Note from Jen Pastiloff: This is a work of fiction. The Manifest-Station will publish fiction now, on occasion.
By Jane Eaton Hamliton
I hadn’t wanted a damn cripple on the crew to begin with. Any damn cripple. Not a damn cripple named Mike Pinkle or any other damn cripple, so naturally Pinkle was made my partner, orders of the co-ordinator. We’d both come in late. There were forty-three of us, and damn cripple Mike Pinkle was to be my partner during the Long Beach oil spill clean-up.
The first sight of that Vancouver Island beach was one hell of a thing. I shoved my Honda stick into ‘P’ and took off out of the parking lot toward the six foot waves at a ninny-speed run, stumbling over the logs and deadwood using my hands, across all that thick white sand to the surf line. The water was as purple and violent as a bruise. It pounded inside my breasts and legs like some fierce man. Oh shit, I thought. Goddamn shit. Water, blurring out into a flagstone sky. I’d never seen so much damn sea at once in my life. It excited me. It made me want to fuck. I was standing up to my ankles in yellow gumboots with the water sucking and smelling of muggy blood and all I wanted to do was fuck. But then I heard my goddamn car horn blow. I turned and remembered the cripple. And the rake. The pitchfork. The industrial strength green garbage bags. What I thought was I could use the pitchfork to kill the goddamn cripple and the industrial strength green garbage bags to dispose of his body; the rest of the crew would just figure he was a bag of oil muck. Which thought made me remember why we were here–the oil dump off the coast of Washington State. Now I noticed oil everywhere; broken rainbow slicks on the water to the south, clumps strangling the bulbous heads of bull kelp, even a barely recognizable dead gull to the right of my boot. All that pretty show and all that oil–I had to hold back tears. I was almost grateful for the diversion of the goddamn cripple in the parking lot.
Or at least I was until I had to watch that pathetic half-man haul himself into the chair I unfolded for him out of the trunk. I couldn’t stand to look at him, so I piled him with the rake and pitchfork and the bags, which he held like they were nothing. I dumped on a thermos of coffee for good measure.
The chair was electric. Fancy dancy. My idea–I’d heard he’d been in a car wreck with a drunk driver–was that he’d landed a settlement of ten mil or so. My idea was that he was set for goddamn life. A condo in the Bahamas. Large screen TVs, a jacuzzi. Big fat fucking deal. I was supposed to feel sorry for him?
He sailed down a concrete path in the rain like some alien robot. Then he beached in the sand.
I went around the front of his chair and yelled in his face. My fists were going. I said, “Listen, buster, let’s get this straight. You better realize I don’t like you. You’ve got no business being out here and you freaking well know it.” Continue Reading…