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Carl Bower's Oil Well

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In 1950, Carl Bower, a thirty five year-old wildcatter, stopped drilling for oil at noon and he and his helpers took a lunch break. Before he drove his old truck home, Mr. Smithers, the banker drove up. “So, Carl, any luck?” Mr. Smithers said smirking.

“You can see I haven’t struck oil, Smithers. What do you want?”

“I just want to remind you that your note comes due on Friday. Will you have the money?”

“No, I won’t have the money. Of course, you could give me an extension.”

“An extension? You’re joking aren’t you?  What banker would give you an extension on your loan? You’re never going to strike oil, and you know it. An extension? Hah. That’s very funny. You’re a funny man. Well, I’m looking forward to tomorrow. My engineer says there’s oil here. Too bad you’re not going to see any of it,” he said, laughed out loud, got in his car and drove away.

Carl got in his truck and drove home. He went in his house and was greeted by Mrs. Morse, his house keeper. “Lunch is ready, Carl. Wash your hands and sit down and I’ll give you a bowl of hot soup.” his house keeper said as she put a bowl of soup on the table. “Any luck today?”

“Yeah, all bad. A few drops of water, and a visit from Mr. Smithers from the bank. He can’t wait for Friday when my note comes due. If I can’t pay, I’ll lose everything, and then he’ll bring in his crew.  I know there’s oil there, and he knows there’s oil there and he wants it. He has up-to-date, heavy drilling equipment and an engineer, so he’s gonna find the oil.

After eating lunch, Carl drove his rickety pickup back to the well. “Okay, guys let’s keep drilling and praying. We’ve got one week. If we don’t strike oil, we’ll all be out of work,” he said, and the men started drilling and watching for a gusher with hopeful eyes.

“Boss, our drilling equipment is too old. We’re never gonna see a gusher,” Jack said.

“I know, Jack. Unfortunately, I don’t have any more money, and I can’t get another loan, so we have to make do with what we got.”

They drilled until the last day without realizing their dream. “Well, tomorrow, Smithers takes over. He’ll come in with the latest equipment and he’ll find oil, our oil. I’ll try to sell our rig, and I’ll split the money I got left with you and my house keeper, and that will be it for money.  When Mr. Smithers comes in with his engineer and equipment, they’ll need guys like you, so try to get work with them. I wish you luck,” he said, and shook hands with everybody.

“What are you gonna do, Carl?

“Well, tomorrow I’m gonna watch Smithers and his crew, and I’m gonna hope he strikes water instead of oil. That’s what I’m gonna do. I welcome company, if you have nothing to do tomorrow,” he said, and his men promised to join him.

Thanks guys,” he said, drove home and gave Mrs. Morse the bad news.

“I’m so sorry, Carl. If only Mr. Smithers would give you more time.”

“Greed never misses an opportunity to make money. Mr. Smithers doesn’t care how many people get in the way of him making money. He doesn’t care how many people he hurts.”

“Carl, I believe in Karma. I believe he will pay for his greed. He will pay for causing pain.”

“Anyway, here’s your share of the money that’s left,” he said and gave her several bills.

“What are you gonna do?”

“Well, me and the boys are gonna to go to the site tomorrow to see Smithers drill for oil and hope he gets water. After that, I don’t know. You won’t have any trouble getting a job. Someone like you is always in demand.”

That night, about midnight, the earth around Carl’s well site caved in. After the dust cleared, hairy arms pulled hairy creatures out of the hole. They moved around as though looking for something, and went back into the ground before dawn.

Carl and his men arrived at the site at 7:00 that morning and parked their trucks far enough away so they would be able to see Smithers activities but not be trespassing.  “Hey boss, look at our site. The land around the place where we drilled caved in. You could drive a car in the hole.”

“I guess we got away from there just in time. Look. Here come Smithers and his crew,” Carl said.

Smithers and his team of workers and one engineer arrived at 7:15 and set up drilling equipment.

“Mr. Smithers, we should begin drilling over there,” he said holding a chart and pointing to a spot twenty five yards from where Carl had drilled.

“Whatever you say, Hank. You’re the expert. Tell the men what to do. I’ll watch the black gold pour out of the ground from here.”

The equipment was set up and drilling began. Late that day, Hank approached Mr. Smithers. “Sir, we’re making good progress. I calculate that we’ll strike oil in two days.”

“Okay, Hank. I can wait two days. Uh, I wonder if the men would work late today, maybe ‘til 9 or 10. Ask them and tell them I’ll pay them double.”

“Okay, I’ll ask them,” he said and went to the men. A Few moments later, he returned to Mr. Smithers. “They’ll work late, Mr. Smithers.”

“Great.  I’ll stay with them,” Smithers said.

“Well boys, it’s late. Time to go home to supper,” Carl said, and he and his men left.

That night, two, hairy creatures climbed out of the hole at Carl’s site. They stood unseen, seemed to look toward Smithers, and then ran to him, grabbed his arms and dragged him screaming toward the hole. “Help me. Someone help me,” Smithers screamed, but all the workers could do was stare in horror as the creatures pulled him screaming for help into the hole where they disappeared. After several moments, only the sounds of bones crunching, tearing sounds, and Smithers screaming were heard.  As though waking from a bad dream, Smithers’ team ran to their cars and sped away.

The next morning, Carl drove to the site to see what was going on. “Jeez, where is everybody? The drilling equipment’s here, but there isn’t anybody drilling.” He drove around the area looking for Smithers, but he couldn’t find anyone. “Well, can’t let Smithers’ drilling equipment just lie around,” he said, hurried to gather his crew, and even though he couldn’t find Smithers or his crew, he did, eventually, find oil.

 

The End

 

While teaching speech and English at a community college, Mr. Greenblatt wrote short stories and plays, one of which won a reading at Smith College.  After retiring, he wrote short stories and novellas.  Several of his stories were published in on-line magazines, and others were published in print anthologies.

 

 

 

 

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