“YOU’RE GETTING MARRIED?” I let out a long exhale restraining my sigh as I watch my breath hang in the air while the low rumble of the diesel generators muffles my father’s reply.
“Isn’t that what I just said?” He snaps back with a half chuckle. “I want you there, Van. Good reason to see your old man. It’s been almost two years.”
“Busy, Dad. You know how it goes out here.” I switch the phone from one hand to the other, shoving my frozen fingers down into the front pocket of my muddy jeans.
As I stomp frozen dirt off my boots, I hear the sound of a twenty-four-inch pipe wrench slamming against metal and the word ‘motherfucker’ being repeated by four rig-hands trying to convince the next section of pipe to concede defeat and slip into the frozen pipe casing that descends six thousand feet into the ground.
Trying to ignore them—and my dad—I snap my fingers at George, my ten-pound overlord who is snarling and barking at God knows what.
When I found her, she was half frozen to the ground on a well site, no bigger than my fist and looking about ready to give up the fight. The guys said she wouldn’t make it, but I shoved the filthy ball of fur down where it was warm in the inside pocket of my Carhartt jacket, and within an hour she was poking her head out, nipping at anyone that came near me and licking and pulling on my beard.
I called her Georgia because that was the name of the well site we were on. But ever since, thanks to her bossy nature, everyone just refers to her as George.
That was three years ago, and since then I take her everywhere and put up with the shit everyone gives me because of it. A guy like me with a little hellion inside his jacket or following behind me wherever I go, with her seemingly running the show, well that gets me my share of grief.
My father goes on, “You’re always busy. The only time I see you is funerals or weddings. And you miss those more often than you don’t. This is my wedding, you’ve got the money, get on a plane tonight. Spend a day here, then the wedding, then you can get back to your world. I love this lady, and when you know, you know. Her daughter just happens to be in town too, and we don’t want to wait. Life is too short, Van. I want you to come.”
Your fifth wedding to be exact.
When the cursing on the rig quiets, I see four men with mud and grease on their faces and coating their winter coveralls jumping up and down. Two light cigarettes while the other two spins around to fight with the next thirty-foot section of pipe that’s half frozen to the pallet. Wind whips through my coat and I see the driller waving me toward the dog house through the small window in the door.
“I thought you swore off women.” I grip the frozen railing as I make my way up the stairs with George following close on my heels, heading for the massive steel monster on top of the drill shack, where gages and sensors help guide our never-ending search for the next big hit.
“Yeah, I did. But when you meet the one, you know. It’s different. I’m not letting her get away, and I want my son there to help celebrate.”
Since my mom died in a car accident when I was just seven, my father went through more women than I can remember. Some I liked, some I hated, but none lasted long enough for me to get attached. I once wondered if our front door was revolving, the way one would be on the way out and the other on the way in.
Didn’t sit well with me. I took the other route, a handful of pseudo-relationships in my twenties, but since then my work is my life. The rigs I own are my mistresses and my wives, and I have George for companionship.
“And Kara?” I ask waiting for what I know will be a disappointing reply from my dad.
There’s a pause on the other end of the line, and I almost hear the disgust in my dad’s voice when he answers. “It’s just going to be family.”
“Right. And she’s my sister.”
He laughs, but there’s no humor in it. “No, she isn’t. She’s not even your stepsister. Her mother and I were hardly married. It does not make someone family. I didn’t love her, not like Gayl.”
Kara’s mom, Duska, was one of my dad’s many ‘brief flings.’ A Slovakian ballerina so that you might expect a prima donna, but that wasn’t her at all. She was kind, friendly, the sort of woman I wouldn’t have minded having as a step-mom. Unfortunately, her relationship with my dad lasted maybe a month, and then that was it, but Duska didn’t forget eleven-year-old me.