The Iron Writer Challenge #187 – 2017 Spring Equinox Challenge #8

The Iron Writer Challenge #187

2017 Spring Equinox Challenge #8

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

M. D. Pitman, Josh Flores, Malissa Greenwood

The Elements:

Laughing older couple

Crepey Skin

Gingham material

Last sentence: “I’m sure they think we’re aliens.”

 

Lucky Logic

Josh Flores

The man was magical, mysterious, and malicious. Malo Fortuna was a practical joker to anyone who crossed his path. His cruelness was hidden under a teddy bear façade–a lovable, huggable, balding grandpa.

The woman was equally magical while outgoing and cheerful. Buena would always pick up after her husband’s messes. In contrast to Malo, looking at her confirmed exactly who she was: a warm, loving, caring grandma who had baked some cookies. 

They had grown old together over the millennia, acquired crepey skin, gained a few pounds, lost some hair, paled in coloring, and shrunk a few inches and yet their love and need for each other stayed true.  One could not exist without the other.

Favian knocked on the Fortunas’ door.  He cried in pain as a splinter dug deep into his knuckle. “I should have looked before knocking.”  He was a chess playing stoic who wasn’t wont to emotional justifications. His appearance relayed his logical fortitude: simple, navy blue slacks and polo, with sensible walking shoes and his hair neat and short. 

Malo chuckled. Buena shook her head in resignation. 

Athena came up behind her husband. “You should have looked first.  Pull that thing out and bandage up. Here’s the first aid kit.” She was a match for Favian in logic, stoicism, and chess mastery. Her visage harmonized with her husband, same outfit and haircut.

As she handed him the kit, a black cat ran out of nowhere and climbed up her pants, scratching and clawing. She dropped the kit. The jolt of hitting the ground split it open, and all its contents spewed across the porch of the old wooden cabin. 

Malo’s evil laughter echoed in the cabin.  Buena tsked him.

Before either of the visitors could react, Malo and Buena opened the door. As they looked at their guests, they couldn’t help but let out a hearty laugh. Favian and Athena smiled. There is logic in humor too, and this was funny.  

After retrieving the kit and bandaging Favian’s hand, the young couple noticed the black and white gingham curtains. That reminded them of why they were here.  They asked directions to the hotel where a chess tournament was to be held. The Fortunas obliged.  

Buena stared at Malo as the couple drove off. “You’re subdued today. You are going to let them go like that?” 

“Well, did you notice them? They aren’t normal folk. Strange-like those two were. I don’t think anything I would do to them would faze them whatsoever. Seems like they’re the type to think everything through and find a reason how THEY caused it. No fun in that. Nope, not if they don’t start to wonder at the magic around them and through them. Doesn’t do my soul any good to waste my time on folk like that. Best to leave them be. Strange people. The way they looked at us, I’m sure they think we’re aliens.” 

Generational Integration Day

Malissa Greenwood

“Martha? Watchya makin’ over there?”

“Huh?” 

“I said, What Are You Making!? With the yarn!”

“Oh. I’m fine, it’s fine. Fingers are a little stiff. But that’s ok…”

Martha trailed off, either fully aware that the afternoon’s activities weren’t nearly as necessary as the nursing aids would lead us to believe, or indifferent to the idea of carrying on a conversation. 

Today was Generational Integration Day at Meadow Winds Assisted Living. Some cockamamy outreach program designed to keep the residents active while promoting the facility’s “wonderful activities” to the community – you know in case there were people nearby thinking of sending their elders to this god forsaken hell hole. 

Myself and ten of the other residents were positioned around the courtyard awaiting the arrival of a group of elementary schooled children. Martha and myself were seated at a picnic table where Christine, our glorified babysitter was tying down a brightly colored checkered table cloth. As if some simple gingham fabric could lighten our spirits by about thirty years.  

“Well you just keep at it Martha. I’m sure the kids will love to … learn how to knit.”

Who was I fooling? You can’t teach a kid to knit in an hour. And even if you could, the kids these days wouldn’t be interested. To be honest, the kids these days probably aren’t interested in us at all. With our hearing aids, wheelchairs, our thin and wrinkled skin… we’d might as well be from another planet. 

“Okay ladies! Today’s the big day!” Christine said to me, in that sing-songy way she talks.

“Sure is. How nice to be out here in the fresh air and sunshine?” I’ve learned to always stay positive with the aids – much less hassle. 

“It is nice, huh Joyce?! The kids’ll be here any minute and you’re my main gal – you up for frosting some cookies with them?”

“Sure, I suppose I could do that.”  I always got roped into extra activities. Course, I was much more mobile than some of these other old geezers. 

“Here’s an apron – wouldn’t want to get that pretty dress dirty.” Christine winked at me as if we were old chums. 

I tied the dingy white apron around my waist and attempted to arrange the frosting and sprinkles on the table when old Marty Mathieson walked over. 

“Hiya Marty. How ya doin?”

“Better now I seen your beautiful face Joyce!”

“Oh, hush now. You know I ain’t buying what your sellin!”

Marty chuckled and nudged me with his elbow. “Sneak me one a them sugar cookies, sugar! I need the energy for these children comin’ in.”

“Oh, like you need more energy.”

“Sure I do. These youngins look up to us. We gotta entertain ‘em, ya know? They think we’re som’pin special.”

The kids were getting off the bus now, and every one of ‘em had their head down playing with some electronic gadget. They were probably confused by anything that didn’t fit inside their touch screens. 

I looked at Marty – stained white shirt, overweight and old as all get out. Something special indeed.

 “Oh, don’t kid yourself Marty. I’m sure they think we’re aliens.”

The Secret to a Long Marriage

M.D. Pitman

Sonia carefully unfolded the red and white checkered table cloth as George brought out the potato salad and glass pitcher of lemonade. As he sat the dishes down on the freshly covered extra-long picnic table, he leaned into his wife of 53 years and kissed her cheek. He’s always stealing a moment to kiss his bride.

“Oh, George,” said the pudgy Italian woman. Her sun-kissed face grew redder, just as it always did when George stole a kiss, or gave a little slap on her backside. She always took offense but her indignation eventually melted into a coquettish smile. She touched her crepey cheek, covering each wrinkle kissed.

George’s broad shoulders always bounced as he laughed when Sonia started her overzealous objection. The 76-year-old tanned burly man knew she liked the attention. And she knew he knew.

Their love grew stronger every year, which is something their three children admired as they grew, married and eventually divorced. They looked for that perfect partner. They didn’t exist for them.

“Ewwww, Grandpa,” said the youngest of their five grandchildren, who was also the only boy of the bunch. He was playing in the yard with his trucks.

“Itsa okay, Bambino,” George said in his broken English. “You’ll like that stuff one day.” He flashed a smile and gave a wink to the six-year-old boy who returned to play.

The other grandchildren and the couple’s kids rushed out of the back door with the rest of Sunday’s supper –rigatoni, oversized stuffed meatballs, garlic bread, green beans and Italian cookies.

The family of 10 sat around the extra-long picnic table. George filling Sonia’s plate with exactly what she wants – two spoonfuls of rigatoni, one meatball, no potato salad and three spoonfuls of green beans. He kissed the top of the 74-year-old’s more salt than pepper woman’s hair. Sonia smiled.

The gingham tablecloth barely covered the ends. The couple’s oldest son, whose two daughters sat on either side of him, asked a question he always asked, “So how do you two do it? You’re like a couple of teenagers.” 

George and Sonia always said honesty and church were what kept them together. This time, however, George and Sonia gave a different answer, which forced the kids and grandkids – except for the youngest as he tackled his giant meatball – to lean in.

“Well we do have our disagreements,” Sonia said.

All eyes grew wide (except for the youngest pair of eyes who was still staring down his meatball).

“And,” the kids and a couple of the grandkids said almost in unison.

“And we always fight in private … you guys didn’t need to see that,” said George.

Sonia looked at George and her husband winked at her as he gave a single nod. “In fact we had a fight last night, but we always make up.”

“Yes,” George said. “But I think we fight just so we can have makeup sex.”

The rattle of silverware on ceramic plates was the only noise, except for the youngest asking, “What’s makeup sex?”

George and Sonia looked at their family, and George turned to Sonia to say, “I’m sure they think we’re aliens.”

The Iron Writer Challenge #182 – 2017 Spring Equinox Challenge #3

The Iron Writer Challenge #182

2017 Spring Equinox Challenge #3

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

E. Chris Garrison, Bobby Salomons, M. D. Pitman, Vance Rowe, Josh Flores

The Elements:

A lying national media cable TV anchorman (real or fictional)

Global warming

A crystal ball

A small snowblower

Doing Something About the Weather

E. Chris Garrison

Sally’s elderly Prius barreled along the breakdown lane of the freeway. The thermometer and the speedometer both read 75.

Other drivers, stuck in a jam, blared their horns at Sally. Some made rude gestures. Did she hear cars backfiring or shots being fired by hotheads? 

Sally didn’t care. She wouldn’t be denied the truth.

From the bracket on her windshield, her smartphone streamed news of the Weather Emergency. Bundled up in a parka, the cable news anchor mimed shivering cold while talking with a bespectacled woman in a puffy coat. White flakes swirled around them on the New York City streets.

“So, this wave of cold will continue until the end of January, Dr. Fahrenheit?”

The woman stared at the camera. Her eyes panned from right to left as she said, “Yes, that is correct. The polar vortex is sweeping across the plains, through the Midwest, and on to the East Coast.”

Sally exited the freeway, upsetting more drivers as she whizzed past them on the shoulder. The side of her car struck sparks from the concrete barricades along the right. Sally laughed as she passed a supermarket, its lot full of cars. The news told her that stores had all the French Toast ingredients depleted due to the Weather Emergency, since citizens had been warned that they’d have to stay off the streets after dark, so that plows could clear the streets for the morning commute.

Sally turned up her air conditioning as she skidded onto Broadway, the back end of her car fishtailing.

A great glass orb, very much like a giant snowglobe, blocked the roadway. Inside, Sally made out the figures of Blaine Roberts and Dr. Fahrenheit, their gestures slightly leading the broadcast. Sally resisted the urge to speed up as their faces registered terror as her car burst through flasher barricades and hired guards flung themselves out of her way.

The nose of her Prius met the enormous glass enclosure, which cracked like an egg. Sally hit the brakes even as the airbag deployed and shoved her back in her seat.

She flung open the car door and stumbled into the space between the camera and the other two. She picked up handfuls of white flakes and rubbed them all over her face. “It’s a lie! Global warming is real! They’re lying to you! This is just styrofoam!”

The low drone of a small snowblower’s electric motor quit. So did the camera’s red light.

Many rough hands seized Sally at once.

Blaine Roberts stood before her. “Ma’am, you’re in a lot of trouble. Vehicular assault, sure, but also the Weather Normalization Act, which makes discussing Global… Discussing that topic, a federal offense.”

“You’re not fooling anyone! They’re pretending, just like you! This is stupid! Why doesn’t anyone wake up?”

“Look, if you people win the election next time, then you can write the news.” Blaine flicked a piece of glass off his parka as Sally was dragged away. “Could someone get that poor woman a coat?”

Cold Lies, Burning Truth

Josh Flores

Why do I keep trusting Jimenti Roso after he made up stories to improve ratings? No one caught on when he lied about a magic cure to cancer being tested or how the perfect weight loss drug was found. Then he decided to make up a kidnapping. That made the Were-Police begin sniffing around. He had to admit he lied. The scandal lasted a while. 

He was fired. He was interviewed. He wrote a book. He became more famous. He did the talk shows. He was re-hired. Ratings went up. Job accomplished. 

I watch his plastic-like mouth stretch out on my cable-ready crystal ball. Canines sharp and white belied the words barking past them.  

“Global warming, the world’s leading sorcerers have confirmed, is a human urban myth! It is simply not happening. There is no danger of the Earth’s climate changing. The Warlock Coven has released an official statement today. They have looked at the mortals’ scientific data and consulted their charts, familiars, crystal balls, the stars, and the bones; and have determined global warming to be a hoax, created by some of the human corporations and political groups to control others and make money.”

I’m hoping he isn’t lying. Winter business has been bad for a few years now. I look at my inventory: snow plows, shovels, salt, scrapers, dragon’s fire-spit, heaters, and of course, snow blowers. I stock from small to heavy duty ones. But the last few winters have been mild and if it wasn’t for the other stuff selling at a reasonable rate, I would be bankrupt. 

My attention goes back to Roso. 

“In other news, sightings of dragons, chimeras, phoenixes, and other fire creatures have increased. These beasts have been captured and handled by the Defense Mystics, who have put out a national alert asking anyone who notices unusual steam, flames, or heat to report it immediately. When asked as to why these pests are populating rapidly, the spokesman said, 

‘No comment. Man, it is getting warm in here.’” 

I wonder if I can sell Roso a snow blower or two. I fantasize about it for a bit when my doorbell rings. A customer! Finally.  

I look up to see a brown-skinned lanky man, with salt and pepper hair and beard.  

“Hablas Espanol?” 

“No.”

He lifts his hand in a stop motion and reaches into his pocket to pull out his wand.  

“Parli Ingles!” He incants. “Me understand you?” 

My face said no.

“Parli Ingles ni google!” He pauses. “Do you understand me?” 

“Yes. How may I help you?” 

“I want to buy all this. How much?” 

“Why?”  

“This year a lot of snow in my country. I sell these and all others I find, no?” 

“Sure, we can come up with a price fair to both.” 

I look at my crystal ball TV. “So no such thing as global warming, Mr. Roso?”

“Jimenti Roso?”

“Yes.” 

“His name in Spanish sounds like He mentiroso — ummm — He Liar.” 

 Blasted Snow

 Vance Rowe

“There will be little to no snow at all this year due to global warming in the upper portion of North America and Canada, so you can all sell your snowblowers and keep your shovels in the shed. You won’t even need winter clothes this year as it will never be colder than 72 degrees Fahrenheit,”said Smiling Chet Armstrong, America’s favorite newscaster.

“Hot Damn. No snow this year,” Eustis said, looking outside. Eustis lives on a hill and his driveway is long. He tires of walking it with a snowblower. “Now I can sell that blasted thing.”

“Wait a minute, you cannot trust that liar. Before you do anything, let me consult with my crystal ball. Spirit has never led us astray yet,” his wife said. 

“Bah, you and that damn crystal ball. You consult your glass ball and I will put a sign up down by the road.” 

After Eustis put the sign up, he walked back up the long driveway to his house, his wife greeted him at the door and said, “Spirit says we are in store for a lot of snow this year, Eustis.”

“Grenadine, I want to hear no more about it. I will believe Smiling Chet over your stupid ball.”

“You’re a fool, Eustis. What happens if we get a lot of snow this year?”

“We won’t, Grenadine. Smiling Chet said so.”

Two days later, the snowblower sold and Chet was a thrilled man. Regrettably, two weeks later, Chet stopped being a thrilled man when the snow fell. It fell for two days straight.

“You blamed fool. I told you not to believe that son-of-an-unnamed-goat. Now what are you going to do?”

“I will just go buy another snowblower, Grenadine.”

Eustis found a place that sold only small snowblowers.

He purchased a small snowblowers, and it only just made a path up his driveway after hours of use. 

“Face it, Eustis. It will be easier just to shovel.” Grenadine yelled to him.

Seething, Eustis responded with, “I ain’t shoveling jack.”

Eustis grabbed his shotgun off of the rack above the fireplace, went out to his truck and drove to the news studio where Smiling Chet broadcasts at. He walked inside and grabbed the newscaster by the scruff of his neck and dragged him out to the truck.

“What happened to not being any snow, Smiling Chet? What do you call this? I sold my big snowblower because of your stinking lies.”

“I-I-I don’t know what happened,” Chet replied, stuttering.

“Shut up and shovel before your new nickname is Toothless Chet.”

A police car soon pulled up in front of Eustis’s house and the county sheriff stepped out of the vehicle.

“Oh, thank God. This man kidnapped me and is forcing me to shovel his driveway.”

“Is this true, Eustis?”

“Sure is, Sheriff. This lyin’ so and so said we wouldn’t be getting any snow this year and I sold my snowblower.”

“Sheriff, don’t just stand there. Arrest him and let me go.”

“Nope, I sold my snowblower too because of you. Bring him by my place when you are done, Eustis.”

“Sure will, Sheriff. I sure will.”

Papa

Bobby Salomons

The director and live studio are blabbering through each other like drunk sonority girls on Mardi Gras. I know – I was one.

“So, why the crystal ball again?” I say to the expert next to me. “I don’t think I caught on the first time.”

“’Global Warming’ is pure ‘fortune-telling’. A hoax.”

Across from the parking lot, an elderly, black man is clearing his lawn with a small snowblower. His red ski jacket and white snow hat remind me of my grandfather. ‘Papa’ was a Norwegian immigrant, loved snow and ice. Never used a snowblower, maybe a snow shovel but not before we’d play and build a snowman. I miss him.
“We’re about to go live.” Terry, my cameraman, says. “Maybe more cleavage?”

“Cleavage!? It’s freaking 23F!” I bark.
“It was a joke, Melissa.”

“A cold day for Global Warming!” My colleague Nancy in the studio chuckles, I hate her. “And my colleague is outside! In a blizzard! With an expert! Melissa, how is it out there?”

“Hi, Nancy! It sure is cold! They theorize the Earth is warming but it sure doesn’t feel that way out here! Oh! Is that a polar bear!?” I say, pointing at a white Husky passing by. Fake laughter in the studio.

“I’m here with Simon DeWitt! Expert from the Independent Ecological Research Institute.”

“That’s right!” He grins, “No associations with other research groups, no government grants!”

“So, tell us about this ‘Global Warming’-theory in the middle of a blizzard!”

He begins his story of disinformation. I zone out, looking across the street. The man’s still there, blowing snow, his back to me. For a moment, I believe it really is my ‘papa’. He turns around. I gasp. It is.

“I know!” The expert says smug, crystal ball in hand, believing it’s about him.

I choke. Seconds pass. Terry’s making a face at me.

“I-I can’t do this.” I say, thinking of ‘papa’, “This is all a lie. This man isn’t a real expert, he’s an economist paid by Exxon Mobil!”

“We have no asso-”

“-Oh, please! You’re wearing one of their key chains right now!”

Terry zooms in, the expert breaks sweat.

“I’m sorry, global warming is real. Pass the world on to our children the way it was left to us, so they too can see a REAL polar bear, not just a dog pointed out by a lying anchorwoman! Just Google it, dammit!” I yell emotional.

“Um, thanks, Melissa. We’re back in the studio, it appears our colleague is having some… technical problems…” Nancy says.

“Why don’t you go suck a dick, Nancy! Maybe it’ll warm your cold heart!”

“That’s it! You’re fired!” The director barks over the headset.

“Good! I’ll go work for the Home Shopping Network!”

I push my microphone into the ‘expert’s’ hands, head for my car and drive off passed the house. The man’s stopped the snowblower. He’s himself again, waves and smiles. I blow a kiss his way.

One Lie Too Many

M.D. Pitman

Jacob Scott’s jaw hung open for a good fifteen seconds before he realized he wasn’t saying anything and asked the ZNN’s president, “You want me to say what?”

“I don’t think I stuttered,” said Louis Copeland, who founded the news network 40 years ago as a way to report the news how he saw fit.

ZNN has developed into the go-to echo chamber for those of a certain political persuasion, which is the same persuasion of those currently in power. That made ZNN the most powerful and popular news networks, and Louis Copeland the most powerful political figure.

It also is the most despised because of the sensationalized and often inaccurate news. But Louis did not care because he’s making more money than ever before even though his rhetoric has transformed from fringe to flat out falsehoods.

Jacob’s been told to say many things over the years, who started out as a 38-year-old anchor with idealistic fervor. A half-decade later he’s developed into a jaded cynic because of the B.S. he’s been ordered to “report.” 

He compares Louis Copeland to a charlatan clairvoyant gazing into an oversized crystal ball. But the only thing oversized was Louis’ ego … and Jacob’s dependency on his seven-figure salary. That’s been enough to compensate his conscious as he’s become America’s most unreliable news anchor

“I’m to say global warming is a hoax because of Stihl? The power tool company?” Jacob’s jaw has yet to shut.

“Specifically their lawnmowers and snow blowers,” Louis added.

Jacob could usually spin what Louis wanted to be said on the news, but he’s been able to spin it into something that didn’t sound like it was a mandated from a senile fool. “That doesn’t sound a bid … um, odd?”

“No. Not at all,” said the octogenarian news magnate.

Jacob ran his fingers through his perfectly sculpted hair. He closed his eyes as he inhaled a deep breath, held it for a second, and slowly released it. He opened his eyes, looked Louis into the eyes and said, “It’ll be an unforgettable report.”

Louis Copeland slyly smiled as he nodded. “That’s by boy.”

*****

“Hey, Linda,” said Frank as he cracked open his second beer from the cooler next to his recliner. “Check this out. I think that Jacob Scott guy you like on ZNN is having a nervous breakdown.”

Dressed in an apron and wiping her hands with a kitchen towel, Linda walked into the living room staring at the television. All that appeared were the color bars with the words “Please Stand By” appearing. “What did he do?”

Frank tapped rewind on the DVR to the start of the newscast the pressed play. “Watch this craziness.”

“Good evening and welcome to ZNN,” Jacob Scott started before pausing. He took out his earpiece. “I can’t do this anymore. I’ve been told to repot” – and he made quote marks around that word – “and because I wanted to keep my job I did. But I can’t anymore.”

Before Jacob Scott could say another word, a producers rushes on set and the color bars appear.

The Iron Writer Challenge #173, 2016 Summer Open Challenge #10

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The Iron Writer Challenge #173

2016 Summer Open Challenge #10

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

  Authors:

Michael Cottle, Sal Vage, M. D. Pitman, Sozos Theofrastos, Ward Mayfield

The Elements:

The image above

A shoebox with childhood memorabilia

Cascade Failure

Last sentence must be a question

A Meal of Cards and Ice Cream
W. B. Mayfield

“I think if you’re lucky, life ends with a statement. In those final moments after a long life, some can state, “I did good”. Most of us though? I think we end with only unanswered questions. I’m sitting here thinking about where I took a wrong turn and honestly, I think it was the cards. My ma brought me my secret box of survival stuff from when I was a kid. You know, bent baseball cards, decoder ring, a handkerchief, and my detective comics. My pocket knife was conveniently missing. Maybe she feels like it’ll help me get through this somehow. She tried, god bless her, she really did. But she couldn’t work with her back all messed up. So I had to provide after my dad died in the crash. The airline said one thing led to another and they missed an altitude warning. I don’t know what that means, but it was a tiny issue that cause a huge catastrophe. A simple missed alarm took away my childhood. We were already broke, so we couldn’t afford to wait for the airline’s “I’m sorry we killed your dad” money. I was too young to get a job so I did anything I could to keep bill collectors at bay.”

“Now I’m not saying what happened isn’t my fault. I know it was my hands that built this bed, and I’ll sleep in it. But early this morning I rifled through the box and ended up remembering my Sunday drives to town with pa. He had to go to town once a week for some reason or another. It was never the same thing but we always ended up at Hankman’s Corner Store to get an ice cream cone and a pack of baseball cards. I realized I haven’t gotten new cards since he died. Everything that made me a happy child was buried with my father. And I say it’s the cards because I think they were my altitude alarm, you know, butterfly effect and all that. I stopped collecting dreams and started collecting a rap sheet the same day as pa’s funeral.”

An almost calmingly reassuring touch to his shoulder is accompanied by a gentle splash of water on his head. Water slides down his face and even though it isn’t cold, he shivers. Though he remains motionless, his shoulders begin to heave a bit and tears stream down his face.

“I’m so sorry that I hurt your family. I was driving so fast, my nerves were still on fire, and I couldn’t hear a thing because of that bank alarm. I never even saw Mr Hankman in the road. He- he was always so nice to me and pa. I’ve got no excuses or fixes… I, I just wanted you to know, I couldn’t be more sorry.”

A hood is gently slid over his head. “Inmate 8675309 have you anything else to say?”

“Do you think, maybe I… uh, I maybe should have kept collecting cards?”

He Burnt the Shoebox

Sal Vage

He burnt the shoe box by pouring petrol, almost a gallon, with all those locked in childhood memories. He longed for a time when they might have been relevant, but it was too late and cleansing with fire was the only suitable way to dispose of them. He understood his mother was addicted to alcohol and other substances and had been in a secure unit for the last thirty years.

His own personal failure was akin to the ‘butterfly effect’ or was that a cascading failure syndrome that he might well have inherited from his mother or possibly his father. God only knows who he was, because they had never met and his mother refused to even discuss the topic.

She had been one of the first bomber pilots to fly missions over Berlin during World War 2 and had changed the course of history forever.

Things started to go manifestly wrong when his half sister drowned when the aeroplane on flight 631 crashed into a remote alpine valley and the broken fuselage had skidded into an ice cold lake. The crash investigators blamed the pilot and the crew for not heeding the correct flight procedures, but his mother blamed the devil and alluded to the fact that some people had survived.

A newspaper cutting had been in that burnt out shoebox with the headline – ‘Eastern Air Lingus Flight 401-but that was all except for some indecipherable scribbling and what looked like a lipstick smudge on the back.

Edgar Allan, as he had been christened, had been plagued with out of body experiences for as long as he could remember and he certainly remembered every mystifying detail of nightmares and waking moments when relief flooded back into his senses and gazing fixedly into the moonless night would only enhance and reinforce the details that had emerged on his tumultuous journeys into that unknown world of fact and fantasy.

He remembered or half remembered a poem he had scrawled over his text books in school, entitled ‘Dreams ‘

Through iron bars and string guitars

The floating dew

The floating dust

A coating clear that cannot rust

He had been forced to attend a special school where children with behavioural problems and/or strange fantasies were sent for assessment and the search for a possible cure. This project entailed experiments with drugs – some unclassified and untried before, except on mice and guinea pigs

Beneath and beyond ordinary archives including the vaults of the CIA, FBI, and Special Branch, there was in existence a file and a dossier marked ‘Top Secret’ to be viewed for information only, and marked Edgar Allan

What this file contained would have shocked and shaken to the core all the religious and quasi religious establishments of the modern world:-

The last spoken words of Captain Flint on Flight 104 from Heathrow to Los Angeles as recorded by the yellow Black Box recorder were ‘ My God a young boy has appeared on the flight deck and shouted ‘’ Re Connect the Auto pilot’’,

Emblazoned in high relief on the bound dossier was a huge?

The ShoeboxMichael Pitman

M.D. Pitman

Steve wasn’t certain if he was up to be mayor of his hometown, but it’s too late to second guess his decision to run. He won in an overwhelming election – the largest, actually in the history of Fairfield.

He first thought back to how he was voted “Most Likely to be a Politician” in high school, but they quickly shifted to worst-case scenarios: cascading power outages, an unexpected sinkhole swallowing part of Dixie Highway, or widespread floods, like the city to the north had just a few years ago which destroyed dozens of basements.

It had been hours since the end of the election. Hours since his election night watch party guests left with smiles, and hours since his wife went to bed. He was still in his office, sitting behind his desk staring at the results on his laptop screen which started to become unreadable as the light from the sunrise crept through the window.

Steve stood up to close the drapes in the office before finally heading to bed but stopped as his hands reached near their tops. A car pulled into the driveway. He looked at his watch, taking his eyes only briefly of black Dodge Valiant. As it parked, he went out to meet whomever it was that was about to knock on his door at eight o’clock in the morning.

Steve didn’t bother closing the door behind him. “Can I help you gentlemen?”

There were two men in black suits, white shirts and black ties walking up the path toward the door. One held a small, long box. It was an old shoebox. The man without the box asked, “Mr. Miller?”

“That’s me.”

“We’re here to bequeath an item left to you by Mr. John Smook.”

Steve froze. John Smook wasn’t a name he heard since high school nearly a quarter century ago. They were best friends growing up in Fairfield. After graduation Johnny joined the Marines and Steve went to college where he studied mechanical engineering.

“Bequeath?”

“I’m sorry, you hadn’t heard?” The man closed his eyes and bowed his head for a moment before looking Steve in the eyes. “Mr. Smook was one of the passengers on Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 that crashed in the Florida Everglades last December.”

“Johnny’s dead?”

“I’m sorry you had to hear it this way, but we were told you were notified. He left you this,” the man said, turning to his colleague who hastened toward Steve and handed him the box. “It took a while to find this as he created a bit of a scavenger hunt which delayed us finding it.”

The news numbed Steve, but managed to crack a brief smile. “That sounds like Johnny.”

“We’re sorry for your loss.” The men shook Steve’s hand before departing. They left the mayor-elect alone with the shoebox.

Steve looked at the end. “Still has the picture of our moms at the factory lunchroom,” he said quietly. He headed back inside but lifted the lid as he did so. The curiosity on his face shifted to a nostalgic smile. “Now what do we have here?”

A Pale Yellow Certificate

Michael Cottle

In a box of memories, Ron sifted through some things- old report cards, a birth certificate, and a pocket knife from his Dad. And then he saw something among those things that stopped him entirely. Although more than forty years ago, he knew it was in there. It stirred up feelings that he could not forget. It was placed in the box under a few old black and white photographs. The paper was aged and turning a light shade of pale yellow.

A marriage certificate.

Ron had not forgotten. He promised her that he would not. And though life had somehow carried on, a part of him was gone. Time had minimized the intensity, but time had never changed a thing. He would remember until his last breath. Death had separated them, but she deserved to be remembered. The fresh flowers on her grave showed he never forgot. It still hurt.

His first love. His first wife. The echoes of the past rang out so loud and clear in Ron’s mind. The Captain’s voice was just as fresh as it ever.

“Welcome to sunny Miami! The temperature is in the low 70’s and it’s beautiful out there tonight.”

At that point in time, everything was fine. At that point in time, everything was beautiful. Life was beautiful. She was beautiful. His memory was crystal clear and often misted over his eyes until the water ran from each.

It began when one filament in a landing gear indicator bulb failed. It was just a bulb. If it had been ignored, and the plane landed regardless, then it would have simply been replaced before the next flight. If things never failed, then this would never have come to pass.

That was not the case.

A dirty chain of events. A rotten spoil of luck. A cascading butterfly effect of epic proportions. The devil himself.

It must have been the devil, for God could never allow such a tragedy to occur- not for the innocent. While Ron and his newly wed wife waited to land in Miami, the crew was vigilantly doing their duty. The Captain suspected the landing gear indicator bulb was merely blown instead of a failure of the entire landing gear. He was an experienced pilot that knew the plane and its system like the back of his hand.

However, one small bump of the yoke and the chain of events were set in motion. The engineer was below his station checking the landing gear when the altitude warning chimed. No one else caught the sound either. The landing gear was down. It was only the light that had failed. Only the light. They would be landing shortly without further issue.

The plane descended further. It was dark. 1500 feet. No one noticed. 1000 feet. No one noticed. Another few seconds passed. 500 feet.

The first officer noted something was wrong. “We did something to the altitude.”

The Captain was concerned. “What?”

Ron smiled at Fara for the last time.

The first officer asked worried. “We’re still at 2,000 feet- right?”

The Captain saw it too late. “Hey! What’s happening here?”

Flight 401-9/01

Soz Theo

As he sat in front of his computer this morning ready to read about Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 everything was right with the world.

His mother was scheduled to fetch his son and take him to school today. That never happened. Instead he received a phone call. He didn’t recognize the cell number but he knew the voice immediately. His sister.

“We were robbed by men with guns…”

[shock]

“They took the car…”

[reality]

“They took our phones…”

[fear]

“I need to somehow let work know I’m not going to be able to open the office…”

[confusion]

Ramblings. Incoherence. Sadness.

By the time he got to the house the police were thankfully there, amongst the chaos. His first family. His mother, his sister, his other mother, his other sister; all four of them victims viciously violated. His first home. A shoebox filled with childhood memorabilia; discarded and trampled under an uncaring boot.

‘This is the society we live in?’

[Reflection]

‘This is Africa’

[Fact]

‘Third World problems.’

[…]

They celebrated in the country of his birth when Nelson Mandela delivered such hope to a nation without none. Sadly, today, the highest office of the land is occupied by a criminal, a cascading failure which has degenerated and festered through their society, so that now even the local suburbs WhatsApp Group reports incidents of crime. Daily. Literally. His family now the latest entry.

President Jacob Zuma. Look him up.

[Bleep]

05h30. They got his other mother first, fresh out of the shower, only a towel. His other sister, seventeen years old, touched and taunted inappropriately. Tied up in the cottage. His sister awoken by a man standing over her, butting her with a gun which was then pressed to her eye. His mother, her room already in a growing shamble, a gun in her face. Also tied up. They took so much, those three men, their guns, their crowbar.

Thankfully his family all made it out alive. Even more thankfully, the raping of their first Spring morning of the year had left their bodies alone.

Sadly, he is no longer a person who gets to look at the WhatsApp group with pity and detached concern. He no longer has the luxury of thinking about how terrible it would be if this horror had to happen to someone he loved.

This is his greatest fear. Yes, he has the family he’s built, but he knows that if anything should happen, he is there.

But his first family. In the same suburb. Just over the hill. He is not there. That’s his Flight 401-09/01, his greatest conundrum, the focus of his love and protection for family can only be in one place of two.

There was laughter today, there was a lot of adrenaline being burned. There were hugs too. Gratitude. Anger. Fear. But there is life.

As he put his son to sleep he is grateful that he still has a grandmother and aunts he will see again.

As I write this today I think to myself, what my world could be if MY mother had not arrived today and MY phone had not rung?

#TIWC members, please vote here.