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The Gulf’s Become the Dead Sea

The Gulf’s Become the Dead Sea

Jessyka D’Souza

Last week our wives went down to the office building on State Street. One by one they all made it down there. They sat in the waiting room for hours with the welfare mothers and their grubby children. They had to talk to them grey-haired worker ladies that sit behind them thick plastic walls, the kind that keep the crazies from punching people when they’re told “no.” The ladies behind the wall spoke to our wives in Spanish, thought they were Mexicans. In the end we all got our WIC checks but our wives had been humiliated. They say that WIC isn’t like the welfare, that it’s for working class families and while we might be hard working men there ain’t no work to be had right now. 

We’re all doing whatever we can to get by. It’s been 85 days since the spill into the Gulf, 85 workless days that we all know will only lead to more. That oil company BP, trying to make themselves out to be saints. Doing whatever they can to clear their names, but how ‘bout clearing up the goddamn water? Thousands of us are unemployed, can’t do no fishing in dirty water. BP says we can work for a program they started called Vessels of Opportunity. They say that we’d be useful in helping to skim all that oil from the water. Makes no sense to me. They’re the ones that screwed up and now we’re the ones saving their asses? Really though, we ain’t got many choices and we need paychecks more than we need our pride.

The entire coast is spoiled. It’s not just us here in Florida that have it rough, that’s for certain. We got this buddy called Rick lives over in Louisiana, he brings in blue crabs and oysters, sometimes even crawfish. He was telling us the other day it’s something like 180 some-odd million gallons leaked into our Gulf, just floatin’ there along the surface like bunches of red lily pads strung together, like jellyfish gliding along in unison. It’s an awful sight to be seen and we’re starting to feel like our Gulf’s become the dead sea. Dead for all them creatures of the water and financially dead for us fishermen. Rick works for one of them big name sea food industries, told us once that his company brings in 1/3 of America’s seafood. It’s not just us fishermen being affected by this atrocity, what about all them restaurants and shops that sell our fish? What about all those people that go out after a long work day to their favorite oyster bars? The kind that drive out to those places in their fancy company cars to watch sports and drink vodka lemonades. Them rich kind that have money to spend on things like that, those are the kind that keep us doing our jobs, they call that supply and demand. Now them rich kinds are making their demands and we aint got no supply.    

The lead man in our crew is called James. He was the first one to head down to BP’s claim office, acted as our unofficial spokesman. I can just imagine him telling our story, shifting in his seat uncomfortably. I saw him before he left for the appointment, his hair needed cutting so he had slicked it back to look more presentable, his tie wasn’t hanging straight but at least his shirt was tucked in. James has always been nervous around official people, he doesn’t have a problem with authority just makes him anxious is all. He told us how he’d shifted in his seat and projected his voice as he spoke to the man on the other side of the desk. The man that didn’t have trouble tying his ties in the morning, the man that would file James’s, and the rest of our claims against BP. This was the man that would make the decision on whether or not the cases filed were worthy of compensation.

James told us how the man had chewed on the end of his pencil, did his best to stay awake through James’s long-winded speech. He said that the man had folded close the manila envelope that held James’s documents, said he’d tossed it into a full basket on the corner of his desk and uncrossed his legs in a slow and deliberate manner. The man had waited until the end of the meeting, stood up, held out his hand and only said one thing. “James, we’ll be in touch.”

James told us how he didn’t want to, but that he shook the man’s hand, how he felt a lump of dryness in his throat that wouldn’t allow him to swallow. Told us how he stood there longer than he should have holding that man’s hand in his, tried to conjure up the right words to say while reminding himself that he shouldn’t say anything more. James said that it took a while before he finally loosened his grip on the man’s hand, felt his shoulders slump as he turned away slowly. The last thing James told us was how he had opened the door of the man’s office, paused to consider yet again what he could say. James said he was thinking that surely the man must have a conscience, maybe even children of his own. James held his tongue in the end, hung his head in defeat as he walked out the door. Most of us decided not to step foot in that man’s office, not after hearing how he’d treated James. We know there ain’t no use in it.

Jessyka D’Souza is a student at University of South Florida, expected to graduate in December. Jessyka’s writing focus is screenplays, but she also writes short stories and poetry. Her publications include a news article and photo published last year with GateHouse Media, a photo in the June issue of Outside Magazine that accompanied a story about her recent trip to India, and a script for an informational film by BioQuasar. Jessyka lives in Sarasota with her husband and two babies, Gwendolyn and Rohan.

The Spill

In 2010, when the Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill exploded and threatened the way of life that Gulf Coast residents know and love, West Florida Literary Federation offered an outlet for expression. During the six months when the uncapped well gushed, and for one year following the successful capping of the well, writers, poets and photographers from across the country sent us their words, thoughts and feelings, thereby providing a literary record of the Deep Water Horizon environmental disaster. Here are the best of the submissions.

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