Friday, May 3, 2013

This Must Be...

    And we are still out of the narrative…again.  Going back and capturing such star birthed and overwhelming love is a taxing task.  So we enter the here and now, because so much has changed and needs to get out.  It is life or death it seems these days, at this point in time.  So where are we?

    “Slow down, don’t fuck with my eye; I want to be left alone here with my monsters.”
          -M. Doughty.

    Let’s begin…

   Murdoc is standing in the dark, on a dry dock, whipped by the cruelest of cold winds coming in off the black waters of the Coast Guard refitting yards on the Eastern Shore.  Above him, a cutter, ocean going and vast, rises and balances on thick, compressed oak blocks and steel.  Something this vast shouldn't sit so easy…on what seems like nothing.  Two hundred and sixty-feet of twelve-story high rise steel, just hover’s above his head in the soft moonlight.

    “This shouldn't be.”  He thinks this and repeats these words like a mantra as he walks under the great mass of the elegant woman suspended and out of her element.

    The ship has been brought in on routine refurbishment.  She will be scrubbed and blasted and purged of two years worth of world travel.  Barnacles are blasted off her sides that may have hitched a ride from the Sea of Japan or the Adriatic, or the home shores of the Atlantic.  The ship’s manifest is kept secret from him and he can only guess and wonder in the bitter wind and moonlight, where she may have traveled.  But he loves her just the same.  She is an elegant beast, held up by engineering, revered and worth saving.  You invest in great things.

    The nightly task ahead of him is ugly…evil…unforgiving…and not for men of weak minds, body or soul and heart. 

    Holes are cut with torches, into the very bottom of the thing which keeps her afloat.  These holes, the only way in and out, are fifty feet apart.  This is the way in and out for the men who will fix this creature from within, from below.  This is the way into the ballast chambers, one after the other, three feet wide and four feet high, one after the other, for two hundred and sixty-feet.  And the only way to manage, from chamber to chamber to chamber to chamber, is to wriggle thru a cold, jagged space roughly engineered to the size of the opening of a household clothes dryer door.  There is no quick way in…no quick way out.  This is why there are few rescue efforts for confined space mishaps, only “recovery.”

    This is Murdoc’s first time in “confined space”.  He is prepped by a veteran named J.R.  It is very clinical and matter of fact.

    “Once the LEL meter tells us nothing will blow up and we can breathe, we’ll go in.  We will not be able to communicate once the guzzler is running.  And know this, if you have a cut on your hand and it gets close to the intake, the beast will suck you dry, your blood will be all gone by the time it takes to shut the pig down.  Work with me and let’s go home safe.  It’s all hand signals and eye contact in the dark.  If you feel uneasy or panicky, signal me and we’ll get you out.  So are we doing this or what?”

    Murdoc smiles, “Yuppers.”

   J.R. reaches over and touches Murdoc’s chest, tries to find his heart.  “Christ man, nothing.”

    Murdoc smiles.

    J.R. turns on his headlamp and waves his hand to the guzzler operator, “Fire the fucker up, let’s do this, I want go home.”

    And the noise, the white noise and cacophony of hell rises as they climb into the bottom of the ship.

   It’s black and moonlight outside on the dry dock.  They wriggle in, thru the tiny hole cut into the ship, and the only light, is the one LED beacon attached to the hard hat.  Hand signals are passed and the lights are tested.  They are only one ballast tank in, black out, and then relight.  The seconds in the dark and howl of noise, test the best of men sent in, and send most of them out.  Lights come back on and Murdoc is still there.  J.R. smiles and flashes the “O.K.” sign.

    And the work/madness begins.

   Murdoc, because he is the new man, runs the line and follows J.R. into the dark.

    And it is hell.

    Murdoc is now deep into the belly of the beast and dark and the howl, and thinks, “Yuppers, this is pretty close to Hell.  Fucking glorious.”  He isn't afraid.  He should be, but he isn't.  Instead he studies the architecture and the welds within the scope of his head lamp that is his only light in the black, the dark.  J.R. moves ahead of him into the dark and Murdoc follows.  They keep each other safe and work at a job that no sane person would ever attempt…for the next eight hours without stopping in the dark and the howl and the bitter cold.

    And when all is well and good, and it seems like the work is done, J.R, say’s to Murdoc, “Hey man, we missed a couple of baffles, how do you feel about going back in and getting them for me?”

    And Murdoc knew exactly what was happening; this was his last test.  He had to go inside alone and work the chaos by himself.  And he did.  And in one night he became one of the elite.  He proved that the dark, the cacophony, and the danger; wouldn't, couldn't break him.  But fuck if it didn't try.  Out of seventeen new men tested, Murdoc is the only one that didn't wilt or fade, or give in to fear or weakness.

   And standing by the water’s edge, held back by a fifty-foot wall of dry-dock of steel and concrete, wind whipping and howling, fury held at bay and tempered…

   Greatness held above him by such delicate and purposeful means…

    And men, good men, beside him that do the work that no one else should, or ever have to do, have taken him into their fold…

    Murdoc smiles, again, and leans deep into the heavy cold wind that burns deep into his soul; his eye’s well up with tears.  It could be the cold wind.  It could be the chaos.  Only he knows.  But fuck if he doesn't just let the tears roll down and sear his frozen surface and smoldering soul beneath.

    Murdoc returns home and walks thru the door to his quiet, lonely prison on the water, and says this aloud…

    “This shouldn't be.”  

1 comment:

  1. And while he was thumping, toiling, and guzzling in the dark, the cold, and the chaos, ensconced in the insides of a steel beast, she jumped airplanes and spoke of Jonahs and smooth spaces to strangers, turning ivory towers into scrimshaw.

    And they spoke in what was both morning and evening to their respective lighthouses. They spoke of love and travel and dear ones gone from this world. She received a letter, a written testimony of his having conquered yet another trial, and now she sees it so beautifully laid out in narrative. The Fresnel lenses endure, so do his strength and her words.

    My favorite sentence: "The ship's manifest is kept secret from him..."