THIS IS ONLY A TEST (September 2020), I HAVE NOT REVISED OR CORRECTED THIS STORY, I AM ONLY TESTING THE SPACE AVAILABLE, IN FACT, I DON'T EVEN REMEMBER WHAT THIS STORY IS ABOUT, AND I WROTE IT, ALBEIT PERHAPS UNPUBLISHABLE, BUT WTH, THIS IS ONLY A TEST, RIGHT? THANKS. OSCAR
The smoke and steam were billowing.
The seas were much darker than usual, although calm now. The giant had fallen, and Jay celebrated, alone. The operation was a success. He steered the 46-footer southward and sped away from where the SSM once stood floating in the Gulf of Mexico, about 1500 meters above the seabed, sucking precious oil from deep below. He could feel the water splashing over the stern as he accelerated and reached a maximum speed of about 180 kilometers per hour … a speed he would travel at for the next 45 minutes. But he could also feel and taste something else, and it made him smile. In fact, he began by smiling and finished off laughing louder than he had ever laughed before. No on could hear him, he was alone. He was safe. No lights except for a thin sliver of a moon and a few instrument lights on the dashboard. No other boats, no planes or helicopters … nothing but the roar of the twin Mercury 1350’s. It was April 13, precisely 10:13 CST.
No one could have stopped him. No one did. He had planned it long ago, had been planning it for years, every detail, every action, every result … and it worked exactly as planned. The riskiest and most difficult part was over. The rest would be a joke, a vacation on the Caribbean.
As he sped away from the disaster, Jay wiped the small droplets of oil from his face and mouth with the palm of his hand and stared at the residue. Oil … precious oil, guilty oil, criminal oil. He laughed again and again, enjoying every minute, as he headed toward Tampico. It would take him several hours to reach the Mexican coast … but he didn’t mind. He was the happiest man alive … and only then, once on shore would he really celebrate, as planned. Only then would he guzzle down his first beer in over 5 years of sobriety … and then a second and a third … until he passed out in a drunken stupor. A reminder of the good old days on the rigs.
He had arranged to sell his boat for one hundred-fifty thousand dollars, a bargain, to a marina owner in Tampico, cash. He would sell it, collect the money, spend two weeks vacationing in the area, then hire a car north to Matamoros and cross the border at Brownsville, Texas. There he would buy a small second-hand car and drive all the way home to Alaska. He’d be back home by mid June … just in time for his sixth Alaskan summer.
He reminisced about the past, about what led him to the Gulf. He smiled again as the engines roared. He brought back the throttle precisely 45 minutes into the trip toward the coast. He had it all calculated. The fuel, how much fuel would be consumed at what speed and under what wind and wave conditions. His Supreme Skater, packed with two 1350 Mercury engines, could carry up to 1000 gallons of fuel and would burn, depending on the throttle speed, weight, wind and water conditions, anywhere from 100 to 200 gallons per hour. Traveling light at a top speed of about 220 KPH on a very quiet lake, the craft would burn over 200 gallons per hour. With the throttles back now, he estimated he was traveling at about 150 KPH and consuming just under 200 gallons per hour. He had already consumed close to four hundred gallons … meaning he still had over 600 gallons of fuel left. The coast was now about 220 miles away, or 366 kilometers . At the present rate he would reach the shore within 3 hours with 150 gallons of fuel left over, about 15% of the total fuel capacity. Enough fuel to get him out of a snag. When making the plans, Jay had calculated a 12% margin of error in the event that inclement weather suddenly cut into his plans … so he was well within predictions. He smiled again. His GPS placed the rig it at 25°56'14.95"N 94°54'15.84"W. Tampico was at 21°28'2.70"N 95°41'45.14"W. Less than three hours away.
Jay remembered when he began working for Britanica Petrol Products (BPP). That was years ago. After more than fifteen years of dedicated service as an electronic controls technician, the company suddenly decided to close the oil-rig subcontracting division … and he, along with about 150 others, were quietly given their walking papers. They were told the division was losing money and was being sold to an Indian exploration company that paid its employees less that one fifth of what Jay and his colleagues were earning. Times were tough. That was in 2005, the year that BPP registered some of its highest profits ever. His compensation package, including his accumulated retirement funds, totaled just under $200,000, before taxes. Screw the taxes, he had said, and cashed it all in and moved to Alaska, at the age of fifty.
Over the years he had contracted on several oil rigs through the BPP subcontracting division, including the soon-to-be infamous DWH rig in the Gulf. He would read the papers in Tampico, where he would have his first beer in ages, then again at Brownsville … and then every day as he traveled back home. He would celebrate for two months, really celebrate, then really celebrate again in Alaska … alone in his quiet little hunting cabin, drunk as a skunk.
He had bought the cigarette boat in Galveston, second hand, for just over over $100,000 from a disgruntled old banker who was going through his fourth divorce. The buyer in Tampico would pay cash, no questions asked, so he would net just over $30,000 … enough to get him back to Juno, where he would continue his life as a half hermit, hunting in the fall and winter, fishing in the summer, and doing nothing much in between. He had give up on life five years ago … and he had no intention of ever returning to the rat race. He would never again sell his sweat and soul to any large corporation. Now he was content. Actually, he was happy, something he had never felt before. The big oil companies, especially BPP could go to hell!
His GPS indicated he was approaching the Tropic of Cancer near the 96th longitude. He was close now, less than an hour away. It was nearing 1 AM … and the skies were getting cloudy. Hopefully there’d be no rain, no storm, he thought to himself. He throttled down and stared at the weather radar on the dash. No sign of bad weather. He checked again later, when the winds had picked up … still no bad weather. It began to rain, he checked the radar again.
Within a fifteen minutes the seas began to boil, the craft jolted from side to side and the winds splashed salt water over the top of the boat. The radar was malfunctioning. He began to throttle down but then remembered something he had once read. He wasn’t sure, since this was the first time he had taken a boat on an expedition on the high seas. He strapped himself in to the captain’s cove [R], slowly pushed the throttle to its maximum and steered into the waves toward Tampico. Just in time, he thought. Only about forty minutes to shore. The rain intensified … but even though his heart was pumping a million miles an hour, he did not panic.
Yet. He was almost there.
The boat was beginning to take on water and the sump pumps began to whine. He strapped himself in even harder and decided to bring back the throttle a little. The thud of the stern hitting the waves like cement was taking toll on Jay. His arms and legs were cramped … his jaw hurt … but he kept on smiling. Only 15 minutes more and I’m safe, so he thought.
He laughed out loud. He checked his watch again. It was almost 1:30 AM now. He should be near the coast, he thought … but he couldn’t see anything through the rain. The boat kept banging into the waves.
Suddenly he heard a loud screeching sound and almost jumped out of his harness. What was that? Almost without warning, the boat began to take on water … but this time, the water stayed in the boat. The sump pumps had come to a complete halt. Even though he knew the boat could take on large quantities of water before sinking, he began to worry. Would he drown at sea?
He finally saw a few lights along the coast. He was now only a few hundred yards from the shore, he could tell. He smiled and brought back the throttles to a cruising speed of about 50 kilometers per hour. The winds began to die down, the rain turned into a drizzle. He could see the sliver of the moon again, just beyond and above the shoreline. He smiled even wider. His muscles relaxed.
He throttled down to a crawl and carefully guided the craft along the shore, looking for Marina Del Rey, but he could not find it. After a few minutes he checked the GPS and found he was too far south, but not too far. He headed north and found the marina. He checked the time. It was almost 2:30 AM. According to his plan, he was a little behind schedule, but it didn’t matter now. He was safe. He dropped the anchor about 100 yards off shore, went down to the cabin and cracked open a can of coke. He would really celebrate only once he was ashore. He smiled again and nodded off to sleep. He would check in at the marina at dawn.
The sunshine did not reach the cabin, but that did not matter. His body clock woke him with a slight headache and stiff mucles, but that didn’t matter either. He was anxious to be on shore. Jay walked up the small staircase to the deck and squinted. It was a clear day, and already hot and muggy. He smiled. He was alive and alone and happy. The marina was clearly visible and he could see people moving about. Thirty-foot fishing boats were anchored near the wobbly wooden docks. He could smell the fish and the seaweed.
He stared at the water the boat had taken on. It was less than he expected. No problem. Once on shore, he would get the sump pumps and the radar repaired and the Skater would be like new again … or he would simply sell it for a couple of thousand less. He could afford it and he couldn’t have cared less. He had accomplished his mission.
Jay looked at the water around him. The sea was surprisingly clear and he could see he was anchored over a shallow reef, maybe 10 feet deep. He smiled again and decided to take a swim. It would be years before he would experience the calm blue, warm waters of the Caribbean. No one but fools swam in Alaska’s waters. He put on a bathing suit and dove into the tepid waters, a big smile on his face. Sun shining. He would tell no one about what he had done until he was on his deathbed. He would then confess and recount every detail and hand over a book-worthy detailed diary. He would be famous.
Suddenly, without warning, something tugged at his leg, then pulled him violently into the water, twisting and turning. He has seen documentaries of crocodiles and how they dragged their hopeless victims down into the water and twisted and turned till the person was torn to pieces by force. He was now in slow motion, thinking, this can’t be a crocodile! I must be dreaming! I hope I’m dreaming! He felt like a pretzel. As he continued twisting, he could feel sharp pains in his legs and back. Chomp! Another pain, but this time across his chest. From inside his head he could hear the cracking and the gushing. He saw a red cloud, then a bit of sunlight, then more water, then more red clouds. It only took a few minutes, but it seemed like an eternity.
Nobody would ever know how it happened. He was a hero, he had done it, but nobody would ever know. He would never get to really celebrate. He would never get to gloat. It was too well planned. Perhaps he should have sent warning letters and let himself be caught? He would have been famous. The leader of the underdog. He would have gone down in history. His thoughts lingered, the pain disappeared and he stopped smiling. Forever.
The front page headline of the New York Times read, “BPP oil rig collapse – Environmental disaster.” On page 23 of El Tampico, at the bottom right, under the legals section, was a small article: “Wealthy Alaskan tourist mauled to death by stray blue shark – no sign of wrongdoing.”
What the heck!
Copyright Oscar Heck