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Oil Slicks

Oil makes for a slippery slope. Something that is so integral to modern living has become a threat because of dependency and pollution. Yet, writers found slick inspiration and greatly expanded the idea of oil in stories.

From the harsh realities to sweet moments, oil created a rich collection this week.

The following are based on the April 27, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes oil.

***

Crudely Oil by FloridaBorne

Three decades ago, at the slender age of 41, unemployment loomed in my future. My sister tried to help me find a job, so she asked a friend in the oil industry about hiring me.

Pre Hurricane Ike, amidst the oil refineries of coastal Texas and Louisiana, my sister arranged a lunch meeting to discuss the terms of my employment.

Startled, like he’d just witnessed the first case of a tyrannous walking into a bar with a greyhound, he said, “She’s so delicate, not sturdy like you. I was expecting someone built like a man.”

I think he lived.

###

Oil and Water by Geoff Le Pard

‘Mum, I want to volunteer to help the environment.’

‘What prompted this? Not that I’m against it.’

‘We watched Deep Water Horizon in Geography. The oil industry is awful. We need to have renewables and non-pollutive power.’

‘Are you going to protest?’

“Protest? Like online?’

‘No. A march, a sit-in? That’s what we did. To make people sit up.’

Penny picked up her sandwich. ‘What did you protest about?’

‘Stopping Cruise missiles. The miners. You grandpa hated it.’

‘What happened?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Did it make a difference?’

‘Not really.’

‘I think I want to do something useful.’

###

Extractions by D. Avery

After straining the rust, he combined their gleanings. His children had become experts at extraction, at syphoning gas and oil from the abandoned and decaying automobiles. Their specialty was in finding smaller machines that others overlooked, lawnmowers, leaf-blowers. Today they found almost five gallons of gas, three of oil. It was good, but what was the current rate?

“I’ll be back.” His voice was husky and raw. Trading was dangerous. And necessary. His children watched him go.

He hoped for a good rate. The last time they were only giving a quart of water for each gallon of fuel.

###

Green Enough (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

“Ma, look!” Monroe lofted a green pumpkin.

Mary nodded, wishing away the queasiness. Even standing she could feel the sway of the wagon. “Leave ‘em on the vine, son until they ripen.”

“Will you make pies?”

She managed a nod although the thought made her ill.

Her brother-in-law joined her on the porch, excited. “Mary, we need to convince Cobb to take a stake along the San Juan. Running rivers. Mountains, even! And sand you can burn in a lamp. Black oil.”

Mary inhaled deeply. “Leroy, if it requires a wagon ride from here, no! This Territory will do.”

###

VR Won’t Put Money in Your Pocket by Joe Owens

“What the heck is Ramsey doing out there Clem?” Abe questioned.

His seventy-two year old neighbor was blasting away at the ground, kneeling to watch the newly created hole, moving another ten feet and repeating the process.

“Ever hear of them Virtual Reality things?”

“Yep.”

“Apparently Ramsey strapped on Aaron’s new set last night and watched the Beverly Hillbillies. Now he’s convinced he can repeat Jed’s luck,” Clem said

“Stupid redneck. Don’t he know he is using the wrong ammo?”

“What are you talking about?”

“In Jed’s book ‘Finding Oil For Dummies’ he said to use real lead shot!”

###

Depot Antipsychotics by Anne Goodwin

As the medicine penetrated her muscle, it felt as if her posterior was swallowing castor oil. Sliding out the needle, the nurse rubbed the spot with cotton wool. “That’s it for another fortnight.”

Matty pulled up her panties. “No more babies.”

The nurse looked perplexed. “You do realise what your injection’s for?”

Was she old enough to know what men did to ladies in the dark? “For protection, of course.”

“That’s one way of putting it. Protection against disturbing thoughts.”

Matty nodded. So she did know about those shenanigans. She hoped it was not through personal experience.

###

When That Oil Well Erupts by 40levenreasons

Her naked body trembled, yet it wasn’t cold. Her heart raced, yet she lay motionless. Darkness engulfed her and her breathing became rapid; urgent gulps at the air surrounding her. She felt the hairs on her body rise and she strained to listen; for the black silence, was deafening. Her back arched in anticipation, as she waited…..

and waited……..

She didn’t ‘hear’ him enter, rather, felt him. His presence, captivating, rendered her breathless.

She heard the familiar ‘click’ of the oil being opened and she knew what to expect.

Then, she felt it.

So familiar, yet so tantalisingly foreign…….

###

Oil Stains by Sarah Brentyn

He was oily. His hair, his smile.

“Sit,” he licked his lips. “It’s not often I get a visit from such an elegant lady.”

“I’ll stand.”

“As you wish, beautiful.” His eyes scanned me head to toe then met mine. “Better view for me.”

I slid the envelope across to him.

He took his time looking through the contents, enjoying what was inside. “Here’s your money,” he leered.

I reached for the cash too quickly, brushing his knuckles with my fingertips. I cringed.

He laughed.

I would wear the stain of this day for the rest of my life.

###

Protected by Reena Saxena

The court verdict proclaimed him ‘Not Guilty’, against public expectations.

His opponents had teamed up to support him. The secret lay in the few files in his cupboard, which threatened to expose their lesser misdeeds.

He was sent to learn wrestling in childhood. He never really mastered the sport. But he clearly remembered applying baby oil to avoid cuts and bruises, and then spraying water on it, to create a glistening skin finish. Vaseline was a substitute, at times, but it was the oil that helped him slip from the opponent’s grip.

It was a lesson he never forgot.

###

Oil by Hugh W. Roberts

There I was minding my own business, checking out the cool animals going round and round, when I heard this conversation.

“Yes, madam, that’s the one made with coconut oil. It’s made from the finest coconuts.”

“And this one?”

“That one is made from our finest lavender oil, which we grow ourselves. It’s guaranteed to help you sleep.”

“And what about something for my itchy legs?”

“Try this baby oil, madam.”

“What’s it made from?”

That’s all a 7-month old baby could take. I screamed the place down and my mother ended up with just the coconut shampoo. Phew!

###

Massage by Michael

It was the best and worst of massage. The girl with pudgy fingers slapped on the massage oil which I could feel running under my stomach.

Her fingers generated the nervousness you associate with a first-time massage.

She had used far too much oil, her fingers slipped every so often and dug into my neck creating a pain and anxiety such that with my brain asked the pertinent question: “Does this woman know what she is doing?”

She forged ahead, with muscles manipulated, I felt the beginnings of relief, before she slapped me on the rump announcing job done.

###

Midnight Vanity by Pete Fanning

Wilma broke the vitalization capsule, and took caution to rub the oil in around the eyes, per Doctor Prott’s instructions. She hummed a tune. Her evening dress hung from the bathroom door.

“Stunning,” they’d said. “Radiant.”

The capsules—78% human sebum secretions as they were—smelled awful, and took some getting accustomed. But the results had shimmered in the gaze of every man in the room.

Another smear of oil. The door swung open and Harold stood, in his boxers, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. A blink, and he leaped back with a scream.

Every man but one.

###

The Hope Chest by Kate Spencer

Martha side-steps her way past the busy work tables toward the back of the wood-shop. “Tom, where are you? Tom!”

“Mom, you’re early.”

“I know, but we gotta go. Pew, it smells in here,” says Martha brushing sawdust from her sleeves.

“That’s the tung oil wood finish reacting with maple. It’ll dissipate. Wanna see what I made?”

“Maybe next time,” and Martha suddenly gasps when she sees the exquisite hope chest with birds, hearts and the word ‘MOM’ engraved on the lid.

“Tom?”

“It’s something for you to store your hopes in Mom, so you won’t ever lose them.”

###

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

The smell of the oil took him back fifty years.

She was young and beautiful, a true stunner.

Standing a little taller than he, her chestnut mane glowed in the sunlight.

Love at first sight, their relationship lasted over twenty years.

They were inseparable, he had eyes only for her. Totally loyal to each other, theirs was a match made in heaven.

He was inconsolable when she died, her ashes scattered in the meadow behind the property where they had spent so many private hours.

As a child, she was his life. To others, she was just a horse.

###

Child Citizen to Scientist by Norah Colvin

Familiar sounds heralded his arrival: feet scraped stairs, bag thudded deck, screen door crashed.

Shouts of “Mum! Mum!” preceded him as he charged down the hallway, arms flailing, holding something aloft.

His words exploded in a jumble. She deciphered few. Baby stopped suckling, curious.

“Slow down,” she said, patting the sofa with her free hand.

He thrust the brochure at her.

“I wanna adopt a penguin. Please, Mum. Can I?”

“Penguins can’t live here. It’s too hot,” Mum teased.

“Mu-um!” The words tumbled again. “Scientist… school… oil… penguins dying… ‘dangered… We have to save them from going extinct! Please!”

###

Black Gold Indeed (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

Jane flips from one screen to another, trying to find what it would be worth.

She still remembers the “gas shortage,” finally her turn to fill her VW Bug’s tiny tank, outraged at paying a dollar a gallon and waiting in line for over an hour for the privilege. There was no “Come back later;” stations closed at dusk. 1979, that was.

Dammit, this should be readily available information. Well, suffice it to say, if she’d bought oil shares instead of beer back then, she probably wouldn’t be homeless right now. Of course, she’d also be a hypocrite.

###

Raw Materials by Elliott Lyngreen

Shopping for something to eat, he realized boxes hold more substances. Foods invented them. There was a time he never consumed enough – food. So he thought.

In his dreams were elixirs. As if there is some magic oily substance yet discovered; like a pure clear milk, that will thickly coat and satiate rather than seem tingly, clear, and empty his circulation.

Immediately sinking awareness, something that filled absolute, made him wholly distraught within seconds. All the sections of the aisles and gondolas reconstituted this; each item constructed that catalyst of thought.

Unresolved shelves upon shelves as he continued through.

###

Motives and Motivation? by Jules Paige

Three hours into the desert their engine choked and buckled,
rolling dark smoke into the pale blue sky….Janice remembered
that Richard appeared a kinder person then. They had flown
into the Prescott airport – Richard was penny pinching again
and took cheapest car the they could rent. The car was a
beater, but they were told it was in working order. The desert
had been all Richard’s Idea. The car leaked oil from the start…
Janice didn’t want to think of what nasty thing might have
would have happened if the Trucker hadn’t come along to save
their rears.

###

The Road Home by Lisa Listwa

“What did he say?” she asked.

“The engine is leaking oil, but the mechanic is gone for the night. We can come back tomorrow. Or, he said if we get a case of oil from the auto parts store next door and keep dumping it in, we’ll make it home.”

They drove in silence for a long while; tears burned the back of her eyes.

“It’s an omen,” she said. “This happening on the way back from our honeymoon? It means our entire marriage is going to be filled with trouble.”

“Let’s keep going,” he said. “We’ll be fine.”

###

Heal Me by Kerry E.B. Black

Lily rubbed her hands together, warming the oil before smoothing it across her husband’s shoulders. With clever circles, her fingers eased stored tensions. He sighed. She kissed his ear and continued her ministrations. Spearmint and eucalyptus opened her sinuses. With closed eyes, she felt along taut muscles to the source of his discomfort. The feel of him imprinted upon her fingertips.

He twisted in the chair and folded her in an embrace. “How’d you do that?”

She blinked as though awakening from a trance. “Do what?”

His warmth radiated from him, and he breathed into her lips. “Heal me.”

###

Memory by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She sat in the dayroom, warmed by morning sun through the picture window. Her pink sweater mounded over her shriveled form and stick-thin arms, pooled around her bony thighs. Mostly unresponsive, she seemed content in her isolation. But perhaps her mind swooped, hawk’s wings over her long and verdant life, or trembled, a butterfly over nectar-sweet memories with family and friends.

We couldn’t tell. We wanted reassurance.

We researched and assembled our tools: tiny jars of oil infused with essences of everything.

“Smell, bring memories!” we prayed, gathered around her chair.

She smiled, silent and vague, appreciating the attention.

###

April 27: Flash Fiction Challenge

Winds gust up to 40 miles an hour, blowing steadily for a week. An entire week of rocking in a trailer, listening to the awnings tear and snap. The RV creaks relentlessly like an old Conestoga wagon, and I now know why pioneer women walked — the volume inside the creaking boards and snapping canvas will drive you mad. New Mexico howls, and I’m yet in its grip, wondering if we’ve checked into the Hotel California. “You can check out anytime you like but you can never leave…”

Our transmission saga began as a jaunty adventure, something penned by Louis L’Amour where the good guys win. We had hope. Now it’s slogging along like a twisted tale by Stephen King. All I can think is what next? We wait. And waiting throws huge rocks in our already rocky path. How long must the Hub wait for healthcare?

Part of our journey was to get him to a VA hospital because they refused to see him in St. George “because he wasn’t in the system.” He’s listed at Spokane as “transient” and he can go to any VA, but only if they set an appointment. But many of the VA hospitals where homeless veterans gather in warmer climates over winter are backlogged or simply don’t want to treat anyone not from the community. Like St. George, Utah where the Vet Center also denied the Hub’s order for CBT because they didn’t have the staffing for it. Yes, this is why veterans die, waiting to be seen.

Trying to replace our transmission has become similar to trying to get the Hub the healthcare he needs. The auto parts companies have merged like other American companies and in these mergers is confusion. They don’t eve know what they do and don’t have in their own warehouses. And then there’s the shipping policies. And next you have to deal with a shipping company that professes customer service, but they don’t do what their website cheerfully proclaims. And website marketing! How many “bait and switch” tactics did we encounter searching for the best price?

Once the ordered transmission finally arrived (150 miles away because of their store-only delivery policy) and we drove to pick it up, it was the wrong one. It was so wrong, the Hub asked if that was truly his order. It was. Everything matched on the order except the transmission they shipped. It’s like trying to get an appointment at the VA for a specific reason only to go through 15 other pointless appointments to finally get stonewalled at the needed one.

I’m so sick of corporations and a political system that cares more about corporate profits than people.

Today, I turned on CSPAN (national politics station) to drown out the noise of the wind and could not believe the audacity of the senator who had the floor, explaining why the Keystone Pipeline is good for America. He spoke of profits and made illogical leaps between profits and being good environmental stewards. Last year I wrote an article for a regional magazine about Lake Pend Oreille’s Water Keepers, a non-profit that works to keep the watershed drinkable, swimable and fishable. The director told me that for all the billions in oil profits that cross the train bridge over Lake Pend Oreille, the oil companies do not have a disaster plan for a derailment. Oil profits do not make us good stewards.

Nor does it boost our workforce. When the Hub and I toured the ancient Pueblo lands between Gallup and Farmington two weeks ago, we saw acres and acres of capped oil wells and rusting refineries. Fracking has long been a part of New Mexico’s economy, but it’s not profitable to create jobs unless the oil companies make over $50 a barrel (another point I learned, interviewing a state economist for another article I wrote about why Idahoans leave the state to find work). It doesn’t impact what workers average in wages to cope with rising costs. There yet remains a silent housing crisis in many rural places like where we had our rental sold from under us. Rural homeless are hardest to count because many live with families, couch surf or live in RVs like we do. We don’t factor into the sleazy politics who would have us believe profits will save us all.

I’m reminded of a Cree saying to which I might add the line, “When the last oil well belches sand tar…”

“Only when the last tree has been cut down, the last fish been caught, and the last stream poisoned, will we realize we cannot eat money.”

It’s on blasted days like this, when I realize I missed Earth Day and it feels like the environment is in my face, howling, “Notice me!” that I wonder is there’s any hope for our Seventh Generation. Seven generations from now, what will be the result of profit over people? For once, I want to hear an elected official having the audacity to stand up for the betterment of all constituents. I hope against all hope that when we finally get a transmission delivered and installed that we’ll arrive in Topeka, Kansas and the Hub can get an appointment that will directly address his needs.

On days like this, I wonder what Mary McCanles made of her long wagon journey west and if she still believed in dreams after arriving? I’m shifting my focus back to Rock Creek in anticipation that the winds will stop, the transmission will arrive and we’ll yet get to Kansas to the VA, family and historical research. Politics were just as messed up in 1859 as they are in 2017. And oil was on the horizon.

April 27, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes oil. It can be an oil refinery, the raw product or used as a commodity. How does oil fit into a plot or a genre? Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by May 2, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published May 3). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Green Enough (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

“Ma, look!” Monroe lofted a green pumpkin.

Mary nodded, wishing away the queasiness. Even standing she could feel the sway of the wagon.  “Leave ‘em on the vine, son until they ripen.”

“Will you make pies?”

She managed a nod although the thought made her ill.

Her brother-in-law joined her on the porch, excited. “Mary, we need to convince Cobb to take a stake along the San Juan. Running rivers. Mountains, even! And sand you can burn in a lamp. Black oil.”

Mary inhaled deeply. “Leroy, if it requires a wagon ride from here, no! This Territory will do.”

###

Author’s Note: Leroy actually did find crude oil in Colorado the summer he and his brother rode up a tributary of the San Juan River. He always wanted to push beyond Nebraska Territory, but settled where his brother decided. After Cobb’s death, Leroy returned his family to Tennessee and spent the duration of the Civil War, exploring Colorado. He homesteaded a place he named Florence, and brought the entire McCanles clan out from Tennessee. In the last years of her life, Mary finally accepted Leroy’s invitation and lived out her days in Florence, Colorado. She returned to Nebraska to be buried next to Cobb. Leroy made a fortune in oil.