Weldon Springs Radiation story
Chapter 3.5 The Director

Final name of the story TBD.

This Chapter: Meet the Director of the Weldon Springs Interpretive Center.

(Had to call this 3.5 because of changes to story & trying to balance word counts. HOWEVER THESE ARE DRAFTS. Expect lots of changes and errors.

Chapter 3.5: The Director

My phone buzzed.

I put down the mop and bucket and looked at the screen.

Another text from Danny. Sometime after we were kids, he changed his name to Buck.

“Dude, come see me. It’s important. I guess you’re avoiding me, right?

Come, see me.

If you don’t want to see me just because I stink, come see me because I have something for you.

Remember Ambrose’s cave? Found it

Come see me. Buck.”

I put the phone away and mopped the museum floor, marveling how much dirt the school kids tracked into the building, leaving fine yellow clay dust everywhere.

Butch called the dust “Job security.”

What had Danny been yammering about in his text message? A cave? I did not recall any cave association with Buck. 

Ambrose? My mother’s former business partner, who, before the war, had farmed the land, which was now flooded by Lake 33.

I stopped at the pictures of farmers having to auction off everything they had with only a thirty-day notice to vacate their farms.

I shook my head at the injustice. The grandfathers of these very same German immigrants had fought to keep Missouri in the union during the War of Northern Aggression. Who could imagine that only a short seventy-five years later, the grandchildren would lose the family farms to the same government they supported?

Ambrose had talked about the auction. The museum photographs did not convey the bitterness Ambrose felt about the auction. Still gripped in the great depression, the farmers had to sell everything they could not move by wagon. 

“Pennies on the dollar,” Ambrose explained. Some of the neighbors threw their belongings into Dardenne Creek rather than allowing the speculators from St. Louis to “Steal them blind with a wolf smile and a half-dollar offer.”

Rob and I had rummaged through the rusted remnants of those same items tossed in the creek and gullies while we were…. searching for the cave. 

The cave! How had I forgotten that failed quest?

 Ambrose told us about the cave when he took us to the ruins of his family’s farmhouse and the hunt for a pear tree full of arrowheads—the pear that had been the real quest.

What happened to the pear tree arrowheads? When I got in trouble and was taken to the Conservation Department headquarters to see Agent Dougy, there were arrowheads on Dougy’s desk. Were those Ambrose’s pear tree arrowheads? That question had bugged me for years.

Damn, Buck had managed to dredge up some lost memories. 

And the cave? We had hunted for years for the damn cave, said to be near the spring, but we never found it. Ambrose even took us in person to find the cave. 

Even he had been puzzled. 

In the end, we determined an earthquake had sealed the cave entrance.

 The next day, I answered Buck’s phone call.

“Fuck man, you took the phone call, even when the ID said it was your old fuck up buddy Buck.” 

His voice was barely above a whisper. “I need you to come by, man because I think I’m going to the hospital. I saved something for you.”

I wiped the display cases in the museum. Should I see Buck?

The children visiting the museum were endless bundles of energy and sticky hands.

“Endless chirping,” I said while wiping a glass case.

Fingerprints everywhere they traveled, they left a trail of smudges and fingerprints.

Four tourists walked into the museum; there was nothing unusual about them besides being loud young men. Rude even. College students?

Clean cut, fit, and loud.

I noted they all had rolled the lucky dice toss of dice called life and ended up in the good gene pool. They were handsome confident, and talked a good game in opposition to nuclear power.

Nuclear engineering students? Or at least the apparent leader, for he tossed around big words. 

One of the four showed too much interest in the young girls on the school tours, trying to impress them with science.

The other three, the more they walked around the museum, the more they worked themselves into a fit of anger. 

“We should’ve been on our own Nurenburg trials for dropping the nuclear bombs on Japan, said the leader to a school teacher.

They did not notice my look of disapproval as I swabbed at the mud they tracked in. 

Their problem, and they noticed it, was that no one was listening to their complaints. People ignoring their complaints only made them angrier, except for the one flirting with the girls. His smile never wavered, even when the teachers interceded, recognizing a threat to their charges.

One fact was unmistakable: I did not exist in their world as the janitor.

“Look at this place! How many people died making this poison?” said one of the men. His shirt read, “College of beer” under a drawing of the St. Louis arch.

“Poison the planet for future generations. What is the half-life of this radioactive waste? A half a million years?”

Wait until West Lake blows,” snarled the leader. “It will be a midwest Fukushima event that will make St. Louis uninhabitable.”

“Gateway to the West,” said his buddy. It would be a disaster to break all disaster records. Rate it a level 12 on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event scale.”

The three young men laughed at the concept, and the fourth man returned to the fold.

“Everyone laughs at the Japanese power plant in an earthquake zone. What do they think Missouri is?” asked the fourth man, smiling brightly at one of the female students.

“Mix that quarry fire and Mallinckrodt waste, and we’ll have a Midwest Chornobyl. Not a particularly easy death, you know, radiation poison,” said the third person.”

“We need to ban all nuclear energy and weapons.” 

His shirt with Mao holding an M4 did not do much to impress me.

“Another fucking spoiled idiot,” I said while moping their tracks.

All four looked at me for the first time.

“What did you say, mop boy?” said the leader.

Ah, the Dear Leader. 

I turned to face away from them. Battering them to a pulp with the mop handle would only land me back in prison.

“I say we should chain ourselves across this museum entrance like the Stop Oil people do,” said number two of the group. “Make a statement.”

They had already lost interest in a simple janitor.

“I have better plans than to make a statement. What good have those Stop Oil people done other than pissing off the proletariat? What the fuck are they doing? Right-block roads piss off ordinary people from getting their coffee?.

 I’m thinking of something much grander. We need more direct approaches,”

The fourth man smiled at a student who had stopped to watch. 

I wasn’t thinking about the spoken words; I was observing his body language and smiles directed toward the children—no translation required.

Watch out, buddy, I thought. If you go to jail for what you are thinking about, you will discover the worst experience you could imagine—that is, if you don’t get shanked on the first day.

The museum Director walked out of her office; an Asian lady, attractive, even exotic looking. Her door sign stated, Amber Lui, Director, DOE. 

“Can I help you,” asked Director Lui. There was a hint of an East Texas accent.

“We were just discussing the evil of nuclear energy; we are destroying our world. 

“It’s also the cleanest energy. True, there are pros and cons. But Americans need electricity,”

“The peasant doesn’t need electricity,” sneered one of the four. 

“Solar is all they need—every home solar.”

“Windfarms will cover the other needs. It has been proven.”

His shirt had crossed sticks with the words Field Hockey Team.

College students,? 

“How many bats and birds do you sacrifice for your wind power?” asked the Director.

“Have you ever walked under one of those windmill blades in the morning? I have; you would be appalled at the death.”

The Director beat the students to the comeback line.

“Their sacrifice is for the greater good?”

Wow, Lui threw the words of Stalin and Mao back in their face.

“Can I clean your office? Director, vacuum your office?” I asked, interjecting myself. 

The four young men’s body language screamed attack. They did not like her common-sense answers. I had heard in prison that college students were no longer taught the art of debate—only one-sided arguments followed by violence.

Being a winner always proves your version to be correct. It was the same in prison: Power and might made any answer the correct answer.


The Director almost seemed shocked by my interruption. Not only was it bad manners, but I was invisible in her eyes as the janitor, which was almost OK. Her beauty was exotic. 

The sign outside her door read Amber Lui. Director, Weldon Springs Interpretive Center, DOE. 

I had to laugh.

What was the meme? Stay away from strippers, redheads, and women named Amber and Tiffany?

Dang, I had failed on two of those two out of four of those with my ex-wife.

I pushed the industrial-strength floor vacuum into her office. She had tasteful fake teak wood government furniture, a map of East Texas on her wall, and photographs of a young Director on a paint horse barrel racing. A Master’s Degree from the University of Austin.

When I vacuumed behind her desk, the five in the hallway were angry. I quickly glanced at the monitor screen.

“Fallout plan for St. Louis in the event of a West Lake fire”

“Oh damn, shit happens, Amber,” I said.

I finished the office and stepped into the aisle.

She was still trying to use reason with the four—a lost cause.

The four young men begin yelling anti-nuclear slogans, making a scene.

“Excuse me,” I said, placing myself between the Director and the four men as they began to yell and advance upon the Director.

“Anything else, Director?” I asked while placing the vacuum cleaner between me and the angry college students.

For the first time, I think she actually noticed me.

“No,” said the leader of the four, putting his hands out to stop his friends as they began to surround me. “It’s bad press if we beat up a simpleton janitor.”

He looked at the Director and retreated, saying, “That tomb out there is just a celebration of poison.”

And they stomped out the door.

The Director returned to her office without saying anything to me, and I had to chuckle. 

Stay away from strippers, redheads, Amber, and Tiffany’s, goddamnit.

She reappeared almost immediately.

“I could have kicked those four in the testicles before they realized my foot had left the ground,” said the Director.

“Hey, I’m just a janitor,” I said as she returned to her office.

Damn, she is a water moccasin.

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