Archive for June, 2011

23rd June
2011
written by amber

Jessie in Danger

These days I dread going to the job I used to love. Thank god I see Steven only in the morning, when I arrive at work. After clocking in, he heads out to the various sports fields but prior to that he gets in his little attempt to pretend we have a special relationship. Today he wished me happy birthday. While everyone in the office made a fuss over me, I tried to figure out how he knew.

When he showed up at the restaurant where my girlfriends were treating me to a low-key dinner instead of the big party they would have preferred, the light bulb blinked on. It had to be Facebook. I rarely go there any more, but two of my friends are regulars and no doubt posted the event on my wall. Steven would have access to that because I’d friended everyone at work when I first started there.

Now I had a cyber-stalker, standing at our table, a brightly wrapped box in hand. A large box.

“Oh, how sweet!” Ashley gushed and invited him to join us.

My fault. I’d told them that I dated him once, omitting the detail that I only did it to get them off my back about rejecting Jonah. I hadn’t told them how the date turned out – his unexpected declaration and his attempt to kiss me, the misery he’d been putting me through ever since.

Steven is good-looking and very very charming. He charmed my friends while I smiled insincerely and seethed inside. Lorraine noticed. “Are you okay, Jessie?”

“My stomach’s upset,” I lied, promising myself to come clean with them soon, to tell them the truth about Steven, tell them why I won’t go out with Jonah.

They were sympathetic as I pushed my plate away. “You guys might as well finish eating. I don’t want to spoil your meal, but I think I’d better go home and lie down.”

Steven looked stricken. “Do you want me to go with you?” Man, the guy is dense.

“No, I’ll be fine on my own.”

He thrust his gift toward me but I waved it away, blurting, “Bring it to work tomorrow.”

“But today’s Friday,” he protested as I headed out the door. By the time I got to my car, I was shaking with anger and agitation. This was more than an annoyance. He was starting to scare me. Before I could get my key into the lock, he was there, grabbing my hand and wresting the keys from my fingers, pushing himself against me. I was trapped between the metal of my car and his muscled, determined body.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story posted every day on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line suggestions in the Comment section.

The Jessie and Jonah stories appear every Thursday.

22nd June
2011
written by amber

The Firefighter

It was only 9 p.m. and I’d already put out five fires. Even though my territory had just been enlarged to 100,000 ha, this was unusual. And now I had another fire. I keyed the annunciator to speak to the resident.

“Mam, mam, there’s a fire in your kitchen. You’ll have to evacuate your apartment.” She was asleep in front of her screen wall and I had to use the shriller to get her attention.

“Oh shit, it’s my stew. Just let me go take it off the stove.” Old-fashioned cursing, old-fashioned cooking. If it wasn’t for anachronists, I wouldn’t have a job at all.

“No, mam, you have to evacuate now. I’m about to trigger the suppressant.”

“Can’t you just use the water mist? You’ll ruin all my stuff.”

“Your allotment of water has already been exceeded this month, mam. Please leave the premises. A cart is coming to transport you to a temporary shelter.”

“I’ve got water!” She dashed across the room and grabbed a jug, it looked like plastic.  The plants in that corner struck me as suspiciously real. “Let me go into the kitchen and put the fire out myself. It’s not as if it can spread.”

Only briefly did I consider opening the door to the kitchen and allowing her to see the orange flames roiling in the greasy smoke, to smell the charred stew and melted aluminum. “No, mam. The cart attendant is here now and I’m letting him inside to escort you to the corridor.”

“No, wait!” The cart attendant was strong and obdurate; he gripped her upper arm and firmly pulled her toward the door.

“Young man!” She wasn’t talking to him, she was staring up at all four corners, trying to decide which viewer was active. “Don’t you let them take my stove!”

Now she was gone and, with the entire apartment locked down, I triggered the suppressant. Naturally, they would take her stove, an incredibly expensive stove which burned gas. She must have had the 15 minute cooking limit control illegally altered.

I rewound the data, watched her chopping carrots and onions, vegetables I’d only rarely tasted, noted that her chopping board was wooden. I had to smile. Wealthy anachronists with their wooden things, their antique aluminum cookware, their illegal plastics. They were a firefighter’s dream.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story posted every day on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line suggestions in the Comment section.

21st June
2011
written by amber

Judd’s Car Lot

Judd has more Volkswagons than anything else, the bugs of assorted colour in three rows, the vans, a few Westfalias. The rows are neat, but overgrown with caraganas and nettles. He’ll collect any old car he can get his hands on, scavenging unwanted junkers, finding them abandoned on back roads and in gravel pits.

Young guys who see his lot from the highway stop by occasionally, asking if they can look for parts. Judd sends them packing. He doesn’t do this to earn money.  He has his pension and the land was paid for years back.

The prizes of his collection are protected by sheds.  The model T he found  hemmed in by saskatoon bushes along an old railway grade, the brightly painted circus truck he drove home from Spokane after trading his station wagon for it, the 1942 Buick Flxible Hearse.

In the old barn, Judd keeps his 1948 Cadillac convertible, with its huge rounded bumpers and hood, like the nose of a rocket pushing through the universe, he loves those muscular lines, loves the purr of the engine’s eight cylinders.  He bought that car after saving up for a year, a portion of the paycheque from his first job socked away, literally in a sock in the back of his closet. That car had been his pride and joy.

He hadn’t driven it but four months before the night he came bumper to bumper with its futuristic twin, right on the Coulee Bottom road, coming back to the farm late after a couple hours in the bar. Black and shiny, streamlined, steaming in the glow from his headlights. It was not a car. It had no wheels, no windshield, no doors that he could make out. But when he got out and walked around the thing, sobering up more quickly than he would have thought possible, a door popped open.

What was inside was indescribable, untouchable, unfathomable.

His dad had told him about the War of the Worlds radio hoax, the panic afterwards.  He knew how nervous everyone was now that Russia had exploded their atom bomb. No one else needed to know about this. Whoever, whatever, lay inside the thing was obviously dead. He drove home and got the tractor and towed the thing to a shed on a distant corner of the farm that he’d appropriated as a garage, covered it with tarps and old boards, parked his Cadillac in front. He told his Dad that his car broke down.

He kept that shed locked up tight for years. After his parents died, he began to collect the other cars, packing them around the property for camouflage. But he’s getting old and he lies awake nights, wondering what to do, if anything, with the thing.

One night, in the darkness of the shed and the false walls built around the thing, a light blinks on and purple eyes slowly open.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story posted every day on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line suggestions in the Comment section.

20th June
2011
written by amber

Laura

With one hand, Raiva adjusted the VR interface glasses where they bit into the bridge of her nose, while she kept her other hand buried in Laura’s innards.

“Raiva!” her mother chided as she removed their dinners from the processor, “if you’re going to fix that doll, would you stop watching your sim! You’re sure to do something wrong and then it’ll go crazy in the middle of the night and kill us all or something.”

“Mom, it’s just a doll. Don’t be so old fashioned.”

In a few minutes, she had the doll re-booted and returned to her anxious little sister. “Thanks, Raiva! Mom said we couldn’t afford to get her fixed.”

As Suni scooted under the table to play with her doll, Raiva muttered, “No prob, honey,” distracted by the sim. The role she was playing was of a pioneer girl living in a cabin in the middle of a vast golden grasslands, where eagles soared overhead and antelope bounded around, where people could step out their doors and see the blue sky instead of living like gophers in dark cramped burrows underground. Her name was the same as the one she’d given her sister’s doll, Laura.

Her mother leaned across her to put their bowls on the table. “Raiva! Are you playing that historic game again?”

“Yeah, Mom. So what if I am?”

“Well, you waste so much time on it. Eat your dinner. You’ve got to get to work soon.”

“I hate that food plant!” She could never get the smell of mold out of her clothing and hair. “Why can’t we eat real stuff like they did in the pioneer days? Laura and her family had a garden. Did you ever have a garden?”

“Sweetie, no one’s had a garden since my grandmother was a girl. You know what, you work hard tonight, maybe you’ll get a raise. And I’ll put in some extra hours at the recycling plant. Perhaps we can save enough to buy you another module for Little House on the Prairie.”

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story posted every day on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line suggestions in the Comment section.

This story was inspired by the first line of Mary Robinette Kowal’s story, ‘For Want of a Nail’ in the September 2010 issue of Asimov’s.

19th June
2011
written by amber

Convent School

She wasn’t wild before she went to convent school. Sure, she was a tomboy – that’s natural what with growing up on a farm with five brothers. But she was a good girl before she went away. Not a drop of liquor had ever crossed her lips.

Yes, you’ll say it’s that wine they drink at Mass and you’ll wonder why we sent her to convent school. It was for the piano. She had a skill at the piano but there was no one to teach her and we all had the hope she was good enough to be a concert pianist. And the head nun at the convent school reinforced that hope. She practically promised that our daughter would be on stage in New York city before very long.

But things turned out differently. We don’t know how she met that boy she ran off with. Oh, we knew she was interested in boys, and – boy – they sure were interested in her, such a beautiful girl as she was.  With her brothers around her all the time, those boys didn’t stand a chance. We certainly expected that a convent school would be a safe place for her.

We haven’t seen her for 12 years. There was a postcard once, from Reno, Nevada. And someone told us they saw her at a bar in Calgary. They said she looked very rough and worn-out by hard living. The head nun was convinced she was pregnant when she ran off from the convent school, so maybe we have a little grandchild out there somewhere. We’ll probably never know.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story posted every day on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line suggestions in the Comment section.

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