Chapter 1: The Scent of Hate

“Foot, help me; this pipe is heavy.”

“Heavy! I could lift that pipe with my little toe!”

“Yes, you’re very much a great man, Foot. We should begin to call you ‘Muscle Toe’!”

“Pad, I like you,” Foot snorts, “but don’t push your luck. If I let go now, you’ll need to go home for a new pair of little-boy underpants.”

Pad is twisting his right arm awkwardly around the chains and the grease on the fittings causes his grip to slip. “Oh mother of Allah, I am sliding on my back side.”

“Pad, let go, I’ve got it man.” Foot barks. But when Pad releases his grip the hoist swings left and snaps Foot in the right temple with a sharp ‘ping’ knocking his hardhat to the ground.

“Damn it Pad, didn’t they teach you anything in south Texas about roughnecking?”

“I am very much apologizing, Foot. You said to let go. I am unable to give you any assistance when my hands are no longer touching the pipe.” Pad winces in empathy for Foot’s pain. “I am a highly trained professional in my field, Foot, but I must be touching the pipe to maintain a proper leverage. You know, bro?”

Foot, for the moment, is not amused by Pad’s idiosyncratic usage of the vernacular for the word ‘friend.’ “I’m not your bro. You know?”

When Pad leans forward to again help with the pipe, his nose almost touches Foot’s right armpit. “We are becoming very fast friends, I am sure of it, Mr. Foot. I already have closeness to your shirt.”

“I’m warning you, Pad. If you want to keep your nose on your face, you’ll keep it away from my pecs.”

“You smell like vanilla ice cream.” Pad grins. “Yummy.” 

“Sicko. I’m sweating like a pig out here and you, sir, are very close to my last nerve.”

“And a strong and handsome nerve it is, Mr. Muscle Toe.” 

“Just call me Foot. And keep your hands in the grease, weirdo.” 

Arthur Dan shouts down from the upper deck, “Do you two mind? I’d like to get this hole dug today! It’s almost beer thirty. Let’s get this done and you two can have your cutesy little lover’s quarrel at the bar. What do you say?”

The west Texas sun is already touching the Davis Mountain tops as the foreman hollers out, “Shut her down, she’s suckin’ air. Put a cap on that string and let’s call it a day, men.

“When you get down from there I’ll meet you all at Mule Skinner’s. I’ve got some info from corporate about the new production process. You’re gonna want to hear this from me first.”

Foreman Wichita cranks his diesel crew cab and churns out a cloud of dust as he’s leaving the parking lot.

In mere minutes, Wichita wheels in, parks his truck, and enters an enervated sports bar that’s showing as much age as Wichita himself. The tender greets him, “Bud Light?”

“You’ve got my number, Waterboy. I’ll be right back; this prostate is killing me. I need to bleed the lizard. Hey, set up a round for the crew, they’ll be right behind me. Six shots of Patrón, too. Oh wait, Pad doesn’t do tequila... five shots, and a ginger ale with lime. Beer all around.”

While the bartender sets up a table near the pool cues the boys of Comanche Drilling 614 Crew begin to swagger into the bar.

Swiveling on her barstool, a pretty blond announces the crew’s arrival, “Weasel, where you been all week, buddy?”

Weasel’s real name is Dick Werner, but the desilter tech doesn’t like to be called ‘Dick,’ so everyone calls him Weasel.

“Hello, Sue. Girl, I’ve missed you, too. We’ve been beaver busy down at the hole. New production schedules are cramping my style, baby.” Werner reaches for Sue’s outstretched hand and kisses her on the cheek.

“Take me dancin’ in a few, baby Sue.” Weasel tips his Comanche Drilling ball cap to the lady and saunters with the others to their waiting table.

“I’ve already got the song picked out, cowboy. I’ll be right here ... and you be right there, where I can keep an eye on you, ‘ite?”

Half way across the planet, in the Middle East, the moonless summer night is unsettled by shuffling and muttering in the normally quiet desert.

“Keep the light down.” The words are spoken in a Pakistani dialect.

“I’m trying to see this fitting. Have you got the right wrench?” 

“I have it. Let’s get this done and gone. Hurry, please.” 

In the dancing of the flashlight, soiled gloved hands wrestle the cap from a wellhead and begin to force-feed several foil-wrapped cylinders into the hole. Each of the more than a dozen cylinders is about six inches in diameter and slightly over a foot long, strung end-to-end to the next, and connected with a slender cable. 

Although, they are lowered gingerly, the cautious process is somewhat hastened by a winch attached to the front bumper of a ‘70s model, military style Jeep with bald tires. Despite the aid of the winch, the process takes several minutes because the length of the overall cable is about ten thousand feet, fed by a spool attached to the rear of the Jeep.

“How do we know this will work?” The youngest member of the group asks.

“We don’t. It hasn’t ever been tried. I suppose it’s ok now to tell you guys a little more about the operation, now that this phase is done. You’ve been intentionally kept in the dark some, you know, ‘on a need to know basis.’ This is the last hole.

“There are now about fifteen of these columns placed around the entire field. The placement is strategic. Each well has been carefully selected, based on its location. If even just one of them works, the entire underground reservoir will be poisoned with a massive dose of radiation. All of the oil in this field will be contaminated and made unusable for decades, maybe even centuries. “We’ll know soon if any of these holes actually blow. All of the timers are set for noon. By the time we say our Dhuhr prayer, we’ll either be national heroes or we’ll know our research was misinformed. In which case, we’ll try something else, again. In the name of Allah, we will keep trying.”

As the cable slackens and the cylinders reach bottom, the leader of the group removes his gloves. The youngest worker notices a jagged tattoo on the foreman’s dark brown right hand. The symbol between his thumb and forefinger is a red scorpion. The foreman discards his gloves on the ground near the protruding capped well.

“It’s loaded. Let’s get out of here.” A second set of gloved hands quickly detaches the cable from the Jeep which bounces with the weight of three passengers, and jumps to life, pulling away with darkened headlights toward the horizon. Nearby, a black scorpion, disturbed by the engine, scuttles into a hole in the sand.

A look around the oil field shows the dark shapes of a hundred or more pump jacks in the glimmering starlight, drawing endless gallons of oil from the parched ground. As the night envelopes the Jeep and its passengers, the desert silence is gradually replaced with the mundane sucking sounds of a single pump jack. It switches off suddenly, by means of a timer mounted on the side of an electrical box bolted to its dirty, rugged main frame.

Weasel breaks the balls on the pool table.

“Foot, you got a problem with that?” Wichita asks. “No, I just think corporate is in its own little world and has no concept of what it takes to drill for oil.” Foot rises from the table and chalks a pool cue before rounding the scattered balls to take aim on one. “Seven in the side,” he says to Weasel.

“Look, here’s the deal.” Wichita continues, “If we meet these numbers, we’ll all get a hefty Christmas bonus.”

Pausing, “Pad, I’m sorry, does your family observe Christmas?” “Oh yes sir, we celebrate in a number of ways very similar to how Americans do. We have many gifts for the children, but we do not celebrate the birth of the Christ child.” Pad replies.

“So, I didn’t want to offend you; it’s just a big deal around here to get a bonus at Christmas, especially these days when gas prices are as low as they are and considering a lot of the industry is cutting back.”

“I am not offended, Mr. Wichita. I too, admire a hefty Christmas bonus. Please continue.”

A young woman approaches the group. “You boys need something to think about other than holes in the desert?”

“Snooky, give us a little break here; we’re working with danger and ruthlessness ... and you, my dear, are distracting us from managing the crude world’s energy resources.” The boys all chuckle. “Can you please excuse us for about half an hour?”

Wichita is in administrative mode. “So look, hours are getting longer, days are getting shorter, math is getting more complicated, but if we don’t meet muster we’re looking at someone, maybe all of us, losing a paycheck December first. Bonuses are reserved for those who survive.” Wichita doesn’t slow down. “We have to muster. We need to look like we’re on the corporate team.”

Foot comments, “I’m not too concerned about how I look in the corporate mirror, but I do need to keep my job. What do we need to do, Wichita?”

“We’ve been averaging sixteen days for every hole we’ve punched this summer. We need that down to twelve. If we reach twelve, our cost per hole will be cut by two hundred eighty thousand dollars. That’s a sizable chunk of change to go around.”

“So what? We go from twelve to sixteen hour days?” Weasel is fully engaged in the conversation and playing his game of pool with a minimal mechanical level of participation. He misses his shot and the cue ball bounces off of the table and rolls across the floor to near Arthur Dan’s boot.

Arthur lifts his toe to stop the ball in its tracks. Reaching down to pass the ball to Foot, Arthur says, “For how long boss? Its three months until December. Do we need to put in eighty hours per week for the next three months? What are we supposed to tell our families? An extra twenty hours every week is a sizable chunk of time to not go around.”

“Well, you’re right about that, too, Arthur Dan, but twenty hours times overtime pay is just about seven hundred dollars per week. If you do the math, over twelve weeks that’s an eight thousand dollar, or better pay raise. Mamma ought to like a little more time away from you for that kind of kicker. Plus, I say we each stand to get a five grand bonus on top of it, if we can pull it off." Wichita polls his crew member’s eyes with a hopeful glance. “What do you say men? We can do almost anything for three months, right?”

Pad guzzles his beer and is the first to commit. “I’m in. I can be bought. I know I’m a whore, but a well-paid whore is much more admirable than a cheap ‘run of the mill’ street walking sleeze bucket. Am I making good sense, men, or am I?”

Arthur Dan chimes in, “The price of gas dropped at the Wal- Mart this week to a dollar fifty-eight a gallon. What makes you think corporate is going to continue drilling if the price keeps going down?”

“They have to. They’re not in the business of selling gas; they’re in the hole drilling business. It’s the only thing we do. We have a waiting list right now, even if the price per barrel is at a ten year low. Besides, our holes cost a lot less to punch than offshore rigs. The offshore crews may see a slowdown, but there’s not one on our horizon, at least for some time, as far as I can see.

“Foot, are you in? Can we count on you for a little more action this fall? I don’t want to have to hire more crewmen to take up the slack. I’d rather keep this opportunity close to the vest and in our own pockets.”

“Opportunity? Or adversity? I’m not sure it’s worth it, Wichita. I’ve got chickens to raise and dogs to feed. Why can’t we just hire another man or two to fill-in some gaps? Two men could take up the slack and at regular pay, not overtime, corporate can still save a bundle on costs per well.”

“Well, the pencil pushers in Houston think otherwise, Foot. They’ve crunched the numbers and set the bar for us. We really don’t have much of a choice in the matter, unless we want to try muscling our way into another outfit. I hear Pre-Eminent Drilling is hiring.”

“Pre-Eminent? I left Pre-Eminent to work here. I’m not going back with my tail between my legs.”

“So you’re in for this?” “I don’t like it much, but I guess so.” Foot takes a pool shot and merely scatters the balls on the table.

“Marlboro, you’ve been awfully quiet. What’s your take on this?” Wichita queries the far-end table corner where the smallest guy in the group is puffing his cigarette.

“I’ve got nothing to say. I’m just a little cog in this whole big wheel. I’ll do what I’ve got to do to get by. I don’t have to like it. Besides, all my family is back home in Humble. All I do around here is kill time anyway.”

A crew from Pre-Eminent Drilling, all wearing the same uniforms and hard hats enters the bar. As the eight man team takes two booths a few tables down the wall from the Comanche team, one of the big guys yells out, “Hey, Comanche... You guys still hiring Muslim’s for your dirty work? I hear they make good assassins.”

The gathering group laughs mockingly and Pad turns away so as not to look at them.

Foot interrupts the laughter with a sharp smack of his cue stick on the edge of the pool table. “Two in the corner ... Bailey, you better keep your crew in line or someone might do it for you.” Foot eyeballs his shot and makes it.

“Hey, hey, Foot. No harm done! You’re choice of who you work with is none of our concern. We’re not prejudiced. We’re just picky about the company we keep and who we call friends.” Bailey, the eldest of the Pre-Eminent crew circles his head with a forefinger and orders for the entire team, “Frosty mugs all around, barkeep.”

“I’m not going to warn you again boss man. I just hope your trucks all still run when you want to go home later.” Foot stares across the bow of his pool stick directly into Bailey’s furrowed brow. “I’m still a hell of a mechanic you know. It might take your guys two or three days to figure out just what’s wrong with your rides.”

“Don’t threaten me, Big Foot.” The Pre-Eminent crew laughs in unison at Bailey’s reference to Foot’s nick name.

“Hey, Foot ... When are you and your cute ‘Pad-die-Cake’ going to get married? I hear it was love at first sight!” The voice comes from the back of the Pre-Eminent crew corner.

“Knock it off, Baxter.” Bailey is quick to stifle his team. “How ‘bout we step outside and take a look at your ignorant attitude, Baxter? That could be quite an insight for you.”

“Take it easy, Foot. These guys just want to have a little fun. It ain’t nothing personal. How ‘bout we have a beer and later we can step outside for a little ring toss contest? What do you say? Pitchin’ Frisbees in the wind is much more entertaining than mechanic-ing or messing with someone’s ignorance quotient.” Bailey points a finger in Baxter’s direction, although Baxter is seated behind some of the other Pre-Eminent crewmembers and apparently hiding (somewhat) from Foot.

“I’ve kicked your ass more than a few times before, Baxter. Don’t push your luck. I’ve got no patience for your yammering.”

“Give us a few more minutes, Bailey. We’re just in a conversation here. Ring Toss sounds like a deal. I’ve got twenty bucks on Foot and Weasel if you think your guys can come up with a matching twenty and two better men?” “I’ll take that bet,” Bailey barks. “Drink up. You’re gonna need it to ease your pain smart guy.” “You, too, Mr. high-stakes gambling man.”

One of the Pre-Eminent crewmen, lagging behind at the bar pushes a couple of buttons on the juke box and a country song fills the room with a lighter mood. Foot and Weasel return their focus to their game and both crews go about having a normal work week happy hour. The bar clock above the juke box shows the time to be near 6:30 p.m.

The clock on the dash of that old, bald-tired Jeep, now in a small Mid-East desert town, displays a time of 3:30 a.m. Three bearded men in traditional Muslim garb and headdress bound from the vehicle and into a local hookah lounge. A flashing, lighted sign over the door flickers the single word, “Shisha.”

A belly dancer under the dim light of a small stage light wiggles circles in the worn floor as a three stemmed water pipe is placed in the center of a round Persian rug and the men are welcomed into the room by an attendant. Kneeling to sit cross legged around the hookah they seem to avoid speaking.

“Limoncello, please.” The apparent team leader almost whispers.

“I’m very sad to say we are temporarily out of that flavor my good man. Might I suggest, Lemon Mint, as a fresh ‘delight’ alternative?”

An antique looking poster on the wall, a menu of sorts, demonstrates that ‘delights’ are a type of flavored tobacco. There are many ‘types’ including: fruits, mints, berries, and tropics. Essentially there are dozens and dozens of flavors and possible combinations of types.

“With the most recent Saudi Fatwas (religious rulings) and Grand Ayatollah declarations about smoking, it is becoming more and more difficult to get certain items in this part of the desert. Limoncello is very popular, but I know you’ll enjoy the Lemon Mint, as well.”

“Just Lemon ... no mint, Ok?” “At your pleasure, sir.” The attendant excuses himself, but not before he is paused by a gesture from the leader.

Clasping his left fingers together and touching them with his right forefinger the gesture is the western world equivalent to flipping the bird or shooting the finger. As he makes the gesture it becomes clear that this is the guy with the scorpion tattoo. He then touches his right finger to his nose, an indication that he understands what the attendant is talking about.

“They run our lives. They tell us what habits we can have and how we should behave. I will say a morning prayer for the survival of your business and your family’s livelihood, my friend.”

As is common for left handed people, the leader has his wrist watch on his right arm. As time lapses the hands on his watch fast forward to 4:30.

With the Mule Skinner neon sign sparking to life behind them in the evening dusk, Foot and Weasel approach a disc golf tee pad. They face a single disc basket in a field just outside and west of the tavern. The simplistic disc golf range is overlooking the oilfield deserts of the Texas Permian Basin toward Odessa, as well as a fast approaching old fashioned west Texas sandstorm.

“That’s about a thirty mile an hour wind, I’d say.” Weasel licks a finger and holds it up into the persistent, swift breeze.

“Yup. Combination ‘Tomahawk/Hyzer’ shot; hard right and let the wind boomerang her right back in there. You make the first ‘go for,’ Weasel. I’ll close-out this bet for us. We have definitely got this, partner.”

“Who’s first for you Pre-Eminent boys?” Weasel asks of Bailey, who jockeys for position around the tee, holding cash in his hand.

“Baxter? You and Sam ready?”

“We were born ready. If you’re waitin’ on us, you’re backin’ up.” Baxter and Sam step forward with a bag full of distance driver discs.

“Doinks and spit-outs don’t count! You have to make the basket to score.” Bailey addresses the group, but directs his focus toward Wichita. “Got your wampum, Comanche Chief?

“No warmup shots either, we’ve got just a few minutes before that sand storm shuts us down.”

“House rules. Two shots for each man. Best team score wins the pot. If there’s a tie, our team picks one man from your team and you pick one from ours for the tiebreaker, sudden death. I’ll toss the coin for who goes first and who retrieves the discs. Wichita, you call it in the air.” Bailey tosses a quarter into the sky and it catches wind, falling ten feet away from a direct angle to the ground.

“Heads.” Wichita catches his ball cap just before it gets snatched from his scalp in the gust.

“Heads it is.” Bailey laughs. “That fifty yard shot is going to be more like a hundred in this shit ... Good luck boys ... Comanche, you start.”

Weasel takes his place on the tee pad, lifts his finger to the wind and then immediately takes aim. He whips his fluorescent orange “Old School” model into the wind and clearly tries to overthrow the fifty yard distance by heaving the disc forty degrees to the right of the basket. The wind gusts again and the disc is brutalized to the ground, taking a tournament roll to within ten feet of the basket. A tumble weed rolls past the hole pole as Weasel dusts his jeans with both hands. “Damn. I could have had that.”

“Wus!” Baxter is again mouthy. “Shut up and wait your shot, Baxter.” Foot is not enjoying Baxter’s presence. “Put your money where your mouth is wise guy.” “I’ll go after you, Foot,” Baxter says. “Sam, it’s your shot, my man! Slam-dunk it, Boudreaux.”

As Sam steps forward, a short lull in the wind causes him to return to his bag for a different disc than the one he’s been holding. He tries for a “floater.” As he makes his running shot, it initially looks like it will be a perfect hole-out, but at the last second his expensive Pro-Line disc catches air which forces it to doink the chains and spit-out the other side of the basket.

Baxter exclaims, “She-ite! Man that was a beauty, right to the end!”

Sam takes off running toward the hole pole, shouting back into the wind, “We’ve still got another shot left, Baxter. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

“People who only play disc golf on calm days have no balls.” Sam retrieves the two thrown discs and returns to the tee while a small duster, looking like a miniature tornado, spins-up dirt and a couple of discarded paper cups from the flat land between the two drill teams and the basket.

In the distance, a growing cloud from the approaching sand storm looms higher in the pre-sunset, early evening sky. Although sand storms are common in west Texas in the late summer, people never really get used to getting all that grit in their craw. Generally speaking, almost everyone, including the bravest souls tries to avoid breathing it for long, and usually quickly takes shelter inside a nice air conditioned, closed building.

The usual egging of the two teams, Comanches and Pre- Eminents, is somewhat muted by the eerie churning in the red backlit sky. Their normal boisterous smack talk and goading is limited to a few short quips, like “bite the dust, bitch” and “fly you whore.” As the subsequent succession of pitches and retrievals lacks little more luster than a horse shoe pitch-off.

The men obviously rush through their exercise in humility in order to beat the impending barrage of silt and sting in the air. Foot, then Baxter, each take a shot, but neither is successful. Baxter retrieves the discs.

“The wind is the only thing winning this contest.” Bailey remarks.

After his final toss, Baxter once again runs out to the basket to retrieve the spent discs. But just before returning to the tee and with his back to the teams, he reaches into his pocket to produce a small object about the size of a match box. He conceals the object from view and wedges it into the basket just at the top of the chains. As he returns in a trot he announces, “We pick Pad for our tie breaker! Let’s see if those Iranians know anything about pitching and pissin’ in the wind!

“Come on, Pad, let’s see what you’ve got.” “I have no Frisbee with me. I have never played this game in my hometown which is in south Texas, not Iran, young man.” Pad is indignant ... as much as a gentle soul can be.

“No problem, Pad.” Here, use my Black Bullet. It’s a ringer.” Foot takes a brand new disc from his ice chest. Foot uses an ice chest for his disc bag. In addition to disc golf paraphernalia, he always carries beer with him, as well. He cracks open a fresh can of Bud Light and hands the black disc to Pad. “Nothing to it, Pad. Just let go—this ringer does all the work for you.

“We pick Larry. We know he throws like a girl.” Both teams laugh. “Hey, even a girl can shoot as good as you just did.” Larry joins Pad on the tee. “Pad? Tee pad? You sure you never played this game back home?”

“Not before today Mr. girly man.” Pad smiles, but like you Americans always say... “There’s a first time for everything.

“Stand aside; I may need a large amount of room to wind-up.” The edge of the approaching sand storm is now reaching the playing field. You can actually hear particles of sand beginning to pelt the cars and trucks between the field and the Mule Skinner Bar as the wind whipping increases dramatically.

Bailey again takes charge. “One shot each and if nobody scores, we’ll call it a draw and wait for another day to settle this bet boys. This weather is about to get nasty.”

“Okay, Pad, my man. Shoot for the North Star and whip it like an ugly hooker.” Weasel pats Pad on the back and then nudges the shooter, to position him for a good angle off the tee.

“I have never had a hooker to whip, Mr. Weasel, but I will do my best to break some chains on this oversized black diaphragm.”

“Oversized? My wife needs one twice that size.” Marlboro is the only black man on the crew. It’s always his M.O. to talk up the size of his man parts and so he gestures to his crotch as he invokes the diaphragm reference. “Know what I mean, brother?”

The tension from the coming storm fails to entirely kill the group’s appetite for humor. They all get a good laugh as Pad begins to spin like a shot put Olympian.

Both teams know that normally a shot can easily reach sixty to seventy miles per hour in a stiff wind. However today, as Pad winds-up and releases his disc into what seems to be the “much too far right” of the pole, a sudden down burst snatches the Black Bullet in mid-flight. The disc is accelerated in jolting insistence to a speed that may be closer to something over a hundred miles per hour. It jumps like a jack rabbit and powers into the basket as if it were shot from a cannon.

Just before it hits Baxter hollers, “It’s a blow-through!” Then, just as the disc sticks in the chains like glue and instantly the small match box Baxter hid in the basket explodes. The blast is almost as powerful as a full stick of dynamite. “Hot damn, that’s a hell of a blow-through!” Baxter laughs sadistically.

“What the hell was that, Baxter?” Foot shouts at Baxter just a split second before a section of one of the basket chains helicopters through the air and smacks sharply into the windshield of one of the pick-up trucks in the parking lot. The windshield glass shatters, sending shards thirty feet past the truck in the blowing sand and wind.

The top of the basket is destroyed, along with the Black Bullet. “Are you frickin’ crazy? You could have killed somebody with that stunt. What in the name of sanity was that supposed to be, you jack ass?” Weasel shields his eyes even though the glass is blown in the opposite direction.

Baxter is beside himself with laughter and bent over. “It’s just a little ole blasting cap and tiny, tiny bit of surplus C-4 from the job site.”

“Idiot. Somebody needs to fix your head. If we weren’t out here in public, I’d break your face open and rearrange some of your ignorant brains ... if I could find some ... And after that I might just insert my big toe into your lower intestine by going ‘in’ the ‘exit’ hole, butt face.” Foot gets red with rage.

“Back off, Foot.” Wichita steps forward to block Foot’s bullish, head lowered advance toward Baxter.

“Definitely, Foot has a very strong muscle toe, Mr. Bastard ... I mean Baxter!” Pad attempts levity.

“That was a forty dollar disc, Wichita. I want my money out of that jack assed son of a bitch!”

“Who’s truck is that?” Everyone looks. “Bailey, does that thing belong to someone on your crew?” Wichita is indignant.

Bailey is in shock and stares at the broken windshield with his jaw dropped, motionless. “Uh, Baxter ... ain’t that your Dodge?”

Baxter looks up from holding his stomach in laughter to focus- in on the now central point of everyone’s attention. “God damnit, man ... That’s MY truck!”

As Baxter suddenly stops laughing, all the remaining men from both crews begin to roll with guffaws and scoffs, heckling Baxter. Even the Pre-Eminent team makes fun of him.

“What a dumb shit thing to do, Baxter. Have you got any kind of common sense at all?” Wichita is first back inside as the storm smothers the parking lot. “Looks like you’re gonna get a little sand in your bucket seats tonight, young man.”

The others follow Wichita closely, chattering loudly and continuing to rib Baxter.

Lingering at the entry Sam reaches for his cell phone and mumbles to Baxter, “Better call a windshield guy, if you think you can get one to come out in this sand blaster weather.”

“What’s the point, there’s no way anyone could get a good seal around it, in all this crap. I’ll just tarp it for now. Have you got any extra bungie cords?”

Baxter and Sam remain outside as the others enter the bar. Wichita removes his cap and shakes the dust from his thin, gray hair. “Looks like we’re going to be here for a while.” He directs his attention to the barkeeper. “Hey, Waterboy Mike, you still got one of those twelve ounce sirloins in the fridge?”

“Yes, sir, sure do. Want fries with it?” “And a salad with Ranch Dressing.” “How do you want it? Medium? Rare?” Waterboy Mike asks. “Just knock off the horns and hair, and toss it on the coals for about thirty seconds on each side. I like mine still kicking and quivering!”

“Ha, ha ... I heard dat.” The clock above the jukebox advances to ten p.m.

On the dance floor, Sue and Weasel embrace in a slow, close dance.

“I have an uncle in Van Nuys, California near L.A. who just signed up to lease a new Hyundai Tucson hydrogen fuel-cell car. He says the oil industry is going to lose a lot of business in the coming years. He’s pretty sure hydrogen is the next big thing. Do you think that’s true? What do you think that would do to the Midland economy?”

Weasel shrugs. “Well, if he’s right, and I think he probably is, we better learn how to make hydrogen, don’t you think? We’ve got plenty of oil and gas to do it with.”

“Isn’t that stuff dangerous? What about the Hindenburg and the Space Shuttle Challenger? Didn’t hydrogen cause both of those big catastrophes?” Sue asks.

“I don’t think so. Those both used hydrogen, but I don’t think the hydrogen was the big fire problem in either of those designs. Everything I hear these days is that hydrogen’s more safe than gasoline in the same quantities.

“Your uncle is probably on the right track.” “It’s expensive. He told Daddy that he’s going to be paying $500 a month for a lease and it’s not a luxury car... it’s just a basic Hyundai.”

“Yah. But they’re going to get much cheaper in the long haul.” Weasel gently squeezes Sue closer and she nestles into his neck as they dance.

After a few moments he continues, “The thing that’s going to get attention is the price per mile on those cars. I heard that the average gas car costs about nine or ten cents a mile for fuel. Hydrogen will, more than likely, be half of that.”

“That’s good.” Sue is losing interest in the conversation for the moment and enjoying the smell of Weasel’s right ear. She bites his earlobe playfully and cranes her neck backward just enough so as not to lose a firm grip on his narrow butt, but to also allow her the ability to glare into his eyes with submissive affection. “You’re so smart.”

“And I thought you preferred men with a sense of humor.”

Weasel grins like a Cheshire cat.

“That’s true. But you ain’t funny.” Sue yanks Weasel’s hand and hastens him off the dance floor toward the bar.

“I’m previously engaged.” “What?” “I’m thinking about going into work an hour earlier and leaving three hours later tomorrow. Ten o’clock at night is going to be my happy hour for the next few weeks.” Weasel gives Sue the news of his new schedule. “Huh?” “We’re taking more hours to get faster throughput.” “When? Tomorrow?” “Yup... through November.” “Crap, Weasel... Are you in for that? You already hate twelve hour schedules.”

“I can go over to Pre-Eminent.” “Damn. Boy, you sure know how to pick ‘em.” Sue exclaims as she stirs her near finished bourbon and Diet Coke.

“Let’s pay it forward a little tonight. What do you say we head on out to the ranch? The storm is blowing out!”

“Check please!” Sue grabs her purse from the girl seated next to her and tells Waterboy Mike goodnight. “Mike. Clock us out, Big Boy! The check is in the mail!”

“Hey, who’s gonna pay for my golf hole?” Mike shouts from the other end of the bar.

“Comanche had nothing to do with that. Talk to Pre-Eminent. Talk to Baxter.” Weasel salutes Mike with a middle finger circling his ear.

Sue yanks Weasels arm toward the door, so he tips his Comanche ball cap to his friends and the girl who had held the purses.

“Marsha, I guess we’ll see you soon. Thanks.” He struggles to take a last sip from his drink as Sue wrangles his other arm.

“Ah, another woman already.” Sue eggs Weasel. “I simply told her thank you.” “For what? What does she do for you, Mr. manly man?” “I can’t win.”

They’re out the door, and it is essentially 2:30 in the morning at Sue’s edge of town, modest ranch-style house before Weasel comes to his senses. He stirs enough to think about heading for home for a 4:00 a.m. rise and shine. While he rolls his eyes from a placid slumber, naked and on top of the covers, he nudges Sue who has become intertwined with him. “Honey, I need to go.”

He kisses her sleeping forehead, unwinds himself from her limber body, and stepping from bed, begins dressing to leave — pretty much all in one motion.

Hastily clambering out the door and sliding into his truck he turns-down the radio, which is still blaring from a previously entertained evening. He swipes his hand across the vinyl leather bench seat. A thick layer of dust leaves his finger tracks imprinted in the seat cover.

“It’s gonna be silty on the site today.”

Appendix A: Interesting Stuff to Know

Fuel Costs — Gasoline vs. Hydrogen (Based on new US car & truck average MPG, and average projected fuel price per gal. in 2016).

Gasoline Vehicle Fuel Costs
24.1 miles per gallon
$ 2.26 cost per gallon
$ 0.09 cents per mile
12,000 miles per year = $ 1,125.31

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle Fuel Costs
70 miles per gallon
$ 10.00 cost per kilogram (2.64172051242 gallons)
$ 3.79 per gallon
$ 0.05 cents per mile
12,000 miles per year = $ 648.92

Copyright © Ray Palla, 2015