Cut-Off
Bryan W. Jones
T he lighthouse on the New Orleans jetty was on the blink. Hector had tried to fix it. But Thursday night something went wrong again and the light was out when a cargo ship loaded with enough Tequila to supply the entire Southwest crashed into the jetty rocks and sank in the channel. Thousands of gallons of Tequila spilled into Lake Pontchartrain. The turtles rejoiced late into the night.

The next morning Hector drove out. Assessing the situation, he suddenly had an idea. Since Hector's brother-in-law owned a lime orchard, Hector called him up and had the workers come and dump truckloads of limes on several flat jetty rocks. Hector had his brother-in-law's crane drop a jetty boulder on the mountain of limes. Although he knew it was wrong to capitalize on catastrophe, Hector turned the lake into the world's largest margarita.

Tourists began to flock to the bulkheads. They all enjoyed dipping their glasses into "Lake Margarita." Hector charged them by the drink. He got beach umbrellas and rented them. Hector made a lot of money.

But then northern rains diluted the lake. Everyone complained the drinks weren't as strong as they used to be. The tourists stopped coming. Hector had to sell his umbrellas back.

Hector returned to his work at the lighthouse. One evening while repairing the electric cables, he noticed the bow lights of another Tequila ship approaching the jetty. Suddenly the lighthouse shorted-out and went dark. The vessel crashed and sank like the other one. The turtles were delighted again. Hector called his brother-in-law and soon the smiling tourists returned with open wallets and purses.

But this time the wreckage of the two ships blocked the water's flow in the channel. Water swirled around the docks, but because sediment built up on the wrecks, water did not flow back into the lake. The waterways began to dry up. The marsh grass withered. The mud flats turned to dust. From extended limbs, the crawfish lifted their claws to Heaven. The saddest of all were the turtles, stranded in pools not deep enough to cool their backs from the scorching sun.

Fishermen lost their faith. Local school children cried. The tourists left in disgust.

Hector knew a ship carrying thousands of gallons of mineral water was due at the docks on Sunday night. With an axe in hand, Hector drove that night to the jetty and dashed up the lighthouse stairs. He stood under the revolving light. When the ship's lights turned toward the jetty, Hector raised the axe over his head and aimed at the electric cable snaking in front of his feet.

Hector prayed he would fix it right this time.




First published: August 1999
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