Monday, 13 June 2016
Written for the June 17, 2016 Flash Fiction Challenge: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2016/06/10/flash-fiction-challenge-knock-knock-whos-there/.
I hear the sound of someone rapping at my door. But not. There is no vibration of knuckles on wood. Only the sound, a recorded voice, saying the words.
I peer out the small frosted window but can't make anything out in the driving snow. It doesn't matter. I know what's behind the door. I pick up the baseball bat with my right hand and unlock then open the door with my left.
This one hovers, like a hummingbird, in the cold air and snow. When I open the door wide, it corrects itself, backs up and lowers itself to my eyeline. This is a dumb thing to do. I hear the micro-pause just before the phone connects to the voice behind the drone, take a step onto the front porch and swing the bat downwards. I immediately change my stance as the drone loses altitude and almost hits the snow covered deck, but like a fly swatted not hard enough it recovers in time and is on its way back up when I swing again and send it flying into the trunk of a red maple. It smashes to pieces and hits the ground; in less than a minute the detritus is covered over with a fine layer of snow as the lights from within its mangled contents continue to flash.
I retreat inside, lock the door and knock the snow off my slippers. I change into boots and put on my winter coat. I set the kettle to boil, then go to the basement for the bleach. I mix bleach and hot water in a heavy duty plastic spray bottle and go back outside.
A half centimetre of snow now covers the drone and the lights flicker infrequent and choppy. If I didn't know better, I'd feel bad for it. Like maiming an animal and allowing it to suffer a long and painful death. But it's not an animal. It's a drone, sent to hound me, shriek at me, make me break down.
I spray the carcass. It sparks a few times then goes dark. I twist open the spray bottle top and dump the contents onto the remaining pieces. The snow immediately begins covering them up again.
The first two drones they sent I blasted with a shotgun. After the first one, I got a nasty call telling me that the destruction of their property, i.e., the drone, would be added to my bill. After I shot the second drone into a thousand pieces over the yard I was robbed. The garage lock was jimmied and all of my weapons, which had been neatly stored in foam forms in a metal locker, were taken.
After the robbery, I amassed other, less conventional weapons. The baseball bat was an obvious choice but I also placed gardening tools and large kitchen knives throughout rooms in the house along with dozens of undone wire hangers that could be used as whips. The rag mop I left in the kitchen; it was still a useful cleaning tool but I could also see how its dreadlocks could be used to lasso a drone and bring it down like an errant calf.
Sometimes I stop and admire the absurdity that all this is happening because I can't pay a lousy hospital bill. Ten grand it cost when my appendix burst. I was only supposed to be here for a year, and four months in, bam! This happens. The excruciating pain prevented me from asking the ambulance driver to take me to another hospital, anywhere but Amazon General. I'd read the news stories. But that was the closest one. Or the driver was on the Amazon payroll. That wouldn't surprise me.
I am thankful that the doctors at AmGen knew what they were doing and I had no post-operative complications and went home the day after the surgery with a list of do's and don'ts, a prescription for a mild painkiller and one for antibiotics, and an admonishment to take it easy. I followed their diet and took the meds but taking it easy was going to be impossible if I had to fight collection drones every day.
I go back inside. Before I even get my boots off, I've made up my mind. This third drone is the charm that convinces me. They won't stop coming and they could get worse. Much worse. I'd read the news stories.
There is only one sensible thing to do.
It takes three days—three days of fending off multiple drones with the bat, wire whips and a garden spade—but the transport has finally arrived. I'm going home.
After the initial take off and the always jarring leap into hyperspace, I get up from my seat and go to one of the bed cabins. All I want is to sleep but my body is too keyed up and instead I stare out the porthole at the dark space and the stars for what seems forever. Eventually, my muscles relax and my eyelids start to droop.
They shoot open at the sound.
Monday, 7 December 2015
It was the second last day of Carla's visit with her sister Angela, Angela's husband George and their two children, three-year old Marie and ten-year old George Junior.
Junior, as his family called him, was a smart-mouthed, malicious little monster. The kind of kid who thought nothing of ripping the legs off spiders or the wings off butterflies. The kind of kid who, if he hadn't already, would someday take a shovel and smack a live frog like it was a baseball.
Carla was the only one who called him Georgie. Georgie Porgie. Georgie Porgie, puddin' 'n pie, kissed the girls and made them cry / When the boys came out to play, Georgie Porgie ran away!
Carla knew it wasn't right to taunt a child, let alone hate one. Nevertheless, she despised her nephew intensely.
After a shopping trip with Angela—during which it was left to Carla to amuse an unamuseable Marie while her sister tried on outfit after outfit in store after store asking each time whether this or that made her look fat—Carla grabbed a beer from the fridge and retreated to the guest room.
Carla kicked off her shoes, twisted off the beer cap and took a swig. She toed the door shut. She opened the balcony doors and took a seat on one of the wicker chairs outside. She looked out at the ravine for a minute then reached beneath the chair and retrieved an empty beer bottle, her ashtray. She smoked a cigarette and popped the butt into the empty bottle, then took a pack of chips from her purse, opened them and wolfed them down. She gargled with beer to dislodge the potato mush that stuck to her teeth.
The sun was setting and the afternoon had grown cooler and windier. A sudden gust blew the balcony doors inward and Carla started at the sound of a door slamming. She turned and started again. Sitting in the middle of the duvet, picking his filthy fingernails, was George Junior.
"Christ! You scared the shit outta me!" Carla grabbed her cigarettes and lit one.
"You said shit! You said shit!"
"Make yourself useful," Carla said. "Go get me another beer."
"Get it yourself. 'Sides, Dad says you drink too much of his beer."
She knew it was wrong to want to scare the bejesus out Georgie Porgie but she did. Oh God, how she did! Short of backhanding him with all of her rings on, she thought, frightening him half to death would be the next best thing, maybe even better. It might do a little long-term damage. But how?
And she knew that that was even more wrong. A smack is a smack. Most kids get over those. Scarring a psyche was just plain mean.
Once George Junior realized that his aunt wasn't going to say anything about him saying shit, twice, he said, "You're not allowed to smoke in the house."
"I'm not in the house, am I?" Carla said, a little nastily. She blew smoke in his direction but the wind shifted and the smoke drifted to the other side of the room. She adjusted her chair. She watched her nephew pick at his fingernails a while longer, using the time to entertain a few pleasant scenarios, well, pleasant for her, when he said something that gave her a delicious idea.
"My mom's got enormous knockers. What happened to yours?"
Carla savoured the moment. The anticipation of his terrified white face. He might even cry! Or wet himself. She dropped the cigarette in the beer bottle and heard the heater sizzle as it hit the bottom. She stood up and faced her nephew.
"You really want to know?" she asked. She stood framed in the doorway, the wind ruffling her dark curly brown hair. She glanced over her shoulder. Thunderclouds were piling into one another and she could smell rain in the air. Far off she heard a low rumble.
At the thunder George Junior looked up from his fingernails and past his aunt to the slate grey sky. An ever-so-slight look of panic crossed his face but he recovered and shrugged. "Sure."
"It was about ten years ago," Carla began, lighting another cigarette. "The year you were born, in fact."
George Junior didn't especially like his Aunt Carla. She called him Georgie Porgie and although she had never said it, he knew that she hated him because he was fat. This was, in fact, not true at all. Carla despised him not his weight. She was, however, the most interesting relative he had. She smoked and drank and wore "outrageous outfits," according to his mother.
"Do you know what a mammogram is?" Carla asked.
"Yeah," he said. He didn't. This wasn't turning out as interesting as he'd hoped. When she hadn't freaked over him saying shit, he had upped the ante with knockers, but she still hadn't taken the bait.
"Oh I don't think you do," she said. She smoked her cigarette, biding her time. "A mammogram," she finally continued, "is a medical procedure. Women have it done to see if their br—knockers are healthy."
George Junior's eyebrows twitched in puzzlement but he kept his questions to himself. Sheet lightning lit up the sky and aunt and nephew silently, and unknown to the other, counted the seconds.
One, two, three, four, five. Thunder.
"Turns out, mine weren't. Healthy that is."
One, two, three, four. Thunder. A little louder this time. A little closer.
"That's hard to explain but I knew for sure when I had that mammogram." She paused and her nephew didn't disappoint. Children could be so easily led.
"Why? What happened?" George Junior sat up on his knees. He leaned forward, his fingernails forgotten.
"I had to go to the hospital and have them checked by a machine."
Carla stepped into the room and moved toward the bed.
"A machine?" George Junior tried to imagine what a machine that checked knockers would look like.
"Hmm hmm. A machine."
One, two, three. Very loud. Tree branches thrashed dangerously in the wind and Carla could hear her sister's wind chimes jingling frantically on the porch below.
"They put my knockers in the machine. It was like a vice," Carla said, coming up to the edge of the bed. She bent over her nephew, grabbed her small breasts in her hands and squeezed them together.
She stood up.
"Blew 'em out like a tire!"
Carla clapped her hands together in front of her nephew's face as the thunder boomed. George Junior screeched and fell backwards off the bed.
Carla crawled slowly onto the mattress and looked over the side. Her nephew was sprawled on the floor, his shirt untucked. He was panting. She leaned over and pointed a finger close to his crotch.
"Imagine having your balls squished. In a vice."
As Carla smacked her hands together again the sharp crack of thunder was a rifle shot out of nowhere. No lightning had foretold its arrival.
George Junior bolted for the door, flailing at the doorknob, and screaming for his mother.