Short Story Of the Day – What is the River? (flash fiction) by Bill Chance

“We all float down here!”
Stephen King, It


Klyde Warren Park,
Dallas, Texas

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 (#56) More than half way there! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


What is the River?

Sitting by the stream the little boy talked to his strange new friend:

“Where does the river come from? Where does it go?” the boy asked.

“It is simply there. The river does not move.”

The child released the tiny boat and watched it around the bend.

“But it is moving.”

“The water is moving. The water comes from the ice in the mountains and goes to the salt in the ocean. The water comes and goes. The river does not move.”

“But what is the river if it is not water?”

“That is a good question. The water is different every minute. But the river is always the same. The river has to be something other than the water… but what… I don’t know.”

The Boy looked at The Clown.

“Tell you what, boy,” The Clown said, “Let me go think about it for a while. When I figure out an answer, I’ll come back for you.”

“You promise?”

“Oh, I will, I will, I promise.”

The boy watched as The Clown began to shimmer and bend and then slither down through the drain slot in the curb. The Clown looked out from the shadows at the boy for a second, then disappeared.

Short Story Of the Day, Heat Wave by Bill Chance

She stopped for gas. Shoved her card into the slot and clicked the automatic hook-deal on the handle so the gas would flow on its own. Susanna purposely stepped back, out from under the sheltering gas station roof onto the unprotected part of the apron and strolled to a lonely strip of turf that bordered the station.

—-Bill Chance, Heat Wave

Galatyn Fountain, Richardson, Texas

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

Thanks for reading.

 

 


Heat Wave

 

Susanna drove home from work that afternoon, the tape of “How Stella Got Her Groove Back” speaking its pages from the cassette player in the dash. Now, to listen to a tape while driving takes a lot of concentration. Susanna could listen and drive, watch the road, but not anything else. It was plot, voice, character, and oncoming traffic. Some effort, skill maybe, was needed; she had been checking out tapes from the library long enough that she could do it.

With all her attention focused like that, Susanna did not even consciously notice some shapes smearing on the windshield. Instinctively, her hand twisted the knob on the steering column, setting the wipers in motion. Several minutes went by before she actually realized what was happening, what was smattering on the glass.

It was raining.

Ordinarily this would not be a big deal at all. But it had been so long, exactly a month, and the intervening oven days so broiling that Susanna had forgotten about rain. It was no more than a sprinkle, but ohh, it looked so good.

She stopped for gas. Shoved her card into the slot and clicked the automatic hook-deal on the handle so the gas would flow on its own. Susanna purposely stepped back, out from under the sheltering gas station roof onto the unprotected part of the apron and strolled to a lonely strip of turf that bordered the station. She wanted to feel the rain, get wet, and see the spots form on her white shirt. She felt like yelling, singing, dancing.

The smell was wonderful. Suzanna had forgotten the odor of fresh rain on dry grass.

It was not much of a shower, not enough to end the drought. The triple digit days would return by the weekend. But it was something… a respite. More than that, it was the return of hope. Someday, the killer heat will dissipate; the drought will drown. Until that day, those indisputable facts were impossible to imagine.

Hope- a reminder that things will get better, that we will all survive. That’s what we’ve been missing.

Sunday Snippet, Archipelago by Bill Chance

They liked to ski in that area because of the hundreds of small islands that cut the wind and waves and made for the smooth glass-like surface that was so fun to ski on. But the area was like a maze, as much land as water, and a confusing labyrinth of passages, gaps, and islets. It was tough to know exactly where your were at any time.

—-Bill Chance, Archipelago

 

Trees reflected in a pond, inverted, with Chihuly, Red Reeds

Archipelago

Sam leaned back and pulled on the rope while cutting his ski into the water. He shot sideways, outward, and felt the wave of the wake as it shoved him into midair. Bracing, he cut back as he landed on the smooth, green surface outside the wake and turned to grin at Jim on the other side. Sam relaxed and enjoyed the smooth skimming across the mirror smooth water.

He realized that in the year since his family moved to Central America his skiing had improved so much. The fact he could ski every day, all year round, made such a difference. There was never that long layoff of the winter months where he would get soft and uncoordinated – have to relearn everything in the spring.

He glanced up at the boat where Jim’s father and little brother were driving them around the water in the vast archipelago of little jungle-covered islands. Something was wrong and he could see Arnold’s red hair disappearing below the rear gunwale as he looked for something in the bowels of the boat. Jim’s father was turned around too, looking, pointing and barking orders, although Sam couldn’t understand what he was saying.

“What’s up?” Sam shouted across at Jim, “Something wrong in the boat.”

“Hell if I know,” Jim shouted back.

“Make that jump, Jim. See if you can get as high as I did.”

Jim nodded, pulled and made a sharp turn outward like Sam had a few seconds before. He did fly high as he hit the wake wave, maybe a little higher than Sam had. But he over rotated and waved his hands desperately as the nose of the long slalom ski caught the water first and at a bad angle. Jim cartwheeled over twice bouncing off the water and then sinking in.

Sam laughed as he let go of his rope, slowly coasted to a stop, and sank down to his life jacket. The two good friends had been working hard on their skiing and fell hundred of times. He knew Jim was fine and saw him smile as his face poked back up above the water.

They both turned to the boat expecting to watch it circle around so the both of them could grab their tow handles and keep skiing. It was a routine they had done many, many times before – three times that very day.

But Arnold was still rooting around and his father was still looking at him. Before either of the two boys could yell from the water the boat had moved around the nearest island and disappeared.

“Shit!” Sam said. “They didn’t see us fall.”

“Don’t worry, they’ll notice soon enough and come back to find us.”

They liked to ski in that area because of the hundreds of small islands that cut the wind and waves and made for the smooth glass-like surface that was so fun to ski on. But the area was like a maze, as much land as water, and a confusing labyrinth of passages, gaps, and islets. It was tough to know exactly where your were at any time.

As the two boys bobbed in the water, floating on their foam jackets, and holding on to their skis, they could hear the whine of the outboard motor moving around between the islands, going back and forth, but couldn’t see anything. This went on for a long time.

“They can’t find us,” said Sam.

“Don’t worry, eventually they will, the water’s warm, we can wait.”

But then the sound of the motor died away.

“Now what?” asked Sam.

“They probably are low on gas and went back to fill up.”

By that time it was getting to be late afternoon and it was the rainy season. Inevitably, the small clouds overhead began to quickly coalesce into large angry-looking black overcast blankets. And then the rain began to fall. It was warm rain, almost like a hot shower. But it was think and heavy – coming down in a deluge of giant globs of water. The boys were used to that, but they were very exposed.

“What do we do know,” Sam yelled over the din of splashing water.

“Let’s swim to the nearest island and wait it out there.”

They weren’t very far from the dark green hillock and were strong swimmers. It was an easy task, especially with their life jackets, to paddle and cover the space between them and the nearest land, even pulling their skis along.

The problem was the jungle grew in a thick, inhospitable blanket right down into the water. They had to swim along the shore until they came to a spot where a tree had died and fallen into the lake, leaving a gap in the jungle foliage. They were able to swim among the dead branches and find a little bit of spongy ground to sit on.

As they moved up they were startled by a gigantic toad, camouflaged invisible into the thick layer of forest detritus along the shore. The toad, bigger than either of the boys had ever seen, grunted and leaped past them into the water with a gigantic splash. Both boys cried out in a moment of fear and then laughed together when they realized the gigantic monster was merely a harmless toad.

There wasn’t much open space left in the spot the amphibian and abandoned and the two boys had to crowd together sitting on the wet ground, still holding their skis. The thick vegetation overhead provided only a little shelter from the rain – the drops of water falling on their heads came a little less often, but were much larger after they tumbled through the leaves.

“They will never be able to see us here,” said Sam.

“In this rain they couldn’t see us or hear us anywhere anyway. It’ll have to stop sometime. They’ll come looking then.”

And the rain did stop. But by then the sun was falling behind the tall trees of the next island to the west.

The suns sets quickly in the tropics – its path is straight down and there aren’t very many minutes of twilight. As it disappeared in the post-rain humidity it became surprisingly cold and the boys shivered in the misty miasma of decomposing life that flowed out from the darkness behind them into the lake.

The two boys sat silent, their thoughts to themselves, as the dark night descended and devoured the whole world. The loud sounds of the nocturnal jungle dwellers began to rise in a wild cacophony of shrieks, cries, and growls.

The boys could only listen and wonder where the whine of an outboard was.

The Swirling

“My soul is a black maelstrom, a great madness spinning about a vacuum, the swirling of a vast ocean around a hole in the void, and in the waters, more like whirlwinds than waters, float images of all I ever saw or heard in the world: houses, faces, books, boxes, snatches of music and fragments of voices, all caught up in a sinister, bottomless whirlpool.”
Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

Old photo of the Trinity River in flood stage, Dallas, Texas

The Dawn Remaking the World

“Veil after veil of thin dusky gauze is lifted, and by degrees the forms and colours of things are restored to them, and we watch the dawn remaking the world in its antique pattern.”
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

A duck at dawn, Bachman Lake, Dallas, Texas

Cell Phone Tower Reflected in Bachman Lake, Before and After Sunrise

“There’s always a story. It’s all stories, really. The sun coming up every day is a story. Everything’s got a story in it. Change the story, change the world.”
Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

Bachman Lake, Dallas, Texas, before sunrise

Bachman Lake, Dallas, Texas, after sunrise

In Its Own Way

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
Leo Tolstoy , Anna Karenina

Huffhines Creek, Richardson, Texas

There is always someone like the duckling in the lower left corner. In unknown danger, not in with the group, crossing upstream, almost alone. Is it you? Really? Are you sure?