Thursday, March 17, 2011

STARDUST #4 "Sean vs. Oil" - pt. 2

“It really comes down to this,” Roger said to Jill. “Sean’s going to go do some crazy dangerous stuff whether you buy him the protective suit or not. If he gets hurt doing it, won’t you feel a little bit guilty if it’s because he didn’t have the suit?”

Sean had turned around and rested his head in his hand. When he turned around he could see Jill was giving him that sad stare like she thought he was crazy and pitiable. That was the one look he could not stand. “No, it's okay, Rog. I knew this wouldn't work. We shouldn't have come. I'm tired of having to defend myself or explain myself and I'm really sick of asking for handouts. I can do this on my own.”

Jill stood up, almost came around the desk, but stopped at the corner. “You don't have to do anything cr--” she said, but she stopped herself before “crazy” came out. Though she had never taken many classes in psychology, she still knew better than to confront his delusion like that.

“Watch the news a week from now,” Sean said coldly, holding in his hurt and anger. “You'll see I'm a superhero.” And with that he turned and slammed the door on his way out.


“I remember,” Jill said. “Does that have to do with why you called me and asked me to come over here?”

“I wanted to remind you of his frame of mind,” Roger explained to Jill while Lauren held his hand. “Four nights ago he was watching the news on TV, said somebody should do something about this, packed some things in a duffel bag, and rode off on his motorcycle. I haven't seen him since.”

“What was on the news that night?” Jill asked, her sarcasm now gone as her concern grew.

“The same thing that's on every night,” Roger said as he picked up the remote for the TV and turned it on. A CNN broadcast popped up onto the screen.

“--called the oil spill ‘relatively tiny’ in comparison to the size of the ocean,” a commentator was saying. “This after the 70th lawsuit was filed today against BP for the disaster.”

“The oil spill?” Jill asked. “What does he possibly think he can accomplish there?”

“Only Sean knows,” Roger said as he watched the images of escaping oil from an underwater pipe on TV.

Jill watched too. For a minute they all watched. Then Jill said, “I don’t know what you expect me to do…”

Lauren, who had only listened all this time, finally spoke up. “What we thought you might want to do is be there for your brother. That’s what Roger and I are doing. We’re using up a few days of vacation time and are heading down there after Sean to bring him home. Are you coming or not?”

May 13, 2010. Later that day.
Just off the Louisiana Coast, Breton-Chandeleur Sound.

The Due South was a fishing charter boat until the oil spill. Now duly deputized, it patrolled the marine bay rescuing oil-laden sea life and monitoring the oil containment booms stretched along the Chandeleur Islands – an enormous orange fence meant to hold back the oil from the 500,000 acres of federally protected water. The oil was a visible sheen out on the water beyond the islands, but the smell of the oil hung so heavy in the air it might have well been right under everyone’s noses.

“Only, as you can guess, it’s not working,” Aaron Clark, with a Cajun accent, was telling the new guy on the starboard side of the deck. Aaron pointed out to the orange booms that seemed to stretch on forever. “Dey’re over-saturated wid’ oil and need to be replaced. We’re waiting for ‘de replacement booms to come. In the meanwhile, we’ve got to buy ‘de sound some time. ‘Dat’s why we’re loaded down wid’ sand bags. We’re going to line the far side of the boom wid’ ‘dem.”

“If the crane holds,” Stephen Jones chimed in, sounding nasal from pinching his nose to keep out the reek of the oil. “Dose aren’t sandbags you can pick up and carry down in ‘de hold. Each one’s a ‘dousand pounds.”

Once the concern was voiced, there was nothing left for anyone to do but watch as other workers manipulated the old, rusty crane that had been mounted to the deck of their ship and lowered it into the hold for a sandbag. The crane creaked and groaned as it heaved its heavy load. The sandbag – about a five foot cube of thick white plastic filled with dark sand visible through the opaqueness of the plastic -- cleared the cargo hatch and was looming over the deck when the crane broke. The sandbag fell and at such an angle that Aaron, Stephen, or the new guy were in danger of being hit and crushed – or would have been if they were still where they were. As soon as the sandbag started to fall, the new guy scooped up each man near him under an arm and made a standing broad jump of 12 feet that carried them safely out of harm’s way. The sandbag crashed onto the deck behind them and the three men tumbled onto the floorboards as well. The new guy was the first back on his feet. He dusted off his black jacket while Aaron and Stephen stood up slowly.

“How did you do that?” Aaron asked.

“That’s what I do.”

“Who are you?” Stephen asked.

“I’m Stardust.”

In the meantime, more crew had come running to check out what went wrong. A white-haired, fat-faced man who had been among the first to reach the crane loudly proclaimed, like a doctor at a murder scene, that the crane was dead.

The captain of the Due South, a man with thick glasses, came from the main cabin to investigate and was told the same diagnosis. “And there’s no way to fix it out here?”

The white-haired man, a mechanic or engineer, shook his head.

“Well…I guess we sail back to port…” the captain said, as crestfallen as the rest of the crew.

“Wait!” Stardust said. He walked over to the big sandbag, crouched low next to it, and clutched the white plastic bag at the bottom.

Some of the deckhands chuckled at this, while others thought the joke was in poor taste. Certainly no one expected him to be able to lift it. But that was just what he started to do. Aaron and Stephen, already having seen one display of his strength, were the first two to urge him on as the man called Stardust lifted the sandbag over his bent knees. Soon every man on deck was shouting like a cheerleader as Stardust slowly stood up and hoisted the sandbag to waist level and, straining, rested it on his hips.

“Go! Go! Go! Go!” the men chanted, entranced by this superhuman display of physical prowess.

With one final push, Stardust lifted the sandbag completely over his head. “Get me closer to the islands and I’ll toss it overboard!” he shouted.

The crew cheered. The captain yelled several times until he could be heard over the cheering. “You heard that man!” he shouted. “As close to shore as we can get without running aground! Hurry!”

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