Sunday, May 31, 2009

AMERICAN CRUDE - Chapter 6-b

The following is a draft of Chapter 6-b of my post-oil novel AMERICAN CRUDE. Comments have been disabled. If you wish to comment, please go to TheKunstlerCast at and join the discussion.


--Innocent Byproduct

There were two large 80’s-era refrigerators --I guess intended as community fridges where never-employed employees might have stashed their home-packed lunch boxes. One fridge was silent and unplugged, but the other hummed. She went right toward the humming fridge.

“I have sodas, spring water, and fruit juice if you’d like,” she explained as she opened the refrigerator and revealed its lit and chilly interior. The shelves bore six-packs of many different drinks, and even some snacks like pudding and cookies. “The only thing I ask is you be careful about any messes, including even the tiniest of crumbs, because I’m trying to keep vermin away.”

“Sure,” I nodded. “This is all very kind of you.”

She went to one of the unlocked lockers and pulled out a dark shiny package that at first looked like a pillow rolled up in plastic. It turned out to be a factory-packed, clear plastic bag tightly bundled around a dark garment.

“And here’s that jacket I promised you,” she said, handing it to me.

I was surprised at first, then clumsily accepted her gift.

“Uh, thank you. That’s great!”

I popped open the plastic. It was a classic wool letterman jacket of navy and black. Its gold embroidering read: “US ACE Lydia IV Facility, Lancaster, PA, USA.”

My God! I thought as soon as I read the embroidery. This IS a military facility! Specifically, it was an Army Corps of Engineers facility. As to what “Lydia IV” stood for had me stumped, and I wondered where Lydia I, Lydia II, and Lydia III might be found. I further wondered if there might also be a Lydia V or Lydia VI somewhere.

“Wow, this is great! Thanks!” I said, hiding my realization from her and merely slipping on the jacket.

As I slid my arms into its silk-lined sleeves, I glanced toward the door we had just entered and noticed another military clock: nineteen-hundred and fifty-five hours, or seven-thirty-three PM. And near it hung the first (and only) piece of artwork I had yet to see in the whole facility. It was a large and fully framed color pencil drawing of what I assumed was a nighttime landscape of a moonlit industrial tank farm much like the ones found alongside the New Jersey Turnpike. I thought surely a tank farm had to be the oddest subject any artist could ever choose to draw. But as I examined it further, I realized it was not an outdoor scene at all, but an indoor scene: it was in fact an architect’s rendering of the same football-field-full-of-oil-tanks I had just been introduced to. However this particular vision of the facility as depicted in the drawing had about a half dozen of the massive forty-foot-high Jersey tank farm tanks, rather than hundreds of the smaller tractor trailer tanks that currently sat waiting for us below the steel catwalk. I also noticed there was a small strip of printing on the drawing, but from this distance I couldn’t read it.

“Shall we go see that leaking tank now?” she asked.

I shot my gaze from the drawing back to her and smiled in compliance.


We turned to exit the room. As we headed out the door I covertly glanced sideways to get a better look at the printing on the tank farm drawing. On the top I saw a title (or maybe it's called a caption) that read “The Moral Equivalent of War.” At the bottom I spotted the signature of the artist/architect: Dale Garner, and the date of his drawing was August 23, 1977.

Out in the hall, the scent of oil greeted us as before. We retraced our steps back up the long hallway, turned the corner onto the catwalk again, passed by the control room and her still-dangling purse, and returned at last to the elevators.

Once we reached the elevators she hit the call button and the door of the same car we’d taken earlier instantly slid open. We entered and she again inserted her round-barreled elevator key. This time she took us down to the absolute bottom level labeled “SB-4-B.”

-------------------End of Chapter 6-b--------------------