Page 93

Vo l . 7 N o . 1 equipment. Heavily insulated, the plastic molded walls and roof muffles the storm and holds the heat well. I yank back my hood and my googles fog before I pull them from my head. Next off is my face mask. The neoprene on it bothers my skin. Feeling claustrophobic I drag the two balaclavas over my head. My bunny boots come off with a kick and I slide out of my arctic suit. I punch the button on my CD player and the English Beat blares. I slide my gear out of the way and do twenty-five pushups. I don’t want to end up like those fat rednecks. The camp has safety meetings every day. Drilling is a big deal. A lot can go wrong. The meeting put me on edge and then there is Bill. Bill is a big, grey haired friendly, fat guy who sits in the corner of the break shack talking about an accident or explosion where someone died or was mangled. Bill always wears his metal hardhat indoors. He isn’t really talking to anyone; he’s just jabbering. I hate it but I’m here for the money. The name of the game is overtime. I make twelve hundred and fifty dollars a week if I work seven twelve hour shifts, but I make 1800 to 2200 if I work some sixteen hour days. It is not how many hours you work, it’s how many hours you write down. Garvey always gets more hours than me but doesn’t ever seem to be working. Joe another guy on our crew gets lots of hours too. Maybe Garvey’s at the trucker’s trailer. It’s across the pad. He’s probably over there hiding out. Big Bend is in a phase three which means no travel outside of camp, no outside work and all travel in camp is with another person. Drilling has been shut down. If Garvey is over there, he drove. I brave it and decide to walk the two hundred yards to the trucker’s trailer. I direct my headlight at the grader clearing and flattening the snow and ice on the pad. No one walks across camp. Rednecks don’t walk five feet even when it’s sunny and warm. Looking up, I see the hint of aurora. Above this ground blizzard it may be a magnificent glimmer but down here there’s no way to know. The wind whipped cold is a beast and finds its way through the seams of my arctic suit. Underneath I’m wearing a Nike nylon suit; somehow the wind penetrates this, too. The fiend works its way through my fleece layers to my very skin. The truckers’ building is not that far away. A grader growls this way, so I point my headlight straight at it. The pelting

91 makes it hard to run. I catch a whiff of diesel. I try to run across the frozen tundra so the grader will pass behind me, but it’s hard to run with all this gear. The grader is bearing down on me, and it is a space ship, whose alien invaders have come to get me. The ground shakes as it pulls up right beside me and stops. The operator in his warm little box on the grader holds his palms up as if to ask, “What’s going on?” I point my light straight at him and nod my head twice and then hold up a thumb. Stumbling through the storm, I leave the grader behind. The rumble fades into the arctic howl. The cold and raging snow numb me. Halfway to the truckers’ building, I’m freezing. I’m running and breathing through my facemask. It’s hard to get air. The building is a blur. I see four lights. I stop and hold my headlamp to the fury and it’s a sci-fi movie of white dots going by--millions of little white balls of snow. My breathing changes as the ice builds on my facemask. I am totally exposed. The shack is a blur and it’s not getting closer. I am running in delirium through a frozen whirling aurora and I’m mad from the Chinese torture effect from the pelting snow. There is also the hypnosis from watching the white dots going bye. I ask myself is this storm possessed or am I? Will I make it to the truckers building or will I lie down here and die? Then to make things worse, the image of the disfigured mechanic face spirals out of the insanity of this arctic night. In this sheer white madness, I can’t tell if I am running in circles. I focus on the white smear that’s the light on the truckers. It’s not that far. This is not a dream, I tell myself. I have to find Garvey. This is war. I fight, stumble stagger forward towards the blur. That’s all that will save me and finally I see the door, even the doorknob. I open the door and before my goggles fog, I see Garvey. His feet are up on the desk, his gear meticulously laid out to dry and he’s cleaning his fingernails. “Schweenknee,” he says with a start. Then, forgetting his nails he leans forward and continues “Let me tell you about this here slope. Don’t ever sneak up on me again.” My goggles slide off easy but one of my two balaclavas is frozen to my mustache and it’s hard to breathe and claustrophobic. Garvey asks me, “Did you walk over here? You did, didn’t you? You’re a dumb shit. Don’t walk

Cirque, Vol. 7 No. 1  

A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you