Joe recalled the whining call of gulls in the grey sky overhead and the salt smell of the nearby gulf as he strode to work.
Close in the distance the wooden rig, which Joe thought resembled the skeletal remains of a Christmas tree, rose more than a hundred feet above the ground. The odor of sulphur was almost unbearable.
“Hey, Joe!“ Sammy called out as he approached. “Glad you're here. Come listen to this. This well, she's talkin' today.”
“Talking? What do you mean?” Joe dropped his lunch pail on a bench and pulled on work gloves.
“Well, jus' listen.”
Joe cocked his head as he peered down a hole into which a drilling cable ran. The gurgling sound grew louder.
“I don' know. Never heard that before. Could be we got oil about to come up! Praise God! Our work may be payin' off, finally!”
As he spoke the ground began to shake. The men, their faces pale, backed away quickly. Had they drilled right into hell and were now loosing it's demons?
“Get back! Run!” yelled Joe.
Out of the hole gushed a rush of black liquid. High into the sky in a violent torrent it shot before falling back to earth.
Men yelled as the hot oil began to fall on them, knocking some to the ground. They scrambled to get away.
“Sammy!” Joe raced to where his friend lay, unconcious and covered with oil. He'd been thrown some distance from the rig by the force of the blast.
Joe raised a hand uselessly to fend off the heat as he knelt by the boy. “Lord, please,” he entreated over and over.
He felt over Sammy's limbs and torso. Nothing broken as far as he could tell. They had to get him some medical help though.
Looking up he realized an ambulance was racing toward the scene, it's lights flashing. He saw men running, some still lying on ground.
He wondered why he felt like he was watching a silent movie.
The black tower of oil continued to rush from the earth. “Reckon all hell did come up with it,” he thought.
A guy carrying a medical bag hurried toward him. His mouth moved as he pointed to Sammy, still lying unconcious. He was shouting something.
Must be the noise from that gusher, thought Joe, rubbing his ear. He couldn't hear a thing.
The man knelt by Sammy and asked him something.
“Can't hear you!” Joe yelled. Funny, he couldn't even hear himself.
He caught a brief quizzical look on the face of the medic before the man got to work on Sammy. A stretcher was brought and his friend was taken away. The medic put a hand on Joe's shoulder and pointed in the direction of the ambulance.
“Sure,” said Joe. “Sure, I'd be glad to go with him.”
“Sammy,” thought Joe. He thought of the thin orphan who'd shown up on another job a few years ago. “Mister, could you give me a job?”
He'd been too young then, to work on the rigs. But he could do small jobs. Could run errands. “He proved a good worker,” thought Joe. “Lord, bring him through this. I don't know if he knows You. I'd sure like another chance to be a light if you'd let me.”
He leaned back in the seat of the ambulance, closing his eyes. He felt warm, and thought “God is near.” A peace enveloped him in the silence.
Sammy sat up in the hospital bed. The door opened.
Joe beamed, then pointed to his ears. “Can't hear you. Deaf.”
“The noise of the gusher – it was so loud it blew out my ear drums. Can't hear a thing. But you know, I'm alive. No one was lost. Praise God!”
Sammy grabbed paper and a pencil from his bedside table and scribbled.
“You praise a god who'd let you lose your hearing?”
“Why not? I still have my other four senses. I'm standing here talking to you, and you're ok. My wife still loves me. My kids still love me. I'm happy.”
Sammy looked at him, his mind turning over his friends words.
“And Sammy, that gusher – we found us some oil in that field. We're going to have work for a long time. He's a great God,” smiled Joe.
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