The Iron Writer Challenge #141
2016 Winter Solstice Open Preliminary Round
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
Joyce Carol Oates Bracket
A ball of yarn
An appointment to be abducted by aliens that you are anxiously waiting for.
The night sky was sweet with stars, twinkling and spinning, dotting the air far above him with promise.
A swing set lay at his feet like an unearthed dinosaur, poles and slide strewn across the Emerald Zoysia. Its chains were strapped across his chest, warrior style.
“They’re bad about takin’ stuff, Angie,” he said and went straight for the garage. The dog trotted behind, wagging its tail.
Steve piled boxes into his truck.
Angie got her mother and her sister on a three-way phone call in the kitchen.
“He’s wearin’ that thing again,” Angie hissed.
“What thing?” asked Donna, her sister.
“The freakin’ Isolator. Ordered it on Amazon. It’s all he does anymore. Talks about, ‘when they come for him’ and how, ‘he can’t wait’. But he’s scared they’ll take his guns, so he put them in a Yeti cooler and he’s gonna lower them to the bottom of the quarry, for when they bring him back.”
“You’re kidding,” Donna said.
Angie put the phone on speaker. “Nope. He’s gone. Wasn’t even gonna tell me.”
“You don’t know that,” her mother admonished.
“I found a hoard of beanie-weenies and beer in the garage, under his tool chest,” Angie said.
“I wonder if he’ll bring back souvenirs?” Donna teased.
“Even with the laundry and all, I’m gonna miss him,” Angie said.
“Of all people, they chose Steve…,” Donna continued.
“They need craftsmen, he saw it online.”
“Think they’ll tattoo him?” Donna asked.
“Wait, I’m getting another call.” Angie clicked over.
“Hurry, it might be Captain Kirk,” Donna cackled.
After several seconds Angie came back.
“Well, that was Steve,” she reported.
“And?” Donna said.
“He needs yarn.”
“What?” Donna howled.
“He’s gonna knit them an afghan while he waits,” Angie sniffed.
“What a dumb ass!” Donna yelled.
“Donna!” Her mother warned.
“He must be the love child of Martha Stewart and Rod Stirling,” Donna said, laughing.
“Do you have yarn, Angie, Honey?” Her mother asked.
“I bought some for that Pinterest thing I started, but I lost it,” Angie whined.
“You sure did,” Donna said.
“Shut up, Donna,” her mother hissed.
“You need to listen to how you talk to people, Donna,” Angie said.
“Your husband is knitting for aliens, Angie.” Donna persisted.
“Darlin’ don’t you dare get on that spaceship,” her mother cautioned. “Take him the yarn and just leave.”
“Okay,” Angie sighed.
“If she wants to ride the Starship Enterprise, so be it!” Donna cheered.
“At least I have a husband,” Angie jeered.
“Technically speaking…,” Donna went on.
“That wasn’t his fault!” Angie snapped.
“How does one ‘accidentally’ marry their cousin?” Donna asked.
“Shut up, Donna!” Angie yelled.
“Angie, Honey, I have a new ball of yarn, ‘sunshine yellow’…,” her mother continued.
At the quarry, he scanned the horizon for errant light, caught sight of a passing comet, and wished for the glare of metal that would mirror earth’s reflection. He lowered the air-tight cooler into the watery depths and turned back toward his truck.
The wind shifted. A cloud of bats scattered from a nearby cave.
Then a beam, brighter than magnifying-glassed sunshine, shot to earth.
And he was gone.
“I can’t make a dime’s worth of sense out of this.” Olivia said as she dropped the binder in front of her husband.
“How is this supposed to explain,” she continued gesturing at Chase’s passion within the binder, “why we are in backwoods Luxembourg, which I can barely say let alone spell? You told me that this was going to be romantic.”
Chase looked up smiling. “I finally put it all together. I got this room at this bed and breakfast because of Hugo’s code.”
Olivia was furious paced in front of the bed.
“I thought you were taking a break from your science fiction freakdom for a few days so we could reconnect. You told me that you were going to take me someplace special that only you and I would have. You kind of left out the whole ‘by the way, I’m planning to call Captain Schmirk to beam us up to the Century Falcon.’”
Chase stood and took his wife’s hands.
“Olivia,” he said. “It’s not the Century Falcon. It’s the Millenium, never mind. I pieced Hugo Gernsback’s code together while I was wearing The Isolator suit that he invented. The code was in his Amazing Stories magazines during the 1920’s. It’s remarkable because the code is pieced together with a hint in each issue over the years. Tonight is the night, and this is the spot where visitors from another planet will be coming to take us on an adventure of a lifetime!”
“Are you listening to yourself? You have completely gone off the deep end.”
A tear welled and streamed down Olivia’s cheek as she spoke.
She went on, “Whatever you think this science fiction guy said, it has nothing to do with us. I should be the most important thing in your life. Not this binder and these hugonauts or whatever it is you are waiting for to take you and abduct me. I can get more satisfaction out of a ball of yarn than I can trying to follow your insane fantasies.”
“Honey,” Chase pleaded. “Everything changes tonight.”
“You’re right. Everything changes tonight, Chase,” Olivia said as she gathered her shawl and the keys to their rental car. “Tonight is the night that you chose fantasy over me. You need help, but I am arrogating my life tonight and taking it back.”
“Olivia, please don’t go. Give me just a few more minutes, and you’ll see.”
“I’ve seen everything I need.”
Chase did not leave the cabin as the taillights of the car receded. As the lights disappeared, a new light bathed the secluded cottage from above.
Chase stepped outside and peered up to see the otherworldly craft that Hugo had promised.
“Greetings,” a disembodied voice said to Chase. “We have arrived at the appointed time and place to take whomever is present on a galactic adventure. Are you prepared?”
Chase looked down the road where the car had been just a minute before. He closed his eyes and nodded.
“I have nothing left here. I am ready.”
Christopher A. Liccardi
“Number three thousand, four hundred seventy six, three thousand, four hundred,” her nasal voice was cut off by a strange little man who jumped in front of her window. Why do they always assume it’s okay to cut me off? And why did she always get the weird ones? She thought.
“That’s me.” Squeaked a tiny little voice. The man was just tall enough so that she could see the top of his brown bowler, level with the counter. Madge had to strain forward on her stool in order to see the round face beneath it.
“Ticket please.” She said in that dry ‘have done this a million times’ tone. Lunchtime was eleven minutes away, but she knew she would be going late.
The short man had to jump several times to get his hand, and his ticket onto the counter. Madge sat scowling at the top of his hat.
She took the ticket, looked at the numbers and tossed it toward the basket at her feet. The floor was littered with millions of those little red tickets, but cleanup was another someone else’s problem.
“Do you have the standard 43112C signed and stamped?” she asked.
The man pulled a stack of papers from his briefcase and once again began to jump repeatedly to reach the counter.
How in the hell did he drive here, Madge thought? He’d need a step stool to get to the toilet.
She sighed audibly and leaned forward again, snatching the papers before they could fall back down to the floor on his side of the counter. The wooden stool groaned under her weight. If the man heard her, he didn’t indicate that. He smiled the entire time.
Madge riffled through the papers. Everything was in order. She pulled the ancient metal stamp from its red ink pad. The CLACK sound echoed down to this man’s ears and she knew if she looked again, he’d be smiling so wide, his hat would fall off.
“Your wish?” Madge asked, it was now two minutes to lunch. She was never going to make it.
“Alien Abduction.” The man said. She heard eagerness in his voice.
“Raise your right hand and swear that this is your heart’s most secret desire.” She motioned out at the empty space in front of her window.
“I DO!” said the little man. More excited than the kids were on Christmas.
“Did you bring the required item? Madge asked, not caring really.
He reached back into his case and pulled out a ball of yarn. It was the color of no color at all.
“Do I keep this with me…” she cut him off. “Yes.”
It was one minute after lunchtime and all the other windows were empty now.
“Take a seat in Booth 13 please and put on the Isolator helmet. Do not forget to turn on the oxygen before you do.” She said, but he was nearly running now. He hadn’t listened and she knew she’d have to call for someone when he passed out, but that would be after her lunch. It was already 5 minutes after and she was starving.
Science With Dave
Dave was a weasel. Everybody knew it. He never did any schoolwork of his own: Why should he, when he could simply steal the work done by others? He was also the worst science lab partner Billy ever got stuck with. Dave butchered five frogs before Billy took over dissection. Dave cracked ten cover-slips trying to focus the microscope before Billy stepped in. When Billy had to replant the bean seeds Dave had drowned, Billy began to despise Dave’s ineptitude. Dave was dragging him down. Billy resented Dave’s always copying his answers.
This seemed to work well for Dave until finals came around and he realized he didn’t know anything. He needed to get his hands on Billy’s science notes.
Dave saw his opportunity when he spied Billy walking home with an arm-load of cardboard tubes. “Hey, Billy, let me help you with that.” The two made their way to Billy’s house and carried the tubes back into Billy’s room.
Dave looked around Billy’s room in awe. There were consoles, radar screens, antennas, knobs, dials, and strange noises emanating from everything. “What’s all this?” Dave asked.
Billy smirked, “I’ve been searching for alien life in space, Dave.”
Dave was incredulous, “Yer full of it!”
“No, seriously, Dave, and I’ve found some.”
Dave laughed so hard he doubled over.
“You’ve just lost it, haven’t you? You’re crazy!”
“No, Dave, really. Here, put on this helmet and I’ll prove it.”
Dave looked at the helmet and fell to the floor laughing. “You’ve got to be kidding me!”
Billy’s shoulders slumped, “Well, suit yourself. If you don’t believe me, then just go home. I’ve got an appointment to meet these aliens tonight, and they’re going to give me technology that’ll make me rich.”
Dave struggled to his feet, “You’re crazy, man. You’re a frickin’ nut-case.” With that, he walked out.
But that evening Dave was too enticed at the prospect of arrogating some priceless technology for himself.
Stooped outside Billy’s window, he overheard Billy’s conversation with … someone on a two-way radio. “Roger that, Q4 Alpha. Rendezvous at Indian Mound in 30 minutes.”
Dave leaned back. “Dang!”
Dave’s greed kicked in: He snuck around the house, slipped in the side door and jumped Billy from behind. He tied Billy up with a nearby ball of yarn and took off for Indian Mound.
To his surprise, a flying saucer suddenly appeared overhead and Dave was abducted into the ship by a light beam. Before he knew it, he was strapped to a table. Two aliens approached. One was holding a scalpel while the other made gestures indicating he should have the scalpel. Taking a step back, the first one stumbled awkwardly and fumbled the scalpel several times before accidentally cutting himself, dropping the scalpel again. The second one turned, shook his head, and shrugged his shoulders at Dave apologetically.
Back on earth, Billy easily got loose. Opening the package the aliens had given him the night before, Billy felt the trade was more than equitable.
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