A Tall Tale from the Heart of the Redneck Riviera
The Beachside Resident - August 2010
Well you asked, so I’m gonna tell you straight.
I reckon you’re old enough to hear it without all the jingle-bells. Life ain’t all roses and ice cream and it ain’t no use pouring gloss over it neither, way Momma does, cause eventually you’re bound to hear ’bout the chemicals in your drinking water, and how them doe-eyed little grass nibblers you’re always gawpin’ at at the zoo are more than likely to get their brains blown out just so them lardasses down in Palm Beach can have their designer shoes.
Heck, if all the world’s calamity comes down on you at the wrong time, the shock of it could turn you into one of them nigh-listics, and then off you’ll go wearing skirts that don’t shade your panties from the sun, or asking your friends just what kind of tattoo you should be puttin’ on your ass and so forth. So I say it’s better to cozy up with the truth sooner rather than later, baby girl — you’re four-and-a-half years old, and in some countries that’s already considered a bona-fide woman!
Anyhow, you wanna know why we can’t go to the beach today, so here it is. Once upon a time, in England (that’s where most of these nasty, no-good stories get their start), there lived a giant. Now this here wasn’t your everyday giant; he was an oil giant, which is just about the meanest and most badass kind you can come across.
You know how people point their fingers down at the ground and say that’s where you gonna go, down there, if you’re bad? Well, that’s where oil comes from, deep, deep down under the earth, where everything’s black and burnin’ all the day long. Most folk think of fire and brimstone down there, but the truth is, hell’s just a big ol’ gooey, murky, boiling lake of oil, with that bitter smell that burns your nose but makes you want to keep sniffin’ it at the same time, and it stretches clear from here to China.
Now you’d figure it’d be best to leave that mess well enough alone, but an oil giant don’t think like that. All day long he’s working on schemes to pull that oil up. He’s got special tools for it too, big ol’ drills that can bore through the dirt and rock and anything else and draw out that oil like you was suckin’ milk up with a straw.
Well, one day, back when he was just starting off, that giant hit a payload. I mean a gusher. See, drilling for oil is something like eatin’ a chocolate cake; that first bite is all soft and slow and delicate, but once you get into the flow, it’s dang near impossible to stop. Pretty soon you’re gonna need something bigger than them dinky little barrels and silos to store it in. So that giant went out and got himself a magic bowl.
Now I know I told you I’d give it to you straight, so understand I’m simplifyin’ the science of this bowl. Cantilevers and ball bearings and all kinds of complicated things went into it, but the gist of it is this: the more oil that went in, the bigger the bowl grew. And the bigger the bowl grew, the bigger that giant grew too, since it takes a powerful set of shoulders to carry a few billion gallons of oil, get me?
Well, that ol’ giant sprouted up like a beanstalk, and before you could say “fee-fi-fo-fum,” his head was just a scratchin’ at the clouds. Hoo, that bowl swelled up so big that it clear blocked out the sun. People got to complainin’ how he was messin’ with the weather, and they was blamin’ him for the rainstorms, and for the droughts, too, and for the hot spells, and for the snow. They blamed him every time they sneezed, or if their babies were cryin’ too much, or if their football team lost, or if they couldn’t get up for work cause they had too many beers the night before. They laid most everything on that ol’ giant, and before long the TV news started reporting that once that giant got the notion to set that bowl down it was gonna be hotter’n hell most everywhere. And they were probably right about that, too.
Remember I was telling you ’bout Babylon, how in olden times a king built a skyscraper up to the clouds, and one day it got too wobbly and come toppling down? Well, just like those Babyloners, this oil giant didn’t know when to call it quits. He just kept a fillin’ that bowl up, and growing, and all the while just a sweatin’ and pitchin’ a fit tryin’ to keep it balanced up on his head.
He wasn’t the only oil giant around, now. Just the biggest. When the other oil giants saw him teetering and tottering like a pine tree in a stiff wind, they offered to take some of the load from him. But sharing ain’t in an oil giant’s nature. He's too proud. Instead, he came up with the bright idea to hike that bowl up to the tallest mountain he could find, where no one could get to it, and set it down so he could stretch himself out for a spell.
But it was raining that day, raining something terrible, and when he got up close to the top, that big ol’ boy slipped on a patch of wet flowers. Honey, that bowl came crashin’ down like a nuke-ular explosion, and you could hear it echo across the whole of the wide world.
Now try to imagine that oil just a streamin’ down the slopes of that mountain in black rivers. When you spill oil, you can’t just clean it up with a paper towel, like you can orange juice, because it sticks to everything, and gunks up your fingers. Well, those sticky rivers poured all the way down to the ocean, where they gummed up all the water and fish, and the birds, and the shells and the sand. And that oil giant stood watching from his mountaintop, just as sad as can be, staring down at the tar-stained world and shrinking like an old balloon.
See, there was more oil in that bowl than anybody thought. And they say it’s still emptying out even now.
And that, sugar, is why we can’t go to the beach today.