Monday, August 17, 2009


The following is a draft of Chapter 34 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


As I walked back into the office trailer I pulled out the envelope. I drifted toward my desk and popped open the fine paper flap, revealing a brown and gold paisley design inside the flap. I expected to find a brief handwritten thank you note accompanied by a check. Instead I found a somewhat longer note and no check whatsoever. I didn’t bother reading it yet because I was distracted by the sensation of noticing a hard flat something --a key-- tucked down into the envelope. I slip it out and examined it: it was the military-issued key to the foot locker. I turned and strolled over to the fax desk --envelope, note and key in hand. The initials on the outside of the footlocker read “JMW.”

Before reading the note, and while studying the key, I wondered if she had forgotten to include the check. Part of me wanted to be annoyed that she didn’t pay me --not that I needed more money from her, but only because she SAID she’d pay me. She didn’t strike me as being a woman who would break her word. I held back my annoyance and wondered if the real truth was that the bonus check was in the other envelope marked “Peter,” and so maybe its absence here was a mistake. While fiddling with the key in one hand, I held up the unread note paper and noticed its top border had a matching flourish of brown and gold paisley. I sniffed the paper, hoping to find traces of her perfume, but I found none.

I turned my back to the fax desk and leaned against it as before. I sighed.

I read the note.

I squinted in confusion at its message then re-read it.

Still squinting, I set the note down and spun myself around into a full standing position before the fax desk. I brandished the key and inserted it into the large round lock of the footlocker. I turned the key, heard the click. With the key still sticking out of the lock, I unclipped the latches and creaked back the lid.

I frowned, confused at what I saw. It looked like I had just opened a trunk filled with hundreds of neatly packed toy dominoes. Except rather than these dominoes being black and covered with little dots, it looked like they had all instead been spray-painted with metallic gold paint and engraved with tiny numbers and letters.

Then I touched them, expecting to feel the sensation of either wood or plastic under a layer of cheap paint. But the surprise sensation my fingers experienced was that of flawlessly smooth coldness --they were made of metal. I took in a sharp breath and involuntarily held it.

I picked one up. It was cold, dense and heavy -- heavy as lead. But I knew it wasn’t lead.

“Oh my god.... She didn’t,” I whispered in astonishment.

I felt my legs wobbling and so I actually had to pull up a chair and sit down before the fax desk. I started breathing very rapidly. I wondered if perhaps I should find a paper bag and start huffing into it.

While sitting in the chair, noticing one of the veins on the side of my head throbbing, I held the same golden “domino” up closer to the light to examine the tiny letters and numbers engraved upon it. They read:

1 oz
24 kt

“Oh my god.... She did.”

-------------------End of Chapter 34--------------------