An old fashioned clock, a family heirloom holding its place on a worn fireplace mantle, chimes the ten o’clock hour. The silence the strikes disrupt is loud, louder than the churning waves of the gulf, of the boat motor that once went out into the waters, of the wall-phone ringing…
Probably just another creditor.
The couple sitting at the table don’t even look up. Answering it is out of the question.
The man’s baseball hat is pulled low. She can’t see his eyes as he reads from the letter and she isn’t sure she even wants too. Between them, sunlight comes in through dusty windows, stabs of light that once seemed warm, heating up the surface of their kitchen tables in the long Alabama mornings are now just a reminder of everything happening outside the walls of their home, of their closed restaurant. The prices of oysters got so high, and in time it didn’t even matter if they could afford them. Nobody wanted to eat the seafood anymore.
She watches as he reaches across the table for his cigarettes and lights one up. Their eyes meet briefly, but both look away fast, singed.
The chiming of the clock stops.
The kids will be home tomorrow.
She desperately wants to ask about the paper, almost as badly as she would rather remain in the dark.
She isn’t even angry anymore, those feelings were long ago replaced with resentment, only to be substituted again by a smothering resignation, more oppressive than the hottest summer she can remember, back when she was a young girl, back in the days when her parents were invincible and the worst thing she could imagine was to be embarrassed in front of a boy she kinda liked, maybe, but wouldn’t admit to liking, no way…
She and her husband have been married for nineteen years and it’s never been this bad before, not even during the aftermath of Katrina.
They had to repair the restaurant then, but unlike the hurricane, the oil spill kept coming and it closed them down.
“Well,” he says, something…finally.
She looks at him, but he’s still hiding below the brim of his hat.
“It’s an offer.”
She allows herself to hope, just briefly, but she knows it’s a lie. He still won’t look at her.
“It won’t bring back the restaurant, but it might save the house, for a little while.”
She doesn’t respond to this, not right away…She doesn’t know what to say.
The sun is so warm, unseasonably so.
And we’ll get through this, she thinks, she doesn’t know how, but some way. They’re strong, they’ve had to be many times in their marriage and they’ll have to be even stronger now.
“You okay?” he asks.
She looks back at him where their eyes meet again. Neither turn away this time and she’s struck by how much older he looks, aging fast over the past year, ever since the oil started drifting their way…
“Yes,” she lies, and then quickly corrects herself, “No, no, but I want to be, I will be.”
“Me too,” he says, unsmiling.
The phone rings again.
And this time she flinches, “We’re going to have to get a lawyer, it’s the only way.”
He sighs, nodding, and exhales smoke through the dirty rays of the sun…
This ain’t exactly the way it happened of course, of how a family, or of how many families decided they had to sue British Petroleum to have any chance the company would actually make things right…
But the point of such naratives are to remind anyone who forgets that the people on the Gulf Coast are not statistics on a GCCF website.
They’re people and they’re families.
If only Feinberg would realize this, instead of just saying the words…
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Have a nice day.