After twenty-six years working on offshore oil rigs for Big Coast Drilling, forty-six-year-old Karla Jean Slidell is coming home to Brinkfiled, Texas, for good. As a lanky girl with a peculiar braid, she blazed a trail as a roustabout in 1980. On her final flight home, however, her helicopter crashes; now she's missing in the Gulf of Mexico. As her excited family awaits her return, they instead get word she might not be coming back. They hope Karla can cheat death once again, as she has done since her birth.
Among those waiting are Joe, her house-husband and biggest fan since the seventh grade. Then there's "Dangling" Dooley, the Vietnam War chopper pilot who is Karla's constant source of exasperation. There's Karla's lifelong friend, Darlene, with whom she experienced every kind of escapade life has to offer. Finally, Karla's insanely religious dad, Orvin, and her vacant, mousy mom, Joy, add to the mix.
These people, who form the fabric of Karla's life, hold out hope that she can be found alive and returned home to fulfill a dream that would positively impact so many lives.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.51(d)|
Read an Excerpt
The Offshore TRIUMPHS of Karla Jean
By Dorothy Hagan
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Dorothy Hagan
All right reserved.
Chapter One1980 Grand Isle, Louisiana 5 a.m.
Dooley didn't really want to make this flight, but the scheduler at Big Coast Drilling did her usual pleading and he gave in. He was slightly more than hung over, possibly still drunk, if you wanted to get official.
He was unconcerned.
After flying choppers all over Vietnam, Dooley could haul a crew member to an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico drunk, half drunk or simply fatigued. The Big Coast Drilling office, located near the waterfront along East Bay, tended to be nut-cracking cold this time of the morning, so Dooley decided to wait outside. He preferred the thick, Louisiana humidity to the chilled office air-conditioning that would smack him in the face like a flyswatter. His throbbing head implored him to skip that. Dooley lit a smoke while he waited for the new hire to arrive.
Karla hadn't slept at all. She was notified about four o'clock the previous afternoon that after months of waiting, and calling, and pestering, she finally got a job offer to work offshore in the entry level position of a roustabout. For a change, all things worked together to get her foot in the door, or on the rig, as it were. Several men came down sick, the rig was miserably behind in the drilling schedule, and though Big Coast Drilling was loath to hire a female, the company executives were starting to get pressure to do just that. Karla's recent experience going to sea as a merchant mariner convinced the HR people she might be tough enough to handle the job, and so decided to give her a shot. Karla Slidell was twenty years old, busting with enthusiasm and green as a pine needle.
In spite of her age, Karla already had two years of experience as a merchant mariner, having made several foreign voyages under U.S. flags. And also in spite of her age, she was two years married to her high school sweetheart Joe Slidell. It was this relationship that motivated her to leave the ships behind. She loved going to sea, however, being gone from two to four months at a stretch wasn't the best thing for a marriage still in its infancy. Working offshore two weeks on and two weeks off wasn't exactly marital bliss either, but it was a decided improvement.
Dooley Wade was about halfway through his second cigarette when the taxi containing Karla drove up. He was expecting just another wet-behind-the-ears recruit, another scraggly young guy seeking his fortune in a growing industry, an industry beckoning those with some pioneer spirit at best, or those seeking that good paying job at the least. As Karla got out of the car Dooley noticed this new guy already had on the blue company-issued coveralls, a company hardhat with the safety goggles stretched across the top, and carried a bulging duffle bag sporting the BCD logo.
This boy's a brown-noser in the making, thought Dooley, all gussied up in the company duds, and he ain't even on the rig yet.
The boy was tall, lanky and walked with an air of conviction Dooley didn't usually see in a new hire.
Probably straight out of Candy Ass University, conjectured Dooley again. Another one of them college boys, them engineer types. The boy took off his sunglasses and asked a surprised Dooley if he could direct her to the Big Coast Drilling office?
Karla's shape was long, lean and not very curvaceous. And unfortunately, this physique was often thought to be a mite on the manly side of feminine. However, Karla in fact had quite the ladylike face, a face almost pretty, and downright beautiful, if you asked her husband Joe. When this well-dressed boy addressed Dooley, he could not have been more surprised than if she'd hit him in the mouth with her hairbrush.
Now it is necessary to understand that in 1980, few people had much familiarity with such things as political correctness, sensitivity training, rules against sexual harassment, or seminars to help with anger management. In the transforming world of Dooley Wade, there was certainly no such thing as women on ships, or offshore oil rigs, or any damn where except the kitchen, the bedroom, and just perhaps, the secretarial pool.
Dooley rubbed his hung over eyes, still believing he was imagining this man-clad female before him. When the clarity of vision confirmed his worst, he went off in what Karla would soon learn was classic Dooley style.
"Hold on here, Butch," said Dooley. "There's obviously some mistake. Go get back in that cab and I will go to the office, and get you some return cab-fare. Jesus Christ Almighty."
Dooley began to walk toward the office but Karla held her ground.
"Excuse me. There's no mistake. My name is Karla Slidell and I am here to be flown out to BCD Rig 64. I am the replacement roustabout, and actually, they want me on that rig PDQ so I'd better get a move on."
"Well, that's just not possible."
"And why the hell not?"
"Because you're a damned female, for crying out loud!"
"Yeah, that's not really news there, mister." Karla considered asking him if he had prayed for awareness this morning, but decided against it. She sighed. It seemed like she had dealt with this most of her life. She slid into the semi-patronizing voice she always used on men like her dad who thought themselves in authority. Dooley kind of looked like his head might burst. She continued.
"Now don't worry yourself, sir. You appear to be having a rough morning. I will just go into the office there and figure it out. You look kinda green around the gills. You might want to take a powder or something."
And with that Karla pushed on past a stunned Dooley. She was in fact a little shocked at his reaction. Since joining the merchant marines, he was often met with surprise and sexism, but never treated like she was there by mistake. Geez, thought Karla, these Louziana dudes.
Karla was talking with the young woman at the reception desk when Dooley stormed in demanding to see Bruce Hill, the BCD drilling manager, who usually introduced him to the employees he would be ferrying across the Gulf of Mexico. Bruce heard the hollering from his office and knew it had to be Dooley. He had a reputation for being a hothead and Bruce anticipated he would blow a gasket at the thought of a woman on a rig, or even in his helicopter. Bruce came out to find Dooley having a perfect fit.
"You can't really mean Big Coast Drilling is falling in with them Women's Libbers," started Dooley as Bruce emerged from his office. "These bra-burning dykes are infiltrating every industry! Offshore rigs? With women? Christ, what's next? The fucking aircraft carriers? The fucking Navy?"
Bruce set out to calm things down and get Dooley under control. His bosses wanted this roustabout on the rig ASAP and it was up to him to get her there. He invited Dooley into his office, shut the door, and within seconds voices were raised loud but indistinguishable.
Karla was standing in front of the blonde receptionist whose name plate read Cookie McNickles. She despaired of getting any help out of this sexism from a young woman named Cookie. She looked to be in her early twenties, still sporting the feathered Farrah Fawcett hairdo, the big hair of the Eighties a ways off yet. But Karla's despair soon became relief. Cookie set her straight regarding Dooley, and she did so with the best Southern, lilting, add-an-extra-syllable Louisiana drawl you would expect.
"Don't you worry none, Miss Karla. Mr. Bruce will have Dooley back in his right head in no time. Mr. Dooley is a mite resistant to change, honey. My, oh my. Why you shoulda seen Dooley the first time BCD brought him a black man to take offshore. Like to have had a full body spasm, that he did. Dooley's an old-fashioned kind of guy, born in that Long Ago time. But he comes around. Now he says 'those black boys are just the hardest workers on them rigs!' like it's a surprise or something. So old Dooley will get the message. Main thing is to get you on that rig, girl. Do you know you will be the first female roustabout on a rig in the Gulf of Mexico? Absolute, Number One Lady Roustabout! There have been one or two engineers that's girls, all college-educated, you know. But you will be the first girl, starting with nothing but a Hi, how do you do. Makes me proud of my sex, yes, it does."
Cookie looked shocked and popped her own hand over her own mouth, honest to Pete. "Oh, my!" she exclaimed. "Hope I ain't becoming one of them no-shaving feminists!"
Thus proclaimed Cookie McNickles. In the years ahead, Cookie would be one of Karla's rocks of stability between her onshore and offshore worlds.
The next moment Dooley came storming out of Bruce's office, proclaiming just one word, over and over.
He pointed at Karla. "You. Get your gear and get over to the helicopter."
Karla didn't argue. Cookie had her sign a few more hiring forms and off she went to fly over the Gulf of Mexico. When she reached the aircraft, Dooley had already started the engines and the noise was mighty. He motioned for her to climb aboard. In just a few years, Karla and her crewmates would board a 12-passenger Sikorsky helicopter, with flight suits, spare air canisters, personal beacons and every kind of safety aide imaginable. But in 1980 it was Karla, Dooley and a little Bell two-seater aircraft for the 30 mile ride out to the BCD jack up rig. Within minutes they were airborne.
Dooley was still noticeably angry. Karla had no idea what their altitude was, but it was high enough to get them there and for her to enjoy the amazing view. The Gulf of Mexico glistened with beauty. Karla saw schools of sharks just offshore and groups of dolphins jumping in the morning sun. Dooley flew somewhat erratically here and there, causing the helo to bounce a bit, probably hoping she'd feel sick. But she had full confidence in her iron-clad stomach. She figured they were about half way to the rig when Dooley finally began to speak. It was difficult to hear him over the engine noise.
"So, Butch, you think you can really make it working offshore? Bruce told me you've put in some time at sea on steamships. But Sweet Pea, offshore drilling rigs ain't nothing like the baby boats you've been playing around on. Drilling an oil well is serious business. It's dangerous, filthy, greasy, manly work, especially offshore, and there's not a woman alive who is fit for the lifestyle. So, I am going to ask you this just one time. Are you ready for me to turn this baby around and take you ashore?"
Karla just shook her head. "Well, hell no." This guy was starting get annoying. "And by the way, I believe I prefer Butch to Sweet Pea."
"Excuse me? I mean what I am saying, Sassy Ass! Females don't belong on oil rigs and I ain't gonna to be delivering any. You hear what I am saying?"
"Just take me to the rig, dude. Spare the drama."
Dooley just appeared angrier.
"You silly bitch! Do you understand that you are flying over the Gulf of Mexico in a rust bucket of a helicopter, with a semi-stable man who has flown three tours in Vietnam? Do you know that on any given day I consider running this aircraft at full speed into the BCD office building, my mother-in-law's house or the fucking Gulf itself? Are you hearing me? I have my limits! I am not taking your feminine ass to an offshore oil rig. Period! We'll go see Jesus first!"
Before Karla could even react, Dooley did start acting a bit crazy. He pulled back the joystick and increased the engines, and they began to lift higher into the sky.
"What the hell?" proclaimed Karla, who was now becoming more alarmed than annoyed.
They continued ascending. Up, up and higher.
"You ready to go see Jesus, Butch? You want to go today? Yeah, maybe today would be a good day to go meet Jesus."
Just when Karla thought their helicopter couldn't possibly rise any higher, Dooley did the unthinkable. He took one finger, and with one flick turned the engines completely off. As in OFF.
Pure, terrifying silence.
The next moments were surreal. The previously loud turbine noise was replaced by the eerie swish, swish, swish of the rotor blades. Karla's breath was somewhere between her throat and her pelvis. They began their descent, ever so slowly. Dooley leaned back in his seat and feigned relaxed. Then he closed his eyes and babbled these insane words.
Yeah, Jesus. You ready for a couple more? Will you let me in? Oh, Lord, how I remember that little Viet Cong face, just before I started shooting, seeing her momma scream ..."
And down they continued to descend.
What kind of crazy crap was this guy blathering? Was he for real? Now, at the tender age of twenty, Karla Waddell Slidell was far from a wimp when it came to danger. She had faced it many times. At age six, she got left in a vacant house during a hurricane. As a teen, she and her friend Darlene got caught stealing the Sunday school offering to buy beer, and Karla's dad Orvin threatened to beat both their heads in. He might have done it, too. And possibly the biggest danger she ever faced was when her drunk dad left her to drown in the shipping lane as the tide came up at Morgan's Point, during a fishing trip gone sour. But this ... the sheer insanity of Dooley's actions was freaking her out.
Karla had been at the brink of death more times than she cared to remember. But there was just something in this which made her believe she wasn't going to be checking out right now either. She continued to stare at this crazy pilot, wondering if he could possibly be serious. She weighed whether he really wanted to die, and since he survived three tours at war, she figured he probably really didn't.
"Our Father, who art in Heaven," began Karla, "hallowed, be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done ..."
Dooley opened his eyes to find Karla with her hands in the steeple-prayer position, and evidently talking to God.
And still they descended.
Each blade sang its lonely whoop whoop whoop.
"On earth, as it is ..."
"You're just going to sit there and pray? You aren't even going to scream or cry or beg or something?"
"... on earth, as it is in Heaven. Give us this day ..."
"Oh, for the love of Christ," said Dooley.
"Well, actually ..." responded Karla.
And with that Dooley reached over and restarted the engines, pulled the helicopter up from its descent, and flew towards the drilling rig without saying another word.
Karla began breathing again and realized she was literally saturated with sweat. After this flight, she knew without doubt that her heart could take anything life aboard an offshore oil rig could offer up.
One day Dooley Wade would know who he was up against in Karla Slidell. But it wasn't going to be today.
And one day Karla would learn that having the crap scared out of her was just another day at the office in this new line of work, but that wasn't going to be today either.
Chapter TwoMy only sketch, profile, of heaven is a large, blue sky, and larger than the biggest I have seen in June—and in it are my friends—every one of them.
August 1, 2006 Darlene's house Brinkfield, Texas
Darlene was just short of certain that this was the happiest day of her life. She began to review momentous days, days that included events such as births, marriages, assorted rites of passage, but concluded nothing seemed to approach this one. There was her marriage to Dillon Victor, with an amazing wedding at Disney World's Polynesian Resort. Now that was pretty high up there. And probably near the top was the day her mother Lucille abruptly emerged from a twenty-year depression. Out of the blue Lucille had arrived with the mental health and shotgun necessary to extract her and her kids from her disastrous marriage to Lonnie Johnson. That, also, was indeed a memorable day.
But, nope. Today had to be the happiest day ever. Because on this day, it was all good. There would be no pain, no costs, no over-the-top drama. All Darlene had to do was live through just a few more hours of waiting.
Karla was coming home!
Her best friend Karla was going to walk through her front door, retired forever finally from working offshore, twenty-six years on the oil rigs, and into a new career so out of her character that Darlene was still pinching herself to believe it. Today was the final end of the relentless ebb and flow of the goodbyes and hellos, the fears and anxieties, the rehashes and re-ups.
Excerpted from The Offshore TRIUMPHS of Karla Jean by Dorothy Hagan Copyright © 2012 by Dorothy Hagan. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I loved reading this book, and Karla's character (and many of her more memorable comments) keep running through my head. It's a great read about a strong, Southern woman of character and grit. She's no Scarlett O'Hara. She is uniquely Karla Jean. Ms. Hagan offers up a protagonist who you can root for, and a supporting cast which is equally humorous and engaging. Ms. Hagan has also taken particular care to offer up Karla's environment, both at work and home, as a true reflection of the time and location which actually existed and does exist in the Southeastern corner of Texas. I HIGHLY recommend this read.
Dorothy Hagan’s writing might be described as that of a redneck Tom Robbins in a dress. In “The Offshore Triumphs of Karla Jean” Hagan captures the brazenness of a people who have the audacity to drill through miles of water and earth in search of a bit of oil. She evokes the gritty reality of life on the Texas gulf coast by masterfully depicting the syntax, colloquialisms, rhythms, attitudes, and especially the humor of Karla Jean Slidell’s world. Karla possesses heroic portions of bravery, boldness and love as well as the hero’s requisite hubris. It was great fun to be privy to the shameless shenanigans and bountiful love of these interesting denizens of Hagan’s imagination. Karla Jean’s world is a worthy microcosm of life on earth, brimming with the wonder and sadness of our existence.
The Offshore Triumphs of Karla Jean is one of the most multi-dimensional books I’ve read. Each character, whether central or part of a side story, is beautifully developed, from the rule-breaking heroine herself to “Uncle Meshach” who only found religion after his house burned down. Never before have I read a novel that contains themes of feminism without being feminist, ideas of religion without being religious, and motifs of salvation and redemption without being preachy. It’s a great story that will make you laugh out loud and tear up in the same paragraph, and make you laugh again in the next.
The Offshore Triumphs of Karla Jean, is truly a story of triumph. Ms. Hagan creates characters with such love and attention. Her character Karla, not only survives the challenges in her life, she does so as a flawed yet dedicated human being with a very big heart. This is a tale that called me to my own struggles and journeyed with me and gave me insight into my own soul. It is rare that a novel does that. This novel reaches the heart, the soul, and the spirit. Ms. Hagan strives and succeeds in creating a world where human life and experience have value. A place where love does indeed conquer all. As someone who lives in the area where this book is set, I so enjoyed visiting such familiar places through the eyes of another. Thank you Dorothy, for taking the time and energy necessary to write a good yarn.
I loved reading The Offshore Triumphs of Karla Jean! Hagan once again gave us a character to root for when she got the short end of the stick of life. Karla is a strong woman who prevails over her childhood to become a pioneering woman in the offshore drilling industry. The people in Karla's life are funny, sad, and lovable. Hagan has once again painted an inspirational character for us to fall in love with. Who is next? Could it be one of the Woebegone's or Strays? Can't wait to find out what Hagan has for us next.