Some snaps from the Saltese Uplands, where color and contrast seem to change by the minute.
I write flash fiction, non-fiction, essays and novels. This month’s Tease is from a short story involving a mountain cook.
The wind gusts sideways. Sleet cuts into his cheeks like a sandblaster. He sees the boy pull his sister ever closer. They aren’t equipped for this weather. The boy is wearing a leather coat over a hooded sweatshirt. The girl has an oversized Minnesota Vikings jacket on. They are both wearing jeans and dangling snowboards. The wind turns even harsher, twisting flurries as it whistles through the cables. Hypothermia weather, he thinks to himself. He has to get these kids off the mountain.
He reaches for his radio. “Getting anywhere?”
There is no response. The call button is stuck, frozen solid. He taps it lightly on the rusty chair rail. Nothing. He taps it again and on the up stroke accidentally catches a slat edge, grazing it just hard enough to flip the radio out of his giant mitten. It spins for a moment on the chair’s edge and then drops away. He watches helplessly as it plummets and then splinters on the rocks below.
“Fuck!” he yells without thinking.
The girl giggles.
“Sorry,” he apologizes. “Hey, you guys got a cell phone? Of course you do. All kids have cell phones.”
“Not on us. Mrs. Mathers won’t let us take them skiing. Thinks we’ll lose them.”
“Mrs. Mathers. That your teacher or something?”
“She’s our foster mom. She takes us up here at the end of each season when everything is half off.” The rest of the boys words are swallowed by another brutal gust.
The girl shrieks.
“Hey, it’s all right kiddo. If they don’t get it running soon, they’ll just send out a snow cat to get us down.”
There’s no device on the mountain that can get them down from the Witch and he knows it. Their only hope is for the lift to resume running. But he isn’t about to tell them that.
I write flash fiction, non-fiction, essays and novels. This month’s Tease is from a short story.
He looks out at the hills across the lake – dark, static mounds that lay waiting for the North Idaho suburban concrete that creeps closer every year. The mammoth, green-gabled condos squatting below on Arrow Point fade between the folds of wandering mist and sleet. A kettle corn glow radiates from the walkway of the nearest timeshare. Electric moose.
He returns his tools and runs a bath for Danny. The little boy usually loves a warm bath, but today he protests, stiffening his legs and then flopping like a wet fish, turning over and over in the tub. He must be pinned against the far wall to finish the rinsing. The anxious child slaps his own head repeatedly and screams – a shrill bellow that simultaneously infuriates and saddens Aaron.
His ears ringing, he tries to remain calm. “Hang in there little guy, we’re almost done. Just a little more. I don’t want it to get in your eyes. Oh buddy, don’t hit yourself.”
He swaddles Danny in two large towels and rocks him on his shoulder until the boy calms – a wilted mass of wet hair and tear-streaked cheeks. He dresses him in a pull-up diaper under sweats, rewinds the video in the VCR, pulls a small globe down from the hallway closet and points to Uzbekistan. “Santa ought to be right about here now. Above the Aral Sea. Probably head west from there.”
The little boy reaches out and whacks the globe, spinning it on its axis. He kicks his feet in delight as the multicolored nations of the world blend in a dizzying blur. When it stops he whacks it again, kicks and whacks it again.
The phone rings. Wrong number. He looks outside at the cross, unwound into the portrait of a one-armed, one-legged stickman, his head bent, lights twisting brilliantly against the black, paintbrush trees and darkening sky.
“I should call her, just to check.”
mountain wind pauses
silent dark boreal sighs –
Earth breathes in then out
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