One Good Thing…
It’s time for the weekly post of a feature I’ve chosen to title “One Good Thing.” Each weekend, I’ll post something about what has been good to—or for—me during the week.
Earlier this week, as I was delving into various cabinets, file boxes, and folders (with the intention of “cleaning house”) I happened upon a thick and worn notebook that I hadn’t seen for years. Inside were bits and pieces of things I had written a long time ago.
Looking through them squelched any thought of “cleaning house,” and, instead, I spent a good portion of the morning reading—and remembering—the time of my life when I first wondered what all it would take to become a writer.
Once in a while we come upon unexpected remnants of our past, and they often serve as reminders of dreams and goals we’d once had. For this weekly feature of One Good Thing, I thought it might be a fun thing to share one of those “first efforts” from my “forgotten archives.”
One such lost “treasure” was written sometime in the early 80s for a short story writing class I was taking. Because it is a bit lengthy, I’ll break it into two parts. Part two will be posted tomorrow.
The story, based on a prompt we were given, was lots of fun and whetted my appetite to write some more. I’d like to think I’ve grown as a writer since those “early days” when I thought seriously of being a writer. Regardless, I had an extremely good time writing this one.
The prompt: Write about a day that begins in typical fashion but for some reason takes a very different direction.
Without further ado, from my vault of forgotten short stories, never before seen by anyone else, here is…
THE DAY THE HEAT CAME
July 23—The day the heat came…
Tommy Edgeworth and his sister Eve sat rocking gently back and forth on the weathered swing that hung on the wide front porch of the old white clapboard house, where they lived with their Aunt Gert, when it came.
Tommy, reading Jack London’s “To Build a Fire,” and Eve, carrying on a conversation with her Barbie doll, never saw it coming. Until that very moment, nothing was unusual about this typical summer day.
It was exactly 11:53 a.m. when the mild, gentle morning breeze ceased completely, replaced by an oven-like atmosphere. Exactly one minute later, the neighbors’ chimney melted.
The orange-red bricks all ran together and oozed down the steep pitch of the eighty-year-old house and plopped over the edge to the ground far below, as though some careless kid had spilled a super-sized ice cream sundae all over the driveway.
Tommy and his ten-year-old sister were spellbound! She began to whimper a little but stopped because that caused too much discomfort in the increasing heat. Tommy took off his shirt and used it to wipe the sweat from his body, which by now was beginning to look like he had just stepped out of the shower.
“I think we better go inside and crank up the air conditioner,” he said, his voice weak and drained from the rising heat that was now radiating all around them.
In they went, just as the Wupperman’s TV tower across the street suddenly bent limp like some wilted iris in the garden out back. There wasn’t any crashing or rending of metal, merely a quick squishy sound—like molding clay would make…or silly putty…in a kid’s clenched fist.
Tommy and Eve raced through the house, slamming windows shut and drawing shades and curtains closed for added “protection.”
Precisely two minutes later, Tommy clicked the thermostat on the living room wall to start the air conditioning unit that had reposed quietly out behind the lilacs alongside the house for most of the pleasant summer—until now. The old A/C compressor seemed to awaken with a startled, wrenching groan.
“Eve, run quick, up to Aunt Gert’s room and bring her little fan down!”
Beginning to worry just a bit more, but without saying anything, the young freckle-faced girl dropped her doll and chuffed up the eighteen steps to the second floor.
By the time his sister had come back down with the small General Electric table fan, its cord trailing off behind, Tommy had established his lookout post at the front window directly above a floor vent, which was trying mightily to crank out cool air.
He grabbed the small fan from his sister and set it on the highboy chest next to the window and plugged it in and turned it on. The little fan whirred gently but didn’t do much to provide any real relief, other than moving the air about.
Looking out and down the street, beyond the melted burnt orange steaming pile that had been the chimney of the house next door, Tommy could see Mr. Cloon’s Buick crumble into mega zillions of dust particles on the street in front of his house.
No one was in the car, thank goodness, but what startled Tommy most of all was that there wasn’t a trace of oil, gas, or any other motor fluid of any kind—anywhere! A once healthy automobile had now heated to the extent that it had simply turned to dust.
A split second later, old Mrs. Clechmeyer, who was out for her late-morning stroll, suddenly became a boiling mass of goop and glop. For one brief, desperate moment, she tried to shout, but no sooner had she opened her mouth when her face completely melted away. One second she had been walking upright; the next she was diminishing into a non-human puddle of muck and mire!
In a most bizarre sort of way, this wretched scene reminded Tommy of his favorite moment from The Wizard of Oz. He could almost imagine Mrs. Clechmeyer’s words—had they been able to be vocalized just before she melted away—to be, “I’m melting, my little pretty!”
“Tommy, do you think we’ll be ok?” The fright in his sister’s voice drew Tommy’s attention away from the morbid scene outside.
“I don’t know, Eve, but it sure is weird. Nothing this strange has happened since the time it rained bowling balls for three days. Remember?”
Eve thought for a moment, continuing to stare at the wicked tableau outside. “Yeah, I remember that. Uncle Mavis really got nailed when that happened.”
Tommy said, “And we would’ve gotten nailed, too, if we hadn’t ‘ve been down in the root cellar with Aunt Gert, helping put up canned tomatoes and pickles.”
Eve shook her head and said, “At least this time it isn’t so loud—just way too hot!” She had moved over beside her older brother at the window. The air conditioner and the whirring of the little fan were the only sounds they could hear, and, fortunately, the house seemed to be holding its own against the inferno outside.
Neither spoke for a long time, each wondering when their house would meet a furious, fiery fate. Nothing much happened for the next few minutes, until a loud, gurgling sound out in the street erupted, sounding like a giant drain being unclogged. What they saw, as they peered once more out the window, was that the gurgling from the street was the street itself!
To be continued…
Until next time, that’s one good thing!