Saturday, January 11, 2014

Star Wars

It wasn't long after the cold dissipated that we first got word about the weird licorice smell in the air. One of the guys in the newsroom was complaining about it and just wondering what the smell was. By the time I picked up dinner and my girlfriend, the smell was a situation was a disaster and the word was "Don't drink the water unless you want to die."

Reports later reduced that to "Don't drink, cook, clean or wash yourself or anything else with that stuff," but the river has been poisoned by a local chemical company involved in business related to the coal industry. Already, my more liberal friends are shouting "I told you so" about the EPA. My conservative friends are eerily quiet, probably figuring this will all blow over once the crap in the water dilutes enough that it doesn't cause projectile vomiting.

There is some of that going on and quite a few people I know are reporting headaches and nausea, as well as itching and burning. Nobody knows what the long term affects of this shit are.

Out getting bread and paper plates last night, a couple of coal miners were laughing at the crowd who seemed to be throwing stuff into carts left and right --they were 20-ish and looked like they'd scarcely ever been in a grocery store. I figured their moms and then their girlfriends did most of that sort of work. Just a couple of good ol' boys.

They saw me by the picked over bread aisle. One of them laughed and said, "The problem is with the water. It ain't with the bread."

Remembering, when I too was a moron, looked over and said, "Without the water, you can't wash any dishes or pans. You can't really cook much. So, we're all eating sandwiches."

The guy blinked and his face fell. That hadn't occurred to him (probably, because he doesn't wash many dishes).

"People are still making way too big a deal out of it," he said. "I've seen that stuff in the mines. I got a little on me once and yeah, it raised a blister, but that was like a pretty high concentration."

I shrugged. I could explain that nobody knows much about this stuff, that the thing that concerned me wasn't whether the water is going to make me sick now, but whether it will make me sick in 5, 10 or 20 years. We got plenty of cancer here. The chemical spill probably just added another helping.

"It'll be over in a while," I said, which seemed to satisfy him.

I went on home, ate my simple dinner with my kids, watched Star Wars and thought about how when I was a kid, the future seemed so bright. It was all space ships, light sabers and ultimate good triumphing over ultimate evil.

Watching again, the movie seemed to be about the world I lived in now: a dirty, broken down universe on the verge of collapse.

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