Saturday, January 25, 2014

Chapter 4 - "Fishing and Cursing"

Greetings gentle readers,

Time to look back in on Clete and see what he's up to. A little more cultural mismatch here as he figures out the place he's in. And, it's not a cheese-filled adventure story without a curse, no? But if you're like Clete, there's no such thing.


Personal Journal Entry
Sunday, July 1, 2012
Project Date: Week 2, Day 1, Sunday

I’ve been here a week. Thought I’d record a couple of thoughts about time here and its passage. Three month’s vacation is normal for teachers, but for everyone else it’s unheard of and seems terribly long. When you work for yourself, it’s even more preposterous. You just keep thinking you’re sinking one more day into oblivion while your clients slip away one by one to your competitors.

But I have the “work” here to take my mind off such things. Ninety days is nowhere near the time needed to record the features of a tiny island. Maybe the best thing is to just run the video camera all hours of the short tropical day like Johnson suggested, skip the analysis. What the hell was I thinking? And why do I find myself caring that I won’t get it done?

Even so, I have decided to keep Sundays as a day off and refrain from work.  The Dog Islanders are not Christian and I’m not even sure they have the concept of a “week” fully felt except that they know the Western calendar is organized into seven-day segments that they understand only intellectually.  Lee and Ling think more in terms of time in being relation to the moon’s phases—I suppose they’re on the agricultural calendar, which is essentially lunar. For instance, today,  July 2, is the 13th day of the fifth month, the full moon occurring in two days. They do state times in the 24-hour clock here, but they also think in terms of dividing the day into 12 two-hour segments as being say, the “Hour” of the Rat, which encompasses 11 p.m. through 1 a.m.

Anyway, they don’t get my pattern of taking a day off as a Sabbath, especially since I choose to spend my day off fishing. They think of fishing as work, so for me to call it a day of leisure is perplexing.  Lee and Ling are not without their religious practices. They go to a shrine (which I have not seen) to pray and burn their incense and offerings at least once since I’ve been here, but they don’t take the whole day off. I have not been invited there yet, but when the time is right I will ask if I can go and make an offering as a courtesy.  I’m not particularly religious myself nor do I go to church regularly, but I find that when I am in a foreign country, it’s comforting to renew my grasp on my Christianity, so since I’ve been here I’ve been reading my Bible and saying my prayers. I spent my time in devotion today before I went out to do spend my leisure time doing some fishing.

I had packed three fishing poles just for this kind of activity. I originally set them up on the harbor side beach. One of the younger inhabitants, a teenage girl who did not identify herself [note input at later date that she was “Yi”], pointed out a rocky outcropping that worked like a natural pier from which to drop a line in deeper water. It was a great tip; I snagged a 30-incher and a 36-incher. I’m not a good identifier of species, I leave that to the biologists, so I don’t know what I caught. Something pelagic that swims long distances in open ocean. I presented them to Lee for that evening’s meal. Lee told me the name it is known by on the Island, which was in Chinese roughly translated as “white-belly fish.” Not really distinctive, but she gutted them and sent Ling off with portions for the other nearby households. Evidently they don’t fish very much themselves.

I wrote earlier that I was ordered to take evening meals with her and to make report. It turned out that I was now required to take breakfast as well, at which I would report what I was to do, where I was going to go. So much for being unsupervised and not having a boss. However tiresome this process is, it has focused me. My other custom is to record all the day’s findings and upload them digitally to the cloud, including my personal journal entries. Sally receives it all back at the office, reviews and files them for me. That way if anything happens, my work product is off the island.

The topic of fishing and the disconnect between leisure and labor came up quite naturally over dinner:

                  “So are you going to fish regularly?” asked Lee.
                  “Probably do it on Sundays. What you call Day Seven.”
                  “I know what a Sunday is.”
                  “Duly noted. It helps me relax.”
                  “Relax? Fishing is a task that requires full attention and vigilance.”
                   “If you get something, great. If not, you open up the can of beans that night.”
                  “What if you don’t have the can of beans?”
                  “Thank God that’s never been my problem. Not since college.”
                   “How do you ever hope to be successful at fishing, or anything, if you keep an attitude like that?”
                  “Truthfully? I find that my best ideas come when I’m not so intent. When the mind floats off to something else than what I should be thinking about.”
                  “That is, how do YOU say it? A load of shit.”

And let me note now that after our initial conflicts, Lee and I came to something of a truce, or at least an understanding. We had no expectations of niceties from each other so we just set aside all pretext of courtesy and ceremony. All totally unspoken of course. We had been so terribly rude to each other already (which I later learned from Ling) so there was nowhere else to go.  Everybody needs a pseudo-boss or pseudo-client that they can say exactly what they mean to. It’s very therapeutic.

                  “Even with your disgraceful work ethic, you would do better in a boat than fishing off the point.”
                  “If I had a boat.”
                  “You know how to operate one with outboard motor?”
                  “I have a pilot’s license. I have to take divers to prospective drill sites now and then. I found that hiring a pilot can get to be expensi . . .”
                  “Shut up. Whatever you say. If you have skills, I will let you use the small boat I have.”
                  “That would be nice.”
                  “But, you have to obey the safety rules. And stay in the bay.”
                  “Yeah, yeah, sure, sure.”
                  “I am serious. And you must bring back enough catch to feed 19 people with some to dry and store. Like you did today.”
                  “What? I’ll have a damn quota? You’re going to fuckin’ turn it into work?”
                  “It will give you the right attitude. A proper mind. None of this relaxing nonsense.”
                  “What happens if I don’t hit quota?”
                  “I will charge you the rental fee.”
                  “What’s that?”
                  “$88 U.S. an hour.”
                  “My hour of 60 minutes, or your Dog Island hour of 120 minutes?”
                  “Rental hour of 50 minutes.”
                  “What! That’s outrageous.”
                  “Don’t worry. If you are any good at it, you will never pay. We have lot of fish in the harbor. That is why professional boats come here. You just do not get in their way. They pay big money.”
                  “Why aren’t they here more often then? I haven’t seen a single fishing vessel since I came.”
                  “Too far, too many pirates. It’s difficult to navigate the seamounts out there too. Easy to shipwreck if you are not a good sailor. We are the last resort.”
                  “That’s good and bad.”
                  “Everyone who is granted a license gains a profit, but the island always takes a price to limit the profit.”
                  “The ‘island’ takes a price?”
                  “Crew sickness, disability, sometimes death. Rogue waves. Whale attack. Storm damage. Equipment failure or loss. Pirate boarding. Government boarding. Anything like that.”
                  “Whale attack? What a bunch of Goddamned superstitious hogwash.”
                  “How you know? You just got here.”
                  “Lee, bad things happen all the time on any project. I’ve never had anything go 100% smoothly.”
                  “Then maybe you are cursed.”
                  “If that’s the terminology you want to use for setbacks. Yeah. We all are. Ling? Do you believe in curses?”
                  “I would not know what to say about such things Dr. Wong,” said Ling.
                  “Thank you for being polite,” I said. I continued. “You mentioned pirates? Do you ever have a problem with them?”
                  “No problem. Nothing to take here. If they come here, it’s only for one thing.”
                  “What’s that? Female companionship?”
                  “You have a dirty mind,” said Lee. “But, NO. Nobody even touches any of the girls here! Except those awful Malays YOU hired!”
                  “OK. OK. Sorry. How many times you want me to apologize for them?”
                  “Until I stop complaining. So, did anything bad happen to them afterward?”
                  “Not that I know of.” Lee just raised her eyebrows as if she knew something. “So, why do pirates come here?”
                  “You should understand this. They come to relax. That’s all.”
                  “You do have food to take.”
                  “No need to take food. We just give it. We always have extra chickens.”
                  Ling added, “It is our custom to give water and provisions to any mariner who comes here. We have plenty. Dog Island’s history has always been that it is an island of refuge. Nobody stays here unless they have to though.”
                  “Why’s that?”
                  “Supposedly it’s too hot here,” said Ling.
                  I was glad she said that. It reminded me to wipe my brow and drink some water. I was not acclimating. But I was getting used to walking around in a perpetual glaze of sweat. “So your largess extends to pirates?”
                  “We don’t ask anybody how they got their cargo,” said Lee. “Everyone who comes here is polite. Except you.”

* * *  

RE: Project ADX 2012-325 – Dog Island
Wang, Bo
Sent: July 2, 2012

Short answer. Sorry to hear about the crew conduct. Give you a good adjustment on the next project. Won’t hire them again but not for the reason you think. Paid them too much—way above regular scale. Thought I was hiring best—we make mistakes eh?

Bunch knuckleheads got into bar fight in the next port flush with shore leave cash and died there. Bleed out in a back alley mostly. Took the wage settlement to their widows personally—never saw ladies happier to see the cash than their guys come back in the door. I coulda dropped any of them on the spot if you know what I mean—fuckin’ Santa Claus in July. HA. If you want to bribe the local medical examiner and police for the right kind of reports, we could get them insurance survivors’ settlements too. LOL! 

Have to find another skipper if you want anything else on that hellhole. My pilot said he had to keep a man on the sonar exclusively as well as a visual spotter to avoid scraping bottom. He never wants to do that again, and never in anything other than calm seas in bright light. He say a second engine caught fire underway, but had way too many operating hours on it and needed a rebuild anyway. Wear and tear. Why you ask?


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Chapter 3 - "Cultural Sensitivity 101, Copy the Natives"

Dear friends and readers:

Took a week off. Life, eh? Stuff happens and gets in the way of art? Anyway, hope you all had a wonderful Armenian Christmas (Jan. 6), aka Three Kings Day, or Epiphany.  

The adventures of Clete Wong continue, in which he gets to know his primary contact, Lee, just a little better. In her own way, I say Lee is just trying to make Clete feel comfortable. You'll see...

Chapter 4 might run late. I decided to resume with making a bookmark this year (Year of the Horse). Some of you know what this means. In fact, I'm going to go work on it now soon as I post this. Don't worry. I'll post it for the rest of you to see too.  See you next time.


Personal Journal Entry

Monday, June 25, 2012

Project Date: Week 1, Day 2

The structure to which I was assigned, they call it “The Guest Cottage,” is one of several prefabricated structures that were put on the Island about 30 years ago for the few inhabitants that remained to live in. They all have similar floor plans, basically three rooms, one large living area, a slightly smaller room, used as a sleeping or storage area, and a kitchen utility area where there is a sink for cleaning. 

There is one electrical outlet in each room. The electrical juice is really hot here, rather like the Philippines. I had to make some modifications to my primary transformer so I don’t fry all of my equipment. I did ship a small diesel powered generator, but that is only for emergencies. The island’s generator is not too far from us and it is major sonic presence here. However nights are disturbingly quiet. When I got up my usual two to three times during the night, I could hear the rustling of insects and lizards and who knows what else. You see a lot of stars here—hadn’t thought about that. Should have asked Rhonda over in astronomy if I could have done any night readings for her. Oh well.

In the utility room there is a small two-element cooktop, propane supplied by tanks—which is mostly a backup. Looks like the primary heat source for cooking is wood or charcoal with meals prepared outside in a screened porch-like area. On the porch is a stack of cut wood and a bin of charcoal, appears to be derived from bamboo. Lee’s cottage across the way looks like an addition was built on.
Water comes from a faucet, fed by a system that seems to be gravity based. There must be a water tower somewhere, probably with a power assist if needed. This will be like living in Cub Scout camp for three months. Facilities for showering, bathing, or toilet are shared in a separate structure. Toilet is of the squat variety, flushed with a pail. Septic system? Maybe they compost the human waste? Hopefully dug deep enough or downstream of the drinking supply. But the inhabitants haven’t died of cholera yet, so it’s probably all been perfected. My guts tremble in fear just thinking about the possibilities.

All the walls practically open up for light and air. Screened of course. It apparently never gets cold here, which I can believe. It’s so horribly hot and humid. I don’t know what I was thinking. Had I come to such a place as a 20-something this would be an adventure. To a 50-something it seems like a lot of trouble, but I’ve made my choice and I’m in for the duration.

At daybreak, true to Lee’s word, there was a knock, but it was not her. I opened the door to a younger version of Lee. Her most prominent feature was that she had long, glossy black hair that fell past her waist. Other than that, she looked like any number of Asian American undergrad coeds I had had in my classroom back at the university. She gave me a deep bow of greeting.

Nihao. Or is it English that you speak?”
“English is best for me, but nihao to you too. You must be Ling.”
“Yes. I am Lee’s daughter, Dr. Wong?”
“No need for such formality. Call me Clete.”
“Thank you, but I think I would prefer to call you Dr. Wong.”
“Suit yourself. But why?”
“I understand you are quite learned? You hold three college degrees?”
“Four actually. Plus some post-doc work. However, it’s only impressive to those in my field, and even then most of them aren’t impressed—I’m just a sell-out oil hunter.”
“Excuse me? Dr. Wong? I don’t follow?”
“Never mind. Just the rantings of a cranky old man. Sure I can’t get you to drop the ‘Dr.’ nonsense?”
“But it doesn’t seem appropriate for me to call you so familiarly.”
“If you change your mind, I prefer Clete. Americans are casual.”
“Yes, well. In any case, my mother is ready for you to join us for breakfast. If you would follow me please?”
“Lay on McDuff.” 

OK, I was pouring on the colloquial Americanisms a bit thick. I was ushered onto their screen porch area and urged to take a seat at the small table which could accommodate four if necessary. “Good morning,” I said cheerfully, as Lee entered with bowls of porridge. She nodded and grunted something at me. Must not be a morning person. She left and returned with spoons and a serving bowl filled with eggs that had been scrambled with herbs and greens. She took her seat across from me. I decided the polite thing to do was to match her countenance and demeanor. Setting my face to the seriousness of hers put me into an offensive stance and mood. We locked eyes. We sat stone still. I felt Ling’s gaze, she was sitting to my left, darting from her mother to me and back.

            “Well,” Lee said breaking the impasse, “are you going to eat or not? Why are you waiting?"
“I’m waiting for you to start.”
“I am waiting for you to start. Do not wait for me.”
“What if I pick up the spoon wrong? I’m in a foreign country. I think I’ll watch.”
“Maybe I am waiting for you to start so I can copy you so you do not feel uncomfortable.”
“Why would you do that?”
“You are a guest.”
“You didn’t seem to care about that yesterday.”
“You keep track of such things?”
“I’m a scientist. That makes me an astute observer. I see things and I write things down. So yeah, I keep track.”
“To me, one day is one day, the next is the next.”
“That’s certainly an approach that has its place in certain situations.” Back to our stone quiet impasse.
“Dr. Wong? Mother?” interjected Ling, “But I think you should start. Before it gets cold?”
“Cold? Tell me what the word ‘cold’ means to you,” I said.
Ling looked at me like I was an idiot. “Cold means not hot,” said Ling.
“You are supposed to be a smart person. What’s wrong with you? You do not know hot from cold?” interjected Lee.
“Hot and cold are relative terms. In case you didn’t notice, I’m hot here. Maybe I need to get a thermometer and . . .”
 Ling stopped me in mid-sentence. “You may observe me if you wish, Dr. Wong. In fact, would you like your eggs in your porridge?”
“Prep it exactly the way your mother eats it, please.”
“Mother . . .”
“Extend every courtesy to our guest and fulfill his request.”
At this point Lee broke off the intense staring contest we seemed to have begun and we tracked Ling’s movements. She picked up the eggs and divided them evenly into thirds dumping them the steaming bowls of porridge. She then took a jar with a dark oily substance in it and dropped a spoonful into both Lee’s and my bowl.
“Three swirls and then she eats,” said Ling. “She uses her right hand and dips the spoon with the leading edge away from her first in.”
“Got it.” I looked back intently at Lee. We picked up spoons in unison, made the requisite three swirls, took a scoop, and then held them to our mouths. “Ling?”
“Yes Dr. Wong?”
“Silent or slurp?”
“Loud, medium, or soft?”
“Daughter!” said Lee.
“Mother?” said Ling.
“I think I made the porridge rather bland today. Give me two more spoonfuls of seasoning.”
Ling complied.
“Ling?” I said.
“Dr. Wong?” I’ll have the same. Exactly the same as your mother, my esteemed hostess.”
“Do as our honored guest says,” said Lee. 

So we swirled three more times and then we slurped, medium. As soon as the concoction hit my throat, my eyes shut, watered, and tightened, and I immediately gagged. “GOD, BITTER … HOT!” Lee was laughing her ass off. “You Goddamed fuckin’ bitch. You tryin’ to poison me?” All my cultural sensitivity and diplomacy evaporated it seemed.

Caoni! Wangbadan! (roughly ‘Well, fuck you, you son of a bitch’)” scolded Lee.
“Mama?” said Ling. She was surprised.
“What’s wrong with you American? My sauce is stronger than you?”
“Ahem,” Ling spoke very delicately as I was trying to compose myself, “I don’t like mother’s condiment there. It’s very strong. She’s very particular about what she eats herself.”
“What the HELL is that crap?”
“This crap, as you call it, is my ‘Motor Oil Dressing,’” said Lee, “since it reminds me of crankcase grease, but it’s made from peppers, and from some beans that we grown and ferment.”
I took a big slug of tea. “Very apt.”
“You do not have to eat that,” said Lee.
“I’m eating it. Every bite. It’s delicious,” I said sarcastically.
“Why, thank you Clete. So nice to get a true compliment,” she returned to me just as sharply.
 “Is your mother always so contentious?” I said, struggling with every bite. I realized I was going to regret the resultant bowel movement even more.
“Mother is never contentious, to me. And she is actually a fine cook.” We finished up and Ling excused herself to perform some stretching routine elsewhere. Lee allowed me to assist her in cleaning up.
“My job today with you is to show you the area in which you will work this week and to show you where they set up your laboratory structure.”
“Aren’t you going to drive me around the whole island?”
“No. You will proceed one domain at a time. That is what we all here decided. You have 12 weeks to be here, we have 10 domains and the Grove, the Outside, so it works out that way. You will not bother those who live in the domain you are studying. If they speak to you, you may respond. You may save the last week for your summary or going back to any place you missed.”
“That’s not an ideal set up.”
“It is what it is.”
“What if an area demands more of my attention than another?”
             “Why you so pushy? Can you not take directions?”
             “Is it crime here to ask for things?”
             “Abide by your contract.”
             “You want to talk about the contract? And some of its vagaries?”
             “What is that word you just used?”
“Vagaries. Let’s just say things that are not predictable or clear. Can we talk about it?”
“I will not discuss it. I will tell the Security Council you are dissatisfied.”
“You do that. But I’ll cope.”
“Yes. You will. You ready to go to your research shed now?”

Since I had nothing to carry, we decided just to walk over to the location of the porta-lab. I was told by my contractor that it had been placed on a nice level, flat pad that was elevated about some 10-12 feet above sea level in the interior, well drained, and partially shaded. The placement was also chosen because of its proximity to a utility juncture to tap into the Island’s small power grid and because of unobstructed sightline to the satellite that my dish would be pointed to.

We walked along the primary, unpaved access road that I was told snaked about the island. We took a cutoff and went up a dirt path and there it was. Basically the lab was a double cargo container placed on a concrete frame form, but insulated and outfitted inside with shelves, cabinets, appliances, and various equipment I had purchased and had secured inside, which I would spend most of the next few days setting up. 

I opened the door, stepped inside, and did a quick inventory. Crates had shifted, but if the packers had done their job right everything should be intact. I stepped back down.

“Whoooweee. Is it ever stuffy and hot in there! Goddamn!” I exclaimed. My foot almost came down on some kind of large, bulbous green squash. “Ooo. What have we here?” I bent down and picked it up. “You know, my mother would make soup out of this kind of thing. I think she called it doong gwah. So why is this . . . lab . . . uh, . . .sitting on top of a . . . nice, uh, melon patch?” There were other plants and squash peeking from under the structure.
“I think that is a very good question too. And maybe you have some good answers for me NOW.”

And then it started; the reason she was pissed at me yesterday, and today as well, and from the looks of it, probably as long as I will continue to be here. The person she could unload on had finally arrived and her grievances could be heard. And heard they were. I had been brought to the scene of the crime and recitation of injustices commenced.

For all of my observant nature, I forgot to start my stopwatch, which would have been nice since there seemed to be no end to the full accounting of the suddenness of the appearance of the massive cargo helicopter that brought the lab, the boatload of rude men who landed on the beach, and the mess they made of things traipsing about with their boots in gardens, pinching Ling’s ass, pissing and spitting wherever they felt like it, and so forth. I was berated for my lack of communication and responsiveness. 

She complained of Rex who cowered in his office afraid to come out. Not sure why that was my fault.
Judging from her account—after it had been dialed down in intensity, volume, and spirited Mandarin profanity—it seemed that the crack Malaysian install crew that my contractor Bo insisted was the best, didn’t speak any of the five or six languages they speak here, but they nevertheless intended to do a great job for him since Bo was paying them so well. Apparently they were told to just ignore the locals and pick the best spot and install accordingly. Fortunately for them, they left after the job was done. Unfortunately for me, I have to live with her and the consequences of their actions for the next three months. Lee complained that they all carried sidearms. That crew must work in some difficult places.
And who knew that prized melon patches make great research building locations? Make a note for future melon growers who are exiting the ag industry.

When a break in the tirade finally occurred, I added rather hopefully:

“It would probably have helped if you had kept up with your e-mail or answered your phone. I wasn’t getting any feedback at all from you people.”
And we were off again. Apparently my expectations for digital discourse were a bit too high for subsistence farmers.
When I offered to compensate her for the crop loss she simply said, “Forget about it. There’s no place I can buy what was lost. We’re on an Island, or have you forgotten?”
“I’ll have the crew come back and remove this building when I’m done.”
“NO! I never want those horrible men on this Island again. I will shoot them myself if they come. I will call a curse down on their families. My beautiful patch is gone. It is just lost, that’s all there is to it. Lost to this ugly box.”

And on and on she went but another gap soon came. I think she was tiring out—didn’t take quite so long to get to this breathing space. We eventually worked something out and she left me to start my setup. I just need to make myself as scarce and as transparent as possible. I was asked, rather ordered again, to sup with her that evening and give her a report of my activities. No need to recount that meeting here, but it was just as lovely as it sounds. The bad news was that I was to eat dinner with her every night and report on my activities. Just what I needed. A fuckin’ nursemaid.

The thing that pissed me off more than anything was the money I wasted on 90 dehydrated meals that I was planning to eat for my dinners.

* * *

Entry into the Annals - edited and spellchecked draft 2
Reporter: Qin Qin, Guardian Princess of History, Prophecy, and Lore

U.S. Date:             Monday, 25, June 2012
Island Date:        Dragon, Month 5, Day 7, Xingqi 1

Water Domain: 2nd Water Princess was asked to recall her conversation with the 1st Water Princess after the orientation meeting with the scientist

“OH MY GOD! What an awful person! This research contract is becoming a nightmare. It keeps getting worse,” lamented Lee to her daughter.
“I thought you two were going to kill each other.”
“Is that the American way to talk? To stare SO HARD at one another? And to use such profanity? I could barely take it anymore. It was SO RUDE! I couldn’t stand to BE so rude myself.”
“I have heard Americans are quite blunt. But I thought he may have been copying you mother.”
“Copying me copying him? What nonsense. And now I have to talk to him everyday. I am so tired now and it’s not even noon.” Lee set an item down on the table.
“Mother? What is that?”
“His bribe.”
“He called it a security, a deposit—whatever you want to call it. After I told him his lab box was sitting on my melon patch, he gave me . . . this.”
“I know it really bothered you. But it’s not much of a bribe. An old knife? Why that?”
“His try to get even. That’s all. I told him I’ll give it back to him when he gives back my patch.”
“Is it worth something?”
“Just some story behind it. That’s all. Means nothing to me.”
“May I see it?” She examined it, opening and closing the solitary blade. “It’s dull.”
“It’s not even a good knife.”
“What was the story? Did he tell you?”
“Says it belonged to his great-grandfather. Said he immigrated to California as a boy to work in the mines in the 19th century, and later the railroads.”
“Long time ago. Mother, this is probably very precious to him. Why would he give it to you?”
“Probably because I yelled at him.”
“You . . . yelled?”
“I yelled . . . a lot. The melon patch.” Ling nodded in understanding. “Now you’re making me feel bad. Stop looking at me that way. But he stole my patch that I worked on for years! That was the seed crop too! It’s probably nothing to him either, that knife.”
             “Why do you say that?”
             “It’s just what he happened to have in his pocket. Maybe it’s all a lie. Some story he made up on the spot. People like him think we’re stupid. All of his college degrees. I don’t know what kind of man he is. If he’s like those Malays he hired we’d better be worried.” Lee was quiet for a while.
“So did he apologize?”
“That’s the thing! No! Not sorry at all. He tried to make it sound like it was my fault for not phoning him.”
“So did you demand this out of him?”
“No. I didn’t ask for anything.”
“So he just offered this then?”
Lee thought about that a bit. “It got into my hand. That’s all. He said he has no grandson to give it to. He said, ‘I have no one.’ That’s all he said.”
“He has no family then?”
“Looks like no.” Lee laughed at herself. “I took a family heirloom from a man with no family. How worthless is that?”
“Do you think you may be too hard on him?”
“Are you taking his side?”
“I think he’s nicer than you think. You know those extra 25 barrels they delivered? They were not on the contract punch list.”
“Did you find a place for them? What are they anyway?”
“If the labels are correct, they are 25 barrels of highly refined diesel fuel. If we use that, you won’t have to clean and rebuild the generator engine for two full cycles.”
“I examined a sample. Hundreds of times better than that cheap, swampy stuff we get from Indonesia. This looks like clear water. I had them install one immediately. You know that broker just gives us his trash that everyone rejects. The generator is running about 30 percent quieter. Haven't you noticed? Dr. Wong maybe saved you and me two weeks of mechanical work.”
Her mother tried hard to look as unimpressed as possible. “I like mechanical work. Don’t talk to me anymore. I need to rest.”

© Copyright 2013 by Vincent Way, all rights reserved.