The Iron Writer Challenge #1
2013 Iron Writer Summer Solstice Challenge #1
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
Michelle Browne, Robbie Thomas, Kirsten Pulioff, Tannis Laidlaw
An empty ATM
A talking tree
Toilet bowl cleaner
Bob’s Day In Tacoma
They told us the meteor was going to pass by. It wasn’t that big, as meteors went—about the size of a bus. Big enough to damage a few things. Big enough to throw a region into a temporary crisis. Thousands of them pass by every year, kissing the stratosphere and burning to scraps on entry. I don’t think this one would even have made the news if it wasn’t for that stupid-ass viral video. People took pictures of the meteor and photoshopped babies, squirrels, cats—a lot of cats—in front of it. It got a nickname. Our pet meteor, BA5066, also known as ‘Bob’. For a deadly piece of the universe hurtling towards us at matter-pulverizing speeds, it was awfully cute.
As it got closer, everyone got more excited. Amateur astronomers set up watches to help people figure out when it would pass over them. It was supposed to crash into the ocean near Mexico. Supposed to.
That day, I’d just realized my toilet bowl cleaner was broken. In my semi-annual cleaning rampage, I’d managed to snap the plastic part in half. You can only spend so much time sitting in front of a computer at work, coming home and doing the same, before you look up and realize that everything around you is covered in dust and you have no idea when the last time you actually washed the stove was. Extricating myself from the lure of the beautiful idiot box, I walked past the talking tree and towards the corner store.
Since the economic crash, my little corner of suburbia had become pretty deserted. Rarely any kids on the street, and only one old lady with too many cats in the entire ten-block radius. The loops and curves were full of boarded-up homes with weedy lawns. Things withered there, but sometimes, also grew into beautiful accidents. I blame the mutagens.
“Evening, Marty,” said Lee. I nodded at his branches.
“Evening, Lee. You excited about the meteor?” Possibly it was the wind, but his branches seemed to shrug.
“Guess so. How’d you hear about it?”
He scoffed, and his leaves sighed. “You oughta spend more time around real people.”
“No people left anymore, you know that. Besides, I hate people. Gotta go buy some cleaning stuff, though. See you.”
When I got there, I realized I had no cash. That was no problem, or shouldn’t’ve been one. A few presses of the right skeleton code, and careful use of wire cutters, and all the wealth in the world can be yours.
Of course, the ATM was empty. I cursed, and kicked it, and slumped against it. Good intentions and a small but disastrous absence leading to the collapse of all plans.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait for long. Bob had taken a turn for Tacoma, and I was about to become a flash-fried celebrity.
The fire and fury was the last thing I saw before I ended up here. Heaven’s waiting room is very dull, if you’ve wondered, and crowded—but I must admit, I’m really enjoying the view.
Something Just Isn’t Right!
It’s Monday, 6:30 pm, July 4th weekend. Robbie’s wife has sent him to the store to buy some toilet bowl cleaner as she begins cleaning the washrooms. He stops off at the local ATM to withdraw money in order to make the purchase. This is where all time and space stop.
“She’s always sending me out to get things, especially on the Holiday weekend. I’ll get you your toilet bowl cleaner, you’ll see. Women, sheesh!”
He pulls out his wallet searching for the ATM card, when one of the weirdest moments in his life is about to occur. A convergence of the unknown with reality is going to be a withdrawal Robbie never intended to happen.
“Ah, there it is! If she thinks I’m just getting toilet bowl cleaner, huh, I’m getting me a six pack too. I’ll show her! Miss Clean the house on a holiday weekend.”
“Oh I wouldn’t do that, if I were you.”
Robbie looks around to see who just spoke, but there wasn’t anyone there. The strangeness in the air creeps down Robbie’s neck as he continues his transaction with the ATM.
“This is nuts, and I haven’t even had a beer yet. It’s my imagination. Whatever!”
“No, actually it’s not”
Robbie turns around quickly to notice a small miniature tree in the lobby area of the Bank. Thoughts race through his mind and he wonders if he’s insane or just has toilet bowl cleaner on the brain.
“Who said that!?”
“Me. Your wife comes in here and does her banking. Nice lady.”
“You’re a tree…tree’s don’t-”
“Tree’s don’t what? You’re telling me, you’ve never seen a talking tree before?”
“You got to be kidding me, this isn’t happening.”
“Oh buddy, it’s happening and by the way, with no pun intended, but do you think money grows on trees. Besides, that ATM is completely empty. She would only kill you, if you bought beer!”
Robbie stands with mouth wide-open as his ATM Card falls from his hand onto the floor. He’s gob smacked staring at a miniature-talking tree. At this moment, a huge meteor races across the sky lighting up the entire area. He looks out the banks window covering his eyes from the intensity of the light and can’t believe what’s happening.
“I’m in the twilight zone. Ya that’s it! That just didn’t happen and this tree didn’t talk to me. I’M LOSING IT! Ok, deep breaths. Just pick up your card, get the toilet bowl cleaner, and go home.
“Don’t get that beer dude. Remember, no matter how much you think this is an illusion, going home to your wife with a six-pack in hand. Tsk, Tsk, Tsk!”
“You’re not real, stop talking already. I’m not touching another drop of alcohol ever. No wait, I need a drink-”
Robbie picks up his card from the floor and runs out of the bank ranting. The tree has one last thing to say as he’s leaving.
“Don’t forget the toilet bowl cleaner!”
Hey Diddle Daddly
An Adult Nursery Rhyme
Hey diddle diddle
Life’s just a big riddle
For Drew who ran for his life,
A meteor streaking
Across the yard seeking
To hide, disappear from the strife.
Hey diddle droy
‘Daddy’s mad,’ said the boy,
‘He’s ranting and raving at Mum.
‘He gave her a beaner
‘With toilet bowl cleaner.’
The thought of it made him go numb.
‘Hey diddle dree,’
Said the tree he called Leigh,
‘Hide here right under my care,
‘When someone is mad
‘And the other is sad
‘Then you’d better be out of their hair.’
Hey diddle diddle
The cat and the fiddle
The dad was hitting the mum,
The boy stopped his ears
(But never his fears)
And his mouth became filled with his thumb.
Hey diddle delling
The mother was yelling,
‘Please stop – you’ll frighten the boy!’
The little dog laughed
To see such craft
For the dad knew her plea was a ploy.
Hey diddle dill
The air it went still
The dad came out searching for Drew,
He wanted his son
Before he was done,
Then Leigh, to the boy, whispered, ‘Shoo!’
Off the boy shot
Before he was caught
He knew what his father could do,
For a very long time
They’d planned this quick climb
Leigh’s branches would hide him from view.
Hey diddle daddly
The dad drove off madly
The cow jumped over the moon…
‘Coast’s clear, my dear,’
Mum cried with false cheer,
‘But hurry; he could return soon.’
Hey diddle dack
They needed to pack
As quickly as poss – just in case –
Still on the attack
The father came back…
Must flee, not leaving a trace.
Hey diddle dage
Of the father’s great rage –
The mum told the boy she found out –
Seems the ATM there
On the edge of the square
Was empty, held zilch, was a drought.
Hey diddle dax
With packs on their backs
They watched for the shade of the moon,
Then Mum and the boy
Stepped forward with joy
And the dish ran away with the spoon.
The Dark Day
The thick grey smoke was suffocating, obscuring everything and amplifying the chaos as screams intermixed with shattering glass. The rotten stench of sulfur clogged the air, tightening her chests as she struggled to breathe.
The chill from her tears jolted her back to reality. A quick glance down showed only fifteen minutes had passed since Jim left for supplies. An agonizingly slow fifteen minutes. This was supposed to be the event of a lifetime, the closest meteor shower for this generation. One moment they stood transfixed by its beauty, and the next scarred by its power. The hypnotic streak of burning rock- purples, greens, reds, all reflected off their son’s eyes, as he watched with pure wonder. All gone in an instant, replaced with a dull sheen as the explosions shook the ground.
She listened enviously to the weeping in the streets. What she would give to hear a scream, or cry of pain. His silence was infinitely more frightening.
“This is all I could get,” Jim coughed out, hunched over out of breath, tossing the bag down.
Her immediate excitement plummeted. “A toilet bowl cleaner, a pack of gum, a butter knife, and fishing line?” the accusation of failure hung in the air as she threw each item back at him. “What can we do with these?”
He stuffed them quickly back in his bag defensively. “I don’t know what to tell you. The atm is empty, the stores are closed. This is what was in the front window. There wasn’t time.”
“What do you expect me to do with these? Who do you think I am, McGeyvor? How is this supposed to help our son?” Her hands trembled as she looked down at their son- his closed eyes, his shallow breath, the wound in his chest. “What are we supposed to do?” The words stumbled out between sobs of desperation.
“I can help,” a voice whispered from behind.
She looked around, startled, “what did you say?”
Jim shook his head, “I didn’t say anything.”
“Who did?” She asked
“I can help you,” the voice said again, from the tree itself.
“A talking tree,” she whistled, “now I’m losing it.”
“Not quite,” the man said jumping down from the branches. “We don’t have long, the debris fields on those things are miles long.”
“Are you a doctor?”
“No, not a doctor, but I can help.” He gave her a tight lipped smile, watching the hope disappear from her eyes.
She gripped on more protectively. “Can you help us move him to the hospital?”
He sadly shook his head. “I’m sorry, with a wound like that, he needs to be treated now. Your only option is me, and what is in that bag.” Jim brought the bag over as orange flashes streamed above them.
“I love you,” she whispered, leaning over, blocking her sight of fire balls about to collide. Her last sight, the serene calm on her son’s face as the thick smoke covered them and silence took over.