Chapter 2 – Salvage

Chapter 2 – Salvage

One cold morning, ten years later, in a small corner of what used to be the lake district of the great city of Chicago, Illinois, sitting in darkness, less than a mile off the coast, just past the third street pier, sat an old abandoned rusting freighter named the Lady Dora. Outside, at night the air appeared far less radioactive. Inside, ghosts of long dead sailors seemed to be everywhere on the ship, hiding in the shadows.  As they stood alone on the deck of the old vessel, the north wind blew across the lake, entered the hull, and blew out the men’s helmet lamps.  The exhausted, busy men did not dare stop to relight the helmet lights as they continued down into the hull.  One or more of the men might be injured or even killed in this place, but each did his job in spite of the threat.

The eerie, silent ship was pitch-dark.  You needed to be extremely careful as you descended onto that rusty twisted metal staircase. One false step and a sharp death awaited you inside the cavernous hull of the freighter.

“Man it is dark in here.”

“So, be…careful and watch your step.”

As Adam’s salvage crew ventured down into that cold dark hull, one man at a time, the brave salvage crew’s small coal mining lamps blazed.  Each crewmember bent over in his protective red helmet and faded muddy welder’s pants.

In fear, each crewmember measured every step, as small bight flames twinkled like stars against an open sky and gave off a faint glow.

“So you’ve been down to that new restaurant on Murphy Street, the Road Hog.”

“Yea, that’s it. It’s a keeper. ”

“And you met Ruby, the outgoing one. She is quite the looker with her red hair and long legs and quite a talker as well.”

“Yep, I’ve admired her from afar.” Still, alone with four kids.  I don’t know how she does it.  I tip her.  I tip her big.  After all, I know she needs it.   I had the blue-plate special with fried grits.  It is good.

“Did I ever tell you, I did a brief stint as a dishwasher fresh out of high school, or rather just after I dropped out of high school?”

“Oh, yea?”

“Yes, and I can truthfully say, I broke way too many dishes…and too many dishes broke me.”

“Clever.”

“Worse job I ever had. Hey, I don’t know what Adam is so fired up about this morning, but he sure doesn’t seem happy.”

“I’m going first; you’ve got to be kidding?  I am not going down into that hold first   Are you out of your mind?  I’m not going down there at all,” said Terry Stimson, pulling on both sides of his firecracker red suspenders. “Besides I am afraid the hull might collapse any minute and drown us all. Terry just had his first grandchild and job or not job; he was no longer willing to risk his life on this venture. He wanted time with the child.

“You coward!” Adam screamed at the frightened man in frustration, “Then stay the hell on the Repose. We will complete the job without you and deal with you later,” said the determined Adam Strong. Then he whispered, “Hell, I’d stay here with you too if I could.”  Then the salvage crew chief shook his head disgusted at this man’s lousy selfish attitude, as he leaned out over the hull and stared at the frozen lake, his hands clutching his thermos of strong cold coffee.

“You know they’ve got your number.”

“Who’s got my number?”

“The Corporation, of course.”

“Bull. They can’t tie their own shoe laces.”

“Never the less, they’ve got it. You bet watch out,” said a strangely dressed, blind man standing out on the dock, wearing a plastic Viking helmet, and a raincoat.

It was March and Lake Michigan, though still beautiful in its frozen ice covered blanket was impassible by large vessels.   Snow scattered along the shoreline, dotted with old shipwrecks of all sizes and descriptions, waiting for the men’s cutting torches.

Adam Strong, a man whom everyone liked could be trusted to keep his word and his mouth shut, but who had extremes in temperament, very patient at times, but explosive at others. His hostility towards authority figures began early in his childhood fueled by a healthy distrusted of his father and carried over into manhood. At an early age he study martial arts and hoped to have a career as a cage fighter, but had to give it up when his back was injured.

The young salvage man had a face like well-chiseled dark wood with piercing soft smoke colored eyes that had a real gentleness to them.    His face reflected a life of struggle and now seemed aged well beyond his years, and often displayed a deep visceral pain, a trapped animal pain that only comes with a series of losses and an unrealized future. His was a life of hard labor, so the man’s forced slight smile seemed out of place, at times. His hair, brown on top, turned to salt and pepper at the side burns. He was extremely clever, could fix nearly anything mechanical, but did not have a formal education, but enjoyed reading and had a soft deep voice and a fondness for, rock music and old books. True, the young salvage man was known to be a bit obsessed at times, would occasionally come to work with two miss-matched shoes, or his shirt on inside out, but that only pointed out that he was human, hero or not. He was a young man, whose family were always closely nit. He had learned not to take himself too seriously. He hated stuffy people, like the jerks in the Corporation, who were always spouting off about virtue and vice. He enjoyed an equal mix of both.   He, enjoyed an occasional joke, was tall, well built, and though hard work had taken it’s toil on him physically, he had a warm inviting smile and his eyes were deep set in the still handsome face.   The young salvage man tried to hide his emotions for the crew’s sake, but sometimes when the pain got too great, despite his obsession with emotional distance, occasional, when something or someone pushed his buttons, he occasionally erupted with anger. Still, that well worn face displayed a kindness to the man, which everyone took note of, but the over used body was callused and hard and bent, and a dogged determination was also reflected in that demeanor and deeper still beneath all that, a slight hint of sadness was also apparent, if one looked close enough. Despite his obvious pain, the light in the young man’s eyes still sparkled.

“They want five dollars for a small cup of coffee and twenty dollars for small bottle of clean water. I hope the Prefect chokes on his own tongue and dies of thirst.”

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