TAG | Fiction 440
The following story was written by WATL member Randy Pearson for the June 2013 Fiction 440 event at the Eli Broad Museum on MSU’s campus. Fiction 440 challenges writers to write a story of 440 words or less to a specified prompt. Then they sponsor a reading at a local venue –usually a bar or restaurant (writers love to eat and drink) — where those who submitted a story are invited to read their masterpieces. The prompt for Randy’s story was apocalypse, shapely, and sequence. Enjoy!
by Randy D. Pearson
Since the beginning of our civilization, people have been predicting the end of our civilization. From Nazis to zombies… to Nazi zombies, so many things were prophesized to be the apocalypse that would end our reign. Asteroid attack, viral attack… hell, Mars Attack! Some crazy ideas were bandied about.
But seriously, poison ivy? No one saw that coming. And no, I don’t mean the Batman villain, but that would’ve been infinitely cooler than this itchy nonsense.
The sequence of events, turning a mildly annoying plant into the virulent, hyper-fast growing uber-weed that engulfed Cleveland in a weekend, caught everyone napping, man. Of course, no one really cared about Cleveland, but when it took out Vegas and the rest of the West Coast, people became concerned.
So, even though only pockets of itch-free zones remain and anarchy rules the rest, some good did come from it. With most of the world dead or scratching, I have my pick of stuff. For instance, I love my red Stingray Corvette! I never thought I’d own this shapely beast, but now, I’m tooling up I-75 in the coolest car ever, trying to see if the rumors of an Ivy-free Canada truly exist.
As I spot a figure lying in the middle of the highway, creeper weed closing in on all sides, I ease to a stop. My first reaction is to leave this woman to her fate, but hell, I’ve been alone for ages. I could stand the company. And if she hasn’t been ivied yet… Well, dating in this landscape is, shall we say challenging, at the very least. Red welts can really ruin the mood.
As she runs toward my Vette, I jump out and yell commandingly, “Stop! Stay right there!”
Pausing, she yells back, “Oh my God, thank you for stopping! You’re my savior! I thought I was a goner for sure.” Her bright, grateful smile beams at me like a beacon in the late afternoon sun.
I pop the trunk and reach in to remove my high-pressure power washer. I’m not letting her or anyone get that nasty Urushiol (Oo–roo-she-all) oil all over my nice interior. I proclaim, “I know how uncomfortable this is, and I apologize in advance. But you know how…”
But then I hear the unmistakable click of her partner’s gun against my temple. “Shit!” I breathe.
I watch from the crumbling pavement as my shapely Corvette drives away. As the ivy creeps ever closer, I can’t help but think if I had my druthers, I’d rather be killed by the comic book Poison Ivy. At least Batman’s nemesis was hotter, more creative, and not nearly as itchy.
The following story is by WATL founder Rosalie Sanara Petrouske. She wrote it in response to a Fiction 440 challenge. If you’re not familiar with Fiction 440, it’s a Lansing-area group that challenges folks to write a short story of no more than 440 words using a set of prescribed words. They then invite the authors to read their stories aloud at a local pub or restaurant. For this story, the prompt was anniversary, toys, and composing. Enjoy!
I open the door to Sierra’s room, and sit on the bed. Running my hand over the smooth yellow spread, I notice how the throw pillows are stacked perfectly against the headboard. I can remember yelling at her countless mornings about making her bed. Books we read together are slid neatly into their places on the shelves, along with the journals she kept filled with tales about girls her age, who traveled on adventures around the world. “Mommy, Mommy,” I hear her call, “come listen to my new story!”
Stuffed toys she slept with when she was afraid of the dark sit forlornly, some on her bed, others tucked upon shelves or perched on top of the dresser. Wrapping my hands around the little brown otter, Seaweed, I give him a kiss. Clicking open my pen, I begin composing another letter to her.
Your dad is upstairs, already asleep, and Tucker is napping in his dog bed. Whenever Tucker hears the school bus stopping at the end of our block, he still runs to the door, tail wagging wildly. When you don’t come home, he plops down, dropping his head in his paws. I think dogs tell time by sound; certainly not by years. Tonight, the stars are out, scattered all over the sky like glitter confetti. If you were here, we’d put on our coats and go find the Big Dipper. Once I used to long for all this quiet, for hours with no interruptions. I don’t anymore because I miss you too much. If I didn’t know better, I could almost believe you were at your best friend’s house for a sleepover, and when you come home, I’d be whipping up a batter of pancakes with chocolate chips. Today is the first anniversary. . .
I stop writing and smile at my foolishness. My daughter has only left for college. It’s not like she has gone away forever, not like the daughter I read about in today’s newspaper who died in a car accident because she was texting and driving. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain that mother must be feeling. The phone starts ringing in the other room. Setting down my pen, I hurry to answer it. “Hi,” Sierra says. “I was just thinking about you.”
“What are you doing?” I ask.
“Walking back to my dorm. There are so many stars out tonight. The sky is amazing.”
Yes,” I tell her. “I know.”
I go to the window and look up.
© 2012 Rosalie Sanara Petrouske