Betsy Carter
Chapter 14

Copyright© 2022 by Lazlo Zalezac

Sweating profusely, Betsy wrestled the fifty-five gallon steel drum down the ramp from the ‘Bloated Shark’ to the dock. The wooden ramp creaked under the strain of the load. Forty-five gallons of salt water weighed over three hundred and eighty pounds. It was a little too bulky and heavy for even Betsy to carry.

The Bloated Shark was the name she had given the tugboat she had purchased for a research platform. When she had found it, it was just an old tug that had seen better days. It had been in sad shape, but Betsy had fallen in love with it.

She had blown her initial budget purchasing the tug. A million dollars wasn’t what it used to be! Although she was ready to finance everything, she had been pleased when William had kicked in a couple million dollars. The money covered all of the repairs and modifications required to turn the tug into a modern, state of the art, research vessel.

It had spent three months in dry dock. She had power washed the outside clear of barnacles, washed it with commercial hull cleaner, scraped it, and used a lime remover to thoroughly clean the hull. She had then scraped the old paint off of nearly every inch of the tug, and painted it white with blue trim.

Wheels and Sam had gone through it, basically rebuilding or replacing every major mechanical part of the tug. They had added a diving platform, winches, compressors, and other support equipment appropriate for a research vessel. There was even a set of davits, mounted for the submersible that had been ordered.

Betsy had just returned from the maiden voyage of the rebuilt tug, where she had discovered a number of very interesting things. Sam didn’t like being on water; and Wheels, much to everyone’s surprise, suffered from sea sickness. The best news was that the tug was a great boat, and handled like a dream.

Professor Parrish stood on board the boat watching Betsy struggle with the fifty-five gallon barrel. He had tried to talk her out of filling it with so much water. It wasn’t an appropriate container for storing samples. They had smaller containers, called buckets, for that.

Betsy danced around looking at the barrel. She gave an excited shout and then ran off leaving Professor Parish trying to figure out how to get off the tug when the end of the ramp was blocked with a barrel he had no chance of moving.

“Where did she go?”

He looked over at Wheels. Figuratively speaking, she was still a rather unattractive shade of green. She was actually very pale and sweating. Her swagger had been replaced by a stagger. She also wasn’t in shape to go anywhere.

He wished Sam was still on board the tug to help him with Wheels, but Sam had actually moved faster than Betsy in getting off the boat. He had been shocked to see her move so fast. After listening to her continuous pleas to be returned to land for six hours, her absence was a nice return to quiet.

Wheels lurched and hung over the side of the tug. Her dry heaves had returned. He was sympathetic, but knew there wasn’t much he could do for her.

Betsy returned carrying two skate boards.

She announced, “This will fix it!”

“Fix what?” Professor Parrish asked.

Betsy lifted one side of the barrel and shoved a skateboard under it. She moved around, lifted the other side of the barrel, and shoved the other skateboard under it. She pushed the barrel and it rolled forward.

“Ta Da!”

“What?”

“I can move it now,” Betsy said.

“Can you turn it?” Professor Parrish asked knowing full well that she wouldn’t be able to maneuver the barrel.

After a minute of trying to turn it, she said, “No.”

“I suggest that you use a dolly,” he said.

“I’ll be right back!”

“Wait a minute,” he shouted after her, knowing it was too late for her to hear him.

Professor Parrish went over to the storage cabinet and removed a dolly. He walked down the ramp. It took him a few minutes to get the barrel on the dolly. The hard part had been getting the skateboards out from under it.

After running to and from a hardware store, Betsy returned to the boat dragging a dolly behind her. She looked at what he had done and frowned. “Where’d that come from?”

“The storage cabinet. We put one there to help move samples on and off the boat,” he said.

“Oh. It sure would have been easier getting the barrel off the boat using that. Why didn’t you tell me about it?,” Betsy asked.

“I didn’t know what you were trying to do with the barrel until it was too late. You ran off before I could tell you that we had one,” Professor Parrish said.

“Oh,” Betsy said. “I guess I should return this one.”

“We can always use another one,” he said.

“Okay,” Betsy said.

“Where are you taking the barrel?”

“To the lab,” Betsy answered.

“How?”

“I’ll put it in our ... ahhh...” Betsy answered until realizing they didn’t have a vehicle capable of carrying a fifty five gallon drum.

She said, “I’ll just take it there.”

“We can transfer the fish into a couple of buckets.”

Betsy smiled, “The barrel is fine. I’ll only have to make one trip with the barrel.”

“It’s a long way to the lab.”

“No problem,” Betsy said. “I’ll just run it up there and come back to help clean up the boat.”

She looked awkward trying to push the barrel down the dock. Her feet were moving very fast, but the overall progress was rather slow. When the water inside the barrel would start to slosh around, it became much harder to control. She had a lid, poked full of air holes on the barrel, so that not much water spilled out of it.

Professor Parrish helped Wheels off the boat. Much to her horror, the land was moving beneath her feet. She staggered over to the side of the dock, and leaned over. She hated dry heaves.

“I’m never going on a boat again!” Wheels said with a groan.

Professor Parrish said, “I can use some help cleaning up the boat.”

Wheels looked at him like he was crazy and said, “I just said ‘I’m never going on a boat again.’”

Professor Parrish looked back at the wheel house thinking that he alone would have to help Captain Jack clean up the boat. Just because they had docked didn’t mean they could all just walk away. The boat’s deck had to be cleaned. Everything had to be put away. There was trash to take to the dumpster.

John Wallace, known as Jack by all of his friends and as Captain Jack by everyone else, had been hired as full-time captain of the boat. It was a rather cushy job that paid well, particularly for the work he would have to do. The expectation was that they wouldn’t spend that much time offshore, but when they did go out they would be out for days at a time. When he was on shore, his job was to take care of the boat.

It was a lot better than his previous job running a tour boat. If it hadn’t been for all of the tourists, it would have been a good job. The biggest problem with tourists was that three quarters of them would get seasick and beg to be taken back to shore. Captain Jack came out of the wheel house and looked at Wheels.

He said, “You take care of her. I’ll clean up the boat.”

Professor Parrish said, “Thanks. I’ll explain to Betsy that she has to take care of the boat before and after a trip. You just don’t walk off like that.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Captain Jack said.

“I’ll need some help with the diving gear,” Professor Parrish said.

“Let’s get to it. She’ll recover in a half an hour,” Captain Jack said gesturing to Wheels.

An hour later, Betsy stopped in front of a lab door.

She knocked and shouted, “Hello? Is there anybody home?”

Sally opened her lab door. She started to step out, but found her way blocked by a barrel.

“Look at what I brought you,” Betsy said.

“You brought me a barrel,” Sally said staring at it.

“I brought you some fish,” Betsy said.

“Why did you bring me fish?”

“You said that you needed fish for your parasites. I brought you fish. I didn’t know what kind you needed, so I brought a variety of them. You’ve got big fish and little fish. Ugly plain fish and bright colorful fish.”

“That was nice of you,” Sally said. “Why didn’t you put them in sample buckets?”

“I thought this would be easier,” Betsy said looking a little sheepish.

“Was it?”

“No.”

“Well, lets see what you brought me,” Sally said.

Betsy removed the lid and stepped back, pleased with herself.

“There you go. Twenty live and healthy fish.”

Sally looked in the barrel and said, “I only see six.”

“Six?” Betsy said moving over to look inside. “Damn! The big fish must have eaten all of the little fish.”

“That’s another reason to carry them in buckets. You can segregate them,” Sally said.

Betsy said, “You live and learn.”

Sally looked in the barrel. She had been spending the last week setting up the fish tanks to hold her subjects. She was lucky there weren’t more fish since she only had ten tanks prepared. It took some time to set up a tank.

She said, “Let’s put them in the fish tanks.”

Betsy pushed the barrel into Sally’s lab. The room was basically dark except for the lights over the fish tanks which occupied two walls of the lab. Only half of the tanks were filled with water.

Betsy stopped in front of the tank Sally indicated they would use for the fish. Her hand shot out and she pulled a fish out of the barrel. She dropped the fish in the tank.

“Why don’t you use a net?”

“This is easier,” Betsy said dropping another fish into the next tank.

Considering how fast Betsy moved, Sally decided that she was probably right. There were times when watching Betsy was amazing. This was one of those times. She was able to reach in and grab the fish before it even had a chance to react.

Betsy said, “I really thought the barrel would be easier for me to handle than a bunch of pails. To tell the truth, I hate pails. They slosh around when I carry them. By the time I get to where I’m going, they’re half empty.”

“You really thought a barrel would be easier?”

“I figured that I would just pick it up and carry it over here. I didn’t realize just how heavy a barrel full of water would be until I went to move it. Boy was I surprised.”

“I can imagine,” Sally said unable to imagine that a woman would think she could lift a fifty-five gallon barrel full of water.

“They are also kind of awkward to move.”

Sally looked at the dolly and said, “Not really. You just walk along and push the dolly.”

“You know that walking is a little slow for me,” Betsy said.

“Sometimes I forget that your natural speed is a flat out run,” Sally said shaking her head as if to clear it.

“I discovered the hard way that you don’t run while pushing a barrel,” Betsy said.

Sally was beginning to realize that Betsy wasn’t really an airhead as this experience might suggest. The young woman had to accommodate her unusual degree of energy in everything she did. Carrying a single bucket of water across a room was a lot easier and quicker than making twenty trips carrying the water in a teacup. A strong adult could handle a filled bucket a whole lot easier than child could. It was possible that Betsy really did think that using a barrel was a good idea.

 
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