Friday, January 31, 2014

Moonshot – Part 2

The next week took a year to go by. Mom decided it was time to repaint the porch and set me down with a scraper to take off the old layers down to bare wood. It was fun at first, popping the blisters and seeing how big a paint chip I could take intact, but after the first half hour, it was real work again. After an hour, I had one board scraped with thirty seven to go.

“We can’t go see the rocket launch until we get this done,” Mom said, and silenced my coming protest just by tilting her head. She left me on the porch to do whatever it was Mom did in the house when she wasn’t finding chores for me to do.

I spent the time thinking about the snake in my old classroom. After our unit on insects, we moved on to reptiles. The teacher brought in a garter snake, and set in an aquarium in the window. The crickets, having no further scientific purpose, became food. I wondered if the snake’s belly hurt from the spines on their legs, but it didn’t seem to notice. I figured it was a smart snake, because after we finished learning all about reptiles, it escaped and couldn’t be found. Our next unit was on amphibians, which didn’t eat snakes, but the snake didn’t know that. I understand there is still a story floating around the school that it has since grown to the size of an anaconda and lives in the girl’s bathroom.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Moonshot – Part One

Image by Fir002 via Wikimedia Commons

Our house was hidden in the shadow of three hills, twenty miles away from the nearest gas station. As a kid, I never questioned having an hour’s bus ride each morning and afternoon. I took it as a fact of life that everyone spent an entire Saturday driving to a grocery store and filling up three carts with two weeks’ worth of food. Once or twice a year, I saved enough of my allowance to get a comic book or magazine for the way home, but mostly I looked out the window at the passing pine trees, scrub, swamps, and gravel driveways that led to homes unseen. I figured that was just the way life was for everyone, including the thin green man who lived at the edge of the fog.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Lend Me Your Ears

By Bettyann Moore

Cecil Hampton had just one more stop and then he could head home. These four-week sales trips were killing him. Sure, he’d made a few bucks along the way, but it was mostly drunken schmoozing and he was getting too damn old for that. And the young twits he had to deal with these days, with their tightly-held belief in their own Golden entitlement! Thank God Cecil had a hollow leg and could drink the snot-nosed little shits under the table. He loved nothing more than to get their signatures on the dotted line bright and early on the day after a “sales meeting.” Still, it was getting harder and harder for Cecil to keep up.

His dour mood deepened as he aimed his Ford Escort toward the home offices of TrustUS, Inc., his largest and least favorite client. The operation might be high-class – plush offices, squeaky-clean manufacturing floor and a polite and welcoming staff – but it was run by a ball-buster by the name of Janet Sommers who was as mean as she was gorgeous. There wouldn’t be any shots of tequila at some dive, nor visits to the local strip club; all business would be conducted in a well-appointed TU, Inc. meeting room where Cecil would be expected to jump through hoops, juggle balls and sell, sell, sell. And there Janet Sommers would sit, looking at him like he was some sort of slimy microbe. He wouldn’t doubt that she had the room fumigated after he left.

Cecil drained more than half of the Coke he’d opened earlier and with one hand still on the wheel, managed to add some rum to the remainder. He’d had a lot of practice. What really galled him was how his wife teased him about TU, Inc. and Janet Sommers. “Saving the best for last again, dear?” she always said. “Have a little crush on Ms. Sommers, hmmm?” 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Seasonal Employment

By Colleen Sutherland

Morton Gallagher almost reached the office of the Glen Valley Middle School when the stream of retching green teenagers swarmed toward him, their urgency forcing him toward the exit. They pushed him out the big entrance door. He joined them at the plastic lined barrels that served as trash containers. They all leaned over and began to spew out the contents of the school lunch. Beanie Weenies, some kind of Michelle Obama green vegetable, followed by what looked like blood but was probably cherry gelatin that had served as dessert. Steam poured out of the receptacles as the hot vomit met the frigid January air. It reminded Mort of fog scenes in British railroad stations in film noir post war movies.

Morton pushed a snot-nosed boy aside he had last seen throwing spitballs in third hour World lit class. Together they cleaned their stomachs into the barrel while Mort held his substitute teacher paperwork up high to protect it. Spewing up his lunch was not part of the substitute deal and he sure wasn't going to give up payment for his day at the middle school.

The school librarian and head of the teachers' union found him there.

“Did you hear?” she called out to him. “School's being closed for the next month because of the flu outbreak.”

“I figured it would be,” Mort said.

“Well worth the cost,” Mrs Ergot said.

“Might as well finish up then.”

She followed him to his Mini Cooper. It was at the edge of the ditch on the highway. By the tracks he could see that his little car had been carried there by husky farm boys. Another prank pulled on the substitute teacher. It made him feel better about the transaction he and the librarian were carrying out.

He pulled some paper toweling out of the trunk, handed a few pieces to Mrs. Ergot and used some more to wipe off his face.

“Always a gentleman, Mort. You think of everything, don't you.”

“Well, if I want to be asked back, I have to be efficient,” he said.

He pulled out a thermos jug and poured her some hot tea and two capsules. She swallowed them down with the tea.

“It should work in about an hour," he said, and took his own capsules.

He dug out a box containing more capsule in vials. “You can share these in the teachers' lounge," he said. “There's enough for everyone."

“What about the kids?”

“They're on their own.” Mort pointed to the row of yellow buses chugging up the drive. “I hope the school bus drivers have the mops to clean up afterward. I did leave instructions about that.”

The librarian held out a brown manila envelope to him. It had been marked “Lesson Plans” with a black Sharpie.

“Nice touch,” Mort said as he plopped the envelope on top of his substitute paperwork. That should impress the principal. Thank your co-workers for putting together good lesson plans,” he added.

“I thought it was time for them to be exposed to Poe and when you suggested "The Masque of Red Death", I thought, how appropriate!”

“I was particularly glad to see the DVD of the Ken Burns documentary on the 1918 flu pandemic for fourth hour world history. If they weren’t feeling nauseous before, that got to them. Tell Mr. Peterman thanks for the good lesson plan.”

Mort handed Mrs. Ergot another packet. “Here's your itinerary. Plenty of copies for everyone You all just meet Kate from Midwest Tours at the airport tomorrow and you're on you way. You should be in Cancun by 4:00 tomorrow afternoon. I enclosed more of my cards, too."

“Great, Mort, we'll be sure to hand them out at the state teachers' conference next October."

Friday, January 3, 2014

Secret Identity

Photo by Christian Bauer via Wikimedia Commons
George Romero stood before the painting, feeling the sudden need for a bathroom. The woman in yellow stood behind his shoulder, hissing in his ear.

“She is such a visionary, my dear. The brushwork alone makes me want to tear my eyes out,” she said. Cigarette breath mixed with eye-watering perfume.

George twisted the cocktail napkin in his hands. The cardinal rule was to keep moving, but he had stopped. He had leaned against the wall to ease the burning in his legs from the countless circuits of the gallery and from a full twelve-hour shift on the factory floor earlier in the day. A moment's rest surely would be safe, he had thought, but the woman in yellow must have sensed he didn’t belong and pounced in his moment of weakness. 

“How much?” he asked, nodding at the painting.

She laughed. “Oh you had to ask, didn't you?” She sighed and glanced at the floor.