A quiet day. Core. Gardening. Aggressive cat cuddling. Invasive human cuddling by cats, as per the photo. Both wanted my lap and attention.
Working on my novel. Here's a snippet for your reading pleasure.
`Dwen, have you seen Bill since last coffee?` Mitch asked as she joined the rest of the crew in the lunch room.
`Yes, I was down there about 4. He’d done the samples and was going to check the aerator motors and do some shoveling on the walkway. Why?` It had been a long shift, and her husky voice said, what now?
Mitch sighed. `No special reason, but it’s not like him to miss a coffee break without telling someone. I wouldn’t think about if it wasn’t so cold out. Did you read in the paper the other day about that poor woman coming home from a date? She slipped and banged her head on the car going down, then froze to death less than 20 feet from her front door. I’d hate to see anything like that happen here.`
`So would I.` She picked up the phone and called the old aeration control room. `Nothing. I’ll page him to call us here.` After doing so Dwen plugged in the kettle for hot water to make one of her specialty hot chocolates. The kettle boiled without the phone ringing. Rather than pour the water, she caught the Mitch’s eye. `Bill isn’t normally this late, and there wasn’t anything going on that would make him late. Your call, do you want to go looking for him?`
`I’m going to feel awfully stupid if all we do is interrupt his nap.`
‘He’d deserve it for not letting us know. Les told somebody, I’ll bet.’
‘He did, like always.’
One of the other operators had just finished rinsing his dishes. `If you like, rather than going back to the primary control room, I’ll go through the tunnels down to secondary, and meet you there. I was going to go early anyway and take a walk, and there’s as good a place as any.`
`Thanks Erik,` Mitch said. `Gord, you stay here till someone calls you. If Bill shows up or calls, page me.`
Dwen and Mitch checked outside the back door, but Bill’s truck wasn’t there. They had taken separate routes through the main building in case Bill had walked over for some reason, and met at the door closest to old aeration.
After a minute of buttoning and zipping, they stepped out into the cold pre dawn air. They walked directly over to the central entrance to the walkways over the aeration tanks. They paused for a minute before entering the fog bank that was always over the tanks in winter.
`It doesn’t look like any footprints have come out, and it’s been a while since it was shoveled here`, Dwen observed.
`Lets go straight to the building. If Bill isn’t there, I want to wait till Erik joins us before we go anywhere else. The last thing we need is to go chasing our tails.`
Dwen always enjoyed looking at objects that were covered in built up frost. They were so pretty, especially trees. Since the plant produced the conditions for the frost build up, she had lots of opportunities to see it. She wasn’t looking at that this time. She looked at the surface of the walkway, and at each intersection they peered out as far as they could. Not that it would do them much good, visibility ranged from a few feet to a few dozen feet in a swirling shifting pattern of pre-dawn fog. In a few minutes they arrived at the control room door. They looked particularly carefully at the walkway outside the door, but didn’t see any footprints.
A quick look inside the small control room showed them they were alone. Bill’s truck was parked outside on the clarifier deck where it belonged. `No parka here, but I didn’t see anything to indicate he went out of the room onto the walkway,’ Mitch said.
`Before we walked down here, maybe we should have called Les in primary,` Dwen said. `Bill’s got to be somewhere, and he isn’t here.` A phone call to the primary control room woke a dozing Les, who said that Bill wasn’t there. `And that’s all the operators accounted for, except Bill. Where could he have got to? Maybe Erik found him in the tunnels.`
Through force of habit, Dwen had been looking over the instrument readings. `Boy, the DO sure took a dip in tank 2 about an hour ago. I wonder why? It was fine when I was down here.` She started keying through the computer. Mitch distrusted computers, and had pulled out the old pen charts.
`And it’s only number 2,` said Mitch. `The rest look fine.`
The door they had come in a few minutes ago pulled open, and Erik walked out of the fog. He shook his head. `I took a trike and checked out all the new tunnels, then rode over here, carried it down the stairs by the old alum room, and checked out this gallery. Nothing. You didn’t find him either?
`No. We called Les, and we haven’t heard from Gord up at the lunch room. What now?` Mitch was plainly baffled.
Dwen turned to them with a sick look. `The DO in tank two was down, but is coming back up, and it only happened in that tank, right? What’s the worst thing for depressing DO?` she asked, in the tone of someone who already knew the answer.
`Blood, of course,` replied Mitch. `But the slaughterhouses warn us when they are sending high blood content into the system, and besides, it would be everywhere...` He stopped in horror.
`One of the aeration motors is tripped out.` Dwn considered for a moment. `It’s going to be dawn soon. Lets close the inlet and outlet gates to tank 2, and shut off the motors. It’s low flow right now, so the rest of the system can pick up the load. He’s got to be somewhere.`
Erik went to get one of the powerful hand flashlights and a sample pole from the truck. He met them at the door to the RAS pumphouse, at the east end of the aeration tank. This was both the beginning and end of the tank, since the inlet flowed down an inside channel to the east end of the tank, then into the tank to the north of the channel. The flow through the tank went west beside the channel, through a cut underneath it, and back down the south side of the channel toward the east again. They decided to start looking at the end of the tank and work against the normal flow. Without the aerators going, the fog wasn’t the normal roiling mist that made it impossible to see the surface of the tank; it was more like a normal mist coming off water. A slight breeze blew it aside. Working together, they carefully looked at each cell, leaning through the railings to look under the walkway as they went.
`This is the cell where the motor had tripped out, isn’t it?` Dwen asked as they got to the third cell from the beginning of the tank.
`Yes,` replied Mitch in an absent sort of way. He was looking over the motor and bearing assembly. `This seems fine.`
`Dwen, look! Here, hold the light. Over there,` Erik cried. He sprinted down the walkway to the other side of the cell, and used the sample pole to reach down to the liquid level. Dwen had followed him, and managed to get the light onto the foamy lump Eirk was prodding at, just as half of Bill’s face rolled up to stare at them. Erik leaned heavily on the railing and was sick. Dwen was never sure how she didn’t lose her grip on the flashlight as she collapsed onto the snowy walkway. Mitch joined them, and his breakfast made a contribution to the tank. There was silence for a moment.
`Erik, can you work him over to the side of tank? Do you think we can get him out with the sample pole?` Dwen made a sound deep in her throat. `I hate to say this, but is all of him there?`