Copyright © 2013 by Kim Campion
My grampa made a lot of money in the landfill reclamation game. He was one the first people to start mining all the dumps for every recyclable item. He was also the very first to buy some boats, invest in his now famous patented harvestment technology, and start harvesting the giant trash heaps that were floating in the ocean; ones like the North Atlantic Gyre in the Atlantic Ocean and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the Pacific Ocean. Here’s what a gyre is: it’s a system of rotating ocean currents influenced by the wind so it’s basically this huge area of ocean that trash can get caught and swirl around in. Around 2013, the Pacific Patch was over 1 million square kilometers at its center (386,000 square miles) and the periphery spanned a further 3.5 million square kilometers (1,351,000 square miles). The big plastic pieces floating inside this area would eventually break down into tiny pieces, be eaten by fish, and then pollute the food chain all the way up.
My grampa harvested this tiny particulate trash matter or “microplastics” (their size is 5mm or less and they are also known as “nurdles”) in these regions and his company became the international leader in the harvestment of pelagic plastics. (Pelagic means a body of water that isn’t near the bottom or the shore) and it’s what made him one of the first trillionaires. For a while the only guy richer than my grampa was this one solar battery inventor. That guy is one of the reasons Big oil was destroyed worldwide and he sure got real rich.
But luckily the laws were stiffer by then and no one person was allowed to hoard all the money in circulation, and become their own money gyre. Millionaires were taxed on 90% and above of their income, like they were back in the early 1960’s in America. Back then the US enjoyed prosperous times, where only one person in the family had to go to work, and home ownership was within the reach of the average person. Because the truth is, super high tax rates on the rich do not hurt the economy or encourage laziness. During the 1950’s and early 1960’s, the top bracket income tax rate was over 90%- and the economy, the middle class, and the stock market boomed. My grampa repeated this to me over and over again. Sometimes I would get bored and look out the window and he’d yell “Susanna!” really fucking loud and then force me to watch the business channel with him as punishment.
Funny though, my family, even though all their money came from the sea primarily, they didn’t live near it. I was raised in Kansas in a gated neighborhood with other rich hillybillys. Some of them were nice and some of them were pretty depraved. Some were just depressed. One was an ex pop star who had been the hugest thing in the late 2060’s but he wasn’t able to keep the career fires burning once he wasn’t physically young and perfect anymore. This person was actually friends with my mom and told her he was doing better now that he was in a happy relationship. He told her he got sober and realized that even the huge iconic stars of music and film stopped getting as much attention once they got so old no one wanted to fuck them anymore. He said he realized he could have stayed famous longer if he’d been more creative and had more soul juice to share with the world, and that people are still interested in fucking you even if you’re older if you have a lot of spiritual energy since that’s what creates sexual bliss anyway, but that he realized back then he didn’t have that much soul juice at all, or talent either, and he’d made peace with that. He’d mostly just liked getting high and fucking groupies anyway. Now that he was sober and married to a lovely husband, he just wanted to focus on his garden and his homelife.
I know he was telling her this because he wanted my mom to get sober. Everyone knew she was a falling down sloppy drunk because she did it at garden parties and at the grocery store. It was predicted by a few tired gossip sites that I would follow in her footsteps. This was because my whole family were drunks, even my famous grampa. Except he’d gotten sober also, like thirty years ago. Due to stem cell advancements, he was still alive. But he never went out in public anymore and refused to talk to anybody. He’d sold the controlling interests in his empire when his health started getting bad and now he lived in a cabin in a field behind our house (he was in a wheel chair but doing good, they said he was going to be out of the wheelchair permanently really soon, and would be walking perfectly). He hated my mom and dad who he thought were parasitic losers who never did anything with their lives but sponge off him and be lushes, but he liked me. Which was nice because no one else really did. It felt like that anyhow. I had a hard time making friends. And I had a stutter. It was pretty bad the teasing. My grampa just acted like I didn’t have it. Sometimes if I was trying to say something and the stutter got stuck in the loop for too long he’d reach over smack me really hard in my back. It always worked. My grampa was my friend.
He would tell me stories about how when he was a poor kid, he dreamed of becoming rich and powerful and how he educated himself and got an engineering degree online and after working as a chemical engineer for a couple years started designing the blueprints for his landfill reclamation equipment. He told me seagulls have one of the strongest digestive systems on the planet, that’s how come they could survive on trash at the dump and McDonald’s food left in the parking lot (speaking of which they’ve been out of business since before I was born, my grampa had to tell me about them). He also told me the story about how he built his second company Pelagos Industries a thousand times. But I liked hearing certain parts of it, like how he came up with the name. He said someone in a dream told him about it. He’d always loved the ocean so when he decided his next inventions were going to be devices that harvested the gyre’s trash, he started having dreams about the sea and then some beings on the astral plane started talking to him about it in different languages. He said someone with a heavy Greek accent told him Pelagos meant “open sea” in Ancient Greek. And he woke up and shook my grandmother awake (she was a hard sleeper and also a drunk) and said “Shirley goddamnit I got it!” He filed all the patents under Pelagos Industries.
I was jealous my grampa had all these adventures and made this fantastic life for himself out on the high seas. I dreamed of getting away from Kansas. The only time I felt comfortable was when I was away from the house either at grampa’s or alone on the prairie. I was always athletic and I liked running for miles through the grass and imagining I was a buffalo. Then I would find a spot and crouch down and disappear out there somewhere. The grasses waved in the wind like ocean swells and I could imagine I was on the water instead of landlocked. I snuck off a lot so I could run around and be alone and hang out with the prairie ocean. I would talk to god out there and tell him or her what an asshole they were. I didn’t believe in any religion but I did believe in god or a creator unfortunately. And I thought he was a creep. Otherwise me and all the other beings on earth would be happy. I did ask god for one thing though. I remember I said Just please do one thing for me, let me get away from here.
I’m not so mad at God anymore because he or she answered my prayer. Made me feel like maybe I can trust more. Things are looking good now. But this is what happened first:
When I was twelve I had a crush on the CornKing’s son. Before people stopped all genetically modified food was internationally outlawed including the Monsanto corporation, Seth’s dad was the CornKing and he made a fortune killing bee populations and feeding people shit GMO corn. The government seized his corporate lands when he refused to comply with the new laws but he’s still real rich. His son Seth was a couple years older than me and I’d only seen him from across the room because we were grades apart at the creepy little rich kid schoolhouse we went to and he didn’t sit near me in the cafeteria. I just liked his looks a whole lot. He had jet black hair and icen blue eyes and the body of a strong athletic young man already. My young loins quivered for him. He looked like a cartoon or comic book boyfriend. I started following him home after school, where he wouldn’t notice me but I could watch him.
The path through the tall grasses back to our giant wrought iron prison gated neighborhood was a dirt one and dusty. It made your footsteps quiet though so even though I had boots on I was silent and all I had to do was dart back into the prairie if he turned around. Turned out Seth was real jumpy and paranoid for some reason on these walks home from school. He wouldn’t go straight back to his house. He’d take a shortcut through the grass and go to this broken down old dilapidated shack on the back of his property. He’d stay in there for a while and I felt guilty for being nosy so I’d hang back far enough to not hear grunting if he was in there masturbating to sexy magazines. Frequently he smoked weed in there, I could smell it wafting out. I never had drank alcohol or done other drugs yet. I hadn’t even kissed a boy. I was hoping that all of these things would transpire with Seth. I sure felt guilty all the time for how I was spying on him and being only one notch above a peeping tom but I just thought about him all the time and wanted him. I drew pictures of him in a private notebook I kept in my backpack. I was surprised how good I could draw myself giving Seth a blowjob and him fucking me under a garland of roses that some seagulls were holding up. We were naked together in all those pictures, him doing unspeakable and wondrous things to me.
So I just kept following him to that shed every afternoon. And I felt safer actually around him because there was a missing girl, a ten year old from the next town over, who was missing and parents were starting to get really panicked about her and the safety of their own kids. Well my not my parents but other people’s were. Anyway she was last seen in the parking lot by the manmade lake they put in about ten years ago so kids would have a place to swim in the summertime. She was waiting in line for a drink at one of those vendor snack carts. But her mom said on the news that the girl who’s name was Madeline liked to take walks around the lake under the trees so she might have decided to do that after she got her drink and she was wearing an orange and pink tank bathing suit and white flipflops and a towel with this one teen singer on it.
I felt bad about the missing kid and figured if some sicko had taken her and was still lurking around in the bushes somewhere he wouldn’t be able to get me because Seth would protect me from him and then kill him and we could have sex and get married. Anyhow, that’s not what happened. What happened was one afternoon I noticed something smelly in the air and I thought it was a dead deer carcass. Sometimes hunters illegally shoot a deer and then hang it from a tree to gut it. I’d found the cut off hooves and legs still tied up in orange nylon rope before. But the next afternoon the smell was even more intense, to the point where I was gagging. But Seth was still going into his shack. So I just finally looked in there. I’d sworn I wouldn’t ever but I didn’t even have to torment myself about it or make a decision I just did it. Behind the shed, there was a tree stump and some old dusty brown glass bottles and an old lawnmower leaned up against the wall. I stood on the stump and looked found myself looking through a little window made of wavy glass like from the 1800’s. It was hard to see at first because it was dusty and there were spider webs on the inside and the glass was thick and irregular like looking through a bottle but I did see Seth inside crouched over something.
It was a something that looked like a swollen dead seal like I’d seen in a nature documentary. It had no color or shape really except for an orange and pink bathing suit that was torn and hanging off the blob. I looked at it. Then I looked at Seth. At that moment he looked up at the window and saw me in it. I jumped off the tree stump and started to run but he’d already whipped around the shed and got hold of me. He threw me on the ground and punched me in the face. I grabbed a handful of dirt and threw it in his face. It was real dry dirt and he cried out and started rubbing at his eyes. I picked up one of the brown glass bottles and hit him on the head with it. He yelled as he was sinking onto his knees and grabbed my arm. He wrenched it hard enough I dropped the broken bottle end. He tried to throw my weight sideways so I’d fall down but I wriggled fast and twisted somehow so he didn’t have me and he fell backwards. There was one split second where he was on his back before he could spring up again I ran up and stomped his throat. He choked and I did it again and this time there was a gurgle.
I stuck around for a little while. I didn’t run away. He didn’t move. I was afraid to go near him again. I poked him with a stick. No movement. His neck looked funny, like where his adams apple was, well it wasn’t there anymore. I watched him and it didn’t look like he breathed for twenty minutes. So I walked home, stopping at this one outdoor faucet at the edge of a neighbor’s property and rinsed the dirt off my hands and face. I went the back way onto our land so that I wouldn’t have to go through the main gate and then on the street and up our driveway. I climbed the back fence and walked the extra two miles on the fireroad to where my grampa’s cabin was behind our house.
He let me in and I told him what happened. I was finally crying a lot. My grampa talked to me real low and calming like for a long time. Then I took a nap on the stinky itchy couch he watches tv from. Then we came up with a plan and waited. They found the girl Madeline’s body and Seth’s body the next day. We didn’t go to the cops because Seth’s dad was a real asshole and might have tried to have me arrested or something. I felt bad about that little girl’s body being in that shed for another night but that’s what we decided to do. My grampa told me they would find them very soon after asking me some questions about why I was back there in the first place. He said somebody else knows that Seth goes back there. His dad knows about that shed I’m sure. My grampa asked me if I thought anyone had ever seen me following Seth back there and I said no way, because I’d been really careful and hadn’t wanted to get caught. He said good. Then he made me take a shower and hand him my dirty clothes and he did something with them. He told me to make sure to clip and scrub my fingernails in case I scratched the kid. That freaked me out I didn’t want any biological matter of that gross guy on my person. My grampa had wheeled himself outside and was burning my clothes out back in one of those antique oil drums. I gave him my special notebook and he didn’t ask why or bother me because he was cool. He just threw it on the flames. Then he said we would finally be getting out of here. I said but you hate going anywhere now and he said he still had the boat. He called it a boat but it’s really a small yacht. I didn’t know he still had it. It was one of the few cool material possessions he kept after he gave away a bunch of stuff when he got weird while he was sick and going through all those experimental procedures. He said what do you think about spending some time in Europe. We could put you in school there. Get someone to fix your stutter. I said okay.
We watched the news. It didn’t take long. First there was a lot of confusion and they thought that the person who killed Madeline had also killed Seth. That made me upset but my grampa told me to be patient. It was only a couple days after that they released the information that Seth’s genetic material was found on the body. I was so traumatized and grossed out. The whole time I was masturbating to Seth in the bathtub he was raping some poor little kid. I figured I was going to need some therapy. My grampa helped me though, he said I did real good and was proud I didn’t fight like a girl. That’s a big compliment coming from my weird vaguely offensive grampa. And I started to look forward to getting out of there. And to maybe all the sex and fun times I was going to get to have far away. Grampa even said he was going to get me my own little studio apartment if I did good in school.
He only sent me back to my old school once to clean out my desk. We told the teachers I was going on homeschool. We waited a couple weeks and then grampa had a fancy black car come pick us up. I was so excited about leaving. I hadn’t been out of Kansas one time. We drove past our town and into the next county to catch a plane. We flew to the city of Boston and was picked up by another long black car that drove us to a wharf on Cape Cod. The air smelled good. Like the smell of the ocean in the dreams I’d had about it. I will always remember seeing the boat for the first time. In blue writing it said “Pelagos” on its side. I already knew what it meant but I asked my grampa to tell me again. He said “the open sea”. And that was the end of the worst thing that so far has ever happened to me and the beginning of what is so far the very best.
Copyright © 2013 by Kim Campion