Rip Van Winkle lives here

While visiting Louisiana last week, my friend Mike and I visited the Rip Van Winkle Gardens, an estate turned tourism site founded by Joseph Jefferson in 1870, in large part funded by his success in turning the story of Rip Van Winkle into a world-traveling stage play. And that’s where all references to Rip Van Winkle end.

The estate is beautiful, although the weather and time of year conspired to make the gardens a tad underwhelming. That being said, I did manage to grab a few photos.

The trip offered a bonus, however, for my friend Mike, who is into what I call “disaster porn”.

The estate abuts Lake Peigneur, the site of an incredible engineering disaster when an oil rig on the lake drilled accidentally into a salt mine. You have to watch the video below to truly appreciate the scale of the disaster.

NEWS FLASH: Spill on Mars

Mars

Within moments of announcing the discovery of flowing water on the surface of Mars, NASA officials were back at the podium with an additional announcement.

“We have to admit that we were completely caught off guard by this, but it seems that an oil tanker has run aground in one of the Martian streams and is spilling massive quantities of oil into the aquifer,” announced the saddened official. “Upon identifying the owner of the vessel, we will be working with their containment specialists to try to limit the environmental damage.”

“There is no indication that any native species are in immediate danger from contamination,” he pressed. “Although we are saddened to report that signal transmission from the NASA rover ceased shortly after the grounding was initially reported.”

NASA released the last image that the rover transmitted back to Earth.

"Had no idea oil companies were working in the area." - NASA official

“Had no idea oil companies were working in the area.” – NASA official

Flight (part two)

Life-jacket-floating-in-sea

(See previous post for Part One)

The plane vanished from radar screens about 400 kilometers southwest of Bristol. The last report suggested that everything was proceeding nicely. A particularly strong tailwind had put the flight almost 30 minutes ahead of schedule.

The rescue planes first picked up the escape chutes at 10 PM, the yellow bulks bobbing on 6-foot swells. Whatever happened to US786, it resulted in a controlled water landing. And the escape chutes suggested at least some of the passengers had gotten out before the fuselage went under.

It would be an hour or two, however, before the helicopters could get close enough to see.

* * * * *

Jocelyn was cold. Colder than she thought humanly possible as she clung to the surface of the chute.

Time had ceased to have any meaning for her as she had been awaken from a dead sleep by the crash and had no idea if the sun had just set or was about to rise. The absence of a Moon said she might not know for some time.

All she knew was that her left arm hurt like hell and her right leg didn’t feel at all. Whether from cold or injury seemed moot at this point.

Jocelyn slowly unclenched her left hand, letting the key chain and keys dangle from her palm, the key ring encircling her ring finger.

In the darkness, she could really see the inscription on the plate, but she knew what it said: Best Daddy. A token of remembrance, perhaps, of the man who’d forced her onto the chute as she floundered, drowning after the crash. She’d felt it press painfully into her arm as she scrambled atop the limp plastic. By the time she’d finished spewing water from her lungs, though, the man was gone and her hand fell onto the keychain.

For now, the pendulous weight gave Jocelyn some deep comfort as she felt the keychain rock on her finger as she rocked on the waves.

* * * * *

Captain Teresa Wei strained her eyes, searching the darkness for the yellow blobs she knew were down there. Somewhere.

The roar of the helicopter rotors had ceased long ago to be a distraction for Teresa. Her attention was focused and intense.

“We don’t have much time left,” the pilot called.

“A few more minutes. The current was strong but steady,” she replied. “They have to be somewhere around here.”

Before the last word even dissipated in the rotor wash, Teresa’s second spotter tapped her shoulder.

“Over there!”

Teresa turned just in time to see a glint of yellow roll down the backside of a wave. She took a deep breath and willed one or more people to be attached to the chute. This wouldn’t be like the last fiasco. There was no way she would leave people to die like she had on her last flight.

* * * * *

A flurry of fish roiled the water around the chute as Jocelyn’s vomit dispersed on the current. She wondered if there could be much left in her stomach as she hadn’t eater much more than a canister of Pringles since the airport.

Her tongue could feel her lips as they pruned from the salt. The light was only now cresting above the horizon, so she couldn’t have been out too long, but those lungs full of brine hadn’t helped.

And the only thing she wanted more than a bottle of water was a blanket.

“Oh, to be warm again,” she thought to herself. “Snug in bed or under a throw in front of a fire.”

Jocelyn felt a sudden downdraft, which sent a wracking chill through her, and caught a furtive movement and splash to one side.

Shark!

Something was moving toward her in the water. Something big and dark.

Jocelyn did what she could to move from the edge of the chute, but all that accomplished was to sink the middle, filling it with icy water.

She considered her rubberized platform and quickly surmised whatever was approaching could easily puncture the chute, submitting her to the ocean’s swells and its own appetites.

Her terror pounded in her head, pulsating as the downdraft continued.

* * * * *

Teresa manned the lift herself, hauling the woman achingly toward the hovering helicopter, knowing she’d repeat the process with the rescue diver. Step one, however, was getting the woman stabilized and hydrated.

* * * * *

Jocelyn felt as though she were an angel ascending to heaven, although her real angels were above her and still down in the water.

She was serene, at peace, and oh so tired. But she wasn’t about to release her grip on the guide wire, despite the pain in her left palm where her grip was embedding the keychain into her flesh.

If you looked really closely at her palm—even months later—you could just make out the faintest of words: Best Daddy.

Jocelyn was marked for life.

(Images is property of owner and is used here without permission because I float that way)

The word was cat – an exercise

Image

“Cat killer,” Anthony thought to himself, ruefully. He was now going to be forever known as the cat killer of Borden Street.

To be fair, it was an accident. At worst, negligent manslaughter. Catslaughter?

Yes, if Anthony had gotten his car tuned up as he’d been promising himself for weeks, he might have noticed the strange sound emanating from his motor. But a “rowr” sounds an awful lot like a “rawr”, so it was hardly his fault.

Why would a cat crawl on the engine block in the first place? And it’s not like Anthony held its tail against the fan belt.

No. It was a mercy killing. Clearly, living in a house with 17 other cats had taken its toll on Snowball. She had lost the will to live and decided to end her days.

It was Old Lady MacGillvary’s fault. Nobody needs 18…17 cats. A sign of mental defectiveness on a grand scale.

Hell, Anthony was lucky it wasn’t the old woman herself who flung around his engine like a piñata on heroin.

Anthony liked cats. Well, he tolerated them. He’d never killed a cat before. Two dogs, a ferret and a budgerigar, sure, but never a cat.

It was a bad year for pets in his neighbourhood.

As he recalled, the Great Dane was an automotive accident, his hood still bearing the scars, and the chow was proof that you shouldn’t buy electric garden lamps from a guy in a van on the highway.

The ferret shouldn’t have been loose while he mowed the lawn, and why the bird was anywhere near his barbecue while he was using his leaf blower is anyone’s guess.

It had gotten so bad that Anthony had to beg off a trip to the petting zoo with his nephew for fear of dropping a horse on the kid.

You’d think Anthony’s job as a taxidermist would come in handy here, but apparently a stuffed pet is considered poor compensation for a loss.

The point was moot where Snowball was concerned. All the King’s horse and all the King’s men, you know?

Oh well, Anthony shrugged, no use crying over eviscerated Persian. If he took the highway to work, most of the fur would probably fall out and cooked flesh is so much easier to extract from metal.

Anthony turned the motor over, listening for the familiar “rawr”, and then put the car in reverse.

Thump.