Short Story (flash fiction) of the day, before the storm by Alex Sheal

“That room made no sense as a storm refuge, numberless rogue objects lying around and not enough duct tape on the windows. Her housemates panicked up and down the stairs, thumping on the walls, for dawn had turned to day and still the storm roared..”
― Alex Sheal, before the storm

Dallas, Texas

It stormed last night, although it didn’t rain until after I got out of bed. The power went off and I didn’t know it. The alarm went off on my phone and when I silenced it my clock said three AM. I glanced at the window and it was dark (this time of year my alarm goes off in twilight) – so I thought my clock was right and my phone had the wrong time. The thought of my phone being in error filled me with terror – the world has truly gone mad.

But at that moment a terrific bolt of lightning struck right outside my window and I realized it was the thick thunderclouds that made it so dark – hiding the day from my bedroom window.

I decided to take my COVID-19 prerogative and work from home for the day.

An interesting flash fiction for you today:

before the storm by Alex Sheal

 

Short Story Of the Day (flash fiction) – Racing With the Wind by Bill Chance

“Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame.”
― William Butler Yeats, The Land of Heart’s Desire

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 (#82) Getting closer! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


Racing With the Wind

Roger and Annette had to rush to the van from the basketball court. Annette ran with her oldest daughter’s hand in her own while Roger brought their young son, no more than a toddler, carried in his arms. A huge black angry cloud was building rapidly to the west and the boiling thunderstorm was beginning to kick up a cold fast wind.

As they piled into the van the humid heat of the Texas summer was shoved aside by a blast of cold storm outflow air. The second they settled in, locking the toddler into his car seat and making sure the girl had her belt fastened the wind rose to a howling gale. Dust and leaves rose in a shooting cloud and the van rocked from the power of the wind.

To watch their daughter’s game they had had to park across the street in the lot of a small shopping center. It was anchored by a big hardware store and the wind suddenly began grabbing the hundred shopping carts piled out front and sent them shooting across the lot like rockets, right toward Roger and Annette’s van.

They flew in a wheeled phalanx, upright and racing, some swerving a bit due to a wonky wheel, but most moving straight with amazing speed. Roger and Annette could do nothing but watch them come. Most were driving in a rumbling mass to the south of the van, where they watched them pass, hit the curb, and then tumble out into the street.

A few veered to the left and came close to the van, but due to a lucky act of providence, not actually hit them, although some only missed by inches. Roger, Annette, and their daughter sat there helpless, and felt a great relief and the sudden windstorm died down and was replaced by fat, pelting rain. They felt very lucky they had not been hit, though it would have been a nasty dent at worse.

The toddler, of course, thought the whole thing was a blast and laughed as hard as he could as he watched the shopping carts fly by.

The Iron Dark of the World

“By early evening all the sky to the north had darkened and the spare terrain they trod had turned a neuter gray as far as the eye could see. They grouped in the road at the top of a rise and looked back. The storm front towered above them and the wind was cool on their sweating faces. They slumped bleary-eyed in their saddles and looked at one another. Shrouded in the black thunderheads the distant lightning glowed mutely like welding seen through foundry smoke. As if repairs were under way at some flawed place in the iron dark of the world.”
Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses

There was a bit of a breeze today. This scene was repeated all over some parts of the city.

tree_house

Here’s the same house, before the storm, from Google Street View. Look how tall that tree is.

My son Nick was at our house today and asked me to drive him home as quickly as possible so he could make it to an afternoon baseball game. The sun was shining when we left my house but when I dropped him off some big, fat raindrops were falling. As I drove north through East Dallas the rain began to thicken and then the wind started to blow. I watched the thermometer in my car drop twenty degrees in a couple minutes. This is not a good sign, especially when driving in the big city, especially in my tiny car. I began to look for shelter and pulled into a parking lot. The wind was from the North so I parked on the South side of a sturdy building. Then all hell broke loose.

I was watching the trees across the street tossing in the wind and then the rain (and a little hail) thickened until I couldn’t see past my hood. The wind had to be blowing seventy miles per hour and my car was rocked even though I was in a sheltered position. It took almost an hour before I felt I could drive home. Looking at the traffic maps on my phone, every road was red.

It took me an hour and a half to go the ten miles home. Trees were down across the road as were power lines. None of the traffic lights were functional and every intersection was a long wait and then a game of automotive chicken as everyone jockeyed to be the next one to cross. I had to get home, change, and then go out to work – we had a good bit of storm damage there.

If you don’t live in the central part of the country you can’t imagine the sudden onslaught and terrifying power of a spring thunderstorm. What’s crazy is an hour later the sun was shining without a cloud in the sky… the air cool and clean, scrubbed by the violent passage of water and wind.

 

This tragedy struck not too far from where I waited out the storm.

 

 

 

Short Story of the Day, “Sea Change” by Nancy M. Michael

But those in the mix know what blood tastes like.

—-Nancy M. Michael, Sea Change

Approaching Storm, Dallas, Texas

I used to take a month each year to comment on and link to short stories published online.

Short Story Months:

Day One 2013

Day One 2015

Day One 2017

I haven’t done that for a while, but have been thinking about it. That doesn’t keep me from reviewing them one at a time. Last year, I wrote about Driven Snow by Nancy M. Mitchel. The author commented on my blog entry (with the surprising revelation that the story was true and the woman survived). She mentioned that she had another story on the Akashic book website, Sea Change.

Go read it – a short, pithy read. Then you can come back and read the rest of what I wrote.

It’s of an interesting construction in that the protagonist isn’t directly involved in the action. Stories like that are cool because there are two stories – the main, observed action… and the reaction of the observer. It’s quite a feat to accomplish this in so few words.

 

The Great Floodgates Of the Wonder-World

“…the great floodgates of the wonder-world swung open…”
― Herman Melville, Moby-Dick or, The Whale

The ponds at the end of my block, Richardson, Texas

All my life I have wanted to live on a creek lot. I remember living in East Dallas and riding my bike along the hilly lanes east of White Rock Lake (back then I was young and thin and fit and I welcomed hills – now I’m afraid of them) and spotted homes along streams – some with little patios down among the trees perched out over the water. They would have a grill, some seats, and I imagined knots of people at sunset enjoying the setting – always wanted that sort of thing.

My wish finally came true, sort of, when we bought our house in Richardson. Technically it is a creek lot – but the creek (which emerges from the flood control ponds in Huffhines Park at the end of our block and runs a short distance beyond where I live to join with Duck Creek) has been manmade wrestled into an arrow-straight path. It’s really more of a ditch lot.

On most days it’s barely an algae and trash encrusted trickle. There are a lot of ducks and turtles (both the friendly box and the prehistoric snappers) with a nighttime cohort of opossums, bobcats, coyotes and an occasional beaver. There are a few trees – but the number is limited by the Corps of Engineers to insure proper flow. They only allow new plantings when an old tree dies. It’s a sleepy stretch, mostly useful to the local kids and cats, feeding and stalking, respectively, the ducks.

They don’t call it Duck Creek for nothing.

That changes with frightening rapidity when a big Texas thunderstorm strikes. The water rises and moves in a symphony of wet muscular gravity.

Last night one hit, hit hard. The ground was already saturated, the flood control ponds already overflowing when the sky dropped six inches of water in a couple hours.

I opened the garage door and looked out through a forest of honey globs of water caterwauling off the roof into the dark. Illuminated only by staccato bolts of lightning like a galvanic Gene Krupa, the bellowing water stilled by the strobing arcs into impossible waves rising above the creek banks and beyond. The usual quiet night lit up by blue thunder. The gleaming fury as millions of gallons of deafening water scream by is frightening and intoxicating. I watched from my house – afraid to get any closer.

This morning I walked around the strip of creek, grass, and trees. The highest water level was marked by a line of twigs and plastic water bottles. In several places the delimitation moved up over the bike trail and almost kissed the alley that runs behind the houses. By then the creek was down to its usual level, having dropped as fast as it rose, with only a little more water flowing by than usual.

The flow was a dozen feet below the level of the detritus line – which was in turn only a couple feet below the level of the houses (though it would take a lot – a lot – more water to raise the flood up that last bit).

I hope.

I did think of those little patios perched in the winding creek lots of East Dallas. I always liked them – but I’m sure they are all gone now.

A Month of Short Stories 2017, Day 22 – before the storm By Alex Sheal

Have a drink.

Over several years, for the month of June, I wrote about a short story that was available online each day of the month…. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year – In September this time… because it is September.

Today’s story, for day 22 – before the storm by Alex Sheal
Read it online here:
before the storm by Alex Sheal

Then we slept, our storm-scattered raft adrift in the afternoon sun, mouths parched, detritus trailing us across the lifeless ocean. Or did fish school beneath us, flashing like bonfire sparks in a bottomless night?

—-Alex Sheal, before the storm

There is this comedian, Larry Miller (he’s the obsequious clothing salesman in Pretty Woman) that does this comedy routine about drinking in bars – it’s called “5 Levels of Drinking.”

He says:

You crawl outside for air, and then you hit the worst part of level five ~~ the sun. You weren’t expecting that were you? You never do. You walk out of a bar in daylight, and you see people on their way to work, or jogging. And they look at you, and they know. And they say, “Who’s Ruby?”

Let’s be honest, if you’re 19 and you stay up all night, it’s like a victory like you’ve beat the night, but if you’re over 30, then that sun is like God’s flashlight. We all say the same prayer then, “I swear, I will never do this again (how long?) as long as I live!” And some of us have that little addition, “……and this time, I mean it!

Truer words have never been spoken.

Today’s story reminds me of that bit, somehow.

This woman, a bartender at the NYLO Southside, asked Candy, “Is your husband a professional photographer?”
Candy answered, “He thinks he is.”

The Storm is 400 Miles Away

“People seemed to believe that technology had stripped hurricanes of their power to kill. No hurricane expert endorsed this view.”
― Erik Larson, Isaac’s Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History

While 400 miles to the south, Hurricane Harvey brings terror, destruction, and death – here all it has done so far is brushed the sky with its outermost bands and made for a beautiful sunset.

The ponds at the end of my block, Richardson, Texas

The ponds at the end of my block, Richardson, Texas

The Sky Explodes

“A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now.”
—-Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

I had signed up (paid ahead of time online) for a bike ride at six this evening, starting and ending at the Four Corners Brewery in West Dallas. It was a guided ride with two beer tickets for well-earned refreshment at the end. My original idea was to ride to the DART station, take the train downtown, and then ride across the Continental Bridge Park to the brewery. But as I prepared to leave I noticed a sudden violence in the sky – a gathering of thunderstorms as the daily Texas humid head collided with some early cooler air floating down from up north.

I didn’t want to get caught in a sudden deluge without my car as refuge, so I folded my Xootr Swift and plopped it into the trunk – then drove down to the brewery.

Because of this, I arrived a bit early and was able to hop over to the bridge park and get some photographs of the evening clouds building behind the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge and the downtown Dallas skyline.

Downtown Dallas and the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge from the Continental Bridge Park (click to enlarge)

Downtown Dallas and the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge from the Continental Bridge Park
(click to enlarge)

A good group gathered for the ride. I didn’t know anybody – which was cool, there rides are always a fun way to find new folks. Everybody talked about the gathering storm – dark clouds were building to the West and to the North. We all agreed to risk the rain and took off. We rode across the Continental Bridge into downtown, through the infamous Triple Underpass and then back across the river on the Jefferson Viaduct Bridge.

At that point the group continued on to Bishop Arts, but I was a bit out of breath and the clouds were really threatening so I decided to turn off on my own. I rode back north and then hopped the levee down into the Trinity River Bottom trails. I stopped to drink some iced water from my bag, eat an orange, and catch my breath.

At that point the sky exploded. I sped off, took shelter under the Interstate 30 Bridge, and ate another orange. When the deluge cleared a bit I rode on to the Margaret Hunt Hill bridge (yes, the one in the photo above) and again took shelter from the storm. The relatively dry area under the bridge was populated with some families and a group of fishermen that had been caught by the rain.

As we waited, I heard a loud roar and suddenly a full-blown Airboat came careening up the
Trinity, going fast through the falling water – pilot and passenger hunched forward against the stinging rain. It was an odd sight – the first powered craft I’ve ever seen on that stretch of the river.

After a bit, I gave up waiting for the rain to end (once you are soaked, you can’t get any wetter) and headed out. The hardest part was getting through the Trinity Groves parking lot – the water was a foot deep there.

As luck would have it, I arrived back at the exact time as the rest of the riders that I had split away from a few miles to the south. The folks that had decided to stay behind and wait – through either a lack of courage or an excess of good sense (or both) – cheered everyone as they rode up, soaked to the skin.

The beer was very good, by the way, and well earned.