Petroleum By-products

June 10, 2010

By Ingrid Bohnenkamp

Day 1: We crowd along the water’s edge to watch the stain spread, a solemn black lily unfurling its petals. The Worst Environmental Disaster of Our Time, they’re calling it, but it’s hard not to see a sort of perverse beauty to it: the sun glinting off the iridescent slick and the birds swarming above in confusion (not knowing whether to land on the strange water or head south for the winter or what) and, of course, the potential for profit. Vendors walk up and down the beach selling paper wedges filled with roasted nuts, plastic binoculars, t-shirts that read: “I Survived The Oil Spill!”

Day 3: Dead fish wash up against the oil-choked weeds, bobbing among the usual beer cans and candy wrappers like sad little boats. It isn’t beautiful to watch anymore, nor is it particularly beautiful to smell, so we fold up our lawn chairs and go home to play board games and wait.

Day 5: We wake to find a man floating face-down in the water, sans identification, his lungs full of oil. Where did he come from? We don’t think he’s from here but he’s wearing a t-shirt that says “I Survived The Oil Spill!”, a stylistic irony which is, of course, both funny and not funny at all.

Day 7: Our babies won’t stop crying. On the radio they assure us that the National Guard is working its way towards us, but it’s already been a week and hell if we aren’t getting thirsty.

Ingrid Bohnenkamp attends library school at University of Missouri-Columbia and is currently acting as substitute editor of Grimalkin Press, which publishes the somewhat quarterly comics anthology HIVE.


Ingrid Bohnenkamp’s story was one of three finalists in our fourth micro-fiction contest. The contest ended on June 5, 2010. Many thanks to everyone who submitted an entry.

CONTEST-WINNING STORIES: 1st contest | 2d contest | 3d contest | 4th contest

FINALISTS: 1st contest | 2d contest | 3d contest | 4th contest