Archive for April, 2012

24th April
2012
written by amber

Airstream

My grandparents had an Airstream and I thought it was just nifty – cubby holes and creative storage, everything you needed coming along with you, pulled by your big Oldsmobile. I always was begging them to take me with them, but they travelled in the winter while I was in school, touring around Mexico and Central America.

But as I grew older, I came to reject everything that smacked of bourgeois American life – consumerism, nuclear families, the dominance of gas-guzzler culture. I mocked my grandparents and their big silver can filled with expensive trinkets, toured around in front of people who could barely afford food. Well, I rejected them because they rejected me. I see that now.

So it’s ironic that Pan and I have ended up living in an Airstream. Ironic too that I’m living this monogamous life-style, a comfortable dull middle-aged life-style, with my partner of 16 years.

When my dad threw me out of the house after he discovered me fooling around with the captain of the football team, he told me I’d never amount to anything, that ‘my kind’ wasn’t welcome in a moral society, that I’d end up dying in a gutter someplace.

I spent a few years trying to make that come true, but I am my father’s son, I like to work, to work hard. I like to be my own boss, so I started a business. And after over a decade of playing the field, I met Pan, and he also was a success in his field. We settled down, and sometimes I find myself wishing that my grandparents were still around to see how suburban I’ve become. I feel they might have approved of me more readily than my father and mother did.

Pan and I are more or less retired. We both do contract work and live well between contracts, so there’s plenty of time to travel. And we have Roxie and Rufous, so it’s not easy to find hotels that welcome dogs, especially noisy excitable dogs. The Airstream is perfect. We have all our comforts. We are well accepted by our fellow travellers.

And the bonus is that we have a granddaughter, because a number of years ago Pan donated sperm to a lesbian couple he knew. He kept in touch with them, and now we’re very close to his son and his wife, and Chandelle, the little girl. She’s going to come to Yellowstone with us next July.

I never would have expected to find such happiness in a life that outwardly looks so boring.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted 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 or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story.

24th April
2012
written by amber

Grow Op

Okay, first thing, you gotta realize this is illegal. We can give you the seeds, we can help you bootleg the power, we can even help you distribute your crop if you grow more than you need for your own usage, but if you get caught, you can’t reveal your source.

Sure, you might promise now, but you have no idea of the pressure they’ll bring to bear. Jail sentence for sure, that’s just the start of it. You heard the rumours about the deportations? That’s absolutely true. And it’s not just the person convicted, it’s their family – wife, kids, parents, everyone. And you’ll be sent away with nothing. Whatever you own will be confiscated, property, possessions, bank accounts, any pension due to you.

But they’ll offer you the moon. No fine, no conviction, no deportation. Instead, a lifetime supply for free, and not the crap you’re used to but the good stuff. And all you have to do is rat us out.

So we’ve had to take measures to protect ourselves. Buying our product is bad, growing it is worse, but distributing comes with the highest penalties. You, my friend, are about to become a distributor. Yes, before we’ll let you plant one seed, you have to bring in five more people willing to become underground gardeners.

Also, you’ll never see me again. I’m not who you think I am – the name I gave is not my name and I’m not from around here. My appearance has been altered and my voice modulated electronically just in case you’ve been recording our conversation. You’ll be approached by someone else next time, and they’ll be similarly disguised. They’ll show you how to do it yourself, how to keep your identity hidden while you approach new recruits.

No, you don’t need to recruit among the people you know, that’s too dangerous. We’ll tell you how to identify strangers who are desperate for our crops. And we’ll tell you how to keep Sanmount Chemicals from finding out that you’re growing your own vegetables.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted 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 or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story

22nd April
2012
written by amber

Della

Peering down into the water where the morning sun fashioned wheels of light, Della saw through the surface distraction to the prize beneath. A fat fish, moving stealthily after smaller fish, unaware that he was to become prey instead of predator.

Her hand slipped into the water without making a ripple and moved as gently as the pushing current. Near, nearer, then touching, slick as liquid, caressing the fish until he was mesmerized by her glissading fingers. By the time the fish realized the hypnotic motion had become a terminal grasp, he was half-comatose.

She drew him from the water, drops flashing in the sun as they shed from his scales. She held him aloft, admiring his rainbow hues and the round swell of his belly. Her mouth watered.

A sound in the bushes on the far side of the stream startled her. No one in her tribe would move so incautiously and neither would a large cat or wolf announce its stalking presence that way. To walk through the greenery making such a rustle, clattering carelessly among the rocks, and now hooting to each other loudly enough to be heard above the roar of the stream as it emptied over the waterfall above this pool, to be so stupid was the sign of the Others.

Too clumsy to catch their own fish as Della had just done, too lazy to chase game until it tired, too disorganized to plan a hunt, the Others used a different strategy to obtain food. They stole it.

Most days they ambled down to the creek later than this. Most days they weren’t awake in their group of straw huts until the sun had been in the sky long enough to dry the night’s dew from the leaves. Most days she made sure she wasn’t at the creek when they arrived.

The creek flowed deep in a gorge and the best fishing was here, where circular pools, like a string of beads, followed one below the other, hollows in the dark grey rock round as berries. To reach this deep part of the river’s cleft, Della had scrambled down a narrow path. One way in, one way out.

Now the Others blocked the way. They hadn’t seen her yet, but when they did, they would take her fish and worse. Women from her tribe caught alone by the Others frequently didn’t return home. If they did, they’d been beaten and raped.

Della’s husband had been the son of her tribe’s leader, and he had spoken out when none of the others had done so, insisting that they should leave this area now that the Others had come. Everyone else had been afraid, wanting only to stay in the place where they knew what to hunt and what to eat, where to find shelter, where the medicinal plants grew.

Della’s husband had been killed by the Others when he stood up to try to protect their food cache, and this was seen by the tribe not as a vindication of his viewpoint but a repudiation. If the Others had come from the unknown area, much worse was to be found there if the tribe were to venture upstream or downstream away from their familiar territory.

Crouching down and ripping at the raw fish with her teeth, Della had reached a decision. People in the tribe feared her now, and she would not get another husband there. Everyone was growing more and more weak from lack of food. She didn’t want to wait to die.

She could not climb out of the canyon without the Others seeing her. She could not hope to explore the unknown territory in higher country above, but she could easily travel to the lower country below.

She slipped into the water. The first few waterfalls she knew were not too high – as a girl, she’d often plunged over them, laughing, into the crystal pools.

The waterfalls below were unknown, but they beckoned like cups of sky, waiting for her to soar into them.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted 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 or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story.

The first words of this story come to me from Cormac McCarthy’s masterpiece, Suttree.

21st April
2012
written by amber

Life Goes On

There is still the dog to walk and, god dammit, the toilets to clean. I’m dying of cancer and no one has stepped in to take such jobs from me. No one has asked, “How would you like to spend your last seven months?”

In Tahiti, on the beach, thank you very much.

Well, of course, I could do that. They don’t check your medical records, do they, when you call the airline to book that one-way ticket? So I leave huge debts behind? I won’t be around to care.

No, of course, I couldn’t do that to the kids, to my brother who has been so good, even to my ex-husband who has been so bad. Sometimes I feel like he thinks I got cancer just to one-up him in this absurd game of ‘who’s suffering the most.’ I mean, it was ridiculous for him to expect me to sympathize when the juicy young thing he divorced me for dumped him. And I have to admit that not having him try to cry on my shoulder any longer is a relief. Except that one time that he wanted to cry on my shoulder because it hurt him so much to face the prospect of his ex-wife dying of cancer.

I mean, how self-centered can one man be?

Don’t answer that.

I just thought it would be different, you know? I work so hard and for so little reward, and I don’t complain out loud, but in those wee hours when you can’t sleep for whatever reason (at least now when I can’t sleep, there is a reason) you entertain some strange fantasies. Mine were about either breaking my leg or going to jail. Some sort of reprieve from life for a while so that I’d have time to rest, to read, to think. I considered what sort of crime to commit, one that would give me about seven months (ironic, hey?) in a facility that wasn’t too hard core. My image was of some kind of low rent resort, windows with a view through the bars, private rooms that were spartan but not medieval.

And I never once considered who would come forward in my absence to walk the dog and clean the toilets and deal with the kids’ dramas and pay the bills. I assumed someone would.

Well, I was wrong. Even if you’re dying, life goes on.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted 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 or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story.

20th April
2012
written by amber

A Dream of the Circus

Usually, the dwarfs kept bringing him back – back to the circus and back to India. Yes, it was a dream but why couldn’t his recurring dream be about finding himself naked in the middle of Times Square or being unable to recall the combination to his school locker just before his final exams – something normal?

Why did he keep dreaming about the circus and dwarfs and India? He’d never been in a circus, he’d never been to India, he only knew one dwarf. The dwarf, or – more correctly – small person whom he knew was lying beside him, Alex was sure, encased in a special transit module designed for his tiny stature. Buckley Washington Jefferson. A large name for a small person, but well deserved. Buckley Jefferson, trillionaire, had paid for this trip to Mars. Alex was along entirely on Buck’s behest, to take care of his medical needs.

Alex was a doctor. Not a high wire artist in a fly-by-night circus in India with gold-painted asthmatic elephants and an under-age contortionist and a duo of geek dwarfs with full body tattoos and holes everywhere from the nails and knives and needles they pierced themselves with to the delight of the audiences. He didn’t know those geek dwarfs, yet every night they appeared in the corridor of the Millennium Mars Tripper and escorted him wordlessly to the hatch and shoved him into it. And every night he was terrified, expecting nothing more than explosive decompression.

And every night, the hatch slid open and did not admit the cold vacuum of space. Instead, the ring was before him, an ancient Master of Ceremonies proclaiming that Alex the Magnificent would now perform a death-defying quadruple flip- without a net – off one high wire onto another a short distance below.

And every night, he dutifully climbed the guy wire and stepped onto the impossibly narrow wire, his feet curling around it as if they knew what they were doing.

And every night, he fell.

Of course, he couldn’t tell Buck about the dream. It would sound as if he was dwelling on Buck being a dwarf, as if he thought (subconsciously) that dwarfs were leading him into peril.

So, instead, he concentrated on medical problems during the one hour of consciousness given them each day during their travel stasis. He considered anew the effects of Mars gravity on Buck, he fretted over whether they’d brought enough of the vitamins and steroids Buck felt were necessary to his continuing good health, he mentally reviewed everything he’d read about mould problems in Mars habitats and agonized over whether he’d packed a great enough variety of medicines to help Buck should he have a reaction to the mould.

He didn’t worry about the one disaster which ended up overtaking them, the one his dream had been warning him about, repeatedly.

Their ship fell victim to a meteorite storm and crash landed on a large asteroid known through the Belt as Circus Rock. Buck’s fortune in media enterprises had been, unbeknownst to Alex, gained at the expense of many of his former clients in the entertainment industry and many of them had relocated to Circus Rock where taxes were low and agents verboten.

Therefore, no one would help them contact Earth banks or the repair station not too many millions of miles away. They had to work to earn their keep until the next Earth shuttle came by, six months later. Buck looked after the elephants. Alex, whose balance was better than in his dreams, learned to walk the wire.

But he always insisted on a net.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted 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 or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story.

This first line was suggested by my mother, Mary Bond, and comes from John Irving’s A Son of the Circus.

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