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.
(Note: Yesterday, I posted part one of a story I’d written back in the 80s titled “The Day the Heat Came.” Here is the conclusion of the tale that was a lot of fun to write.)
The old, shady maple-lined street was now a river of pitch-black sludge, tar, asphalt, and crushed stone—now liquefied beyond belief!
Good old Maple Street had seen its share of weird things, but this was the doozy to top all doozies! Not even the rain of bowling balls a few years back, or the monsters coming to Maple Street out of the Twilight Zone, could top this.
A minute later, Mr. Beasley, the mailman, floated by in his mail truck as though he had set sail on a voyage on the rushing torrent of black goo.
Florid faced and hair wild, Mr. Beasley was desperately trying to get the truck into gear, but there was no more street left on which to maneuver. He was losing the battle quickly as the vehicle of the United States Postal Service began to cant and tilt and was soon swallowed up by the roiling river that had been Maple Street.
Not far behind was patrolman Nace Wimbish, frantically trying to extricate himself from his police cruiser that had begun its river-like journey. Seconds later, he and the blue and white squad car met the same fate as Mr. Beasley and were suddenly sucked under the whirling and swirling flow of asphalt and tar–gone for good.
As this was happening, all of the trees that lined the once-peaceful street began to droop and wilt and turn to sodden piles of vegetation.
Boz Corndexter, the town drunk, was next! All that remained of his 400 pound self was oozing and sloshing around in Mable Froom’s rain barrel, into which he had stumbled when the heat came. Ol’ Boz’d had the misfortune to be sleeping off one of his mean drunks in the shade of the old widow’s back porch. Wrong place, right time!
Witnessing all of this, Eve and Tommy began to feel trapped and afraid and alone. Aunt Gert had gone off to her weekly poker game at the Ladies League of Elkville, so chances were pretty good that she wouldn’t be home soon–if at all–as things were developing.
“Do you think we’ll die like them?” Eve was trembling now, more worried than before, staring out at the chaotic scene outside.
“Let’s hope not,” Tommy said, moving closer to his little sister. “I have big plans for my life.” He glanced at his book of Jack London stories he’d been reading on the porch and imagined that he’d be able to overcome whatever this evil force of nature was that was causing all of this mayhem.
Tommy and Eve stayed at the window for the rest of the afternoon, looking out at more and more of the craziness enveloping everything about the place. The thermometer on the porch had reached its highest calibrated marking and then, without any warning, burst and cracked and splashed itself into oblivion. Almost at once, the pungent odor of burning wires and metal crept through the vents. The temperature outside was now beyond measurement!
At that exact moment, the porch swing that had hung on the same rusty chain for forty years, suddenly screeched and screamed, seemingly in agony, and then crumpled and gushed into a puddle on the battleship gray porch floor.
Eve and Tommy were stunned as they stood and watched things melting all around them, realizing that it had been only a short time ago that they had been reading Jack London stories and playing make-believe with dolls and otherwise whiling away a summer’s day on that same swing. Now it was no more!
There was silence in the house now, except for the grinding and throbbing of the air conditioner that still seemed to be trying to right itself, and Aunt Gert’s tiny fan that kept at it like The Little Engine That Could.
Despite the terror that was going on outside, the air inside was strangely fresh and very comfortable. The curtains fluttered ever so slightly as the coolness wafted up from the floor vents below. The acrid hint of smoke that had been drifting in moments before had as quickly disappeared without a trace.
Outside, the sky was a fierce red, and the steam and heat all around their neighborhood continued to take its toll on things. A few houses like Tommy and Eve’s had managed to avoid whatever miserable force the deadly heat had brought, but most of the others were gone or soon would be.
Tommy realized at that moment that life as everyone had known it had quickly descended into the furnaces of hell and would probably never be the same again. He wondered, too, if others were watching in horror behind their windows?
Nothing was moving out there now, other than the flowing Nile that had been Maple Street just a short time before.
Poor Boz Corndexter! Going out in a rain barrel was no one’s idea of a classic exit from the here and now. And Nace Wimpish would be hard to replace as the town’s best cop–that is, if there would ever be a need for a cop again! Whatever was happening, a future in this town seemed pretty bleak.
Tommy could see something lying on the far corner of the next door neighbor’s steaming yard near the flowing street. It was Mr. Beasley’s mail pouch, which at that moment exploded and hurled its contents soaring, scattering them high into the heated atmosphere where they immediately became engulfed in flames.
Tommy and Eve felt as though they couldn’t watch any more; they’d seen enough of the horror that had come their way. But despite their efforts to turn away from the morbid scene, they couldn’t force themselves to look away from the nightmare outside their window.
After a time, though, and after they’d seen all they cared to see, the two young people turned away from the window and slumped down to the floor and knew that life as they knew it would never be the same again. The whole apocalyptic inferno had pushed them both past any sort of rational sanity.
The air conditioner, finally having worked the kinks and gremlins out of its system, steadily hummed away now. Aunt Gert’s tiny fan whirred gently on and on. And the heat kept on coming and the river that was Maple Street oozed and slurped its way forward, intent on swallowing the rest of the town.