Friday, October 11, 2019
BELOW THE SURFACE
BELOW THE SURFACE
By Randy Romero (Randy Benivegna)
Monday, October 7th.
Redfield, New York.
Frank Burke was enjoying his first beer of the evening when in walked Darby Wilkinson, or Wilks as the guys called him down at the plant. He offered to buy Frank a beer, and Frank was never one to turn down a free drink. He was surprised his liver was still going after all these years.
Ridgewood Tavern was virtually empty, but Frank knew the place would be packed by eight o’clock for Monday night football. Ridgewood was Frank’s favorite spot in town. He stopped in every night for a few drinks after his shift.
Frank and Darby worked together at the Redfield Chemical Plant. It wasn’t a dream job for either man, but it paid the bills. But there were always rumors surrounding the plant, and questions that Frank and Darby never dared to ask their superiors.
“How you been, Frank?”
“I can’t complain. How’s the family?”
“Great. Nadine and I are doing well. And we just celebrated Devin’s tenth birthday.”
“They grow up so fast. Well, wish the kid a happy birthday for me, will ya?”
“Sure thing. Hey, did you hear about Crackerjack?” Darby said. Jack Halsey, disparagingly referred to by the guys at the plant as Crackerjack, had worked with Frank and Darby for a period of time. Then he quit to work for the county.
Frank couldn’t remember who started it, but one of their co-workers referred to Halsey as Crackerjack, and the nickname stuck due to his questionable mental state. Halsey was a nice enough guy, but anybody who talked to him could tell he had a few loose screws.
“No, what about Halsey?”
“Kicked the bucket. Heart attack.”
“I wonder if it had anything to do with his little breakdown,” Darby said.
“What do you know about that?” Frank asked.
“Not much. I heard he wigged out at work a month before he died. Why, you know something about it?”
“Only what Halsey told me.”
“And what did he tell you?”
Frank took a big sip of his beer and shook his head. “You wouldn’t even believe me if I told you. I sure as shit didn’t believe him.”
“Tell me anyway. This I’ve got to hear.”
“Well, keep in mind this is Crackerjack Halsey we’re talking about here. But apparently the county was having him repair a busted sewage pipe. The sewers underground here are just a bunch of interconnected tunnels. Very easy to get lost down there if you don’t know the way. Well, according to him, he saw something at the end of one of those tunnels.
Came out looking white as a ghost. That’s when he quit. He wouldn’t talk about it at first. Then one day he told me. I was sitting right here and he came in for a drink, sat down next to me, and he whispered it to me. Said he saw a giant spider, as big as a Great Dane, he claimed. He said it was sitting in a tarp-sized web with raccoons and possums and other tiny animals all wrapped up tightly in silk thread. Said it looked up at him with eight giant eyes and hissed before he ran like the wind.”
“Sounds like something Crackerjack would say.”
“The story itself didn’t scare me. What scared me is how much Halsey seemed to believe it. I mean, who knows what’s really down there, below the surface. And I’m sure you’ve heard the rumors regarding the plant?”
“I try to keep my eyes and ears to myself at work.”
“The Redfield Plant has been accused of dumping chemicals in the past. I know it sounds crazy, but what if they’ve been dumping chemicals into the sewer? And what would happen if something was exposed to that toxic waste?”
“So you’re starting to believe Halsey’s giant spider story?”
“I know one thing, they haven’t sent anybody down into the sewer since Halsey. I’ve got a buddy who works for the county. He says nobody will go down there. And I’m telling you, they’re hiding something from us at the plant. What if they’ve really been dumping chemicals down there like some people say?”
“Giant mutated spiders,” Darby laughed and polished off his beer. Then a hideous thought began to dawn on him.
“Oh, God no…”
“What? What is it?”
“My son wanted a baby alligator. He had it for a few weeks. I told him it died when he was at school one day. But it didn’t really die. My wife was pissed at me for buying it. She didn’t want it in the house. She made me flush it down the toilet…”