It’s become a thing. Really. It never used to happen my mom said. Never. It was the mid-west, she told me. Kansas, Oklahoma, those kinds of places. Not Arizona. Not Nevada or Utah. But now—now we all have storm shelters.
It’s bad right now. Spring. Right. The worst. The
sirens go off nearly daily. We grab our stuff, head down into the shelter. Last
month we were down here for three days. One tornado after the other. I don’t
complain. I live, well, lived, in a trailer park. There were dugout shelters
but not as good as the one here at school. There’s water in this one. And vid.
The teachers want to hear the news, but we get to watch the latest stuff too. It’s
not so bad.
I haven’t told them mom was lost in the one last
month. She was high and didn’t hear the sirens I guess. The whole trailer park was
wiped out. I told admin she was in California. They’re lettin’ me stay here.
For now. No matter. Graduation is in a month and a half. I’ll be able to do my
own thing after that. Momma called me Heidi Bateson. After my dad’s mom, I
guess. She never said.
Global warming they called it. I don’t care. That was
twenty years ago. What’s that to me now? The planet, they say on the vid, is in
a major drought. All of the weather patterns have gone haywire. What’s that to
me? I’m a poor kid from a poor area. No one gives a crap about the likes of us.
I just need to be smart. Stay in the groove that will keep me in food and
shelter. The geeks have it easy. They’re always talking about gettin’ on with
the big gloms. I guess. There has to be somethin’ else valuable.
Space is an option. I’m healthy. They need miners. I
see the ads all the time. Then there’s the planetary ships. I’m not a geek, but
they need healthy women, right? Go somewhere, like they say, the old Earth.
Like it used to be.
Acting. I’m acting all the damn time. I could do that.
Get rich. They couldn’t do anything to me then. I’d have all the best. A gold-plated
shelter. Plenty of food and water. Any vid channel I want.
The teachers all drone on and on about what has to be
done next. Like it makes a difference. Like anyone cares. It’s always gonna be
like this, right? Desert forever. I’m a red-head, I use my sunblock just like
they say. No sunburn for me. Not many red-heads now, I hear. All the better to
be an actress, right?
My friend, Bectie, is one of the geeks. Don’t know why
she likes to hang with me but she’s cool. She says I should stay away from the
boys. There’ll be a big market for a girl like me. Genetics, she called it. I
guess cause there’s not a lot of red-heads. Maybe that’ll be a card for the
planetary ships. Stay cool, she told me. I believe her. She’s ultra-smart. Her
parents work for the gloms. One of the biggest. All into the planetary ships
and the food tanks. She’ll have a spot, she says. She’ll take me with her. I
play hard to get but she’s right. And she’s cute. I can dig that.
I do have to try and get one thing. My mom had a gold
chain. A locket, she called it. Kept it in a secret place in the trailer. I’d
like to get that. Gold is valuable. Not much left to be found. So I need that.
Had a picture of my granma and granpa. I never met ‘em. Died before I was born.
Ma said they died of heart break. I don’t know what that means. She said their
ranch died. Not sure what that means either. But no matter. If I get that
chain, I’ll have gold. Maybe enough to be an actress.
As soon as the storm ends, I’m headed to the trailer.
Some of it must be left, am I right? Some of it?
Announcement over the school loudspeakers:
That’s it for todays activities. Now, a roll call of yesterday’s
It’s Friday. The monsoons don’t start for another month and a half and my eyes and nose are so dry it feels like I’m going to have a bloody nose any minute. Staring at this computer screen isn’t helping any either. Eyes feel like they’re rolling in a sandbox.
My boss, Cassandra, sticks her head around the door. “My
Oh joy. I glance at the clock. Really, two thirty on a
Friday afternoon? “Sure.” I sigh. If I was in trouble about something, she
would have let me have it right there. No, I think as I push away from my desk.
It’s something else. Some news she can’t wait to ruin my weekend with. I grab
my notebook and wander down the hall.
As I get there, I see the other four department
managers arriving. I nod to my friend, Callie, head of database design. Her
eyebrow goes up a fraction of an inch. We both grin. It’s definitely going to
be a weekend ruiner.
We huddle in her office around a small conference
table. I open my spiral notebook to a clean page, noting date, time, and people
in the room. These little notes have saved my bacon in the past. Cassandra
“I was glad to see everyone still here. This is news
that can’t wait.” She looks at each of us, then nods. “Management has decided
that there will be no pay raises this year.”
That wakes up Seth. He’s always bragging about how he
gets the biggest raise every year. That’s despite the rule about not talking
about salary. I think he’s lying. I’ve been doing half of his work for the last
three years. And, the company only gives pay raises to a small percentage. I
expect Callie is the one getting the money. I know I get some. What Ellie and
Bob get is a mystery.
Cassandra let the murmuring subside. “Budgets have
been cut. People are going to be laid off. Least productive departments first.
Some of you will be affected. Some of your department’s work will be handled by
other parts of the company, either here in the U.S. or overseas. Some work the
company is just dropping. They’re not going to brand on that any longer. The
uproar in the room grew louder as she walked around her desk and sat in her chair.
I had all I could do not to yawn. I could see this was
coming. I’d told Callie so a year ago. Anyone who could read the business journals
and had an eye on the company’s investments and closings would have known. I’d
already begun sending out resumes and refining my own branding. I did feel bad
for Callie, though. She worked hard and had two kids in high school. She’d been
hoping to hold on until they were out of college.
Cassandra rapped on her desk. “Let’s keep calm,
people.” She turned a sheet of paper over, typed side up. “This is the initial
She read down the list. I had to cover my grin with my
hand as she announced Seth’s department’s work was going to be picked up by the
Minneapolis office. “What am I supposed to do,” as an afterthought, “and my
“Offers will be made to allow you to move,” the boss
I knew that wasn’t going to happen with Seth. He had a
big family here. His wife was executive VP across town at the biggest bank in
Then both Ellie and Bob were told their department’s
work was going overseas. Ellie began to cry. Bob went pale.
Cassandra turned to me. The announcements were getting
worse and worse. I braced to hear that the company was dropping the work my
department did altogether.
“Your department,” I could hear everyone stop
breathing, “is going to be expanded. Project management is the coming thing and
the company is jumping on that bandwagon.”
The others stared. Cassandra carried on. “You’re being
promoted to Division Manager and you’ll be organizing the growth and hiring of
additional staff. Congratulations.”
I have to admit, it took me a second to wrap my head
around that. Everyone else was essentially getting the axe and I was getting a
promotion. Wow! “Um, Thank you, Cassandra. I’m so sorry, everyone else. So
“We’ll be making announcements over the intercom at
three-thirty. Please keep this news to yourselves until then.” Cassandra turned
that paper over again and turned to her computer. A sign we were done. Everyone
stood. In the hall I gave Callie a hug. “Your department wasn’t touched.”
She shrugged. “Not yet anyway. I should have believed
you last year.”
“Well, you’re good for now. It’s not too late.”
She nodded and wandered away. Cassandra called to me
from inside her office.
“I’ve been told we’re going to build up a real
presence here in Phoenix. Lots of big companies moving into the state. The
whole southwest, really. You up to the task?”
“Absolutely.” I grinned. “I assume my department doesn’t
do the sales. Just the project management work?”
She nodded. “I take over the Sales. VP.” She looked
smug. I’d heard that she and the operations manager were close. Maybe that paid
off. I don’t know. “Congratulations. We’ll still be working together.” With
that she made a quick, little face that let me know she hadn’t thought about
that, but she pulled it together quickly. “Yes. Of course.” She turned back to
her computer. “The president will see you at 10 on Monday. He wants to talk
plans with you.”
“I’ll make a note.” I left the office and went back to
my desk. In half an hour, my team was going to be hitting my office door. I
poured more chocolates into the bowl on my conference table and got on my
computer. Time to pull up notes on how to run a bigger department.
Em dragged herself out of bed, croaking, “I’m up,” at the ever-present home assistant. “Assistant my ass,” she said to herself as she hit the shower. “Arial, extra-hard on the shower, hundred and seventeen.”
“That’s not your usual setting, Em.” The oh so soft
and pleasant voice made Em want to scream.
“Well, it’s what I want today.”
“That temperature is not recommended for optimum skin
Em clenched her teeth. “I don’t care. Just turn on the
“Profanity is a sign of maladjustment and social
break-down, Em. Should I call your doctor?”
Em bit back a snarky comment. The damn assistant would
report her to the local authorities. She didn’t need that sort of hassle. “No.
I’m fine.” She stood outside the shower waiting for it to turn on. “I’m ready,
The shower turned on. “Thank you. Please start the
Em let the water beat on her back. She shouldn’t have drunk
so much last night. The stress was getting to her. Without a job, she had been
assigned three extra hours of social media. If she wanted her sub, she had to
do it. Wallowing through the kitten pictures and the whining of people she didn’t
even know had made her eyes bleed. She needed those drinks. Whose bright idea
was it to link subsistence payments with social media? She hoped they choked on
Done, she toweled off and dressed. The coffee was
ready when she got to the kitchen. “Do I have credits for breakfast, Arial?” Her
stomach could use some toast, at least.
“Subsistance allowance provides three hundred calories
of food block.”
Em’s stomach rolled. The stuff tasted like paste. “Sure.
Food block.” The delivery door opened, and an unappetizing gray block of yeast
food awaited her hand. “Yum.” She grabbed it and the cup of coffee and headed
to the computer. Might as well start socializing.
With diligence, she stayed at the console all morning,
five of her eight hours done. Some of it standing and marching in place, just
so she could keep her blood flowing and eyes open. “What’s for lunch, Arial?”
“Spaghetti and meatball yeast bars.”
Em rolled her eyes. “I don’t have any credit left from
my last job?”
“It’s slated for your rent payment, Emily. Should I
redesignate that credit?”
“No.” She rolled her eyes again. What she did not want
to happen was to have to move into subsistence housing. They were eight by ten-meter
plas-crete cells. Might as well live in a dog-crate. “Fix the yeast bar.”
Emily took the bar down to the street. She had to get
out into the sunshine and away from the console before her brain fried. “Hey,
“Hey, Em. Looking for a job?”
Em hated the way news got around. Came from everyone
having to be on social media all the time. “Yeah. You hear about something?”
Lucy shook her head. “Nah. You’re an architect, right?”
“Yeah. Hook me up, when you hear something.”
“Will do.” Lucy gave her a thumbs up and went back
The more money you made above subsistence, the less
time you had to spend on social. She was going nuts. She had to get back to
work. She tapped the comms contact in her temple. “Jason Bear,” she said.
The call went through. “Hey, Em. What’s up?”
“Jase, I need a job, man. You know I’m good. I won
that award last year for best design in Chicago.” She walked along the
sidewalk, nodding to people on their stoops or lounging against the building’s
“Company went bust. The partners overextended their loans
and the government picked them up for fraud. The rest of us were escorted out
of the building and told to find new work.”
“Bummer. I’ll check around.”
“Thanks, Jase, You’re the best.” She hung up. No sense
annoying him by hanging on too long. With luck, he’d find something in his
company. He did antique designs from the 1960s. Rectangular glass boxes were not
her favorite but anything to get off of subsistence. She made several more
calls then went back to her apartment. She needed three more hours of social to
earn today’s meals.
Months went by. She called everyone she knew. All of
her saved credits were just about gone on the rent. The miserable diet had
caused her to loose thirty pounds. Twelve hundred calories a day didn’t go far.
She’d cut everything else. No need for the gym, that was for sure. Though there
had been times she’d changed into workout clothes and hung around the door
leading into the gym to button-hole people she knew coming out. She kept it
light, but she was desperately looking for work. Any work at this point.
“Jase,” she said when she called him. “You hear about
“No. Not really. How you doin’?”
“It’s getting down to the wire, Jason. Your company
have anything at all. Anything?” She heard him draw a deep breath.”
“Well. The job board has second assistant admin position.”
“I’ll take. Just send me the application.”
“It doesn’t pay much.”
“It pays something, though. Right. Then I can work my
way back up to architect. Come on, Jase. I’ll owe you a big one.”
“Fine. Fine. I’m sending now.”
“Thanks, Jase. I’ll have this back ASAP.” She clicked
off and pulled up the application on her console. The listed pay made her heart
sink. Just barely what her rent was. “Fine,” she said to herself. She filled it
out and hit send.
It took three days. Half a day before her last rent
payment was due.
“We have received your application,” the communique
said. “Welcome to the Payvil Company. You’ve been accepted to the second
assistant admin position. Your files have been updated to reflect this
employment. You start tomorrow.”
Em wept as relief flowed through her. She’d be the
best second assistant admin they’d ever seen. Anything to get off social media.
In honor of Mother’s Day, I’m not cutting this into 1000 word or less parts. You have the entire story, right here. All 1754 words of it. Enjoy, and Happy Mother’s Day this weekend.
Ruby Ray tapped the button again and adjusted herself in the chair. The electronic spinning wasn’t nearly as satisfying as the old-fashioned slots but what could she do? The spinning stopped as she tapped the button again. Win! She smiled in satisfaction. Not a big win, but substantial.
She tapped again to start the spin and returned to her
previous thoughts. Maybe less chance of the casino cheating? But, then again,
they could get the tech to set the computer payouts as tight or as loose as
they wanted. She shrugged. If they were going to rip off the customers, they
were going to do it, Gambling Commission or not.
The spin stopped. A win, but not much. She sighed and
bet again. A look around showed the usual regulars with a scattering of
occasional people she’d seen before. Plus, there was a bus in today. She shook
her head. She didn’t like the bus visitors. They clogged everything up and
screed up the machine’s patterns. Ruby shifted again. She’d been in the chair
for three hours. The spin was a bust.
“Dang it,” she muttered under her breath. She hit the
call button and the little light on top of her machine blinked red. A last
swallow of her now warm iced tea and the woman cruising the aisles stopped by.
“Hey, Gina.” Ruby and Gina knew each other’s names.
Ruby was here every day, so she knew all of the attendant’s names. “I need a
bathroom break. Can you hold my machine for me?”
“Sure, Ruby. Shall I lock it?”
Ruby knew they could do that. “No. I’m just going to
the bathroom. A sign should do it till I get back. I just don’t want the bus
people to take my machine.”
Gina nodded. “Okay. I’ll just hang around here till
you get back.”
“Appreciate that.” Ruby slid out of the chair, waiting
a moment while her legs adjusted to actually doing their job. It was getting
harder and harder, she thought, over the last few months. She waddled off as
her legs protested. Getting’ old ain’t for sissies.
In the stall, she checked her cash. She didn’t like
flashing her money on the casino floor. Her kids, knowing she liked to casino,
has sent her money for Mother’s Day. All told, six hundred dollars. There was
four hundred left. She tucked it back into her wallet and left to wash her
The walk back to the machine was better than the walk
away. The blood was flowing and the muscles had loosened up.
Gina saw her and just as Ruby reached the slot machine,
took the “Reserved” sign down. “Here ya go, hon.”
“Good luck.” Gina continued her rounds as Ruby settled
She checked the totals on the screen. Good. Just as
she’d left it. She hit the Bet button. The spin began. A big win. She grinned.
Her months-long research into the best paying machines was paying off. Ruby
upped the bet to maximum and spun again. Again, it payed off. She was up to six
hundred and fifty dollars from her starting two hundred-dollar start. Not a bad
haul but she figured that this machine was due to pay big. She was staying here,
hell or high water, till it did.
The afternoon wore on. The cocktail waitress brought
her a burger and fries. Ruby was still doing well so she gave her a fiver as a
tip. She tipped Gina as well, when she took another trip to the bathroom. Her
legs didn’t really recover on that trip, but Ruby just cursed her old age,
eighty-one this year, and climbed back into her chair.
Later, Gina stopped by to tell Ruby she was going off
shift. “Andy will be around to help if you need it.”
Ruby nodded. “Have a good night.”
Her mind wasn’t really on the good-bye, though. Half an
hour ago she’d started losing. Half of the money she’d gained was gone. She
changed the patter she’d been using to stop the spin. It didn’t help. Ruby put
another two hundred dollars into the machine. “You’re supposed to pay off
The machine responded by ending on a combo that didn’t
pay off at all.
Ruby ordered a glass of beer. Relax, she told herself.
It will come around again.
Fifteen minutes later, she dropped two hundred and
fifty into the machine. The last of her Mother’s Day money and fifty of her
own. She spun but it only paid the bare minimum. Come on, sucker, she thought
as she punched that Bet button again. The pictures rotated, around and around.
Ruby hit the stop. Nothing.
She clenched her jaws together, her false teeth
grinding. Ruby rubbed her left arm. Thank God they got rid of the old pull handles.
The buttons are so much easier. She spun and spun. The payouts crept up a
little, then down to nothing. She put her grocery money into the machine. Well,
she thought, the pint total for today is looking good. She spun. It went
poorly. Ruby called Andy over.
“I’m on a roll, Andy. Can I get a little loan here?”
Andy looked around. “It’s your money, Ruby, but why
don’t you just head home? You’ve been here nine hours.”
Ruby gave it a quick thought. One more night in that
tiny, cold, room at the retirement center was going to make her scream. She
shook her head. Despite the pain in her leg, she was staying. The jackpot on
this machine was going to pay. She just knew it. “No. Ask, please.”
She gambled as she waited. She was down to her last
fifty dollars when the manager came over. “Hi, Mrs. Ray. I’m John Sweetwater. I
hear you’re interested in a loan.”
“Yes. I’ve been a good customer. I’d like to keep
He stroked his face, his long braid swinging along his
back as he thought it over.
Ruby could see that he was reluctant. “I’m sure you’ve
seen my file. I’m good for it. I’m in here all the time.”
“Of course. We just…” he paused. “Well, you are a
good customer. We just hate to put people in this position.”
“I’m good for it. Really.”
Other patrons were now turning to stare.
“You’re right. You are. So.” He stared at the
non-descript drop ceiling for a moment. “Are you sure I can’t talk you out of
this? We can give you a ride home in our courtesy car.”
Ruby wondered what kind of casino this was that they
didn’t want to keep a gamble in her seat. “I’m sure.” She knew. She KNEW! This
machine was going to pay off tonight.
The manager sighed. “All right.” He waved Andy over. “Reserve
Mrs. Ray’s machine.” He turned to her. “I’ll need you to come to the office to
sign some paperwork.”
Relief flooded through her. “Of course.” She slid from
the chair. Again, her legs protested. “You don’t mind if I stop at the ladies?”
“Of course not. Con on back to the office when you’re
ready.” He signaled another floor attendant. “Bring her when she’s ready. The
young woman nodded, and he left.
“Come on, Ruby. We’ll take care of everything.”
“You’re so sweet, Ann.” Ruby threaded her thin arm through
Ann’s. “How’s that chubby little cherub of yours?”
In the office, Ann led Ruby to the chair in front of
John’s desk. “Good luck, Ruby.”
“Are you sure you want to do this?” John studied her
with concern on his face.
“Yes!” She was so sure of it. It had to be tonight.
He put a paper in front of her. “The contract.”
Ruby scanned it as she absently rubbed her arm. She
was disappointed to see it was just five hundred dollars. She sighed. “This
looks fine.” Ruby picked up the pen john had slid over with the contract. She
signed and pushed it back. “Is that it?”
He examined the contract. “That’s it.” John handed her
five hundred in hundred-dollar bills.
Ruby fanned them out. It wasn’t often she got such a
windfall. “Thank you.”
Her lower back hurt on the walk back but she was so
happy about the loan, she didn’t care.
Andy removed the sign for her. “Good luck, Ruby.”
“Thank you, Andy.” She sat down, made herself comfortable
and hit the Bet button. It was a little disappointing to see the spin come up
empty. No worries, she told herself. It will come.
After fifteen minutes, she added the five hundred
dollars she’d received from the manager. Her stomach was upset. It was going to
take a lot of time to repay the money, but she didn’t care. This machine was
going to pay off.
Around and around. Ruby stopped the spin in every
combo she could. The total kept dropping. What is wrong with this? she thought.
It should pay! She stabbed the buttons, frustration and annoyance making her
angry. The dollar total kept dropping as spin after spin at maximum bet kept
dragging it down. It was hard to breathe, but she stabbed the button again. The
last time, her hand on her bosum.
The pretty pictures spun and Ruby let them spin without
interference. Her head hurt. Her legs hurt. Her chest hurt. “Com on,” she
The spinning drew to a stop. Nothing.
Ruby leaned back in the chair. It felt as though all of
the air in the room was gone. It seemed like the light had dimmed. It was all
gone. She looked around. The night people were there, staring at their
machines. Intense. Not like the day gamblers at all, she thought.
Her arms dropped to her sides. The cheery sounds of
the different machines sounded far away. The flashing of lights softened. It
felt kind of nice. Here with her friends. A few minutes later she began to
lean, more, then more to her left until she tumbled from the chair to the
The staff moved quickly. The ambulance was called and
she was picked up. Her now still face covered with a sheet.
“That’s a shame,” Andy told another attendant after
they watched the ambulance crew take her out. “So much time on that single
“Yeah,” the other guy said. “It had just paid off last
night. Some old guy. He’d been nursing that machine for days.”
“Is that so?” Andy shook his head. “What a shame.”
Neville picked furiously at a bit of cuticle, not really noticing he was doing it until he’d picked so hard the bit of skin peeled away and left a sore, bloody mess on his fingernail. He swore mentally at himself as he stuck the offending digit into his mouth. Now that was going to be sore for days. Then corrected himself. He didn’t really know, now, did he, what might hurt and what might not.
glanced around the waiting room. No one seemed to notice his mishap. Matter of
fact, they all looked, men and women, as nervous and pre-occupied as he felt. Neville
took a deep breath and wiped the now, not bleeding finger on the side of his pants,
then folded his hands in his lap to keep from further picking. The raw wound
stung, which actually helped him keep his mind off of why he was in the waiting
had all started weeks ago in the company cafeteria. He sat with his co-worker
Jim. “Hey, buddy. Have a seat. We’re talking about the alien’s new offer.”
greeted the others. “Hey Sam, Bill.” He put his tray down and sat. “What new
was in this morning’s news feed. They’re offering to cure diseases. All kinds.”
Sam made a circle, pointing at all of them. “Anything you can think of.
Arthritis, heart disease, lung trouble.”
piped in. “I saw that too. Migraines. Can you imagine? My wife’s been fighting
migraines her whole life. She said she’s contacting them as soon as they opened
for an appointment.”
scratched his chin. “Really? Anything? Is it safe?”
picked up his sandwich. “Must be, right? Otherwise would the government allow
them to do it?”
to say.” Neville speared a bite of his salad. “Who knows what kind of deal was
made when they landed ten years ago.”
then, of course, he’d thought it over and obtained an appointment for himself.
He’d been suffering from neurological problems for years. All kinds of steroids,
physical therapy, he’d been through it all without much relief. If he could get
rid of the pain, it would be worth it, he’d finally decided with his wife, Joi.
So here he was. Finally, it was his turn.
followed the human nurse into the back. “Seems like a lot of people are taking
advantage of the offer,” he said to her back.
yes. A great many,” she responded as she stopped at a door. Go on in. The
doctor will be with you shortly.”
went into the little exam room. There was a chair for him. A stool for the
doctor, a standard medical scale, blood pressure machine and cuff on the wall,
and a couple of nature scene pictures facing him as he sat down. In a few
minutes a human doctor came in. “Mr. Kirchner?”
doctor checked his electronic pad. “I see from your records you’ve been
suffering from this for years.”
No one’s ever really fully identified the problem or fixed it.”
doctor tapped the screen a couple of times. “This is just what you’re looking
for then. We’ll get you in right away.”
Neville glanced at the blood pressure cuff. “No weight check? Blood pressure?”
necessary.” The doctor tapped the screen and smiled at him. “We’re going to sit
you in a chair, facing panels of lights. They’re hot, I’m not going to fool
you. But not to the point of burns. Then, after a few minutes under the lights,
you’ll find that the pain will be gone.”
hands twisted in his lap. “Will an alien be there?”
No. It’s all set up for us to run. Simple, really.”
sighed with relief. He didn’t really want to meet an alien. The pictures were
scary enough. “Okay then. Sure.”
go see if the last patient is finished. The nurse will bring you in.” He left
the tiny room.
started picking his cuticles but stopped when the already injured finger flared
up in pain. Hot, he thought, but not too hot. Wonder what that means?
was interrupted by the nurses knock on the door. “We’re ready for you, Mr.
followed her down the hall to a room with banks of lights on a wall, a small
counter under them, and a chair in front of the counter. “Please have a seat,
Mr. Kirchner. Put your hands on the counter, and face the lights.”
it?” he said as he sat.
it,” she said as she left the room. “We’ll call over the intercom when we’re
ready to start.”
nodded and waited. Soon, a voice came through the ceiling speakers. “We’re
ready to start. Please remain still, close your eyes, the light is very bright.
We’ll let you know when we’re done.”
he said, though he didn’t know if the speakers went both ways.
lights flashed on and he snapped his eyes shut. Boy, they weren’t kidding about
them being bright. A minute later, he started feeling the heat. He cracked an
eye open but it was too bright. The heat was making his skin prickle. It got
hotter. Neville began to wonder when this would be over. His skin felt very
tight and uncomfortable. He made himself think of cool swimming pools and lost
track of time.
lights snapped off. “You can open your eyes, Mr. Kirchner.”
did, and blinked. Neville examined his hands, flexing them, turning them over
and back again.
door opened. “It’s complete. How do you feel?” the doctor asked.
But I like the way the hands move.” Neville looked at the doctor. The process
is really very efficient, isn’t it?”
We’ve taken over half a million humans already. Best idea the council has had
shook hands. “Nurse will lead you out the back. Good luck with your new life.”
Three poems today. The first one titled, the others, not. Three different poetic forms. If you’ve never tried poetry, give my friend Susan’s site a look. Just pick one that looks like fun and give it a try. You can play with these all year, not just in April.
I believe in the power of self,
The right to find one’s own path,
The need to be alone,
The necessity of failure,
The power of success,
travel, good food, and fine wine.
But not in soul-sucking meaningless work, just to keep
body and soul together.
I believe in the joy of a task well-done.
I believe in equal measures of work and play.
I believe in education,
spirituality, love, and sheer kindness,
And I believe that everyone deserves more than one chance.
Help plants grow,
Wash them away,
Or bring sweet relief from a sunny day.
The clouds fill the sky, all black, ominous,
Then fat drops fall,
Plop in dust,
It’s been over forty years since we met.
It’s been a lot of miles, too.
Our wedding, of course, friends gathered round us.
Then to Germany, A daughter born,
then Virginia, Italy, and South Carolina.
On to England where our little girl became a young
Arguments, travel for fun, rotating shifts, being so
It’s all been part and parcel of our lives.
Retirement, staying in one place for over a decade.
Moving once more to a place warm and bright,
Where nearly another decade has come and gone.
It’s been worth it. Every hard day. Every good one.
Hello to all. It’s still April and that means National Poetry Writing Month. I’ve been following along with author and poet Stephanie Peterson Abney as she leads several of us along a path of getting to know many poetry forms. Following are a few of the poems I’ve written since the last post.
Rhyme Royal Poem
It stands sentinel in front of my house.
shade it does cast helps keep my home cool,
and green, it makes pinecones, so I grouse,
the spring, pollen collects on my tools,
my nose and eyes, I feel like a fool.
I could cut it down, no pollen around,
But then where’s the shade, none would be around.
Next is a gogyohka form of a Quintain poem
covers the rocky hills
making them look soft
rounding their shapes
in the morning sun.
This is a Poiku, a Haiku based on a popular song.
“When I’m Sixty-Four”
When I get older,
Sincerely wasting away.
Will you still need me?
From the Beatles, When I’m Sixty-Four
So you can see I’ve been having a lot of fun with poetry this month. Why don’t you check out Stephanie’s website and try your hand at a few?
Well, here it is, Saturday, and I forgot to post on Friday. If you read my Monday blog posts, you’ll know that I’m participating in April’s poetry month. I’ve posted some of my poems on my Facebook page but here are some others.
My Mom came to stay awhile.
dined, and visited,
settling into her lavender-colored room,
So I could hold her hand when she passed.
At five till two, the staff that
was going to the meeting were already in the conference room. The security
guard had the door open while Ralph made a big scene getting broom, trashbags,
mop, and water-filled bucket through the door into the lobby. Mike was trailing
along with the buffer. Edna had a stack of buffer pads. I stood at the door
with a clipboard and pen. “Okay,” I said as I made check marks on the paper. I
smiled at the guard, who was glaring at the four of us. “That’s everything.
Thank you, Austin, for holding the door for us.”
Austin wasn’t happy, and he grunted
in what sounded like disgust. “Just get on with it,” he said. “We’re not
supposed to have the door open this long.”
“Of course. Just let them put the
stuff down. Shall I hold the door while you go with them?” I smiled sweetly,
doing my best not to let my excitement show. This was going to work!
He looked with alarm at the other
three, steadily marching toward the front door. “Yes. Yes.” He hurried across
the lobby. “Hey. Stop right there.”
I slipped out into the lobby and
let the door close behind me, holding it so it barely snicked as the lock
caught. I rushed across the floor. Ralph put the bucket down, dropped
everything but the broom and shoved the handle end of it right into Austin’s
Edna all but threw the buffer pads
to the side and Mike let go of the buffer. I really expected a horrendous
scream from Austin but he was making little mewing sounds instead, eyes wide in
shock. Mike and Edna ran for the front door. I grabbed Ralph by the arm. “Come
on.” He was standing, staring at Austin, hands still on the broom handle.
He nodded, releasing the broom and
took two steps then went back.
“What are you doing?”
“Keys.” He dropped to his knees
beside Austin, still making those noises, and searched his pants pockets. Ralph
pulled car keys from the left pocket. “Got ‘em.” He rose and ran to the door
Mike was holding open.
I don’t know about the others, but
outside in the sun I was nearly blind. “This way,” Edna called. We followed her
to the parking lot. I had my hand over my eyes, looking through the spaces
between my fingers.
Ralph was holding the key fob out,
pressing the unlock button until we heard the car horn of a newer model
four-door sedan. To say we ran was an understatement. Ralph took the driver’s
seat. Edna was front passenger. Mike and I slid into the back seat. “Let’s go!”
That’s when a klaxon began to
sound. “Hurry!” I yelled. I looked out of the car windows. That noise was going
to bring the neighbors. But there weren’t any neighbors. There were no other
buildings within sight.
The car tires squealed as Ralph
floored the gas and pulled out of the parking space. Security was running out
of the building.
“They’re going to catch us!” Edna
“Not if I can help it.” Ralph had
both hands on the wheel, white knuckled.
I slid back into the seat and put
on my seat belt. We were already going so fast I was scared to death. Mike saw
what I was doing and did the same. “Look out!”
One of the security guards was just
about at the parking lot. We just had to get past him and we’d be able to drive
down the driveway and out of here.
Edna covered her eyes. It looked
like we were going to hit the guard. I held my breath. At this speed, Ralph
might lose control of the car if we collided with the guard. We brushed by it,
it’s hand out. I could hear it thump against the rear window, right in front of
“Hoo!” Ralph yelled. “We made it!”
We were at the edge of the parking
lot, driving onto the access road. That’s when I saw the shimmer. “What’s
“What?” Ralph asked.
Then we hit it.
I woke up in the infirmary, sick to
my stomach and fuzzy-headed. Some noise was piercing my brain and I just wanted
it to stop.
It was coming from my right. I
turned my head to look. It was Ralph. A monitor beside him was screaming, a
bright green flat line running across the middle of it. A monster came to Ralph’s
bedside, made a note on an electronic pad, then turned the monitor off. He
pulled the sheet up over Ralph’s face. He noticed me watching, then left.
Ralph dead? How? Then I remembered
the car. We were out! What? I was trying to get my brain to function when Dr.
Jenkins appeared at my bed. “Laurie. How are you feeling?”
“You and your friends tried to
escape.” He took a pad from the monster I saw cover Ralph. “You had your seat
belt on. That saved you.” Jenkins shook his head. “Your friend Edna died on
impact.” He stared into my eyes. “I know you planned this. Now two of your
friends are gone.”
“Mike?” I asked.
“He’s been transferred to another
Sadness and grief came over me like
a mountain crashing down on my chest. I couldn’t breathe. I could feel tears
leaking from the corners of my eyes and running down my face into my ears. They
were all gone?
“I’ve called for your son.”
A small bright spot of hope. “Stan
is coming?” It was so hard to focus. What kind of drugs had they given me?
“He’ll be here this evening.” With
that he handed the pad back to the other monster and left.
I drifted in and out of sleep. They
brought me a tray, but I couldn’t face the glop that they’d served. My stomach
rolled and I pushed it away. I fell back to sleep. I woke up to voices in the
hall. Was that Stan? I tried to focus on the conversation.
“She led an escape.”
“Escape? How’d you let that
That was Stan’s voice. What did he
mean by that?
“Your mother is very smart. It was
a long-term plan and she and her friends carried it off beautifully. The
training said humans were smart. They were right.”
“How is she now?”
Ah, that was my boy.
“She’s fine. She had a seat-belt
on. Right now we have her heavily sedated.”
“Can she talk?”
“Yes. I told her you were coming.”
“Fine. Let’s go in.
I tried to wake up more. Of course
they’d drugged me. Monsters. I just wanted to see my son. I tried to focus as
they entered the bay. There he was. He must have come straight from work. He
was still in his suit and tie.
I reached out for his hand. “Stan.
Get me out of here.”
“We can’t do that, Mother.”
I looked up at his face. Tears began to flow as I saw at his gray-green skin.
The next morning, over the
watered-down oatmeal, we put our heads together. “I’ve been awake most of the
night, thinking about what we can do to get out of here. We should become
“What’s that,” Edna asked.
“Trusted inmates,” Ralph said.
Mike nodded. “We become the best
inmates ever. No complaining, no causing trouble.”
“Tattling on the others.” Ralph
sighed. “I don’t like that part.”
“If we don’t, they aren’t going to
“Maybe we can just report minor
stuff, that wouldn’t get people in trouble.”
Edna was soft-hearted. I had to
sigh. “Sure. Just as long as they buy that we’re now docile as sheep.”
It took us months. Winter came and
went. Spring was in full swing. “Time to put this into play.”
“Good,” Mike said. He was much
sharper than he had been last summer. He was off of all of the meds they’d been
giving him. “What’s the plan?”
I looked around the room. We’d
ticked off all of the other inmates. None of them would even look at us
anymore. We were safe to talk. “We get outside of the security door. Ralph, you
offer to mop the floor out there. We’ll all do something that takes us out
there or that puts us near the door. Once we’re there, open the door and we’ll
“What about the guard?” Edna looked
“We’ll take care of the alien.” I
had just about all of the kowtowing I could stand. If I had to run the
gray-green skinned monster through with the mop handle, I was going to do it.”
“Does anyone know where we are? How
do we get to a town?”
I shrugged. “There has to be a
parking lot and cars. We’ll figure something out.”
All three of them nodded. They were
as sick of being meek as I was.
After breakfast I went to Dr.
Jenkin’s office. I’d become his personal assistant. I’d had to explain the
concept to him but once he understood, he latched on to me like a leech. I
fetched him coffee, retrieved reports from the printer, did his laundry, and
any other menial task he could think up. Once he realized I was a former
counsellor, I was even allowed to type up patient notes. I’d found out about
every one of the inmates here. Every single one could see that the staff were
alien. I’d learned how to make myself so handy, that the staff began to talk in
front of me.
They knew we could see them. It was
some kind of immunity, the way they talked about it. People who weren’t immune,
could only see them as regular humans. I told the others, of course. It made
everything so clear. My boy didn’t hate me, he just didn’t realize what was
going on. I needed to get out and warn him. Him and his family.
In the meantime, the residents here
were being gaslighted into thinking they were crazy, that there were no aliens.
I ran into Edna on a trip to fetch coffee for Jenkins. She was washing woodwork
in the hall. “Hey.”
She looked around and replied.
“Hey. How’s it going?”
“Good. Jenkins is having a staff
meeting at two. That’s when we make our move.”
“I’ll pass the word.”
I went on my way. Having Edna in
the halls was a life-saver. She could pass messages between us easily. I found
Mike in the kitchen. He’d been taken on as kitchen drudge. While he put cups
away, I grabbed one and gave him the word.
“I’ll be ready. Maybe take a pot of
coffee to Jenkin’s office?”
“Good idea. I’ll be waiting.” I
left with the coffee on a tray with some cookies. Jenkins loved cookies. That
would put him in a good mood the rest of the day. I still had to figure out how
to get Ralph outside the security door.
“Dr. Jenkins, coffee.” I put the
tray down on a side table, then poured him a cup. I put that, and a napkin with
three cookies on it, on the desk, close to his hand.
“Thank you, Laurie.” He picked up a
cookie and munched on it. “Umm, that is so good.”
I swear the monster began to purr.
“Um, as I was walking by the outer door, I noticed the floor out there is in a
real state. Not a good impression at all when visitors come in.”
He sipped his coffee. “Well. Yes,
you’re right. I’ll have someone clean that up.” He started to go back to his
“I can tell Ralph. I swear he’s a
genius with that buffer. Did you see the dayroom floor? It’s like glass.”
He looked up. “I don’t…”
“Don’t you worry. I’ll tell him.
You don’t have to look after every little detail.” I started to leave the office.
“Oh.” I turned around just at the door. “I don’t want him to be in the way of
the staff. When would be a good time for him to get cleaning?” Then I waited,
I could see him struggle with the
decision. I knew he didn’t want Ralph out there. But there were guards. Come
on, come on. Say two o’clock.
“Have him do it at two, while I’m
having the staff meeting.”
“Good idea.” I had to restrain
myself. I didn’t want to look too enthused. “Should I tell Security?”
“No. I’ll do that. You just tell
“Yes, Sir. I’ll do that right now.”
I could feel my heart beating against my ribcage as I left the office. This was
going to work!