Monthly Archives: June 2012

No. 122 – The Neighborhood Submarine

Randy Campbell had done what very few boys his age had ever accomplished. He’d built a submarine.
Not the pretend kind, or a toy, either. Randy had constructed one that worked.
His first order of business was to arrange transport for it from the shed in his backyard to the lake. He sat down and, over a cool glass of lemonade, considered his options. He arrived at a novel solution.
The first posters went up immediately. He used the same supplies and telephone poles that he’d seen his mother use when their cat, Mr. Fluffy, ran away.
It had worked to recover Mr. Fluffy, much to Randy’s chagrin. He did not care for Mr. Fluffy. He was confident, therefore, that his scheme would work, too.
The posters offered a simple transaction: In exchange for help carrying the submarine to the water, a five-minute ride would be conferred.
A candidate arrived at Randy’s door within the hour. However, the interested party was not the ideal partner. Randy continued to wait.
 But as time passed, it became clear that the rest of neighborhood would not be supporting his endeavor. Reluctantly, then, he agreed to accept the help of Marnie Maplewood, age 12, from two houses over.

No. 121

Hey, you there! Yes, you with the small child. I know you’re there.
I have forty-four teeth and six sensory-packed tentacles on my nose. I am mildly venomous. I can identify, capture, and eat prey in less time that it takes you to blink. And yet you still think that the fact that I’m a mole and I’m blind is some kind of huge detriment?
I live underground. Have you tried living underground? Hands up? No? I thought so. Well guess what? It’s dark down there. Dark. As in: I don’t have to see where I’m going.
At least nobody says “blind as a mole”. Let the bats deal with that PR problem.
In any case, I’m giving you the chance to surrender now. We’ve put up with flooding, and traps, and poison for too long. I suppose you also assumed that we’ve been down here minding our own business, blindly (See what I did there?) burrowing about in the dirt.
Well, no. We haven’t.
You have seventy-two hours to comply with our demands. I trust you will heed the warning.  
Frank Condylura pointed at the raised soil in the middle of the lawn. “Do you see him, son? He just poked his head up. Moles are blind, you know. He probably doesn’t even know we’re here.”

No. 120

“You’ll understand when you’re older,” is something that I like to say. Of course, I’m ninety-three years old, so I get to say it to almost everyone.
It’s all nonsense, you know. You never really understand some things. And others, well, age has nothing to do with it.
But I like to say it. Gives those young whippersnappers something to aspire to. Lord knows they need help with that. Heck, there was one yesterday who thought that Europe was a country. That kid won’t understand much, at all.
Nope, back in my day we would have taken him out behind the woodshed and whooped him until he could name all the capitals. Kind of makes me choke up, thinking about the good times.
You’ll understand when you’re older.

No. 119

Aaron Lee stepped into the shot from the middle of the repurposed tennis court. The bright orange ball sailed towards the goal but was deflected at the last second by a defenseman diving to protect the net.

It was game three of the Street Hockey Fives tournament and team Puck Off needed a win to move on. Lee ran for his own rebound and shoveled the ball towards the open cage.

The keeper, who’d tripped while attempting to block the initial shot, recovered in time and got a piece of it to make the save.

 Lee got a stick in the mouth for his efforts. The lone referee was distracted by a scuffle in the corner. Lee checked for blood.

None.

Good.

He could continue playing.

There was still a minute and thirty seconds left on the clock, or, on the stopwatch as called out by the referee’s girlfriend. Puck Off was down by one.

The whistle blew for an offside, and Craig Harper lined up to take the draw. The ball was dropped and Harper played the ball ahead to Aaron who was primed for the attack. The defenders were caught flat-footed and Lee ran ahead on a breakaway.

He was about to start his deke when an opponent’s stick found its way between his legs and tripped him up. He tumbled forward and the ball rolled off his stick.

The whistle blew, and Aaron saw the referee pointing to center.

A penalty shot.

Twenty seconds left in regulation time.

This was the moment.

After the match it was widely agreed upon by team Puck Off that the goalie had cheated, the referee had made the wrong call, and, that if only the time-keeper wasn’t playing favorites, the rest of the tournament would have been theirs.

They consoled themselves with their beer and told each other that next year they’d win it all.

And play dirtier, too, now that they had time to think about it…

No. 118

The plastic chair went in first, then the first body. Soon, everyone was in the pool, leaving Charlie Conrad alone on the side. He considered remaining dry, but then dove in, ignoring his brand-new shirt and forgetting the important document in his pocket.
Hours later, the only person left in the water was Steve. Charlie lay on his back and watched half-heartedly as Steve sat in the shallow end, amusing himself with the floating beer cans that surrounded him. Some of the others found this immensely funny.
But Charlie was tired. He wasn’t getting any younger. He had far more crazy-party days behind him than he did ahead. He knew that he should probably head for the exit before everyone got riled up again. He screwed his eyes shut and rolled to a seated position. Then, with a groan and a new click from his knee, he stood up.
Trying his best to smooth out the wrinkles in his clothes from the water and the pool deck, he found the soggy remains of the document. He looked back at the aftermath of the party and grinned.
Then he took a running leap into the deep end.

No. 117

Clarence Johnson scraped a shallow hole into the hard desert sand and wriggled under the chain link fence. Once past the obstacle, he lay still, listening to for any hint of detection.
After an appropriate wait, and hearing nothing, he picked himself up, dusted himself off, and strode forward confidently. He did not mind standing out starkly in the impossibly bright moonlight. He was clearly alone.
He’d infiltrated a boneyard. The remains, not of flesh and blood, but aluminium and steel, stretched out in endless rows before him. He gazed at aircraft no longer needed and set to pasture in an arid time capsule.
He leaned against a fuselage, still warm from the heat of the day, and pulled a map from his pocket. He’d meticulously copied the directions and a crude diagram. The objective was the third plane down row two in quadrant two. Johnson oriented himself and made haste in that direction.
For all of his special skills, he was not versed in aircraft identification. He did not feel awe at the decades of aviation history he was walking beside, but he was impressed by the sheer scale of the facility. He did not need to count the four and a half thousand individual planes to know that without the map, he would be searching for a needle in a haystack.
When he arrived at his destination he took note of the craft in question. Smaller than most of the others around it, it had a sharp, vicious look about it. A fighter, he assumed. He was right. He consulted his instructions and found the proper panel on the side of the plane. He produced a screwdriver from his tool belt and removed the section.
The action revealed a void in the airframe. Johnson reached inside and found what he had been sent to recover. He turned the prize over in his hands. Strange, how something so important could have been misplaced for so long. He now understood why so much effort had been expended to find it again.
He had turned to retrace his steps when a light snapped on.
“Halt! Stay where you are!” was the shouted command.
Johnson held up his arm to shield his eyes.
“Do not move! We will use deadly force!”
Johnson took one more look at the object in his hand. He realized that to survive, he only had one option. Moving swiftly, he ducked under the engine of a massive bomber and began to run past the sleeping giants and towards the fence with the empty desert beyond.

No. 116

“Never touch the big red button,” was the refrain Andrea Turner heard every day. It was always said with the same important tone. “Never touch the big red button.”
This continued for many years. Andrea grew into the job, gaining experience and responsibility.
Only once, during a graveyard shift, was she was tempted to push the button. Her finger moved slowly towards it. She flicked open the safety cover and held, poised to depress the key.  But she couldn’t bring herself to do it and pulled back, remembering the command.
The urge never hit her again. Over time systems changed and were upgraded but the button, and the message, stayed the same. She spent the rest of her working days dutifully following orders and passing on her knowledge to the new recruits.
“Don’t press the big red button,” she would tell them.  
One day a trainee spoke up. “Ma’am, what does the big red button do?”
Andrea stopped and though for a moment. “I don’t know. It never occurred to me to ask.”
She went to the back of the room and opened the large filing cabinet. She dug through to the bottom and found the proper manual. She blew off the dust and turned to the page detailing the operation of the console.
“Huh,” she noted. Then she turned back to the trainee.
“You’d really, really better not touch it.”

No. 115 – The Island

The boat scrubbed up on to the rocky beach with an aura of finality, but it was not until I stepped out that I considered the full extent of my choice.
The sensation was physical, as I realized when my temporarily weakened arms could barely pull the craft above the high-tide line from the shaking.
I sat down on a rock and considered my new situation. I’d put ashore on E— Island, willingly and fully informed. I had provisions and plans to stay, alone, for an entire year.
I dug through my backpack to find a pen and notebook to record my first impressions, but was interrupted by a noise from the tree line. I put down my pack slowly and crept forward on my belly. When I parted the high grass at the edge of the beach I was shocked by the sight that greeted me.
An enormous lion stared back, his glossy mane heaving slowly in the light breeze. This was worrying, indeed. No lions had been reported on E—Island in a half century.

No. 114

Miranda Garrett looked at the clock for the hundredth time. There were still forty-seven minutes left in her shift. She shuffled some papers restlessly from one side of her desk to the other and looked again. The second hand had yet to make a full circle.
Across the hallway, Andrew Ackles was packing a file-box. Miranda watched him. Today was his final shift. Most of the office had reacted with surprise when he told them he’d given his notice. Miranda had felt a keen sadness, although she didn’t know why.
She tried to think of all the times she’d actually talked to him and couldn’t count past five. His leaving should not have registered with her. Now, she chewed her pen and glanced at the clock once more.
Forty-four.
Ackles began to leave but stopped just inside the door to his office and went back for something.
In that moment Miranda made up her mind. She grabbed her coffee cup and her coat and intercepted him before he made it back out.
“I’m coming with you,” she told him.
He was puzzled. “Why?”
She couldn’t answer but followed a half-step behind down the hall and to the stairs. While Andrew waved and said his goodbyes, she was silent.
When they got to the lobby, he turned for the underground parking. Miranda held his arm. “No. This way.”
They left the building out of the front door. Miranda showed him to her car and they got in. He placed his box on the back seat.
“Where are we going?” he asked while already guessing the answer.
“We’re going to drive,” she told him.  

No. 113

The ball came down onto the eighth-hole fairway with a dull impact. It bounced once then deflected towards us.
“Run!” I told my sister. She took a quick glance at the tee-box then darted out from behind the bush to retrieve the white, dimpled prize.
She made it back before the man who’d hit noticed his drive was missing. “Maybe I put it into the woods,” he’d imagine. By then we’d be on down the path to the pond on eleven.
There is no greater thrill than that of discovery. When you catch a flash of white, or sometimes yellow or pink, amongst the green, it’s a jolt of satisfaction.
My sister and I were here most days during the summer. We supplemented our allowance with used balls sold back to the pro shop. The bounty wasn’t much, so sometimes we had to be creative with our collection methods.
Once, my sister had to fight off an angry goose to get to a ball that had rolled into the nest. Did you know that geese can bite? We found out that day.
I’m sure you’re thinking now that I send my sister on all the dangerous missions. That’s not entirely true. She’s proven to be faster than me, so she draws those assignments. I get to root through the thorn bushes, or deal with anything muddy.
Today we have a good haul—almost a ball per hole, so far. Terry Lancaster and his brother must not have been by this morning, although I’m not sure why they try to compete. They’re not any good.
I think I’m going to get an ice cream with my half of the profits.