The Iron Writer Challenge #32
2013 Iron Write Autumn Equinox Challenge #10
A Goat Powered Washing Machine
A Petri Dish
Fried Green Tomatos
A menacing stranger
The Outside World
A. R. Nobbe
A man stood silently in front of the glass-protected museum piece in front of him. He didn’t react as a menacing man appeared in the reflection beside his own. Though he knew the man, he felt as though they were strangers.
“There’s nowhere to run, Johnson,” the newcomer replied.
Johnson pointed at the exhibit, “Do you know what this is?”
The stranger read the plaque, “Antique washing machine?”
“Powered by goats,” Johnson added, crossing his arms. “That’s what you refuse to mention, Thames.”
“That’s President Thames,” he corrected calmly as he stood up straight again.
“Thames,” Johnson continued, turning to look at him. “Why are you afraid of the outside world? You have trapped everyone inside a little glass petri dish of a city! Our air is even artificial, and we don’t eat real food.”
Thames’s lips tightened into a thin line.
“Since the day you took over, you’ve brainwashed everyone to thinking nature is evil,” Johnson accused.
“Is it not true?” the leader returned the gaze. “Your scars were caused by the beasts outside. Yet, while you received them only on your chest, I got scars of the vicious claws of the canine monster on my face that day. How can I believe that nature is good?”
“I thought the same thing back then. Heck, I helped you brainwash people about it at first! But the day I got trapped outside, everything changed. I watched nature and how it worked. We just need to know how to work with it, not against it. Looking at this machine made thousands of years ago, I see that we once had known how. Animals had worked side by side with us. Instead of fighting it, we should be looking to it to figure out how to use it for the future.”
Thames remained silent, staring at the rickety contraption in front of him, refusing to answer. The two men stood in silence. Finally, Thames let out a tired sigh, running his hand through his greying hair.
“I know,” he interrupted. “I broke the law. I brought nature into the city.”
“I can’t stop the sentence. You knew bringing in such… things into our city was punishable by-”
“Here,” Johnson held out a small jar.
“I know I can not convince you just through words, so I am giving you this.”
Thames took a peek inside. His eyes grew wide at the sight.
“They are from an old, antique recipe called ‘fried green tomatoes’. They’re the last thing I learned to make. I made it for you. I will not ask for forgiveness, but promise me you will try it. If you like it, maybe you will give nature another chance. Please, just promise that you will try. For an old friend?”
Thames frowned, but nodded, “I promise.”
The two shared one last silence before police would come to take Johnson away. It was obvious to all this was the end for him, yet, at the same time, both knew that this was only the beginning of something bigger.
The Daughter Experiment
“Dad, what’s wrong?” She decided to eschew whatever macrobiotic concoction he was trying to pass off as breakfast.
“Wrong?” he read an obscure bioethics-homesteading journal while frying some green tomatoes – one of her mother’s favorite southern dishes – over a Bunsen burner. The teenager could only guess at the purpose of the makeshift still dominating the stovetop.
“Wrong, dad. What is the matter with you?”
“Why would you assume there was something wrong?”
“I’m barely getting two syllables from you and normally you go on and on about having some fantastic midnight breakthrough or your hopes for another patent.”
“You’ve always seemed disinterested in my work.”
“Dad. Come on. I’m not exactly what you would call a morning person and, honestly, it can be a bit much.”
He shifted in his chair; eyes glued to the curled pages of the magazine.
“Besides, Maurice has been running the washer for two hours.” Samantha winced taking a gander at the poor goat, wide eyed. A carrot dangled a few feet from him. White foam gathered at the edges of his mouth. “He doesn’t look good.”
“Oh, Maurice!” Her father put the journal down and ran into the dining room to give the poor thing the carrot and lead him, weak kneed and wobbling from the contraption. “It’s nothing. Should you be in school?” Checking on the tomatoes, he wrinkled his nose. “What’s that smell?”
“Dad!” A quick puff and the whole breakfast contraption – tomatoes, olive oil, Bunsen burner, and melted Petris dish – burst into flames. The two fumbled to douse the fire under the kitchen faucet and turn off the butane.
Samantha, smelling of burnt plastic, leaned back against the counter, shaking her head. After a few minutes of silence she spoke up again. “Before you get both of us killed, what’s wrong?”
He looked at her over his glasses. His cheeks reddened and his lips drew tightly around his teeth. “Last night. I… I was just confronted with… well, I was sitting on the porch.” He slumped down onto the green vinyl-backed chair. Samantha sat across from him. “That’s when he darkened our stoop. Samantha, I didn’t know who he was. I knew nothing about this mysterious stranger’s intentions but I knew – I KNEW he would come. Slowly ascending the stairs, he didn’t see me. He walked up to the door and his hand hovered over the wood like a judge’s gavel. I froze. I didn’t know what to do or say, I just sat and waited for the inevitable to wash over me.” He sank lower, defeated into the chair. He took his glasses off and slowly rubbed his tired eyes.
Samantha rolled hers. “His name is Brad. He’s a lit major, dad.” She got up to go change her outfit. “We went bowling and he kissed my hand when he dropped me off.”
“Oh, okay then.” Her father sprang up and followed behind her. “Did it leave a mark? Any burns or rashes?”
“No, dad. God! Are you sure I’m not adopted?”
It’s been twenty years since the world ended. In that time I haven’t seen or spoken to a single human being. Except, of course, the young stranger who is now sitting on my sofa pointing a gun at me.
It’s strange. Until about fifteen minutes ago I’d completely forgotten about guns…
I wonder what they taste like. People that is, not guns…
Am I supposed to say something?
“So yeah.” I say uncomfortably “what the fuck are you doing here.”
Seems like a pretty good conversation starter.
“Ya know.” He replies “I’m not really sure. I’m thinking about killing you.”
“Why’s that?” I ask
He shrugs. “Seems like a good idea.”
“What’s that do?” He asks curiously, gesturing to the odd wooden contraption in the corner with his gun.
“It washes clothes.”
“How’s it work?”
“It’s powered by goats.”
“I ate them.”
“What’s that.” He asks again, this time gesturing to the moldy Petri dish in my lap
“It’s a fungus.”
“Why do you have a fungus?”
“It’s my pet.”
“That’s a weird pet.”
I shrug. “I already ate my dog.”
“What’s that do?” He asks for a third time, pointing at the apple peeler on my coffee table .
I pause “Can I ask you a question first?”
He thinks for a moment.
Suddenly I realize it’s my turn. I have no idea what I should say. What do people talk about?
“Do you remember movies?” I ask hopefully.
He simply shakes his head, looking confused.
“Really?” I ask disappointed.
“Sweeny Todd?” I probe
“Fried green tomatoes?”
“Oh…Sad…Movies were great.”
“So what’s that do?” He asks yet again pointing his gun directly behind me.
I look to see he was pointing at the ragged scarecrow I had sitting by the bed.
“He keeps me company.” I say
He contemplates that
“Can it do laundry?”
“No. He’s a scarecrow he can’t do anything.”
“Then why keep it.”
“Because I couldn’t eat him.”
“Well,” he says cheerfully. “Its been nice talking to you. Thank you for showing me all your neat stuff, but I think I’m going to go now. Sorry, but I’ve decided to kill you before I leave.”
“Yeah about that.” I say “Why?”
He shrugs “Still seems like a good idea.”
I sigh “…Fair enough…”
He stands, presses the gun against my forehead, and squeezes the trigger.
“Huh.” He says sounding surprised “It would appear your not dead.”
“Does it have any bullets?” I inquire.
“Bullets?” He asks, puzzled
“Ah, I see.” I say.
I shove him backwards, knocking him to the ground. Grabbing the apple peeler off the table, I slam it into his exposed throat.
“That was, hands down, the most awkward conversation I’ve ever had.” I say wiping blood off of my face.
And then I eat him…
People taste funny…
Lisa Le Gra
I heard twigs break against the rough wooden door as the wind tossed handfuls of dry compost to distract me. I ignored it.
I saw nothing, concentrating instead on tiny yellow seeds germinating in my petrie dish. This dish was my latest acquisition. Cloudy with age, I had rescued it from the home of unwanted scientific paraphernalia – a bin boasting cracked beakers, one-legged forceps, dormant test-tubes and headless disposable vials. I had never been so lucky as to score traces of a discarded chemical – an actual elixar to investigate – but I lived in hope that the ever-diligent laboratory tech would have a bad day and screw up.
The seeds being cultured were saved from green tomatoes. The exact same organic used for rolling in cornmeal and boiling in oil; however these were to be born to a far superior purpose. Electricty.
Red tomatoes, of course, could be used. They are, after all, just a grown up version of the green variety. However green tomatoes contain more acid- that magic ingredient I combine with copper and zinc electrodes to produce a crackling energy you can actually hear when I connect the wires and create … power.
I am unbeatable. Unstoppable. A scientific mastermind who will single-handedly save the world from excessive resource consumption, and global warming.
Behind me rested an entire month’s work. Faithfully re-created with the assistance of Google and junkyards, I had built a vintage-design washing machine. Quite simple really – a waterproof barrel connected to a treadmill, which supplied the power source in the form of a goat – or even a small pony on larger versions.
Primitive in my opinion – using animals meant someone must stay with the machine constantly, coaxing the goat into movement with some sort of edible bribe. I intended to simply cut out the middle-man. Rather than tempt a smelly goat with fresh produce – the produce would be used to create electricity which would obediently run the treadmill any time of the day or night. Genius itself – bested only by mould growing on cheese.
I saw it only when I stepped backwards to stretch. The dark shadow loomed into the pale roller blind – elongated out of proportion. A gangly neck morphed into ET proportions – twisting and turning to ensure it was safe and undiscovered.
I quietly threw a large sheet over the contraption dominating the middle of the room. It became a large mis-shapen body, prostrate on the floor, silent under a deathly shroud. I gently collected my pride and joy – an anatomically correct hand, albeit rubber, severed at the wrist. I placed this theatrical artistry partially under the cloth, then squeezed myself into the dark space beside a cupboard.
I stuffed my fist in my mouth and waited. Colin Abercromby gazed upon the lifeless hand, turned on his size six sneakers, and screamed all the way to the safety of his own front door. The whole exercise took less than 30 seconds.
Laughing (somewhat maniacally), I replaced the dummy hand and went back to my work.
I am unbeatable. Unstoppable. A scientific mastermind who will clean up at the Science Fair. My world is as it should be.