Friday, July 30, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Spill Into Oil

It was like an expressionist painting rolling into the shore. Rusty and black blotches roiling in yellowed water. He couldn’t just sit in his car and watch it. He had to leap out and race across the beach, to stand where powder white sand was stained all those new spill colors.

People honked at him for leaving his car in traffic. It didn’t matter that things were so backed up nobody was moving anywhere – he was somebody to be mad at.

He was somebody who stripped off his shirt, revealing pale flab to the afternoon commuters. He kicked his shoes into the stained surf. When he pulled free from his pants, somebody turned a phone camera on him, betting this would get some hits on Youtube.

He held his arms out like he was Jesus about to be crucified on the Gulf of Mexico. Thinning hair fluttered in a reeking breeze. He sauntered into the inky water, letting it color him. It felt like thin plastic, wrapping him in intimate wetness.

People exited their cars to get a better look. Murmurs circled, asking if this was a protest.

He went knee deep. A new wave splashed oil dots across his belly. It obscured the moles and surgical scars. The smell was overpowering. He felt lightheaded and grateful for the fumes.

Another grotesque wave rolled in. He fell forward into it, faceplanting into the ruined tide. Another wave rolled over where he’d been. He didn’t surface.

Three more waves and somebody stepped onto the beach. Ten more waves and somebody dialed the cops. A thousand more waves and the cops showed, flashing red lights glinting off rainbow oil slicks. They never found the man who subsumed into his living oil painting. All that washed ashore were dead fish, mouths still open, as though caught in a gasp of relief.

John is out of town this week. Any comments, retweets or Facebook posts for the story would be appreciated. Please leave a link to your blog so he can read your material once he gets back. Happy summer, and be careful swimming!


  1. Great job on this John. I loved how it sort of unfolded and the time was marked in the ending by the wave count. Excellent stuff.

  2. Great job indeed. It makes you wonder about the poor man's psyche, but at least he seemed to have gone happy.
    Timely and well done.

  3. Powerful and full of heartache for me. Wonderful piece.

  4. The you tube reference was perfect. I liked how you measured time in this one too.

  5. This is powerful stuff. "It felt like thin plastic," I could feel it. I like this a lot. How wonderful that this is the first fridayflash I read today! Thank you.

  6. I have to wonder what happened to this guy that he would choose this kind of fate? I like the idea of him stepping into an oil painting, though. I hate to say it, but that's probably how long it would take a crowd to react. :-(

  7. Excellent story. The ending with the fish washing ashore was especially powerful.

  8. Great story. It made my heart ache a little too. The waves as time, the reactions of the crowd, how the oil splashed on him... all pure perfection.

    Simply excellent.

  9. To tell the truth I was anxious about reading this, from the title. I've read so many articles and reactions to the spill. I was afraid it was either going to be another obnoxious defense of assholes or another Captain Planet-y lecture on why humans are cockroaches.

    Imagine my relief upon reading this. It said all it had to say. There was no preaching, no hot anger. Just an aching melancholy and grim remorse.


  10. I always have to be on my game when I read you John cuz you're so damn smart... And this was very Charlie Kaufman-esque... loved it.

  11. reminds me of the Vietnamese monk who set himself on fire during the war.

    Nice intro leading me to think it was a work of art he was about to make himself into.

    marc nash

  12. Really excellent story. Hope you are having a good week 'away'! Peace...

  13. Nicely done, John. Sometimes, it just all we can take to watch it happening around us.

  14. I like the mystery surrounding this and the idea of a liquid painting. A story.

  15. Sigh. I think blogger -- or more likely my fingers -- gobbled the word nice in the previous comment ;) We'll see what they do to this one.

  16. Wow... I sit here trying to take it all in, and it's as if someone slapped me across the face.

    I sit here shaken.

    great work,

  17. The increase in order of magnitude of the number of waves was my favourite part.
    The little details like youtube and wondering whether it was a protest worked well too


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