Work is chaos – the crash bang of pots on stovetops, orders yelled from one station to another, people running behind his back with large hot kettles, calling out ahead of them “coming through, coming through, don’t back up, coming through,” over and over in a hot litany of laser-tight focus. Jim is similarly occupied – he has vegetables to fry, he has five pounds of onions in a kettle hissing furiously, shedding gusts of acid in a vicious last act of malevolence, caught up in the fans and pulled away from his face as he bends over another pot, checking on a mirepoix that is almost done, browning up nicely, time to add the garlic and the herbs and let it soak in it’s own heat for a while. Back to check the onions, smack them around the pot briskly, with authority – keep them controlled and evenly fried. The back burner pot is full of water at a roiling boil, waiting for vegetables. The runner boy plunks a steam basket full of green beans down on his way past (coming through!), and he snatches it up and plunges it in, checks the time – stirs the onions – grabs a bowl and spins around, looks both ways, dashes forward three steps to fill the bowl with ice. He turns around just in time to get a face full of heady beef steam before darting back to the safety of his station. Two minutes left on the beans, stir the onions. Better start chopping that chard, he can have that prepped by the time the beans are done. The runner boy comes and takes the mirepoix away, babbling something about needing another batch in ten minutes. He grins. No time to waste!
April 23, 2010
April 2, 2010
The stone of the mountaintop pushes hard against her soles, keeping her upright and walking. It’s not worth stopping. The better views are further ahead, anyway, and Carrie’s breath is burning through her lungs straight down into her muscles. Every step is a stretch, every gasp is pushing the limits of her lung capacity. Her heartbeat grips her chest like an angry lover.
Her cell phone is turned off; there probably isn’t any reception here, but Carrie doesn’t take chances. Her mother’s anxieties about her credit card debt are waiting for her down at the treeline; her father’s disapproval of her job is in the car. Her plans to go back to college are lurking in the lichen around her, but she doesn’t have to stop for them and she doesn’t have to turn around when opportunity comes knocking if she doesn’t want to. She wants to go forward- her stomach is trembling as she heaves herself over a particularly vertical chunk of boulder – she wants to keep going up until she can see nothing around her but rock and sky.
Then maybe she will stop, and eat, and breathe for a while, and let the frustrations of the morning catch up a little. She likes shouting obscenities off the top of the rocks, likes knowing that no one will hear them and she doesn’t have to feel ashamed. Likes the feeling of the syllables ripping up her throat. But she can’t wait too long; she has to be ready to run back down again, jumping down the trail, ready to fall at any moment. Her mother would be furious to see Carrie risking her neck like this. But her mother isn’t here, and it feels so damn good to push herself that she does it anyway, every time.
March 1, 2009
It wasn’t until the house was clean again that Casey realized how much she liked it that way. The rug just looked lighter, somehow, and the room felt bigger without all the stuff draped over every chair and table.
She hugged the auto-cleaner, and unplugged it from the wall. It waved its sensory antennae happily, and scuttled over to the corner, presumably to dust something. Grinning, Casey put her shoes on to go out for lunch. She patted her pockets. Empty. Checked her desk. Spotless. No keys anywhere.
Finally, she looked in the hall closet. There, she found all of her things, carefully folded and stacked in alphabetical order. The manual, naturally, was buried at the bottom of stack F-M.
February 5, 2009
When Todd and Sam don their black cloaks and dart out into the rain, they’re already running late. The train to Conndale leaves every night at 8:52 sharp, and it’s already 8:48 and a half. There’s a bus that goes to the station, but it doesn’t arrive until nine.
For step one of their cunning plan, Sam distracts the bus driver by asking questions about the route while Todd pulls the window open and climbs out. Then, Todd throws several sparklers in front of the bus, letting Sam shimmy through unnoticed. It’s 8:51.
As the bus circles around the entrance to the station, the train starts to pull out. But it’s slow at first, and there are a lot of cars. Todd and Sam have plenty of time to collect themselves, and wait for the bus to get close, before they jump. It works perfectly.
They exchange excited glances, and pull out their grappling hooks. Now it’s time for the hard part. The train goes past the airport at 9:18, which, according to their information, is just as the plane to San Francisco is taking off. Sam checks his watch; Todd checks the parachutes. The train whistles into the night.
February 2, 2009
Alexis stumbled out of the way, as the door whipped open with a crash! Smoke and fire billowed into the room, obscuring the vaults lining the walls.
In most banks, this would have been the point when all the employees were rounded up and held at gunpoint until burglars left, or the cops arrived. But the air was full of shadows, and Alexis knew that only a few other people were still on duty.
She drew in a shaky breath; it was only last week, that her mother had passed on to her the family’s ancient brooch, and the spandex cloak that apparently came with it. She didn’t know exactly how it worked. But there was no better time to try. When the first men darted into the room, she shouted the Words of Power and came out swinging.
Her first strike missed. But the second landed.
January 15, 2009
They danced the waltz so well together now, they assumed that learning the mazurka would be pretty easy. But now that they were actually in the workshop, they remembered how long it had taken to get to that point.
He didn’t really have the steps down yet, so he was hesitant, and led lightly; she couldn’t really feel the motion, so she clutched harder and tried to steer. Then they lost the rhythm, again.
The instructors were circulating through the hesitant group, gently guiding and demonstrating. It was easy to dance with them. They knew exactly what they were doing. It didn’t matter if he didn’t feel the steps exactly right, they were strangers.
Finally, she just stopped listening to the music. Clearly it wasn’t translating well enough into the steps. Instead, she focused very carefully on the lift of his arm against her back, the push of his hand against hers. Their weight was off. They adjusted. Spun. Stepped.
Then they lost the rhythm again, but they lost it together this time.
January 11, 2009
The air was so cold out that his breath froze to his mustache, little sparkling droplets clinging desperately to his lip. His words puffed out into the air like dragon smoke as he walked.
He walked faster than he spoke, letting his feet express his frustration while going over the prior events slowly and methodically. The meeting had gone all wrong; this was a given, these things happen, the important thing was figuring out exactly why, and keeping it from happening again.
Clearly, the first step was establishing the time and place as precisely as possible. Letting his secretary communicate via ill-concealed notes and codes was right out. Next time, he would make the phone call personally. Speak clearly. Suggest a darkly lit den of iniquity that was near a bus route next time, with an unusual and memorable name, perhaps.
The dog trotting beside him panted enthusiastically, as if to agree with all his suggestions. It nosed the ground harder, gave an excited bark.
He ran forward, following the trail of white powder, flinching at the sound of sirens rising faintly in the distance.
January 9, 2009
The wind rushes into the room with a howl, shoving through Abigail’s hair and pushing the curtains back with a wild flap. It swirls through her math notes, tugging them up into the air and spinning them around the room.
Abigail dives for them, but it’s too late; one is already gone out the window, and two others seem to be stuck in the doorframe above the closet. She snatches a few out of the air and crumples them to her chest, spins around, stumbles for the bed.
Under the covers, the howling doesn’t seem so bad. Abigail clutches her flashlight and stares blearily at her remaining notes, but the numbers shift and spin under her gaze, going in and out of focus. Occasionally a dull thwip noise suggests that other things are being pushed around by the gale.
Abigails dozes fitfully, images of paper and branch and wind spinning around her mind. There are too many questions, and too many answers, and none of them are actually adding up right.
January 8, 2009
The wind is whipping through the bushes behind Abigail’s window, rattling the sill and forcing the branches up against the window, where they thrash wild rhythms into the glass.
Abigail has a test tomorrow, but every time she tries to focus on derivatives, a particularly loud scrape will pull her mind away.
She’s only studying in the first place because she couldn’t sleep. It seems very ironic that she can’t even use the time usefully.
She turns the flashlight off, and lets the afterimages fade. Her head is full of calculations and rules, images of laughing classmates and crossed-out answers. She really can’t fail this test; her grades are bad enough as it is. But she won’t fall asleep like this.
So Abigail gets up, and stares outside; then she opens the window, and lets the wind come tumbling in.
January 7, 2009
“Where is that dratted water bill?” Eileen snarled, throwing another grocery receipt over her shoulder. “And why haven’t I thrown these old lists away yet?” A handful of crumpled notes fluttered to the carpet. “And this! This flashlight doesn’t even work! Argh!”
She threw her hands up in the air and whirled around. Woosh! The flashlight landed in the garbage with a loud, satisfying thunk.
She turned to look at the desk again. The situation had not improved. So she carefully picked up her monitor, and set it aside on a table. Then, with a yell, she pushed everything else off onto the floor, flailing her arms in wild sweeps. It was even more satisfying than the flashlight.
Then she dragged her desk out onto the lawn, and set it on fire. It felt wonderful.