The Gulf (Burning Man 5)

Roy Gillespie stood on the oil rig platform listening to his iPod. Strains of the Santana song “Oye Como Va” played at full blast in his ear pods. He looked out over the serene Gulf waters as the incredible guitar of Carlos Santana danced alive in his head. He liked this job as an oil rig man. He felt needed, he felt necessary. The country needed the energy from the natural gas this well supplied. He had been with the company now for over seventeen years. Sure there had been mishaps but nothing that this experienced crew couldn’t handle. Nothing like the Deep Horizon disaster or anything even close had happened here. Now of course that was due to faulty cement or at least that’s what the Times Picayune had reported. He had little use for the newspaper or newspapers in general. It was hard to trust anyone these days. The people he trusted were the people he could see, his fellow roughnecks. He liked that name. He had gone from being a leatherneck in the Gulf war to being a roughneck in a different Gulf. This irony made him smile.

He wondered again if he might have been a musician if he had just a little more ambition. He still had several guitars he kept and played for fun from time to time. No matter now, he was a roughneck and damned proud of it. After his term of service in the marines, semper fi, he came back to work the rigs. He enjoyed being on his feet and the hands on physical labor. He took a deep breath. How much better this was than being in the Persian Gulf. He turned around.

The blast was like a sand bag of noise and force. He didn’t really hear it as much as he felt and saw it. Wham it hit him like a giant hand wielding a sock full of flour. He stumbled backward and hit the rail hard, over he went. His eyes were burning from the flash. Down he went. Probably a good thing. He hit the water but he couldn’t feel it yet. For a moment he lay limp in the sea. His mind stalled, it lay open like a question mark, the hesitation between the flash of lightning and the thunder when the storm was right overhead. He instinctively began to back paddle away from the huge rig supports. He felt the surreal sensation as the water flooded his jumpsuit. His iPod went out. He floated calmly. His military time had prepared him for this. It did not seem strange to him.

He started humming a tune, “Platform Fire” by Jack’s Mannequin. He kept swimming back and away from the pillars of flames and billowing black smoke. His senses were numb. The song continued in his mind, it gave him focus. He wondered how long he might be in the water as he floated and swam further from the structure. He was alone, no one else had fallen over! He did not take this as a good sign. When he looked back at the platform it blazed wildly. There was no sign of life.

Another world away steel blue eyes gazed out into the vast ocean. Billy thought he heard a boom off in the distance. He shielded his eyes and as he looked out on the horizon he thought for a moment he saw a flash, maybe a sign of other life. For a split second his hopes rose. When he looked again he guessed it was just sunlight gleaming on the water. He turned around and saw a stick of driftwood. He picked it up and in frustration hurled it as far as he could out into the surf. He sat down to think with his head in his hands.

Roy tread water. He had already removed his heavy boots. Now he undid his coverall and slipped it from his powerful frame. He was glad the waters were warm. With the loss of the added weight his job of staying afloat was much easier. He felt something against his back. Startled he took a quick breath. The song came back in his head. “Under pressure, but I’m feeling weightless, across the desert when you’re feeling faithless” he turned in the water. There was a log floating there that had come out of nowhere. He clutched at it thankfully. He knew he was going to make it.

“He doesn’t measure his wealth in private jets, but purchased souls.” — Frank Underwood in House of Cards

“Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy.” — Former Vice President Dick Cheney

Get off the cell phone and Drive! — Jake Shween

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