
He wasn’t really that upset. The fact was he admired her gumption. It took a great deal of courage to challenge him and he knew it. Very few people did this. He wasn’t used to it. A smile began to appear across his weathered face. He began moving his head from side to side with the realization he had sex with a woman half his age. It was becoming clear to him that he was beginning to like this woman. The thought occurred to him of having sex with her again. He had a suspicion this was to be the case. Carlos was never a man who involved himself with sexual indiscretions but sometimes in life exceptions had to be made, he reasoned.
The investigation lasted well into the night with a dozed OSHA inspectors clamoring about the platform like ants. It was late. Carlos decided on spending the night on the platform instead of riding the boat to shore in the company of inspectors. He would have been a captive audience and he was done answering questions. After watching the last of the inspectors disembark the platform he retired back to his office. He retrieved a twelve year old bottle of Scotch he kept hidden in an antique steamer trunk purportedly salvaged off the coast of Ireland by his great grandmother after the sinking of the Luistania. He always considered the trunk his good luck charm. As he quietly nursed his Scotch he stared back at the inside lid of the trunk to a faded and worn photograph of his greatgrandmother. The stern look on her face seemed to be scolding him.
“Too many wars,” he murmured, sipping his drink and staring back at the looking glass photograph.
Carlos realized he was covered in blood. Quaffing his Scotch he noticed a bloody thumbprint on the glass. Slowly rising, he shuffled over to a cot and immediately fell asleep. He refused to let his mind retrace the day’s events. He knew it was there, he just simply refused to look at it.
The investigation continued for the remainder of the week even as construction continued with gangs of lawyers and inspectors taking photographs and depositions from workers directly on the construction floor.
The army of laborers took great pleasure watching the lawyers tripping over hoses and stepping in pools of grease in their expensive Italian loafers and Armani suits.
Carlos remained sullen and abortive, his eyes deepening with dark rings accentuating his already sinister appearance.
The only person unfazed was Gary Cooper who took a ‘hands-on’ approach to the project. The company he and Donna represented was responsible for the water purification module, a unit as complicated as the space shuttle and having nearly as many parts. He remained blissfully unaware of any tensions caused by the accident. He appreciated the time he now had alone with Donna as the two collaborated together on the project.
“It’s commin’ together pretty good, uh?” Gary said as he and Donna stood together, taking a moment to review the progress.
She turned and nodded, preferring not to speak. Like countless times before Gary noticed workers nearby stealing glimpses of her rear as she took measurements. He too couldn’t help but notice.
“I got what I need. I’m going back upstairs to the office,” she said, turning and leaving.
Gary and the others watched her leave. She knew intuitively all eyes were upon her.
Her instincts compelled her to turn and look.
Her professionalism prevented it.
One of the welders moved closer to Gary and the two watched Donna walk away. Gary could smell last night’s beer on the man’s breath. He turned and gave the welder a serious look. The welder slithered back over to his work station giving Gary an evil toothless stare the whole while.
“Don’t take ‘em so seriously,” said a voice over his shoulders.
It was Paul, crouching down next to him.
“How’s it lookin’,” Paul asked.
“Not bad. We’re on schedule. Should be ready to hydrotest inna week.”
Gary was optimistic.
“Where’s Carlos? Haven’t seen him inna week,” Gary asked Paul secretly.
“Stays in his office. Guess he doesn’t want to know how good it’s going out here,” replied Paul
“Oh well,” is all Gary could think of to say.
However painful it might be, Paul decided on paying Carlos a visit. Nearing his office Paul could see the door ajar. Peering inside Carlos and Len were together at the radio. They both looked concerned. Carlos noticed Paul and flagged him in.
“Ten-four, alpha bravo niner. Paul, get over here,” Carlos barked.
Paul approached closer.
“We gotta tsunami alert. Everybody off the platform. The boat will be here inna minuet. You and Len get everybody organized.”
“A tsunami alert? You mean like a tidal wave?” Paul questioned.
“Yes Paul, a tidal wave,” Carlos sarcastically replied. “Don’t have time for twenty questions right now Paul.”
“Yea, but how do they know?” Paul again questioned.
Carlos walked through him and out the door without answering.
“Come on Paul, let’s get started,” offered Len.
Len walked through him as well. Paul had to run to catch up.
“Len, how do they know?” Paul asked Len as he tried to keep pace.
“Coast Guard alert. Earthquake, off the coast of Japan. A seven pointer. Should be here inna couple hours.”
Len stopped in his tracks and faced Paul. This was all that was necessary for Paul to understand. Paul and Les continued to the jobsite to spread the news.
On the boat Paul and Gary were one of the last to leave.
“Where’s Donna?” Paul asked.
“Dunno,” replied Gary.
The two rode the boat to shore in silence. The workers were overjoyed. It was only a quarter past one and this was an invitation to get an early start on drinking and getting paid for it as well.
There was no tsunami that day.
Carlos had convinced Donna to remain on the platform with him explaining these tsunami’s rarely if ever materialized. The evacuation was merely company policy and besides, he questioned, when’s the last time you heard of a tsunami hitting the coast of Southern California?
The two proceeded on having another sexual tryst, effectively marking their territory on just about every square foot of the drilling platform, so to say, on occasion hiding from fishing boats venturing too close to the platform. Their clothes remained in Carlos’ office while their naked bodies were elsewhere.
By nightfall Donna had prepared a spaghetti dinner in the galley and the two dined on the helipad above under a million prickly stars. The industrial shadows about them imparted an otherworldly hue to the scene. An onshore breeze rose from the south. The two began making plans for the future aware that what was happening was indeed an illusion, an illusion that must be taken seriously.
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