Deluge

Edna peered at her desk through her fingers, and sighed. It’s not that she didn’t like the rain, under normal circumstances. It was, in her opinion,a sign of progress. She hadn’t even minded when it was two full days of the stuff. It was, after all good for the crops and the ornamental gardens. Very good for public morale. The occasional shower gave everyone a sense of normalcy. It was on day three, when she had already gotten suspicious, that the report came in from Carlson in Engineering.

Now, on day seven, with no sign of it letting up, stood before her the very nervous, and all too familiar face of a particular ensign. She smoothed back her greying hair and stood, pulling at the bottom edge of her uniform jacket to tighten the fit. She walked over to the window and watched the deluge for a few moments.

“It’s Davis, correct?” She knew his name. She knew nearly everyone under her command.

“Ma’am?, Yes ma’am.” The young man had a slight shake to his voice.

“I thought so. Ensign Davis, I seem to recall that we first met about a year ago.” Edna turned to face him and walked back towards her desk. “Remind me what was the occasion of that visit?”

Weather anomaly ma’am. Regulator malfunctioned and rolled the seasonal climate back to winter.”

“Winter is quite the understatement.” She remembered the blizzard well, and the havoc it played with their growing cycle.

“Yes ma’am.”

“And since that, well let’s just call it an event shall we”

“Ma’am”

She smiled at this lack of answer. She always fancied noncommittal remarks as a good sign of a junior officer’s survival instincts. “And, since that particular event, how many times have you been sent to report to my office Ensign Davis?”

“This would be the fifth time since that event, ma’am” Davis kept his gaze fixed on a point somewhere beyond, and to the left of the commander’s ear.

“Six, times? I suppose that makes us practically friends ensign.”

“Not my place to say, ma’am.”

“Relax Davis, I’m not looking to take it out on you.” Edna came around to the front of the desk and stood a few inches away from the youth. “Six times in a year. Each time due to some abnormal weather event. Each time Carlson has sent you to report to me on behalf of his ineptitude?”

“Ma’am the lieutenant thinks it is the colony’s best interest if he remains in engineering and works on the problem.”

“Very diplomatic of you ensign.”

“Thank you, ma’am.”

“You have a shit job, Davis.”

“Lieutenant Carlson say that the moisture reclamation system’s cpu is running the condensation cycle in an infinite loop. Taking the evaporation collectors off the grid should starve the precipitation system of water and have the rain stopped very soon.”

“So we go from monsoon to drought?”

“It should only take the software teams a day or two to recode the system. We’re not expecting any crop loss.”

“You mean, any further crop loss. Agriculture reports several beds have already been drowned out.”

“Ma’am.” Davis motioned to the window behind her.

Edna turned around. The rain had stopped pelting the window, through the water still poured down the sides of the arcology inner buildings.

For the first time in days the colony’s ersatz sun could be seen to rise from where it hides for the night. It’s intense heat burning through the wetness in the air, light reflecting off the slick surface of the roads and walkways as it inched upward along its track across the dome. The haze if steam around it providing a spectacular corona.

“Well, that is dramatically beautiful. Do give the lieutenant my compliments on his timing. Though do you suppose it was necessary to turn the heat intensity up so high?”

“Ma’am, he said it would speed the clean-up of the water. The plan is to leave the sun at its apex an extra hour a day until we can reclaim as much of it as we can.”

“He’ll do no such thing. Things in Environmental Engineering are delicate enough without him cocking up the diurnal cycle.” Edna glanced over her shoulder at Davis, “You are dismissed ensign, I do so look forward to our next visit.”

The young man left. She rather liked him, a little too nervous, but bright enough. She turned once again to look out the window, making a note to journey to Engineering to make a point of dressing down Carlson in front of the ensign. The man had it coming due to accumulation,

Still, it was a nice sunrise.

 

This scene was written in response to a prompt, from Today’s Author.
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Beer Cans

In the wilderness of insobriety, the landscape was dotted with beer cans. Scattered about a small existence. Standing in miserable chaotic rows. Stacked in columns of twos and threes. A sad, and dark forest. With aluminium foliage of whites, reds, and silver. Here and there a few standing in clearings. Lonely by themselves. Some partially crushed, teetering on edges of tables and desks at odd angles like some Suessian topiary. I would usually be found hiding amid the copse in the corner of the stoop.I would perch there, in the cool shade of numb inebriation, bitterly caw at the world.

 

Prompt

A Guy Named Sleeve

I knew a guy named Sleeve, once. For a short while. Not long enough to say we were ever friends. There are times when companionship is close enough to settle on. When the journey has your the soles worn thin.

We met while taking brief respite from our respective paths down the road. It was the early fall, the forest somewhere in southern Illinois. A time and place where no one used their real name. Usually they called themselves things like Blue Tick, and Wildfire. There was a half Chinese man that insisted on being called Chink Bob Lee. About a dozen or so scrawny tattooed rednecks all going by Ace. They all wanted to sell you a zippo lighter, or throw in on a keg.

I was Saint at the time. Still am, sometimes, I’d guess. Depends on who you ask. I was running away from my life to figure it all out. This wasn’t the first time. I wasn’t the only one. I never asked where anyone was from. It was just something you didn’t do. So I never knew what happened in Sleeve’s past to drive him out. I did know he missed home. I heard him say, more than once, he could never go back.

We both settled into a temporary routine. Working makeshift kitchens in a transient town. Full of temporary people. I guess that’s everywhere, when it’s all said and done.We wound up talking a lot. Scrubbing pots after servings. Smoking pot before. Long conversations on short subjects.

His high pitch gravelly voice stood every nerve on end. Especially when he laughed.Truth is, I found most things about him annoying. His twitchy mannerisms. A second hand, jam band sense of style. Patchwork corduroy jeans, an old Jesus jumper, and a beard trimmed into a neat, thin ring around his face starting and ending in a grown out bowl cut. The whole package put me in mind of a Henson creation on a meth binge at a Phish concert.

We really didn’t have all that much in common.

Not much but tired feet, a few months of bad nutrition. Awkward conversations over near tasteless boiled coffee. A few hours wasted on micro dots, chasing nothing through quiet nature in the middle of the night. A few more with a loud handle of whiskey.

The rest of the time spent gathering firewood. Cooking meals for layabouts and bliss cases. The time came to move on. I headed south east. He headed, somewhere else. Never asked where he was headed. Never really cared. We weren’t really friends after all.

It was nice to have the companionship for a while though.

I suppose.

 

Pingback

Clean

Sometimes I just sit there, huddled at the bottom. Leaning forward, my chest pressed against my knees.  Listening to the soothing white noise of the droplets crashing against the vinyl curtain. Rubbing the warmth into my head and neck. Trying to massage some semblance of ambition into my body.

If I can just scrub hard enough I might wash away the doubt and fear. I might rinse away the filth of the worry, and shame, and guilt.

I look up and let the water run across my closed eyes.

If I just stay here long enough I might come clean.2047183582_3503e149ab_z.jpg

Image Credit: Shower by Kevin Dooley (CC BY 2.0)

Well Wishes

I woke up this morning without noticing the change. I knew it happened, but it didn’t click.

I arrived in my confident lateness. I went about my routine as if nothing had happened. A cup of coffee, a bit of straightening up.  Barely noticing empty spaces on shelves, or the absence of the small red box where her possessions were kept.

When I opened the journal where, as formality dictates, we forecast our days.

There, in the margin, neatly written was a final message to me.

The weight settled as I read it.

“Good luck, I am happy for you.”

Dream of Her

He dreamt of her last night. Her death, and then attending her funeral. Waking in tears.

He didn’t cry when it happened. Not when his father could see.

The sadness had belonged to the old man then, more than himself. It had been his turn to be strong. To soldier on. For his father. For the other mourners. Maybe a little bit for himself, just to see if he could.

For years after, he had forgotten to grieve. Never really learned how. Never took the time.

This morning he wept, the memory of her face lost except, in that dream.

A Little Less Feeling

Xalthus looked down perturbedly from the branch he perched on. He stared at the smoking crater, and tried to figure out if his situation could be worse. When this got too depressing he instead considered ways his life could be improved. Maybe if he were some other animal?

He had put some thought into this before and, on the whole he enjoyed being an owl. He had sometimes thought about what his existence might be like as some other creature Maybe a cat, they had the advantages of stealth and grace. Perhaps a bear, good hardy creatures, strong, intimidating. Bears, like owls were also seen as fonts of wisdom, in certain cultures anyway.

He often had reason to review a long list of other things he could have been. In the end he was usually grateful that he was not Guillaume.

Guillaume was the young man lying in the crater, looking slightly bewildered, heavily singed and smelling mostly of ozone. He was nice enough fellow, Xalthus supposed, hard working, friendly, eager. Just perhaps a bit too timid and nervous in ways that spoke to something in Xalthus’s owlishness and reminded of a mouse. At times Xalthus found himself fighting the urge to swoop down on the boy and snare him in his talons. All in all though, he was a decent sort, if you were into the whole consorting with mortals thing. He could take it or leave it himself, except having been forced to take it and forbidden to leave. Guillaume’s major fault was that he was a bit too uncertain of himself. Yes, that was it, under confidence. Also he lacked sufficient concentration for his given profession.

Given was the operative word, Xalthus conceded. Guillaume was not offered a real choice in the matter. Rupert needed an apprentice and Guillaume’s parents needed one less mouth to feed so a bargain had been struck. The boy was too honest to run away. Not Rupert that was cruel master, he was just easily frustrated. Rupert wasn’t a particularly patient teacher either. Eventually their combined shortcomings made the the boy’s training untenable.So, the old wizard summoned Xalthus, and bound him him to the form of an owl, which again was not overall an unpleasant experience, and essentially said, “You there. Show him the ropes and, make sure he doesn’t get in too much trouble.”

Xalthus sighed, he supposed neither one of them really wanted to be here. Still neither had much of a choice. He let himself ponder this for a bit longer, then stretched his wings.

“Alright lad, “ he tried with an encouraging tone, “let’s try it again. Once more, from the top. This time with, perhaps, a little less feeling.”

This story was written in response to a Flash Fiction Challenge issued by Chuck Wendig at his blog Terrible Minds. You can check out the other entries in the comments there.
The random photo I received as a prompt for the challenge can be viewed here, and I hope I did it some justice.

Shame About the Roses

Edna sat in her study listening to the wind howl. She peered out at the garden with disappointment. The flowers had just started to bloom when the weather suddenly changed. She watched with dismay as the snow and sleet beat down the plants. They had just gotten the levels in the soil right, and finally solved all the problems with the CO2 saturation. Everything looked perfect for their first planned spring. Then the blizzard happened.

What a waste, she thought.

There was a nervous cough behind her.

“Well, what happened?”

“Faulty regulator in the climate system, ma’am.” The ensign replied nervously. “Engineering can get it sorted out in a day or two. Lieutenant Carlson says he will be able to roll back the cycle once that is done and we’ll be able to replant right away.”

“I hope so. I really am looking forward to eating something other than nutrient paste at some point this year. Have them send me their full report.”

“Yes ma’am.”

Edna ignored the young man until he decided to leave on his own.

She got up and walked to the window and placed her hand on the thick glass. The roses were really the biggest disappointment. The colony had plenty of seed stock for food stuffs. The roses though, she would have to requisition new bushes from command back on Earth. That was sure to be just like pulling teeth.

It was such a shame. She really thought the roses would have finally make the place feel like home.

This scene was written in response to a prompt by Today’s Author

The Porcelain Cat

It was recess. I was standing under the sycamore tree, feeling woozy. I’d spent too long hanging upside down on the monkey bars. I was just about sure I wasn’t going to ralph when she walked by.

New kid, I didn’t know her name. Parents just moved here from out-of-state. Seemed a friendly, girl. Today she was all sniffles and tears. I hated seeing a girl cry, it took the fun out of recess

“What’s wrong, kid?”

“I lost my cat.”

“It ran away?”

“No,” she sobbed, “not a real cat. A statue, made of porcelain. All white with a little pink bow, playing with a ball of yarn. It was my grandma’s. My parents told me I couldn’t bring it to school but I did anyway ‘cause I wanted to show someone. Only now it’s gone.”

That’s when the water works really got going. I didn’t know what to do, so I tried to sound helpful. “Hold on now… what’s your name anyway?”

“Matilda.”

“Alright Matilda, I know my way around the schoolyard. Where’d you see it last?”

“Miss Marshall’s class, she made me put it in my cubby. I was gonna get it out to bring it to recess to show it to Jenny. I told her about how cute it was and she begged me to bring it in so she could see it.” She wiped her nose with a sleeve and snorted hard trying to get a hold of herself.

“Which Jenny are you talking about?” There were three Jenny’s in our grade but I was pretty sure I knew which one she was going to say.

***

Jenny Billings. Everyone in our grade called her Miss Kitty, and she didn’t mind it either. Everything she owned had cats on it. From her Hello Kitty back pack to the homework folder printed with glossy pictures of kittens all over it. Kids said she even brought her own bandaids from home. So she didn’t have to wear the plain ones the nurse handed out when she scraped a knee. We never really got to be friends, mostly because I liked dogs.

I found her by the slide. She got all snooty when I asked he about the cat.

“Matilda told me about her kitty statue. It sounded so cute. I asked her to bring it in for me to see. She never showed it to me though. She said she couldn’t find it, that it got lost or something. I couldn’t tell she was too busy crying. I don’t even think she really brought it in. Maybe she just made it up so I’d be friends with her,. New kids are always telling lies so people will like them, but I don’t make friends with just anyone you know. They have to love kitties as much as I do.”

“C’mon Jenny, you sure you ain’t seen it. I bet you’d do anything to get your hands on a thing like that. Matilda says you begged her to bring it in.”

“I never begged.” she put her fists on her hips and huffed. “She said she’d show it to me and that’s all. Besides, I haven’t been anywhere near Miss Marshall’s class today.”

***

I could tell I wasn’t getting anywhere with Miss Kitty, so I headed off back to the shade tree where Matilda was waiting. She looked so hopeful when she saw me coming. That look went away when I told her that Jenny was a dead end. I even check with my friend Jimmy, the hall monitor. He hadn’t seen Jenny on that side of the school all morning.

“So it’s gone, forever?” The tears welled up again and she started to wail.

I never could stand to watch another kid go all rubbery. So, I made faces at her till she couldn’t help but laugh, and she slugged me in the arm to get me to stop.

“Look, Matty, it that bad yet. Think, when did you check on it last?”

“Just before reading.”

“Do you stay in Miss Marshall’s for that?”

“No, I have reading in Mrs. Dillard’s room.”

“And, that’s right before lunch right? So now all we got to do is think of someone who stays in Miss Marshall’s for reading. They might have seen if someone took it.”

“You really think someone stole my porcelain cat?”

“I doubt it walked away. Now who do you think might have seen something?”

“Jeremy,” she said excitedly, “and his desk is towards the back. You can see the cubbies from there.”

***

Jeremy Reynolds, was the type of kid that would eat just about anything if you promised him whatever you had lying around in your pocket. Especially if it meant grossing out a few of the other kids. He always drew a crowd. I waited for him to stop chewing before I walked up.

“You’ve got reading with Miss Marshall. You see anyone messing around over by the cubbies today?”

“Why should I tell you?” A smile crept across his face “I mean, what’s it worth?”

I didn’t like some schoolyard sideshow trying to get smart, so I got mean with him.

“Listen doofus, I ain’t got all recess. If you know something helpful, there’s a couple of Garbage Pail Kid cards in it. But, if you keep messin’ around the next thing this playground is gonna watch you eat is a knuckle sandwich.”

Jeremy swallowed hard. “Mickey, Mickey Donnelly. I don’t know about cubbies but, he kept getting up to sharpen his pencil, three or four times. Teacher fussed at him.”

“That’s it? That’s all you saw?” I turned to walk away, “Thanks for nothing.”

“What about those cards.”

“I said two cards if you could help, and you can’t. You’re lucky I don’t give you a wedgie for wasting my time. Tell you what here’s one for your trouble, now scram.”

***

I found Matilda over by the merry-go-round. Poor thing, she thought that if she got dizzy enough her problems would just fly away. I couldn’t blame her. We’ve all taken a few extra spins when the chips were down. I sat on the edge of it with her as it spun to a stop, and told her that Jeremy didn’t know anything.

“Maybe he took it?”

“Nah, he might be a greedy, bug-eating creep but, he’s too much of a fraidy cat to steal something.”

“So, there’s nothing else we can do?”

“We can not use the same pencils as Mickey Donnelly.”

“What?”

“Jeremy said he kept getting up to sharpen his.” That’s when it hit me. The thing that didn’t add up. “Wait a minute who needs to sharpen a pencil three times when you’re just reading?”

“My cubby is right under the pencil sharpener” Her eyes widened with hope.

“Come on Matty, Recess is almost over.”

***

We bolted across the playground. Mickey was the tallest kid in our grade, it wasn’t had to spot him at the sandpit, hanging out with his knuckle head friends. They liked to act like they owned that place. Jenny Billings was there too. The sandbox seemed a rough place for little Miss Kitty .

“Fancy seeing you here Jenny”

Jenny stuck her nose in the air and looked away. “Mickey and I are old friends.”

“Friends? Sure, you both like cats. Maybe porcelain ones?”

“Go away before I pound you runt” Mickey slammed his fist into his own open hand.

“You’re not pounding anyone. Give me the cat. We can all walk away. No one gets in trouble. You don’t want to get into trouble do you Mickey?”

Mickey lunged forward swinging. I was used to dealing with angry oafs from being punched on by older brothers. I stepped aside and stuck my foot out. Mickey tripped and fell over catching a mouthful of sand.

Something white tumbled out of his pocket, the soft ground breaking its fall.

Jenny grabbed it and started to back away..

“Give it here Jenny, we can all just go back to class.”

“No,” She screamed. “The kitty is mine now.”

I started to move towards her but Mickey had got back to his feet. He grabbed me, throwing me to the ground. I tried to roll away but he landed his knee on top of me. This is where I get clobbered, I thought, shutting my eyes.

There was a shrill sound and everything stopped. Hall monitor Jimmy came running up with Coach Davis waddling behind him tweeting on his whistle. Mickey got off me and just sat in the sand. He knew the drill. Jenny didn’t, she turned and ran.

Straight into Miss Marshall.

First they tried to blame me. When they couldn’t keep the story straight they blamed each other. It didn’t matter.

Jimmy already told the teachers what was going on, like I asked him.

When the day was over, Matty got her porcelain cat, and the two of them got a trip to the principal’s office.

This story was written in response to a Flash Fiction Challenge issued by Chuck Wendig at his blog Terrible Minds. You can check out the other entries in the comments there

Lost Letter

 

bottle

“Dammit!” he hissed, hopping on one foot, looking for what he banged his toe on.

An old bottle lay there. Inside was a scrap of paper.

He thought back to summer of his fifth grade year. Pirates were his fascination then. He’d read about marooned sailors sending messages off in bottles in hopes of rescue.

All summer he’d write notes, stuff them in empty soda bottles, screw the caps tight, and set them adrift. Not out of need for rescue. Just in hopes they might reach some distant shore. That someone might send back a reply in some exotic bottle from parts unknown. He would chase every bit of detritus that glinted as it bobbed in the surf just in case.

It never was.

Later he grew up and learned about ocean currents, weather patterns and how unlikely that his messages ended up further than a few miles down the shoreline. He also learned about global marketing. That anyone in parts unknown probably had the same boring coke bottles that he did.

He grabbed the bottle by the neck, and hurled it back into the Atlantic, once again off to parts unknown.

He hoped the weather was nice there.

 

This story was written in response to a photo prompt at Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner