Stories from a Dublin Scientist

Category: Picture it and write

Picture it and Write: Accident Report

Hi there! This is my offering for this week’s picture it and Write from Ermilia’s blog here. Once again, the picture is not mine, it is from here, I’m only using it for inspiration. Anyway enjoy!

Accident Report

There was a faint wisp of rotten eggs so I adjusted the mask on my breather to ensure a proper seal. I had been taking photographs of a dry lake bed filled with the skeletal remains of old trees. From the degradation of the bark I guessed that they had been dead for decades, easily before the collapse. The house at what used to be the lake shore had been abandoned too, that was a blessing. There were no dead bodies in there.

I transmitted my images as well as a short assessment to the survey ship above and made my way to the transport ship standing in the baking sun. I was no more than half way to it when my satellite phone went off.

I answered it and it was Frank McDivot, the leader of the expedition. “Are you sure about those numbers Grimes?” No hello or any other pleasantries as usual “Is the desert as old as you say?”

“I think so sir!” I stuttered “I’ll have to check colonial records. But my visual inspection would give that age. Plus the houses in this region were all abandoned gradually and properly, not in a rush like the others.” I swallowed “Or not at all.”

“Good, Good!” Frank said “If you’re right Grimes, then I think we will have a working theory about how this cluster-fuck happened.”

“Really?” so soon I thought “What do you think happened?”

“Do you remember that mountain range to the East of you, the one that seems too high to be real?”

“Yeah. What about it?”

“It turns out it wasn’t. That idiot Administrator Calvin wanted a view of mountains from his office but didn’t want to move so instead he had nano machine buried deep beneath some hills fifty kilometers from the capital. Had them grow to over twenty kilometers high.”

“Jesus!” That was madness. I said so to Frank then asked “But what about the environmental engineers?”

“They seem to have said everything would be okay if the mountains were kept under a kilometer but it seems that he told them to keep growing it as high as he wanted.”

“I take it there were a lot of repercussions from that”

“More than you know Grimes. First thing it did was block the south easterlies from the main ocean, setting up a rain shadow where you are now.”

“People must have noticed something was wrong then?”

“Some did. But nowhere near enough. Now all that rain had to go somewhere so it falls all down on the coastal plains, more rain than they could handle.”


“A good few, there were at least ten deaths attributed to it. But that was taken as par for the course when a planet adjusts itself. The shit really hit the fan when all of that flood water hit the seas.”

“Was there a salt shock?”

“No. Worse. They had been laying tonnes of fertiliser out on the plain in order to support the agriculture they had intended for there. There wasn’t enough vegetation there yet to gather it all up so when the floods came…”

“It washed it all to sea.”

“Yep! Enough to turn half the ocean green for a season. Then there was a die off and all that algae rotted in the ocean.”

I thought of the rotten egg smell again. “And that released the hydrogen sulfide.”

“Got it in one. Billions of tonnes of it. The entire ocean went anoxic then all that waste gas had to go somewhere. The sensor records from the day of the collapse were very sketchy but it looks like the gas level took only a few hours to rise past toxic.”

I was aghast. The vanity, the stupidity of it all. “There was no warning?”

“Not at once. The gas spread like a wave across the planet. By the time some places were lethal other monitoring stations had barely registered a shift in the values. And of course, they were woefully unprepared. There were no respirators in the majority of towns as far as I can tell. What incompetence.”

“What about the administration? Who’s going to take responsibility for this?”

“We all know who’s responsible for this. And it looks like the bastard managed to escape too. They had respirators in his building the bunch of cretins.”

“Do you think he can be charged with anything.”

“I hope he can be. Fifty million people died here thanks to his whims. If there isn’t a law there to cover him, I hope to hell they write one.”

“Is there anything I can do.”

The line went silent for a minute then Frank said “We’ll need evidence, more than we have now. That means more leg work for the likes of you. Get back to your shuttle Grimes. I know exactly where I need to send you.”



Picture it and Write: Home Cooking

Hi there! This is my offering for this week’s picture it and write from Ermilia’s blog here. Once again, I don’t own the picture, I only use it for inspiration. Anyway enjoy.

Home cooking

His friends called it a mail-order marriage but in reality it was not. They had met online, corresponded over several years, and finally, when the vagaries of work and finance allowed they finally got to see each other. She was as beautiful as he imagined and somehow, she though he was alright to look at too. It was another year and much wrangling with immigration before she had come to live with him and he could finally ask the question. They married as soon as the law would allow but no one at that point could say they were rushing it. But it wasn’t all plain sailing. She had what had to be one of the oddest tastes in cooking that he had ever see. She made pancakes with cricket flour, squid omelets and her very favourite, stuffed baked cactus. He didn’t know what to make of that particular confection. It was a cactus, stuffed with meat, beans and shredded vegetables, steamed for over an hour. He remembered the first time it was placed in front of him. With a loop stuck into the side to ease handling, he still had difficulty shifting his hands around the spines that where still attached to the cactus. There was a trick she told him, to eating and with a little patience he was able to open up the cactus and take a bite of the food within.
It was delicious. Savoury with a hint of tartness from the cactus flesh, as nice as anything he had tasted. It was always a bit like that, he’d be presented with something new, be all nervous about it, then taste it and realise that it was the most delicious thing ever. I supposed that there was lesson to be learned about this, but he wasn’t really too bothered. He was just going to enjoy more home cooking.



Picture it and Write: Diamonds in the Sky

Hi there! This is my offering for this week’s picture it and write from Ermilia’s blog here. Once again, the picture is not mine, I only use it for inspiration. Anyway, enjoy.

Diamonds in the Sky

In the beginning, the sky was dark and barren, and the gods thought that that just did not work at all. So they got together, had a bit of a brainstorming session and decided to stick a great big light up there for the fun of it. They called this light the sun and due to issues with geometry that light only shone on one half of the world at any one time. This agreed with many of the Gods’ penchant for symmetrical paradigms but there was still something missing.

After another brainstorming session, they decided to place another light up there in the heavens. Due to budget constraints, this second light was a lot dimmer and somewhat smaller meaning it had to be closer to the world to stay the same apparent size. This meant that this second light or moon (so named because its pale, mottled appearance was remarkably similar to the bare buttocks regularly displayed by Derek, the God of off-colour jokes) did not travel a path diametrically opposed to that of the Sun. Every month or so it would catch up, even coming so close it would occasionally cover up the light of the Sun. This again played to the Gods’ love of regular cycles and kept them happy for the best part of a month. Still; they found there was something lacking in the sky.

It so happened that Reggie God of the Underworld had bought so many gemstones that Fairfax, the God of economic prudence was having conniptions. Some of these, diamonds, rubies and assorted emeralds have to sent to a place where they could not interfere with the laws of supply and demand he ordered, “I don’t care where.” he said, “Just nowhere people could go.”

Reggie racked his brains for days trying to figure out what do with all the gems. But when he heard they were looking for something to do with the darkness in the sky he had a brain wave. Not only could the gods populate the heavens with all the surplus gems but any god who wanted could use them to write messages in the sky.

This was too good an opportunity to pass up. Some of the gods drew little pictures. Bears and dogs and a stick figure hunter amongst others. Others wrote messages, Derek a bawdy limerick and Bob, the king of the gods, the secret recipe for an immortality serum with one ingredient wrong (Meaning the recipient died in seconds. He had a good laugh about that one). There were song lyrics to inspire a thousand minstrels and plain up “Dave woz here” graffiti.

The sky was a beautiful, chaotic and ever changing place. After a fair bit of work, the gods were happy with what they had done.


Picture it and write: Hidden Talents

Hi there! This is my offering for this week’ Picture it and Write from Ermilia’s blog here. Once again, the picture is not mine, I only use it for inspiration. Anyway, enjoy!

Hidden Talents

I don’t know what it is, people like to talk to me in bars. You know like; uninvited. An Ex told me I have a listener’s face, one that attracts people with things to say, the odder the better. Not that that makes me feel any better. It is a bit like a curse; you know? Like the Chinese one “May you live in interesting times”, you’re very likely not to enjoy it when things when they happen, but at least you’ll have interesting stories after.

So I was having a drink; like the many I have had after a hard day’s wrangling numbers on a computer screen when I felt the oh so familiar presence of someone behind me with something to say. I turned around and there beside me was a genial looking middle aged man in a dark suit. I nodded to say hello.

“Lovely day.” He said. I nodded uncommittedly, hoping he’d take the hint and move on. No such luck.

He leaned over to me, looked around conspiratorially and said “I’ve had a very busy day. I have taken so many soulgraphs I think my fingers are going to cramp in protest.”

I looked confusingly at him “Soulgraphs?”

His eyes scrunched for a second then he smiled apologetically. “Forgive me. I’ve forgotten where I am. Let me show you.” He took a couple of what looked like Polaroids from his pocket and handed me one. The material felt different, almost like a parchment. On the picture was a woman waiting for a bus. It must have been Photoshopped; because instead of a normal shadow, there was figure about the same size dressed up like a soldier. I remarked as much.

The man chuckled. “Oh no sir. The image is real. It is the latest innovation from home. When the soulgraph takes a picture it looks into the soul of a person, shows you what they are meant to do with their lives as their shadow.” he grinned at me “Call it career guidance advice.”

He showed me some of his other images. There was a street sweeper, who was meant to be a doctor, a homeless man who seemed to be an engineer and a child who appeared to be a politician addressing a crowd. “Interesting” I said, trying to figure out where this obvious con was going.

“Not as interesting as this” he said and handed me one last picture.

It was taken from behind and at some distance, but I could tell from the gait and the clothes that it was obviously me. But instead of some mundane profession that I had always expected. My shadow was dressed in some form of wizard’s outfit, making to throw something at a dragon flying behind me. I looked at my new companion, demanding an explanation.

He looked all serious “There is magic in this world, I can tell. Only it has been hidden by centuries of people believing only what they can feel with dead hearts. Where I am from, things are very different.” He gently took the picture from my hands and stared at it “I am on what you could call a recruitment drive. You are the first person I have found in a long time with any potential.”

I was totally confused “What are you talking about? I’m an accountant. What do I know about magic? I don’t even believe in it. What kind of game are you playing at?”

The man shrugged “A game you’ll be very unfortunate to pass up on my friend. The soulgraph never lies. Let me guess, you have never liked being an accountant. Or anything else you have tried your hand in in this world. Am I right?” I nodded reluctantly “Well here is your answer why. This,” he stuck the picture at me again, “Is what you were born to do. You do have a lot to learn. But that can be arranged, you have the talent hidden underneath all that” his hand moved up and down to encompass me “come with me and we’ll find your full potential.”

And that was the end of my boring life as an accountant. Where I am now; people still like to talk to me in bars. Everything else though; is a lot more interesting.


Picture it and Write: Photo Op

Hi there. This is my offering for this week’s Picture it and Write from Ermilia’s blog here. Once again the picture is not mine, it is from here, I only use it for inspiration. Anyway Enjoy!

Photo Op

“Are you sure I have to eat these?” The minister said through the side of his mouth. Before him were three plates. Two with fish heads, the other with a fish tail. There were about a hundred journalists in the press room, twenty cameras staring straight at him. They were all waiting.

His chief aide whispered from his right, the movement of her mouth barely shifting her smile, “Sir you agreed to this. Most of the toxins from the spill ended up in those parts of the fish. If you eat them publicly, maybe you persuade people to still eat our fish.”

He smiled again at the cameras and looked at the plate again. Christ! He thought, They don’t even look like they have been cooked. The cook could have covered them up, made them looks as little like what they were as possible. But then; wasn’t that the point.

“Minister!” The aide again, “They’re waiting!”

He thought of eating the fish heads and thought of another meeting with the fishermen’s union, he could not really figure out which one was more unpleasant. Best not hold it off any longer. He skewered a fish head on his fork. Held it up next to the big fat smile on his face, and took a great big bite out of it.

He chewed, expecting the flavour to be horrid but the juices flowed down the back of his palate and… It was not too bad. He swallowed and finished the other head with one big bite. The tail, though boney, likewise went down easy.

The Press seemed vaguely disappointed when the minster gave a short speech how everyone should have “confidence in our fish” and left the podium. As he walked out he got a quick word with his aide, “That was Gastón’s work, wasn’t it?”

“Yes Minster.” She said “He’s a miracle worker isn’t he?”

He looked back at the Cameramen and a thought passed through his head. “Hey.” He turned to address the press  “Since I enjoyed my quick snack so much. I think it is only fair to invite the CEO of Diagon Chemicals for the same meal. Say, this time tomorrow.”

There was a some murmurs from the journalist and more than one chuckle. “He’ll have to take up your offer now.” His aide remarked, “I’ll tell Gastón to make more of the same for him.”

“Oh no!” The minister said with a glint in his eye, “No need to trouble him. Regular fish heads and tails will do.”   



Picture it and Write: Real

Hi there! This is my offering for this week’s picture it and write for Ermilia’s blog here. Once again, the picture is not mine, it is by paleotic, I only use it for inspiration. Anyway, enjoy.


Robert Fields was in a bad mood. Today was turning out to be one of those kinds of days at the DinoZoo, America’s primary prehistoric park.

The Pachycephlasaurs were pummeling each other.

A Triceratops had toppled a tree on a Troodon.

The Mammoths were moulting.

And the T-Rex had a toothache.

Each one of these on their own would be a great enough problem to lead to Robert pulling his hair off. But then, to top it all off, he had just gotten a call from the raptors.

Just to be clear, this wasn’t about the raptors, it was from the raptors. They had turned out to be a lot less aggressive but considerably more intelligent than originally envisaged. They were so smart, in fact, that the park was forced to consider them employees rather than exhibits. Pretty good wages, their own on-site apartments, lunch breaks, full health insurance, and paid leave, though few places actually would let them visit (a team of lawyers were working on that).   

Knowing better than to let his prize attractions wait Robert rushed to the Raptor exhibit. As expected; they were not on display, it being lunch time, so he went on back to the employee lounge. There they were, all five of the raptors and maybe another eight human park rangers, sitting around a table, chatting away. There appeared to be a heated discussion going on and Robert caught Billy, the head greens keeper end with a “You’re right! It is a disgrace. We should give those guys back in the office a piece of our mind.” There were shouts and hisses of agreement from around the table. But that all stopped when someone spotted Robert at the door.

Every eye turned at once on Robert, human and raptor both equally cagey. Then Doris, the raptors’ pack leader, and union rep for the whole zoo (raptors were very good negotiators, even without the threat of disemboweling) got up and walked over to him. She had some papers in her talons, this was never a good sign.

She practically tossed the papers at Robert. “What isssss the meaning of thisssss?” she asked in accented but perfectly passable English. He read through the first few. It was a selection of articles harvested from the internet. He knew quickly enough what this was going to be about.  Oh crap, he thought.

More feathered dinosaurs discovered in Mongolia, one headline said.

Tyrannosaurus; Scaly or Fluffy? said another.

And most damning of all, All Real Dinos had feathers; how DinoZoo got it wrong.

“Thisssss isssss Outrageousssss.” Doris said. There were ‘yessssses’ and ‘damn rights’ from back at the table. “You make usssss. But you do not do it right. Exssplain yourssself.”

Robert let out a sigh of anguish. He had tried everything in his power to prevent the raptors finding that out, no modern text books, censored internet access, everything but it was only a matter of time. He still wasn’t  sure how it was going to explain it. The lab boys had their share of the blame, using lizard and crocodile DNA in the mix. So had marketing, convincing everyone that ‘scaly is scarier’. But he had a feeling that most was going to fall on him, like it always did.

He checked the organiser on his phone. “Dave from Head Office will be over for the next Board meeting on Monday. I can add your concerns to the agenda an discuss them then. Is that alright?”

“For now.” She nodded in assent “We exsspect an apology for this abysssmal treatment.” She turned her back on him, that meant their conversation was over, you didn’t argue with a raptor.

Robert left the room and headed straight for the office, his mind already thinking of the thousand other problems that demanded his attention. Still; ways to diffuse this latest raptor problem occasionally surfaced in his head. What if he got an artist to draw Doris as she would with feathers? Went all out ridiculous, maybe she would find it so silly she wouldn’t speak of it again. Or what if he changed the rosters for the petting zoo so that Doris got out of it? The others would get jealous at that and maybe he could break-up their united front. He shook is head, Doris would see through that in a second, he’d have a strike on his hands quicker than he could say “Clever Girl”. Nobody wanted that.

Robert mulled it a bit more as he walked past the rest of the exhibits and thronging visitors. He laughed at himself. If anyone told him back in business school that he would he negotiating with a dinosaur…much less how good she’d be at it.



Picture it and Write: This City

Hi There! This is my offering for this week’s picture it and Write for Ermilia’s blog here. Once again the picture is not mine, I only use it for inspiration. Anyway. Enjoy.

This city

I love this city. I love the vibrancy, the constant bustle of people, the lights, the smells, the sounds. I love the fact that you can live in the same building as a beautiful woman for years and meet her for the first time this morning. I love the people from all over the world who have flocked to these scant few square mile for a shot at greatness. I love the fact that here truly anything is possible, no matter how unlikely the dream. I love the way the city fills with possibility every new day.

I hate this City I hate the crowds, the constant noise and bustle, the fact that there is no place you can go that will get away from it. I hate that the city never sleeps so neither can you. I hate the crime, I hate the garbage, I hate the pollution, the chemical taste in the air and the water. I hate how rude people can be. That you can live next door to a person for years and they will still never give you the time of day. I hate the fact that the streets are filled with people who came from all over the world but never made it, I hate the way their numbers are added to each and every day.

I need this city. I need the excitement, I need the shops, I need the restaurants. I need the connection with the multitudes, I need something new everyday. I need the hope of a better life, I need the reminder that it sometimes does not work out. I need the buildings around me, comforting me like a warm urban blanket. I need this place.

I love this city.

I hate this city.

I need this city.

I am part of this city.


Picture it and Write: By Her Face

Hi there! This is my offering for this week’s picture it and write by Ermilia’s blog here. Once again, the picture is not mine, it is a sculpture by Mark Newman, I only use it for inspiration. Anyway enjoy.

By Her Face

There was a knock on the door and Mark went to answer it. There he found Graeme, his oldest friend, waiting at the door, holding a bulging suitcase. “Ummm?” Mark asked.

“She kicked me out. Can I crash here for a spell? You know; while I try to work things out.”

“What happened?”

“Well… Do you remember the dream I had?”

“The one you obsessed over?”

“It wasn’t an obsession. I just kept on having the same dream over and over again.”

“That was just weird. What was it about it?”

“She came. I saw her.”

“You what? You saw her? You saw a figment of your imagination.”

“She wasn’t a figment. She was real. She is real. I told you I met her.”

“Bullshit! You’re kidding me.”

“Look!” Graeme took out his phone and showed a picture on it to Mark. True enough, there was an image of a woman posing. She was eerily familiar, it was uncanny.

Mark grabbed the phone and took it down to his sitting room. There, in pride of place, was the statue that Graeme had made ten years previously. Mark looked at the delicate features of the statue and the young woman who had taken part in the drawing class. “I don’t believe it, I can’t believe it. There must be an explanation.”

“There is,” Graeme said earnestly, “She is the one. The one who was prophesized.”

“Buddy. You know what I think about this.”

“Well explain this then.” Graeme pointed at his phone “It is exactly what the psychic said. “By her face you will know her.” I saw her face, both in my dreams a decade ago, and now, in the flesh.”

“I take it you told Susan about this.”

“Yeah! That is why she kicked me out. I just need to explain to her what I need from…”

“Need from her?” Mark snorted “Do you know what this looks like?”

“I’m not into her that way. This is just for guidance. To find my way.”

“Susan didn’t agree?”

“She went ballistic. She refuses to believe what I told her. She thinks the resemblance against that picture is only a coincidence. Not real.”

“She could be right? It is the only explanation that doesn’t require spooky mumbo jumbo.”

“You can see it. Mark! It is her. I can see it in your eyes. I know you can see it.”

Mark had to nod in agreement. “That doesn’t mean you have to track her down. Maybe you just met her before. She is very good looking. She could have stuck in your mind without you remembering consciously.”

“No No no! It can’t be that.” Graeme seemed more and more agitated. “She is real and I need to find her.”

Mark thought about this a second. Graeme had been his friend for years, they were almost like brothers. He knew that he was not going to back down on this. “Ok. What do you know about her.”

“The secretary of the club would know her name and may be able to give me her number if we ask nicely. We can say we are looking for a model for another project. He’ll believe that.”

“You’re mad. You do know that?”

“Thanks for your help. I really appreciate this. You’ll be able to help me make Susan see sense.”

Mark watched as his friend just dropped his suitcase in the hall and went back out of the door. “If you insist on calling it “seeing sense” you’re only going make things worse.”

“When we find this woman. My life is going to change. All for the better. You mark my words.”

Graeme was already halfway out the driveway. Mark had never seen him this excited. At least not since he had made the sculpture back inside. It was not a good sign.

Mark sighed. “By her face you will know her.” the old psychic had said.

All he knew is that she was trouble.



Picture it and Write: Wife

Hi there! This is my offering for this week’s picture it and Write for Ermilia’s blog here. Once again the picture is not mine, it is by Lily Little at flicker, I only use it for inspiration. Anyway, enjoy.


“So this is what married life is like?” Carl spoke softly to himself.

Denise was still in bed, the covers wrapped around her naked body. She must have been exhausted after all of the hullabaloo of the day before.

Funny; he thought, things felt different. He had noticed it the night before. Whenever he referred to his new scenario

“Would you like to meet my wife?”

“My wife will be along shortly?”

“I am just going to go and get my wife.”

Every time he said that word he could feel a tingle, it reinforced a feeling that had kept him walking on air for the whole of the day.

But strangely, as far as he could see nothing had changed. She looked the same, he glanced at the mirror, and he looked the same too. Denise still did that thing with her hips when they made love, she still snored and drooled when sleeping, and she still mumbled unconscionable swearwords in her sleep. Everything he loved about her was still the same, but something had changed.

“Carl! Are you just going to stand there gawking or are you going to say something?” Denise must have been faking it.

“Hi honey! I was just down in the local shop, I’ve got your magazine.” He placed the glossy down on the bed. She reached from beneath the sheets to grab them and then lay down on her stomach, letting the morning sun play on the pages she was perusing. Carl said some more, “I also checked with the front desk, if you want I can bring you up some breakfast from the restaurant. They have french toast, your favourite.”

“Yeah!” She said in that mischievous way that made him smile and got back to her reading. Carl turned to go.

“Oh Husband!” She called just as he was opening the door. Carl looked back, Denise had paused for a second, the same grin on her face that he had saying wife, “Could you bring up some bacon with that, and sausages and beans? I was three months starving myself to fit into that thing.” She gestured at the wedding dress rumpled on the chair “I want to make up for lost time.”

“OK Wife!” Carl said and grinned. Denise grinned back and then returned to her reading.

As he walked down the hallway towards the lift, Carl thought again about the change.

Everything was the same as far as he could tell, but they seemed different, as if the word wife made it all new.

It was better, he thought. Yeah, much better.


Picture it and Write: Safety First

Hi there! This is my offering for this week’s picture it and write for Ermilia’s blog here. Once again the picture is not mine, I only use it for inspiration. Anyway, Enjoy.

Safety First

Marcus’ Hi-Viz jacket chafed at the top of his neck. He wanted to take it off but knew that the dressing down he would get from Phil, his boss, would not be worth it. “Safety is the most important part of our job.” the middle aged farmer would say to whomever would listen, “You think that farming is a hum-drum activity but if you knew the number of people who have had a sticky end working the land you would have another think coming.”

Phil’s zeal for workplace safety was, in reality, not something to dismiss off hand. Still it grated somewhat. It meant you had to consider every step you made since Phil was ultimately watching you and was liable to call you out if he saw anything potentially dangerous. Add to that his ‘Four strikes and you’re out’ rule and Marcus found himself in a working environment almost as toxic as the conditions Phil was trying to ameliorate.

Marcus was out in the south feedlot, replacing old fencing when there was  a general summoning over the radio. “Everyone over to silo five. Quick as you can.” Phil sounded irate. Well; more irate than usual.

Marcus couldn’t just leave what he was doing so he was a good half an hour before reaching the small group of people gathered around the tall metal silo. Phil glowered at him but Marcus held his head high. Phil new what he was up to and couldn’t say a word about leaving it. This seemed to irk the manager even more.

“The reason I have called you all here.” Phil began emphasizing the ‘all’ when looking that Marcus, “Is to discuss the gross error that Julio has made when filling this silo.” Marcus and everyone else looked pityingly at the young immigrant worker who had earned their manager’s wrath this time “Julio could you come over please?”

Nervously, Julio stepped forward. Phil grabbed him by the shoulder and pointed at the silo. “We had a delivery this morning did we not Julio?”

The young man nodded “Sí Señor. Yes.”

“Enough to fill the silo by a third, was it not?” Phil had all the amiability of a hungry shark, Julio scuffed the dirt with his boot. “Sí”

“So that means that two thirds is empty does it not?”

“Sí! It does.”

“Wrong!” Phil almost shouted causing the young man to jump, “It is not empty. Because when you get grain being shifted you get???”

Julio looked confused, saying nothing. Phil’s face got darker and darker.

Marcus decided to give Julio a break “You get dust.”

Phil glowered at Marcus even more darkly than before but he continued talking “Yes! You get dust, you get grain dust, that floats in the silo for hours. And if you can answer directly.” Another sharp look at Marcus “What does that mean?”

Julio stuttered “I, I don’t know Señor.”

“Well since you don’t know the answers. Marcus?”

“It means an explosion hazard.” Marcus made his voice as neutral as he could. “If a spark gets in.”

“If a spark gets in.” Phil repeated “Very good. That is why we??” He gestured up the long winding stairs along the side of the Silo.”

Julio finally caught the import of what Phil was saying “We turn on the spark suppressor.”

Phil look into the sky, as if in to say ‘finally’ and the out loud “Yes we do. Which you failed to do this morning. And which you still haven’t done.”

Julio blurted out “I shall do it now Señor!”

“Yes you shall!” Phil snapped back “And you shall consider this the first strike on your record.”

Julio nodded and ran to the silo. The clanging of his boots on the metal stairs made it hard for the others to hear Phil shout out his latest lecture. “You may think that I am too strict or that these rules are for fun. But you are mistaken. This are all for your safety and for the safety of those around you. Julio’s mistake left this silo a powderkeg just waiting to go off. It was only a miracle that….”

Julio must have made it to the top by then and must have pressed the suppressor but something went wrong. The next thing anyone knew was a deafening roar followed by an avalanche of high velocity grains flowing at them. Most of the men were knocked out instantly but one or two would later claim that they saw the silo climb slowly into the sky, flame and grain pouring out of the bottom, and a very surprised Julio on top.  

They found the Silo a half-mile away, splattered across a third of a feedlot, as was Julio. The rest of the workers all got away with minor injuries, from a broken bone or two to rough grain abrasions. All except for Phil, who was just a little too close to the bottom of the silo.

Marcus over from Phil. They all say that he was a nicer, friendlier man to work for. But that he was still a stickler for safety, at least as cautious, if not worse than his predecessor. And he would often tell this story, to anyone new, or just anyone who would care to listen, so that they would know, like he did, why you should put safety first.