Flash Fiction Friday: Chapter from The Downtrodden

Book, The Downtrodden, Brown Rain Series, Connie Cockrell

Front Cover for The Downtrodden

I thought, for something different, I’d share a partial chapter from The Downtrodden, the second book of the Brown Rain series. Links to purchase are at the end.

MOVING ON

As for food, the damaged gas station was a bust. They spent the first night in a house, cheering when they found a mylar packet of rice dinner in a cupboard, untouched by mice. The next day they began their hunt for food. On Main Street they found a hiking store where they acquired two sleeping bags in the back room, still in plastic-wrapped boxes. Kyra actually whooped.

The other bags in the store were full of mouse nests. They also managed to replace their knives which had been stolen by the Children of God. Kyra was happy about that. Since they’d escaped she’d been afraid of running into more wild dogs or even wolves. Memories of the fight with the last feral dogs they’d run into haunted her dreams. She wanted a knife for close fighting.

The shop didn’t have any bows or arrows. She felt that lack most of all. A knife was good but better to have some distance between her and any enemy. It was her best weapon and she felt naked without it. The store also had two cases of dehydrated food, one of chili and one of chicken stew. The mice had demolished the chicken but there were several packets of chili that were still in good shape. Those went into the packs. The grocery store in the center of town had been thoroughly looted. “Looks like the Children did get over here,” Kyra said as they left the empty store.

“Maybe there’s one on the outskirts,” Alyssa said as she bent over the sidewalk, clearing a way. They stopped by any store that looked as though it would have gear or supplies, but it was the same as the grocery. By noon they were resting in the park in the center of Fern Springs where the town had erected a pavilion, similar to the one at their school over their spring. Kyra had found packets of honey at the hiking store and shared them out, two for her and two for Alyssa.

“I wonder what happened to the bees.” Kyra had her back to a pavilion support as she squeezed crystallized honey into her mouth.

Alyssa licked her fingers. “They may be all gone. The brown rain covered everything. Without flowers the hives, even the biggest ones, wouldn’t have been able to survive more than a year or two. The rain lasted four years.”

Kyra gazed at the little park. She tried to imagine what it looked like all green grass and leafy trees, the little stream from the spring meandering through the park, flowers growing on its banks. It wasn’t possible. She was so used to seeing everything covered with the gray-brown oily sludge from a toxic rain that ended over a decade ago that she couldn’t imagine anything else. The color of the path that Alyssa had healed so they could get to this pavilion was a startling green against the depressing oily sludge. “How big do you think this park is?”

Alyssa looked around. “A quarter acre, maybe.” She turned to Kyra. “Why?”

“Just thinking how nice this park would be if it was green, the way it should be. Maybe animals could come and eat the grass, drink the clean water.” She waved her hand. “Never mind, it’s a silly thought.”

“No it’s not. This is exactly what I came out here to do.” She stood up. “You can watch from here.” Alyssa danced down the spongy wooden steps and began to work. She started close to the pavilion, around and around in bigger and bigger squares. Grass mostly, but there were a few oak and maple trees in the park that she healed too. She stopped at the sidewalks that surrounded the park and washed her hands in the stream as it dropped into a culvert and flowed out of the park.

“There,” she said, her face full of smiles as she reached the pavilion. “An oasis in a toxic desert.”

Kyra handed her a bottle of water. “I like it. Do you think your paths and these patches will help?”

“I know they will.” She wiped her mouth and handed the bottle back to Kyra. “The toxins are breaking down, I can feel it.”

Kyra’s face lit up. “They are?”

“Yeah, but it’s going to be a long time yet. In the meantime, my little paths are a break. A spot for wildlife to get a toe-hold. Bugs, then birds, then bigger prey and predators.” She looked thoughtful. “To be honest I was completely surprised that dogs had survived. They must be finding something to eat. Maybe something we can eat too. ”

Kyra refilled the bottle. “If it’s going to be a long time we’d better get going. You up for more paths? I want to check more stores and if that fails, houses.”

“Sure.” Alyssa turned and walked to Main Street and made a path to the store side of the street.

That night they stayed in a house near the edge of town. As expected, pickings had been slim in the stores but for some reason the Children had left most houses alone. The two raided closets for suitable hiking clothes, dry goods, or anything else they thought would be useful. Just outside of town they explored a farm house with a large but mouse-eaten pantry. Fortunately a bag of beans was found and cooked, mashed into a paste and dried into patties as road food. They had enough to eat for nine days so they moved on.

End of Chapter Section

You can buy The Downtrodden and my other books at: Apple, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, or Smashwords today!

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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Flash Fiction Friday: The Rain Fair

A friend of mine was generating book titles as writing prompts the other day and this one caught my eye. In real life Arizona is short of it’s annual rainfall for the year. This is never a good thing. And as happens quite often, my mind goes to a dystopian future. Below is what I came up with for The Rain Fair.

The Rain Fair

Fourteen-year-old Mackenzie lifted the last crock of goat cheese onto the homespun cloth draped over boards Pa had set across two sawhorses. Ma piled the skeins of wool they had spent the winter spinning at the other end. It looks nice, Mackenzie thought. “Can I go now?”

Her mother’s face was drawn with the exhaustion of getting here early. “Sure.” She pulled a straggling lock of hair back from her face and tucked it behind an ear. “Listen for news about the weather.” She peered up at the cloudless blue sky. “If we don’t get rain soon, the water holes will dry up and the goats will die. It’ll be the end of us.”

“OK, Ma.” Mackenzie dodged the ropes supporting the tarp over the table.

“Don’t lose yer coin,” her Ma yelled.

She waved. Ma and Dad were worried. But this was the Rain Fair. Everyone here hoped for the rains. She meandered along the midway where bright colored cloth decorated the front of tents promising wonder and adventure. Hucksters sold all sorts of things that she only saw here. She stopped at a sign, Madam Eunice, Fortunes Told. There were drawings of exotic places and pretty girls. The owner stood in the tent door. “Come, girl, I’ll tell your fortune.”

“A lie,” her father told her on the ride in. “They just want your money.” Mackenzie shook her head. The woman tried another inducement.

“I can see the future, girl. Just three coppers.”

Mackenzie fingered the coppers in her pocket, earned by selling knitted goods to the neighbors. Her hoard even had an ancient coin, from the Yousa, smooth and evenly round, not like the coins that the Arizona government stamped. “Sure.”

The woman held open the flap and Mackenzie went inside. It was stuffy in the tent and dark after the woman pulled the tent flap closed. Mackenzie sat at a cloth covered table where smoke from a bundle of sage curled up and gathered at the tent roof.

“What is your question?” The woman held out her hand.

Mackenzie pulled out three coppers. “When will the rain come?” She dropped the coins in Madam Eunice’s hand.

The woman tucked the coins in the band around her waist. She closed her eyes and drew a deep breath. Mackenzie watched the woman sway as she hummed a single long note. “I see a young man walking with you into a brilliant sunset. Three children are born and have families of their own. You, sitting with children and grandchildren.”  The woman coughed and opened her eyes. “That is all I see.”

“That’s not what I wanted to know!” The chair skidded back when she stood.

“That’s all I see,” Madam Eunice said again, her eyes steady on the girl.

Mackenzie was furious and embarrassed. Three coppers wasted. She barged through the tent flap into the bright sun. The fortune teller’s cheat colored everything. Every tent, every stand seemed cheap and tawdry. She stopped at a crowd listening to a woman who claimed to be a water witch. She held a slender bent stick in her hand. “I can find a well for you,” she told them. “How much is cold, clear water bubbling out of your ground worth to you?” As she paced, the stick began to twitch and when she stood over a bucket, it pointed straight down.

Mackenzie snorted as she left. She wasn’t going to be fooled again. The woman made the switch do that. At the end of the midway was the arena. Later there’d be a rodeo. Now though, the Rain Callers were dancing.

People believed in the Rain Callers. They came to the fair just to watch the dances and hope for rain. It cost money to sit in the stands so she threaded her way through the standing crowd and found a place at the front where she could see. Since it was early, only a single dancer was in the ring. He wore fringed buckskin trousers though his body was bare. Long black braids with feathers and beads swung around his head. He shook a turtle shell rattle in one hand and in the other, held a painted gourd bottle. As he chanted and danced his way around the ring, he sprinkled the crowd with it.

As he approached her, she could hear him sing in the ancient Navaho. He danced in front of her and holding her gaze, sprinkled her with water then spun and danced away. She stayed until the rest of the crowd left. The Rain Caller walked over to her.

“You have a question?” He wiped the sweat from his face with a homespun rag.

“Do you make it rain?” Mackenzie looked into his dark brown eyes.

He shook his head. “I focus the rain thoughts.”

She pointed at the midway.  “Just like the rest of the huckster’s. A cheat.”

“No.” He looked at her intently. “I am the focus for the thoughts and hopes of those who need the rain. You need the rain.”

“I do. Ma and Pa’s farm will fail without it.”

“Water follows you. Just like all of the others I sprinkled in the crowd.”

Her eyebrows drew together. “You don’t know me.”

“Look.” He pointed at the people chatting in groups around the arena. “See how some have a glow?”

Disbelieving, she looked. She saw Mr. Randolf, biggest rancher in central Arizona. He had a faint blue glow about him. Mrs. Powell was talking to some ranch wives. She had a glow. Mackenzie looked at the Rain Caller. “You sayin’ I glow, too?” She looked at her arm.

“You glow,” the Caller told her. “Go to your farm. Get a water witch to help you find water.”

She watched him walk away. It would be good if she could find water on the farm. They wouldn’t have to rely on Mrs. Powell to release water from her dam. Mackenzie walked slowly back to the water witch. She’d see about the price.

The End

999 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here:http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

If you enjoyed this story, you might be interested in my newest Science Fiction book, A New Start, the first book in my Gulliver Station series. You can find it here: https://authorcentral.amazon.com/gp/books/book-detail-page?ie=UTF8&bookASIN=149540708X

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Flash Fiction Friday: We’re Watching You

My daughter was in the bank the other day and heard an exchange between a man and the bank. He was withdrawing a large sum of money, the teller input the amount into her system. Moments later, the IRS was on the phone, asking him why he needed such a large sum withdrawn. Turns out he was buying a neighbor’s boat for cash. My reaction was, Wow! Here’s my story.

We’re Watching You

“Yes,” Scott did a fist pump; his football team had made a touchdown.  He sat the barrel of his .22 rifle down and reached for a beer. The doorbell rang. “Shit, right in the middle of the game.” He put the beer down and answered the door.

There were two men standing there, dressed in black suits and ties on a Sunday afternoon. “Yes?”

“Mr. Hersey, I’m Agent Winehouse, this is my partner, Agent Kavi, we’re from Homeland Security.”

Scott shrugged, “Yeah?”

“Mr. Hersey, we’re here because you’re drinking alcohol and cleaning a weapon. That behavior needs to cease right now.”

“Seriously?” Scott gripped the doorknob tighter. “I’m watching the game and cleaning my .22. What’s the problem?”

“Mr. Hersey, you understand that imbibing alcohol and working with firearms is dangerous. If you refuse to cease that activity, we’ll confiscate the weapon.”

“Oh for…,” he let go of the doorknob and took a breath. After all, these guys were just doing their jobs, keeping everyone safe. “Yes, I’ll put the .22 away and clean it some other time.”

Agent Winehouse stepped back, “Thank you sir, we appreciate the cooperation in keeping you safe.”

They turned and left. Scott watched them get into their car and drive away. He slammed the door shut. “Damn Homeland Security, always getting into everyone’s business.” He walked into the living room and picked up the rifle pieces in the towel and put them in the garage. “Always watching everything we do.”

When his wife Marie got home he complained to her about it.

“Scott, you know they expanded their scope after the murder, rape, assault and burglary rates dropped to just about nothing. You voted for it yourself.” She put her new blouse in the closet as he flopped on the bed.

“I know,” he lay back, hands under his head. “But I didn’t think they’d be spying on regular guys just having a quiet Sunday at home.”

She turned and looked at him. “You were drinking and messing with a gun, Scott. What did you expect?”

He sat up, “It was just a couple of beers while I watched the game. I wasn’t hurting anyone.”

“Maybe so, hon, but you know accidents happen.” She walked around to his side of the bed and took his head in her hands. “I’m glad you didn’t get hurt.” She kissed him on the forehead. “Now come on, I bought steaks for dinner; get the grill ready would you?”

#

The next Saturday, Scott was at his favorite watering hole with his best friends, Ramon, Ward and Jim. He told them about his visit from Homeland last Sunday.

“Jeesh, Scott. I know what you’re sayin’,” Ward replied. “I was getting’ ready to squirt some lighter fluid on my barbeque coals, they weren’t goin’, ya know? Anyway, I pick up the bottle and head for the grill when two guys come racin’ inta the yard, yelling ‘put the bottle down!’ I almost wet myself. Then I get a big lesson on how squirting lighter fluid on already live coals could cause burns, death and disfigurement.” He slugged down half of his beer. “Can’t do anything anymore without the damn government gettin’ all up in your face.”

The men all nodded. Ramon spoke up. “Two weeks ago me and the old lady were havin’ a fight in the kitchen. Next thing I know, Homeland is bustin’ in the kitchen door. Separated me and the wife. Took four hours for us to convince them we was just havin’ a discussion.”

Jim took a swig of his whiskey and soda. “I don’t know how much more I can take. They’re at the door, callin’ on the phone.” He looked around the table. “You guys thought I was being a jerk for sayin’ I wouldn’t vote for the increased scope. Now, here we are. I don’t know how much more I can take. Shit, I was called on my phone the other day for crossin’ the damn street in the middle of the block.”

Scott scratched his head. “What’ll we do? Lots of people want Homeland to keep us safe. They like that all the crime rates are down.”

Ramon shook his head, “Big difference between stoppin’ a rape and stoppin’ Jim from jay walkin’.”

They all nodded, Scott ordered another round.

Ramon broke the silence, “I’m thinkin’ of takin’ the family back to Mexico. We still have relatives there and the political situation isn’t like it was back in 2012. My company has offices down there and Mexico doesn’t have Homeland Security.”

Jim stared at Ramon for a minute, “Funny you should say that. I was thinkin’ of goin’ off grid.”

The whole table stared at him. Scott broke the ice, “No TV? Cell phones?”

Jim nodded. “My family has property in Virginia. An old farm; never was updated. We can move there, keep out of the government’s eye.”

“Damn, Jim. That’s pretty extreme,” Ward sat forward, leaning across the table. “What’s your wife say?”

“She says it’s OK by her. She’s sick of it too.”

They guys all nodded.

A month later Scott, Ward and Ramon met at their bar. Scott waited till they all had a beer, “Did you hear?”

They shook their heads.
“Marie told me. Jim and his wife were arrested, right in the middle of loading the moving van. Homeland took them, said they were anti-social. They’re in a psych ward until Homeland says they’re ready to re-integrate into society.”

The End

913 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here:http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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