Meeting at Weldon Springs
Chapter 7

A meeting between the DOE director at Weldon Springs Interpretative Center and Museum and concerned citizens worried about the St. Charles Well Fields and radiation levels, including a request for a flyover of Busch Wildlife Area.

DRAFT ONE, including typos and poorly thought out ideas

Problems in all the chapters: I keep mixing up the spelling Liu or Lui.

Have not chosen any names for the Citizens Action Group, either organization names or character names.--oh well

Chapter Seven



I wiped down the display cases and the front door of the museum while wearing the new business shirt that Butch gave me.

'Atomic cleaning and janitorial services

Veteran and operated.'

"The new name puts us first on the internet list thing," said Butch.

"True that, Boss," I said. "You might try to get that Director to post a positive review. Five Stars."

 

"The Ice Queen? If I was to take a wild guess, she doesn't like me," said Butch. "I've been looking to expand out. Troy or Moscow Mills, hire some more employees."

"I don't know why the others quit already," I said. What a kiss-ass statement. So far, three replacement ladies had quit because of complaints similar to the first lady who hit Butch with the mop.

Butch might have a problem with his hands and keeping them to himself.

I was finishing up the front door, preparing it for the horde of children and their smudged fingerprints, when I saw four separate cars driving into the still-empty parking lot. The ladies I saw at the Town Hall meeting stepped from their vehicles, noting that their clothing was slightly business formal—not protesting clothing, but meeting attire.

"Good morning, ladies," I said, holding the clean door open to allow the four women into the building.

"Beautiful morning, isn't it?" It was true; every morning outside of prison was a beautiful morning.

The ladies looked nervous, and one smiled back at me. What was her name? Had we known each other a thousand years ago during high school? Twin Island Lakes? 

"I don't know; it might've been a dream," I muttered.

The four women stood outside Director Liu's closed office door, and I came to their rescue.

"The Director is in her office, but she was on the phone speaker a little while ago in a meeting with EPA Region 7." 

It could have been the lawn service on the phone speaker, but the EPA sounded official.

"I saw some of you at that fishing lake with the nuclear banner," I said, making small talk.

There were awkward, polite smiles, a forced "Thank you," and the four turned and walked through the interpretive center.

They did not say it out loud, but their implicit behavior said it all. I was the Janitor with the goofy Atomic Janitorial logo.

The four walked around the museum, finally stopping at the artist's rendition of a cutout of the rocky dome, cell rocks, clay, and radioactive debris. 

They shook their heads in dismay.

"Look, and here's the high school," said one of the ladies, pointing to an aerial photo, comparing the distance to the school and the dome of radioactive waste.

One lady looked at me and said, "Did we already ask you if you attended Francis Howell?" She noticed I had been hovering in the shadows.

"Yes, mam, one of you asked me that question. Not Francis Howell, I went to the Wentzville School District but grew up on Highway DD on the northern edge of Busch Wildlife.

Were they disappointed?

"But I used to go to parties at the Yellow Cake Factory or Ordnance Works and down on the Femme Osage, even though those parties mainly were Francis Howell Students."

All four women showed renewed interest in me.

"You went to those parties also?" asked one of the women.

I nodded, but I could tell all five of us struggled to match adult faces to old memories of students laughing by firelight, passing around red-tipped joints, and sloshy iced beer.

Yet, I did not mention the name Billy. Some old memories should stay forgotten.

"Hey, you know, my brothers and I fished a lot at Lake 35, and my father ran a trap line on Schotte Creek; those two locations were mentioned at that town hall meeting, weren't they?"

If anything, I knew how to set a hook, as all four ladies were interested in my conversation despite my goofy Atomic janitor shirt.

"Has anyone in your family had health problems or cancer?" asked one of the ladies.

"Besides an indulgence in too much beer? No, we are mostly dying of old age. Does skin cancer count?" I said, pointing at my freckles.

"Consider yourself lucky," said another lady.

"After attending that Atomic Town hall meeting, I consider myself and my family extremely lucky," I said.

"Have you been in touch with some of those citizen groups from St. Louis? I remember one lady saying Weldon Springs and North County have to team up to fight the Leviathan."

"Not yet," said one woman. "We will, though, for the RECA money."

"I see you have met our chatty Janitor? said Director Lui, interrupting our conversation.

The Director gave me an apprasing eye and asked, "A new shirt from Butch?"

I felt like I flushed red, nodded to the ladies, and returned to the mop and bucket.

"How can I help you today?" asked Director Lui. "Would you like to come into my office for coffee, and we can talk?"

I was still angry and pushed the mop a little too energetically, splashing soapy water.

Butch was watching me.

"Ryba, into my office before the mob of kids arrives."

Butch flipped over a mop bucket, "Take a seat."

"What's up, Boss?" I asked, exhaling a deep breath. My mind repeating zen, zen, zen.

"What's eating you?" asked Butch. "That woman? The Ice Queen?

I shrugged. "No, I don't know what made me irritated."

"Ah-huh." 

Butch put up his hands.

"No, don't get up just yet. Everyone—you, me, and the Director—has three faces, but only one face is displayed in public. Beautiful women might have four or five faces and only one public persona."

Butch took down a photo of a younger version of him playing cards with his shirt off in some foreign land. The picture showed a flat belly and Marine Corps muscles.

"Do you think I only played cards in the Corps?"

I shrugged, "No."

"Fuckin A right, no."

"You, my friend, have even more hidden facets; you are more like a curious deck of cards, and the back of the cards is you sheltering in your janitor role. The numbers and high cards, the Ace of Spades? You show only when you choose."

Butch smiled. 'The Ace of Spades'. Yeah, I like that."

He placed the photo back on the wall.

"You are chatty about this place and ran your jawbone with those four ladies, yet you rarely talk about Iraq. I have found the more you were in the shit, the less you talk about it when back to the big BX stateside. Same story with the Korea and Nam vets. Probably the same with the Romans or the vets of the French and Indian War or the Daniel Boone settlements. That is the shit of war. Some things never change."

I had no response to him except a slight wrinkle of my eyes at the mention of the Death Card.

"Suggestion my frieind? Always consider the other types of combat.

Take a beautiful woman. Have you ever thought of the defenses and walls she has to put up because of all the creeps in the world?

"No," I admitted.

"Fuckin A right. The Ice Queen Director, we are only seeing her bitch face. Accept that. Make it a game to peel back the layers to the actual Director. In the meantime, don't let the Ice Queen throw hail on you. That is only her self-defense, her wall. She might be Ted Bundy, but the real her is hidden under the Director title- like you and your Janitor defense.

Have you got that? Ok, move out and clean that mess before the little slobs arrive and break a leg.

Multiple facets? A false public persona for the Director. I could see Yellow School buses pulling into the museum parking lot. The Ace of Spades?

Director Liu sat with the ladies in her office.

"What did you want to discuss today?" asked Liu.

I slowly mopped the floor outside of the office, close enough to listen to the conversation. The ladies had piqued my interest. Multiple facets.

"We have questions and are looking for your opinion," said one voice. 

"For your assistance," said another.

"Did you hear about our town hall meeting the other night?" from a third voice.

There was silence.

Finally, "I saw the flyers," said the Director.

"We put the video online. I think it would be a good idea if you watched it," said one of the women.

"I will watch it," said Director Liu. "I'm not from around here, so anything I can learn is valuable."

"We have many concerns; not the least is the rise in cancer cases across the county."

The quiet one said, "I am also worried about the public well fields sitting next to the Weldon Springs quarry on Highway 94, where they dumped the Malicroght radioactive waste."

A third voice said, "The fire in the landfill?"

Liu cut her off.

"As the Director of the interpretive center, I cannot speak with any authority about the cancer epidemic and none concerning the county wells," said Liu. "Or the fire in the landfill. Much of that is the direct responsibility of the Region Seven EPA or the MoDNR."

There was a pause, "The meeting the other night in New Melle? I hope you watch it. One of the guests who grew up near Coldwater Creek said everyone is terrified whenever their children, spouse, or grandparents catch a cold or bug. Is it the beginning of another round of cancer, or only the common cold? That is how they live in terror of the next illness. We don't want that to be us."

"We came to ask for your assistance," said one of the ladies.

"I'm a Director of an interpretive center with little power to change anything. I have less power than the average citizen because I am an employee of DOE. I cannot complain. Management would order me to shut up and then send me to an oil field north of the Arctic Circle."

"I think you may be mistaken," said one of the ladies. "It's all about how many wasp nests you want to shake."

Director Liu said, "Did I mention banishment to the Arctic Circle and polar bears, three months of no sunlight?"

"We are here because of the government's proven pattern of hiding radiation information from the public. We seek advice as much as help and do not want you to meet a polar bear in the dark."

I heard what I imagined was that vanilla envelope carried by the leader sliding across the table and then the Director opening it.

"This is a pre-cleanup Gamma helicopter flyover test of the ordnance works-yellow cake factory, measuring the radioactive hotspots. The original WSSRAP plan was based on this report of the worst hot spots, as seen in the drawing."

One of the other ladies spoke up. "Can you imagine that helicopter flying a hundred or two hundred feet above the ground recording radiation levels for this chart? How bad was that stuff?" Did it kill migrating birds?

"Where did you get this?" asked the Director. "I've never seen it before," said Lui.

"Freedom of Information Act. I had to submit a rather expensive FOYA to obtain this report."

"Is that right?" said the Director. I could hear her flipping pages.

"Dot matrix printer. Who recalls that?"

"Our complaint is based on this report. As you can see, the sample area for testing was concentrated around the factory and rapinate pit.

They flew over only the DOE-owned land, not the rest of the Bucsh Conservation Area, Weldon Springs, or the drainage creek, which was used to channel the radioactive water down to the Missouri River.

Another person said, "There is already testing at Lake 35 indicating elevated radiation levels and that it empties into Schotte Creek.

We believe additional radioactive waste was dumped somewhere in the Conservation area, with no record, and was never cleaned up."

"I've never seen this report," said Director Liu. I believe it is worth placing in the museum as a historical document. This test equipment is no longer used. Since the Middle East wars, new tools have been developed to assist in the hunt for terrorist nukes or even dirty bomb material.

I agree that new aerial testing is overdue. The helicopter could be rented for a few days, or the National Guard could do the flying. The test readings are all computerized now and are quick and inexpensive."

I heard the noise of papers as they were shuffled.

"The primary obstacle, as always?" said the Director. "Funding. Yes, I can request this test if I present a good reason. However, the funding request would have to come from a senator or congressman. They could order the Conservation Agency to cooperate with the test, not beg, like I would have to do, and still might end up north of the Arctic Circle. The insistence for a flyover test has to come from citizens."

Frankly, the EPA is focused on Coldwater Creek and Westgate West. In their eyes, Weldon Springs is good enough."

I only heard the uncomfortable silence from the room and pushed the mop bucket, causing it to squeak in protest. Just then, a teacher opened the main door, directing noisy children into the museum and making it impossible for me to eavesdrop.

"You are welcome to come back any time," said Director Lui, escorting the ladies into the hallway. "My door is open at all times."

Director Lui glared at me, letting me know that she knew I had been listening to the conversation.

I pushed my bucket away from her glare.



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