A Novel

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A knot formed in Norma Gunnersen’s throat as the movers carried out the last of the boxes. The truck door closed with a bang. The moving van rumbled, then lurched forward, spewing swirls of black smoke

Norma blinked back her tears. Through the haze, she glanced at the Cascade/Eagle Energy office building. “Thirty years of my working life, packed in those boxes. All gone.”

Harold moved to her side. “I know, Honey.” He squeezed her hand. “Let’s go home.”

Norma turned to the three secretaries standing beside her. “Take care now.” She hugged them one by one, then plodded to the car and sagged into the passenger seat.

When Harold drove out of the parking lot, Norma looked at Mount Baker rising out of the Cascade range for which the company was named. The snow-covered mountain still looked magnificent, but the office building was lifeless, and the machine shop was silent without the humming of the machines. Cascade was Norma’s family. This was where her grandfather and father her worked, this is where she had made friends and had met her husband. Without her friends and now without her job, Norma felt unanchored in her own surrounding.

Norma spotted the Eagle Energy “expert” who had supervised the transfer of drawing and project books from the Cascade office to Eagle Energy in Houston, locking the door. She bent down and picked up the Cedarville Gazette that she had thrown on the passenger side of the car and read:


“The family owned business had started in 1902 and made equipment for the logging industry and later bomb shell casings during World War II. In 1962, Springfield Steel of Illinois bought it. Under their management, it expanded, giving this small town international recognition for designing and manufacturing deck machinery for offshore drilling rigs. At one point it had captured forty-percent of the world market and employed 850 people. The company was sold to Eagle Energy of Houston in 1980. Now Eagle Energy is transferring the drawings and project books from the engineering department to Houston. They are selling the machines, buildings and Cedarville. Some employees have already moved to Houston or elsewhere for new jobs. Many more have lost their jobs.”

“Honey, do you want to buy the lottery ticket and eat at Gateway Diner?” Harold asked.

“Okay.” Norma didn’t have the energy to go home and cook.

Her mind went back to the last day of bridge game and dinner with Steve and Vera, Keith and Alicia, and Bryan and Jane. No one was in a mood to play. She brought out the goodbye cake, she had made for them. Vera had said that if they had won the lottery, they wouldn’t have to move. Jane and Alicia had wondered aloud if perhaps their group could have won some day. They had asked Norma if she would continue to play the same lotto numbers once a week They all promised to send twelve dollars for the lotto. How could Norma refuse this request from her dear friends? Buying the lottery ticket once a week would keep her connected to her friends.

She wished she had a video player to rewind the past and relive the Cascade years.
* * *

The Novel  The Cascade Winners—What Inspired it–

After he received his master’s, my husband, Nitin, was hired by a company that manufactured large winches for the offshore oil industry. In addition to sales meetings, he made frequent trips to oil exploration drilling rigs in the North Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, where at times he had to be lifted to the rig in a basket by a crane from the work boat. Once he had to evacuate the rig due to possible fire and blowout similar to the BP rig.

The company closed in Northwest Washington in 1987 and we were forced to relocate across the continent. Nitin missed the cohesive work environment and I missed our friends with whom we had shared carpools, babysitting, our grievances and accomplishments.

In 1996, the new owners of the parent company contacted the core group, including Nitin, and offered to finance an engineering office. Thanks to his former boss who did the marketing research and presented business plans, we returned to the place we had called home for eighteen years, since we had first come from India. For us, it was like winning a lottery. The business thrived for several years, and then merged with a manufacturing plant in Louisiana. After a few years, the plant owners moved the design office, and those who had revived the product line were left without a job once again.

The small-town community spirit, friendship, unusual work experiences, financial and emotional impact of business mergers and acquisitions on the employees and their families, and the question, “what if we had won the lottery…” are the seeds that germinated–The Cascade Winners.