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Wrapped Up in the Job
A Sea Daddy Story

Rivers drain continents from high to low in all directions, but one that almost bisects a continent North to South is rare. That's the Mississippi for you, trickling and growing, receiving donations along the way and finally thundering quietly out into the Gulf, staining its waters for a hundred miles or more; or less, depending on rain upstream.

It is an alimentary canal of sort, filled with the stuff America can no longer use. The deep channel could have anything from skeletons to Midwest farms complete with equipment. Up shallow near the bank it's the lighter stuff. Stuff with some buoyancy left.

It was my eighth day on the job tending a diver, all up under the piers in uptown New Orleans, and thinking I was catching on. I had never been to dive school though, and knew nothing. I had been hired as casual labor by a young diver from out of town, across the bar I was tending. Who could turn down $60 a day?

I was sitting on my bucket balanced on a wide plank lashed under the pier, the diver's hose under my right thigh, then over my left down into the river; bowed and thrumming from the current, my hands on it feeling for line pulls from the diver. We had no "radio" for comms, and communicated with line pulls.

The hose suddenly surged downstream with vigor, almost dragging me off my perch. I held on tight and yelled for help. The closest tender yelled something like he's fouled. Don't let go. I was standing on my plank now, my left arm around the piling and both hands with a death grip on the hose. I began to recover him, just, an inch at a time. Help arrived and recovery sped up, coming to us in larger increments as more help showed up, surfacing finally without his mask, vomiting and wrapped in a sizeable piece of cow. A stench like Satan's toe jam enveloped us, and vomiting seemed the way to go. As he was dragged up the ladder we could see he was back into the rib cage with other things, the headless neck banging his head, strips of hide and swirling viscera completing the ensemble, poor fucker.

We got him up, stripped him of his burden and hosed him off. He seemed pretty much OK, but his attitude was bad. Everyone was empty now and dry-heaving as we ripped off our duds, hosing ourselves and easing back from the stinking mass, finally lying on the grassy levee, stinking in the sun. Diving was done for the day.

We found our pants, hosed them thoroughly and dragged the reeking things on. Then the drenched, stinking zombies set off shambling along to Franky and Johnny's, an uptown seafood restaurant/bar we'd been eating lunch at. Someone yelled through the door that we stank too badly to enter and needed a waitress.

We sat along the curb with beers and Po-boys, feeling but not looking almost human. “I always heard divers were cowboys,” I joked to my diver. His head slowly turned to face mine. His eyes drilled far too deeply as he said, smiling, "shut up, tender".

Sea Daddy

When Your Job Sucks

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