Thursday, December 11, 2008
The Road to Nihilism
Just for fun I am going to post a snap shot of the first chapter of my book, Chasing the Giants: The Road to Nihilism. This is the Prequel to C the G (the original). I hope you like it. And just for fun, I might post a sample chapter of Chasing the Giants (the original) later this week. So without further a due....
Chapter 1: On Strike
Day 1 7:00 am
Chapleau, Ontario, Canada
As the sun was rising in the diminishing town of Chapleau, a mist covered the earth. The Canadian mist grew strong in the early morning hours but began to fade with each passing moment. Likewise, the future of this small oil town lay in the balance as fear and questions permeated the morning air.
The damp gravel road that led to the oil refinery was littered with vehicles and fifty-gallon drums. The fires rose from the drums as they glistened in the mist, emitting a halo like glow. The light illuminated the moist vapors as they drifted in the chilled atmosphere. It was mid autumn.
The cars and trucks that were parked along the side of the road belonged to the workers who were on strike. Slowly, the striking union workers began to emerge from their vehicles as the effects of their caffeine enriched drinks began to absorb into their bloodstream. Gradually, their worn leather work boots quickened as they lifted their picket signs and posters and began to gather around the gated entrance of their estranged employer, Petroleum Products International or PPI as they are often referred to.
The workers consisted of Steam Fitters, Ironworkers, Electricians and Oilmen. They were on strike because their Union negotiated contract had expired. Their union representation and the company management were in a dead lock over wages and health benefits. To make matters worse, PPI was busing in a large group of temporary laborers from Texas to fill in while the union was on strike. Needless to say, the normally quiet morning in the town of Chapleau was about to get chaotic.
“Here she comes Blake!” Shouted Dennis.
“I see it.” Blake responded as he squinted to see the old yellow school approaching in the distance.
Blake Driscole was the local committeeman in the union and one of the crew leaders on the day shift. He was hardened by a life of heavy, greasy, toilsome labor in the oil industry. An Oilman by trade and a rock solid leader, he was intent on sending a message to management that he and his fellow workers were not going to give up a lifetime of dedicated service and accept the demands of the very profitable company.
“How many of them do you suppose are on that piece of shit bus Blake?” Dennis asked as he brushed shoulders with Blake, his best friend.
“Don’t know Dennis. I guess their might be forty of fifty of em’.”
“Do you suppose they have bats and clubs too?”
Slightly irritated, Blake responded, “Dennis…I don’t know anything more about those scabs than you do. So just shut up, hold up your sign and wait like the rest of us.”
Sheepishly, “Sure thing Blake. Sorry I ruffled yur feathers like that. I didn’t mean any harm…I just…”
“Shut up D!” Blake interrupted. Then he turned to face the approaching bus as it came closer to the picket line. As he turned, he cocked his neck slightly in the direction of the rest of the crowd and shouted, “Ok everyone, this is it. Get in your formation and hold up those signs. Gail? (Looking at the tall, rugged female ironworker to his left)…Start the battle cry.”
At that moment, Gail Skinner, encased in denim welders clothing, began to yell, “Keep our pay…No scabs today! Keep our pay…No scabs today!” She was joined by dozens of the other union members who began to cry out in unison…”Keep our pay…No scabs today!” They moved in what seemed like slow motion as they thrust their signs and banners up and down into the air while they marched in step with the rhythm of their declaration.
The local media had just rolled in to get the scoop on the scabs. They were scurrying around as they loaded their cameras, straightened their ties and checked their teeth for cleanliness. In the distance you could hear the reporters giving directions, “Over here Bill. I think we’ll get a better shot with the refinery as a back drop.” Meanwhile, another crew was stressing out while the cameraman shouted, “…Hold on. My goddamn batteries dead…”
Behind the angry demonstrators were half a dozen company security guards. They were dressed in grey military like uniforms, with black pinstripes down the side of their slacks and a Canadian flag sewn on their left shoulder. In addition, they were accessorized with riot gear, which consisted of face shields, riot padding and belts holding small cans of tear gas and Billy clubs. They were ready for battle.
The security guards were usually on good terms with the other workers. In fact, they diligently served the company hoping that one day they might get a better paying job inside the facility or maybe even get an apprenticeship in one of the trades. But on this day they had orders that conflicted with business as usual. On this day, the security guards were required to keep their friends and neighbors out of the refinery and to allow the bus full of scabs in so the refinery can continue production. Although they were paid security, they feared the outcome of the day’s events.
They stood in front of the ten-foot tall rolling gate, shoulder to shoulder as their sweaty hands nervously clinched their Billy clubs. Looking across the fragile scene, each security officer mimicked the lifeless expression of Greg Miller, the Captain of the guards. Then as the union members began their battle cry, Greg yelled out command number one, “Attention!” And then continued with, “Hold your ground gentleman, this might get ugly.”
The bus was getting close enough now that it had to slow down in order to avoid running the protesters over. So as the driver applied the brakes, the dry dirt under the thin layer of dew began to fill the once fresh air with a dirty, dusty fog that replaced the mist. The peaceful scenery that served as a backdrop only minutes prior to the bus’ arrival was now clouded and filled with tension and fear of what might transpire. A sense of anxiety began to permeate throughout all three parties.
As the bus approached, the guards held their ground. Then the union began to encircle the front of the bus. The union’s war cry ended and was replaced with the squeal of the brakes that emitted from the worn brake pads. Then silence emerged as if it stepped out of the dusty smoke and rolled through the crowd.
Blake stepped toward the bi-fold entry door when the bus came to a complete stop. He stretched out his arm with the baseball bat in hand. Then he knocked on the glass portion of the door with the bat.
“Open the door!” Blake shouted and then repeated himself as his voice increased in decibels, “Open the door!”
Subsequently the door began to open. It squeaked and rattled as the dilapidated door started to fold and slide to the right. Then with his arm stretched as he held the door handle, the bus driver looked at Blake, dropped his head in frustration and said, “Hey mister, I don’t want any trouble. All I want to do is drop these folks off and get home to my family…safely. Now if you will kindly let us pass, I sure would appreciate it.”
Blake coldly responded with, “You’re not going inside of these gates with those scabs. We are on strike, and we’re not going to let them in there. So if you don’t turn around, you are going to be driving these folks to the hospital today. Is that what you want?”
“No…I…I don’t think anyone here wants that. But I have got a job to do...” Angrily, Blake stepped inside of the bus. Then the bus driver, fearful of Blake’s motives, attempted to close the door on him. But as the closing door thrust Blake to one side, he lunged forward and grabbed the bus driver’s arm. Then he grabbed his shirt collar with the strength of his intimidating frame and pulled the driver out of his Captains chair and down the steps. The driver’s arms and legs were kicking and flailing about as Blake mercilessly dragged him onto the dusty gravel road.
“You shouldn’t have done that friend…” proclaimed Blake as he struggled to pull the driver down the steps.
The bus driver attempted to hold his ground and protested with an incomplete…“What the fu…”
“Shut up!” Interrupted Blake. “Quit squirming around. Your making this more difficult than it needs to be.”
Blake continued to drag the driver out of the bus until he was several feet away. And when he was satisfied with the driver’s position, he threw him down on the ground as if he were shaking water from his hands…cleansing himself of the squeamish character. Then some of the other union workers completed Blake’s work by blocking the door: preventing him from re-entering the bus.
“Stay there!” Directed Dennis in his high pitched irritating voice. Then he glanced at Blake hoping for a sign of his approval. It never came. Blake moved on to the other inhabitants of the bus.
Blake attempted to communicate as best he could with the workers. Using both hand signals and broken Spanish he spoke to the scabs, “Hola’… No Espanola…No work…Go home…adios!” Then he pointed in the direction from which they came and walked out of the bus hoping that the example he made of the bus driver would have intimidated them enough.
The guards came to the aid of the bus driver and helped to dust him off while he lay there with his broken pride. He was obviously annoyed at Blake and resented the embarrassment that Blake caused him. So as Blake made his way back into the crowd of the other union members, the bus driver peered at him with revulsion. As the mob regrouped, silence resumed as everyone stood still, waiting, wondering and anticipating what would happen next.
To read more and to purchase a copy of Chasing the Giants go to my web page http://www.chasingthegiants.com