Hey folks. I hope you all had a great Christmas and New Year. I'm starting the year off with a story that's a little bit softer in tone than usual, but we're gonna do some different things this year. Some of them are designed to involve you guys more in the story making process. Who knows maybe I'll fall flat on my face but it won't be the first time. So be ready. Before I forget, the legendary Barney-R is on vacation for the rest of the month, so let's all pray for his speedy return. SS06
They say that turning a rectangle or a square into a triangle increases its strength. It took me a long time to understand that. It seems weird to me that having fewer sides makes it better. But I'm an old woman now and with age they say you get wisdom. I don't know if that's really true. I don't know if age has brought me wisdom, but it's certainly brought me strength. Tonight, for the first time in my life I was strong enough to say no to temptation. I actually said no to sex. I looked into the eyes of the man who'd helped me almost ruin my life and said no. As I watch him walking away in the pouring rain on a cold night that I wouldn't send a dog out in, I feel really good about it. I feel like I regained something special. Suddenly, I feel like I have more than I deserve.
Maybe I should start at the beginning, so this will make sense.
In the beginning there was Bobby and me and we were in love...
The phone call as usual had been bittersweet. The joy and happiness of speaking to my bride, versus the pain of having to tell her that we wouldn't be together for New Year's Eve.
She loved the diamond bracelet I had sent her for Christmas, but she'd trade it in a second to have me home. It was the same story all over again. We'd gotten married at a very early age; nineteen for her, eighteen for me.
And since neither of us had come from rich families, money was hard to come by. As usual with the mind of the engineer I hoped to someday become, I came up with a plan.
The oil companies were always recruiting people with mechanical aptitude for their oil rigs and bases in far off locations. They paid extremely good money for long term shifts in out of the way places. I'd gotten an interview and had quickly impressed the company's representative with my drive and intuitive grasp of their systems.
I hadn't yet begun to study mechanics, pneumatics, hydraulics or robotics but I had a knack for figuring out what things did and how they did it. Being able to figure out how things worked, where they were broken and whether to try to fix them or simply replace them was something I'd been able to do for most of my life. It was also my passion. As a kid I was always at the local auto repair shop watching the mechanics fix cars. I handed them tools and asked tons of questions.
Once I reached my teens I began to answer THEIR questions. I had also begun fixing things all over the neighborhood. And I did it for free. Mostly I did it just to learn more about how things worked.
On my eighteenth birthday, my aunt and uncle, who'd taken me in when my parents died, took me out for dinner. We didn't go to a big fancy restaurant; we went to a small diner in town. The place was nothing special. The food was also not spectacular. In fact the only thing I remember about the place was the waitress. She made an impression on me that would never go away. Apparently, the feeling was mutual, because at the end of the night she gave me a napkin.
I wiped my mouth on it and was about to throw it away, when my uncle, who was far sharper than I was told me to hold onto it.
"Look at the napkin, Bobby," he said.
"Why?" I asked. "It's just a piece of paper."
"It's not the napkin," he smirked. "It's what's written on it."
"What's written on it?" I asked. His eyes turned skyward and I knew then that I had almost missed something.
I opened the napkin and saw her phone number written there. The look of shock and happiness on my face must've carried across the restaurant because when I looked at her, at another table she was handing, she smiled just as broadly as I had.
I called her the next morning and we've never been apart since.
"Mona, I love you so much," I said into the phone. "Honey, I wish I could be there with you right now. But this is only temporary.
"It's just awful being here alone," she said. I could almost feel her tears through the phone across the thousands of miles that separated us." The deal I'd made with the oil company wasn't that unusual. I worked for a semester and then attended classes the next semester. The oil company paid all of my expenses and my tuition.
While it wasn't a perfect solution to my problems, it was a good one. Not only would I get my education paid for without ending up mired in thousands of dollars of debt, but I'd have the inside track on a great job as soon as I graduated.
That alone was worth it. I'd heard of too many guys who'd spent untold thousands of dollars on a college education, just to graduate and find they not only could they not get a job in their chosen field or anything close to it, they couldn't get a job at all.
The only thing bad about the arrangement was the fact that it would take me a little bit longer to get my degree. That fact and the separations from Mona that I thought would kill me. But someday we would trade our comfy little apartment in on a beautiful house and fill it with love, wonderful things and a couple of perfect kids.
And anything I had to do to get us there would be worth it in the end.
"Mona it's hard for me too," I said. "I wish I could be there with you too. But keep your eyes on the prize. Someday all of this will be just an almost forgotten memory." I hung up the phone vowing to make my words true.
"Bobby, we're getting out of here," said my boss Tom Dunn as I hung up the phone. "There's a big storm coming in. It's bringing in subzero temps and lots of snow and ice. This temporary pumping station will never survive that. We have to get out of here."
"Huh?" I said. "Why can't I stay?"
"Your choice, Bud, you can leave on one of the trucks if you want to stay a while, but I'm taking one of the first choppers they send," he said. "Don't worry, we still get paid for the entire stay, we just get home a few weeks earlier. And I know you'll be in school from January until May, but I've already arranged for you to be assigned to my crew for the summer."
"Tom, what happens to the base?" I asked.
"They'll pump as much oil out of here as they can," he said. "The oil they pump out of here in a single day will pay for the entire complex. We've kept it pumping for months, Bobby. The company got a lot more than their money's worth out of the place.
The locals from nearby towns will cannibalize the pipes, all of the building materials and anything we leave behind. It's the circle of life, just like in the Lion King."
"I'm staying," I said. He looked at me like I was crazy.
"Why?" he asked.
"Wouldn't it be even more profitable to save this place instead of building one just like it next season?" I asked.
"Bobby, once the pipes freeze, there's just no point in staying. It's easier to start out fresh with pipe that won't leak and head off any problems," he said.
"I think I'll hang around for one of the trucks," I said.
It took me a couple of hours and several phone calls to get what I wanted. One of the phone calls surprised me. It was from Tom's boss.
"Bobby what are you doing?" he asked me. "Son, you should be getting out of there not ordering chemicals for some weird concoction."
I quickly outlined my plan for him and by the end of the phone call he was doubtful but told me I should go ahead and try it.
My idea was to sheath the exposed pipe sections in a thick coating of a foam-like polymer that I had learned about in school. It would protect the exposed sections from the storm, but could easily be removed when spring came. At the same time we would pump all of the oil out of the pipes and circulate a very cheap antifreeze solution through the pipes. The circulating pumps would also warm the solution up to a temperature that would prevent any damage to the pipes.
Three days later my life had changed. I'd been flown to the oil company's headquarters in Texas. My entire deal had been changed. From then on I would be attending school full time. It would all be paid for by the old company. As soon as I got my degree I would go to work in a very lucrative position as one of their engineers.
My expense account had been quadrupled and I was going to be able to buy the house that Mona and I had always dreamed of. Only it would be a lot sooner than we thought. I could hardly wait to walk in and surprise her. My plane would get in just before eleven pm on New Year's Eve. Boy would she be surprised.
"I wish I could be there with you, too," said Bobby over the phone. As he hung up I slammed the phone down. Tears rolled down my cheeks. "It's not worth it," I said.
"Well ... I'm glad he isn't here with us," said Sam. "Bobby isn't really bright enough to understand what's going on with us. And he isn't kinky enough to want to join in."
"Two things..." I said through clenched teeth. "Number one ... Bobby is far smarter than you and I combined. You talking about him not being smart just makes YOU seem stupider. You aren't the one in college on an engineering scholarship are you? Maybe Bobby isn't as street smart as you are, or as sneaky but his brains by far outclass you.
.... There is more of this story ...