Short Story Of the Day, A Boom in the Morning by Bill Chance

Everybody had to get up early and was scurrying around the house making plans for the day – who would go where, what they would do, and what they could skip.

—-Bill Chance, A Boom in the Morning

NASA Photo

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#22). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


A Boom in the Morning

Space isn’t remote at all. It’s only an hour’s drive away if your car could go straight upwards.

—-Sir Fred Hoyle

Hank knew it was going to be a busy, crazy day, and very warm for the first of February. His son had three soccer games and two basketball games. His daughter had art lessons and a basketball game. His car was in the shop. A typical insane Saturday in 2003 in a suburb east of Dallas.

Everybody had to get up early and was scurrying around the house making plans – who would go where, what they would do, and what they could skip.

He was looking for his wife’s keys when the house shook – some sort of boom. Even though the ground seemed to shudder for a split second it wasn’t really that loud, not much louder than the usual background rumbling vibrations from the three big freeways that surrounded their neighborhood. He was so preoccupied that he put it immediately out of mind. “What was that?” his wife Sara asked, “Was that a sonic boom?” If she hadn’t said that, he wouldn’t have remembered anything about the sound.

Sara drove him to her mother’s apartment and he borrowed her car (they had tried to figure out a way to get through the day with only one vehicle but couldn’t quite work it out). He drove home, picked up Elizabeth, their daughter, stopped by the bank to get money, left her at her art lesson (she took two one-hour lessons each Saturday, from nine to eleven AM), and drove down to Starbucks for a couple rare hours of relaxation.

Hank hadn’t been sitting very long when his cell phone rang.

“Did you hear about the shuttle,” an unknown voice said on the other end.

“What?”

“Oh, I think I punched the wrong number,” the voice said, and hung up.

A minute later it rang again; it was Sara, calling from the soccer fields.

“Did you hear about the shuttle?” she asked. He hadn’t been near a TV or live radio all day (He and Elizabeth had been listening to her favorite electronic dance station in the car – it’s only a tape playing on the radio, no DJ or news) and had no idea.

“Hang up, I’ll use something new, the Internet news feed on my Nextel cell phone to figure out what was up and call you back,” Hank said.

He punched into CNN from his phone and read on the tiny screen about the explosion and about the debris falling to the east, on Nacogdoches. Then he read about the sound, the explosion that could be heard.

He felt a sudden, terrible shock as he remembered what his wife had said an hour earlier and was sickened when he realized what it meant.

That was the boom… it was the shuttle blowing up over their heads.

He thought about the rest of the day, how busy they were going to be. Should they cancel anything? Was this going to change things? It had happened only a few miles over their heads.

No, no, nothing. For them, nothing would change. Hank continued to sip his coffee. Soon, he was thinking about his daughter’s afternoon basketball game, and if they had a chance of winning… not that he really cared.

Prison Shuttle

I didn’t feel like it (I was exhausted and my head was pounding) but I went for a little bike ride after work. My bike was in the back of the car so I drove down to the nearby Forest Lane train station – one that the Cottonwood Trail runs by. I changed clothes in the car, which is difficult for me, and pulled the bike out of the hatchback, which is easy. While I was getting my shit together I noticed this advertising sign stuck in the grass border around the parking lot.

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For Family & Friends

This saddens me. Not so much that somebody has started a shuttle service to the local prisons (For Family and Friends) – if there is a need, there should be someone to fill it. It saddens me that there is such a need.

And look at that bus! I can see chartering a van to take my friends and family for an afternoon visit at the slammer… but who could fill up that bus? That thing has a dual rear axle – that’s a serious hunk of bus there. Are they are thinking about more than mere visits? That bus would be useful for a prison break. You could take a whole unit over the fence and drive them to a nice afternoon at a baseball game all for one low price. I wish that was true… over the obvious fact that there are enough folks up the river that you can fill a bus up on visiting day.

Across the parking lot is a cheap gas station that has a constant flow of shady characters moving in and out with bags full of bottles. I guess the people that run the shuttle service figured out (maybe with extensive research and a focus group or two) that friends and relatives of incarcerated jailbirds tend to walk through this lot – maybe carrying their cheap booze to the train. People riding the train with alcohol won’t have a car they can drive to the pen. They would need a shuttle.

I haven’t seen that ad anywhere else.

So I climbed on my bike and went for a short ride. My head never stopped pounding, so I only went a half-dozen miles or so, stopping at a shady bench to read a short story on my Kindle. While I was loading my bike back in the car for the trip home I watched a few folks walk through the lot… but nobody asked for a pen so they could write the phone number down.