“So what’s the story that isn’t being told?” I ask.
“Two things: how much oil actually has gone into the sea and the amount of dispersants used to make it disappear,” she says.
“The workers are getting sick with contact dermatitis, respiratory infections, nausea, and god knows what else. The BP representatives say all it is is food poisoning or dehydration. If it was just food poisoning or not enough water, why were the workers’ clothes confiscated? As we say in these parts, Answer me dat!
“I never really got nervous until I got a call at nine-thirty on a Sunday night from the BP claims office telling me to back off. But I’m speaking out. I kid my friends and family and say I’ll leave bread crumbs. The other day, two guys from Homeland Security called to take me to lunch. I’m a chef. They tried to talk food with me, to cozy up and all, and one of them told me he was a pastry chef.” Margaret shakes her head. “But I knew what they was up to, I’m not stupid. They just wanted to let me know I was bein’ watched.”
“Here’s the truth,” Margaret says, now emotional. “Where are the animals? There’s no too-da-loos, the little one-armed fiddler crabs. Ya don’t hear birds. From Amelia to Alabama, Kevin never saw a fish jump, never heard a bird sing. This is their nestin’ season. Those babies, they’re not goin’ nowhere. We had a very small pod of sperm whales in the Gulf, nobody’s seen ‘em. Guys on the water say they died in the spill and their bodies were hacked up and taken away. BP and our government don’t want nobody to see the bodies of dead sea mammals. Dolphins are choking on the surface. Fish are swimming in circles, gasping. It’s ugly, I’m tellin’ you. And nobody’s talkin’ about it. You’re not hearing nothin’ about it. As far as the media is reportin’, everythin’s being cleaned up and it’s not a problem. But you know what, unless I know where my fish is coming from, I’m eatin’ nothin’ from here.”
Margaret and I sit in silence. I am suddenly aware of the shabbiness of the neighborhood, the cracking paint on the wooden slats, the weariness of the ivy in this dripping heat.
“I’m sorry,” she says. “I haven’t cried in a long time. I’ve been tough, I’ve been holding it all together, but it breaks me up.” She looks at me with unwavering eyes, “Have you read ‘Evangeline’ by Longfellow?”
I can’t speak.
“Read it. Read it again,” Margaret says to me. “It’s our story as exiles. If I wasn’t speakin’ out about this, I’d be havin’ a nervous breakdown. I’ll tell you another thing that nobody is talkin’ about. At night, people sittin’ outside on their porches see planes comin’ into the marshes where they live, and these planes are sprayin’ them with the dispersant. That’s the truth. But hey, we’re Cajuns, who cares about us?”
“I don’t feel like an American anymore,” Margaret says. “I don’t trust our government. I don’t trust anybody in power.”
She leans forward in the heat as the pitch and fervor of frogs intensifies. “We might not be the most educated people schoolwise, but we know more about nature than any PhD. We know. We know what’s goin’ on.”Audio slide show accompanying the article can be viewed here.