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:: Tomorrow's God Evolving by Ed Boles
Tomorrow's God Evolving by Ed Boles
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This is a story of hope; a spiritual quest for purpose and perspective pursued by shamen and philosophers, elders and children, technocrats and scientists alike. From a barrier island off the coast of Mississippi to a backwoods community of working folks struggling from day to day while holding stubbornly to dreams unrealized, from the Clear Creek Institute headquarters of the Culpepper Foundation tucked away in a quiet corner of a rural south Mississippi county, to the Sibun River Gorge within the Maya Mountains of Belize,
Tomorrow's God Evolving
opens a new world to readers.
Sam Coleman, Assistant Director of the Bureau of Pollution Control, has seen his life plow into a professional rut. His job is becoming more overwhelming, his efforts less effective and more political as the years roll by, confronting challenges and compromises with every move within the perpetual war he wages against senseless and increasing environmental crimes. He has devoted most of his working life battling against defiant corporate will and blind consumer self-interests, working through sluggish and convoluted bureaucracies, only to be checked by well-funded politicians and lawyers. Sam has finally had enough and is ready for a change. Traveling home after long days in the field working a styrene spill in the Lower Mississippi River, Sam pulls off at a phone booth along a desolate stretch of Louisiana back-road to place the call that will initiate that change.
From that moment his life takes an unexpected turn that launches him on a fateful course interwoven with that of a lone, travel-weary hitchhiker, a wanderer in perpetual motion without a conscious destination. The traveler is a man borne of conflicting cultures who struggles to find his place in a rapidly changing world, a dream walker who accepts fate as readily as the sustenance of food and water. He has seen a vision of the evolution of a special embryo, an Earth seed born from a womb of tissue and steel to be sown by the hands of children, a sphere of a billion genetic codes delivered through a portal of time and light, to live beyond the life of this withering world. Or, maybe, it is all just the dream walk of a dying man, slumped beside a phone booth along a desolate stretch of south Louisiana highway.
“We’re coming up on seven forty-two! North bound right lane of I-55 at Woodrow is blocked with a three car bumper cruncher. All right, all you rubber necks! Concentrate on the moving cars—not the ones in the penalty box!” A caffeinated DJ boomed into early morning air space. “Now here’s a dusty one from the basement of the museum for all of you old timers to pat your accelerators to!” He vibrated speakers up and down the interstate with Jefferson Airplane.
Gingerly, Sam Coleman clutched a Styrofoam cup of scalding coffee between thumb and index finger of his left hand. The remaining fingers held a white knuckled grip on the steering wheel. His right hand blindly explored a foil bundled egg and biscuit lying on the seat next to him. As he peeled back the wrapper, wisps of steam stung his fingertips.
While his fingers worked hungrily, his eyes darted from the side mirror, to the rearview mirror, to a transport truck that hung to his back right side—shadowing him like a moving wall. Suddenly, brake lights of the car in front blared red. Sam instinctively flipped his blinker lever and swerved at the critical instant, gunning the accelerator, and squeezed in front of the truck. Blood coursed through his ears. For a few seconds he was back in the game a hundred percent, acutely alert, forgetting about the biscuit, realizing that the miraculously successful maneuver had propelled him at least ten car lengths ahead of the stalling lane—carving perhaps thirty seconds off his trip time!
He skillfully piloted his thinly armored Escort through the mobile maze of rubber and steel and cursing horns. Combustion engines, belching sulfides and monoxides, sputtering unburned hydrocarbons, propelled their impatient cargos along eight lanes of concrete at sixty and seventy miles per hour. Such a fantastic arena of chance and survival! A heart attack, a sneeze, a stubborn pastry wrapper could transform this frantic raceway into a junk yard…and yet more emergency room experience for sleep starved interns.
Becoming oblivious once again to the frail division between life and death on the interstate, Sam stuffed his mouth with egg and biscuit, scalded his tongue with coffee, picked crumbs from his tie and simultaneously nudged his way into the pack of cars ahead. As his arms and legs performed their skillful routine, his head traveled in another plane—crowded with questions about the hazardous waste incinerator going in at Waynona, and the by-products that would belch from its stack, then jumping to bio-molecular images of phenols tangled in strains of fish muscle proteins. These were pieces of his occupation and his preoccupation. These were his demons, enemies that haunted his conscious hours, invading his dreams. Silent molecules that creep through ecosystems—carcinogenic, mutagenic, quiet killers! Thinly tainted vapors and solutions strangle life, suffocating minute lungs and gills, poisoning liver tissue. Thick sludges of viscous substances alien to life forms—concoctions born of industrial complexes and household garbage cans!
A quick glance at his watch slightly increased the speed of his car to what he gambled to be the upper tolerance limit of the radar guns sweeping the traffic. This high velocity race with time, from the steps of his porch to his assigned parking space in front of the Pollution Control Bureau, took an average of thirty-three minutes, provided he did not get caught behind a school bus before getting onto the interstate, or the breakfast line was not too long at the drive-through. As he wheeled into his parking space, he punched the button on his watch. Thirty-one minutes and twenty-six seconds! Not a record, but certainly not a bad run! The day was off to a good start. He was alive, he was at work, and he was almost four minutes early!
Sam strolled through the heavy double glass doors lugging his arsenal for another day’s battle—a briefcase stuffed with supporting documents, industrial recipes, and legal incantations. Under his arm he carried a bulky loose-leaf binder bulging with field data. His other hand still clung to the coffee cup. The last swallow had reached a less-than-satisfactory temperature. He slugged it down anyway, stashing the cup in a trashcan beside the sun-faded, plastic philodendron striving to give the clay tiled foyer a hint of synthetic tranquility. He paused for a moment, feeling some soft squirming sensation in the bottom of his gut, as if he had forgotten something important.
He tried to shrug it off, pushed through smoke glass doors and entered the fluorocarbon-cooled, florescent-colored atmosphere of the outer office buffered with quiet carpet floors and acoustic tiled ceiling, pastel walls ornamented with framed prints of flying ducks and magnificent deer against morning skies—a display case of subliminal mood manipulators. But the room’s subtle psychology was not working today! The office into which he cautiously stepped was clenched by nervousness that was pervasive and instantly contagious. The squirming thing in his stomach intensified.
Sam moved through people darting with purpose, some of them bidding him morning as they brushed past him. He paused to collect a handful of mail stuffed in a cubbyhole bearing his block-lettered name, within a honeycomb of similarly labeled cubbyholes, as he slowly absorbed the commotion around him through the tail of his eye. He half-way expected his usual greeting from Sandra, the long legged, lightly freckled secretary—some comment about the hotels listed on his travel voucher or speculation on his activities at a recent conference. He would allude to such proposed possibilities or comment ever so indirectly on the cut of her dress or the nimbleness of her fingers dancing over typewriter keys—silly, shady-innocent flirtations, accented with his quick wink or her sultry glance, two extremely married people snatching at brief fantasies to break the office monotony.
But today was different, as sometimes happens. The nervousness was thick and pungent. The office had more the air of a newsroom. The main corridor was bustling like an anthill with its crown kicked off. The light pile carpet and the acoustic ceiling tiles could not absorb all the clamor and commotion filling the hall. Instead of her teasing smile, Sandra greeted him with a handful of phone messages and a down-to-business tone.
“James Sullivan, EPA, waiting on line two. Governor’s office is expecting a phone briefing within the next fifteen minutes. The first emergency response meeting will be held in the conference room at eight-thirty. Reporters from channel twelve and channel three are waiting to interview you. Let’s see you handle this one, tough guy,” she said with sassy, challenging eyes. She shoved the bundle of yellow message slips in his hand as she un-cradled a buzzing phone.
“What’s all the…” Sam began.
Before he could finish the question, his boss, Jim Driskel, descended on him. Driskel was a meaty-fisted, red-faced, round-bellied man who constantly chewed unlit cigars and had a recent history of heart problems. During crisis situations, it was his habit to move through the hall ways, barking out quick orders like a field sergeant under fire, at times annoying, often abrasive, but always effective.
“Where the hell have you been! We’ve been trying to get a hold of you since four-thirty this morning! Did you know your phone’s out? Jesus, man!” Driskel flung his arms up in a show of exasperation. The stub of his cigar wobbled as he spewed words through the side of his mouth. “If you insist on living out in the sticks, don’t rely on the rural phone service! Get yourself a cell phone! You’re Assistant Director of the Pollution Control Bureau, not a damn piss jockey!” Driskel’s bellowing, even at the very sedated level he struggled to keep it, noticeably increased the tension level of the office complex already agitated by impatient phones, pacing reporters and legions of government people from other agencies, bureaus, divisions, departments and sections, many of which were only active during times of crisis.
“Slow down, Jim. Remember your heart!” Sam knew how much his boss despised hearing that advice. “Just what the hell’s going on?”
“Styrene, man!” he declared, his face turning a deeper shade of red. “If you’d listen to the news station on your way to work, you’d at least have the dramatic version.” Driskel’s voice was still drenched with exasperation, but was developing a more level tone. “Barge of the stuff ran aground on a submerged dike head in the Mississippi River, mile 510 just south of Matthew’s Bend. Happened sometime around three this morning. Damned pilot tried to work it off the rocks and tore a hole in the hull below the water line. Slug’s almost reached Lake Village! Evacuation’s underway. Coast Guard’s standing by. The tow company is getting ready to strip the barge now. We’re in radio contact with them.” He turned to scope out the room, as if suspicious of eavesdroppers, and then added, “They had a team of welders standing by to patch the hole! That’s styrene, for Christ’s sake!”
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