A to Z 2017–Z is for Zamboni

In just barely under the wire. This was a fun month and I even like most of the stories I got. Woot! I hope you enjoy this final installment in the 2017 A to Z Blogging Challenge.

Z is for Zamboni

Clean smooth ice is a thing of beauty. Nothing finer in all the world.

And there was no finer machine to properly groom a sheet of ice than a Zamboni Ice Resurfacer.

That’s what Frank knew. His daddy not only passed down the family trade of Professional Zamboni Ice Technician, he also named his only son after the man who invented the machine that bore his name—Frank J. Zamboni.

The world never knew a prouder Professional Zamboni Ice Technician than Frank Zamboni Ignazio.

Frank arrived well in advance of the day’s activities at the Smith Valley Ice Rink. There was no finer time to resurface ice than at the crack of dawn. No finer place than Smith Valley.

Well, maybe the Johnsonville Ice Arena. Calvin Bigalow did not deserve such a prestigious ice grooming position. The man didn’t understand the true beauty and importance of the job.

Frank shook off the thought. He didn’t need to get himself upset over things he couldn’t control. Today marked his 3rd year as the sole Ice Technician for Smith Valley, and he planned to celebrate with an extra lap around the rink and maybe a Slurpee later in the afternoon.

A few minutes before 5:30 AM, Frank let himself in through the back entrance of the rink. After switching on the overhead lighting he opened the storage room that held his beloved Zamboni.

After filling the ice making tank with clean water, he started the machine and headed toward the main ice.

Normally, he would have started an immediate counter-clockwise circuit of ice resurfacing. This morning, however, he found his way blocked. A small man in a red suit with a black vest and red bowler hat was standing on the ice in black and white wing-tipped shoes.

“Excuse me,” Frank said. “Sir? You can’t be in here. The rink doesn’t open until Nine. And you can’t be on the ice with street shoes. Only proper ice skates are allowed.”

“Son of fire,” the man in red intoned. “You have violated your calling.”

Frank huffed. The man wasn’t moving off his ice. “Sir? I really need you to step aside.”

The man didn’t move. “Frank Ignazio,” he said, “crystalline water maker. Your true identity lies elsewhere.”

Frank started to get irritated. Checking that his Zamboni was properly braked, he climbed down to confront the man directly. “Mr. Uh… do you have a name?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “You have to go. I have a job to do and you are in my way.”

“Frank Zamboni Ignazio.”

It finally dawned on Frank that this guy knew his name. “Do I know you?” he asked.

“You are the chosen. The son of fire.” The man’s voice seemed to resonate over the ice. “Come with me and meet your destiny.”

“My destiny? I’m living that already,” Frank said, his voice emphatic. “Since I was six-years-old I never wanted nothing but to drive this here rig and make the ice as smooth as glass. Now, step aside before I decide to call law enforcement.”

Frank swung his arm towards the man in a dismissive fashion. He was shocked and dismayed when the man in the red suit seemed to flare into flame before melting into the ice, leaving a deep, uneven hole in the rink’s otherwise uniform surface.

“Well, damn,” he said, staring at the hole. “Now I’m gonna have to patch that.” He shook his head. “You’d think those demons would learn to leave me alone by now. I can’t think of one single thing that would make me want to go somewhere as hot as they want to take me.”

Frank Zamboni Ignazio, the Son of Fire, climbed onto his Zamboni and set to grooming his ice.

 

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

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A to Z 2017–Y is for YOLO

This story isn’t my usual fare, but I like how it came out.

Y is for YOLO

“You only live once,” they said. “You’re thirteen… you can do this! It’s just like going off the high dive at the pool.”

I really didn’t want to do it, but I let them talk me into it. That was my first mistake.

I climbed the cliff with my sister and her boyfriend. Del. What kind of a stupid name is Del? Frances Arthur Delacroix. Ha. I guess if that was my name, I’d go by Del too.

Anyway, so Del and Barbara showed me the path. It took about 15 minutes, and I was hot and sweaty by the time we got up there. My legs were covered with nasty yellow-brown dirt.

I stood there breathing hard at the top of the hill overlooking the lake. I could see Trev and Sandy and the whole group down there swimming.

I wished I’d stayed down there swimming, too.

Instead, I was up there with Barb and the goon. And they wanted me to jump off a freakin’ cliff. Great.

The water looks greener from above than it does when you’re in it. Somebody told me once it’s because there’s a lot of copper in the dirt. So my sister’s creton was really kind of egging me on to jump into a pool of pennies from up high.

I kind of thought I could do it. Just get it over with. But once I was up there my heart started racing. Not just from climbing the hill, either. I was shaking all over. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. My knees locked up.

Overwhelming terror. That’s what it was.

“I changed my mind,” I told Barb. “I don’t want to do this.”

It was the muscle-bound maniac who answered me. “Don’t be a baby,” he said. “Nothing bad can happen. I’ve done this a thousand times.” He turned to Barbara. “Is she always so chicken-shit?”

“Shut up, Del.” At least she had my back. For a minute. Sort of. “Listen, Teena, if you don’t want to, fine. But if you don’t, you’re just going to beat yourself up over it. Once you do it, you’ll wonder what you were even afraid of. Seriously.”

I don’t know if I thought she was right. I don’t know if I could think at all right then, I was that scared. But I also didn’t want my sister to think I was a wuss. My friends either. They’d apparently noticed that we were up there, now, and they were all staring up at us.

Waiting for a show.

I took half a step closer to the edge, then another half a step. I got close enough that I could look straight down at the water. It really didn’t look as far as I thought.

The green was darkest right below the cliff. Deeper water there. Deep enough that you couldn’t hit bottom by accident when you jumped. That was good.

I edged a little closer again. My heart was still pounding, but my breathing wasn’t so bad now. I thought maybe I really could do it.

As I stood there, right on the edge of everything, Del started to say something. I don’t know what. He stepped closer to me and something shifted. Loose dirt. I took a half step backwards, but my feet were slipping.

Then there I was, out in the middle of the air.

I think I yelled. Not sure. I couldn’t hear anything over the pounding in my ears.

I couldn’t see anything, either, except the blue sky above me.

I hit the water, back first. All the wind rushed out of me.

The heat from the sun gave way to the icy fingers of the cold water as it wrapped around me.

And now I’m here, watching my friends pulling me out of the water. Barb and Del are running back down the hill.

You only live once, they’d said.

I need to decide whether to prove them wrong.

 

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

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A to Z 2017–X is for Xeric

The less-popular letters of the alphabet always provide interesting challenges. For my personal theme of water, X can only stand for xeric.

adjective: xeric

  1. (of an environment or habitat) containing little moisture; very dry.

X is for Xeric

Doctor Jefferson Molesworth frowned at the intern he had been delivered. He had little use for wet-behind-the-ears college students with near zero experience. “Just don’t touch anything,” he said. “The artificial biome has to be maintained at optimal conditions.”

“It’s so hot,” complained Shaun. “I feel like I’m already shriveling up.” Although they were walking outside a glass wall over 4 inches thick, heat radiated at them like a furnace.

“Of course it’s hot. We’re looking at replicating the conditions near Dallol, Ethiopia. It’s one of the hottest, driest places on this whole damn planet.”

“Like Death Valley…”

“Sure. If Death Valley had sulfuric pools of boiling volcanic gasses. Hot both above and below.”

Shaun continued to shadow the scientist he’d been assigned to for several more minutes. Finally he asked, “Why did you request a biology intern? My specialty isn’t microorganisms or hostile environments. I’m not sure how I can help you here?”

Jefferson stopped and turned on the trainee. “I’m not the one who requested you.” He harrumphed and resumed going over the checklist on his board.

Just when Shaun was about to ask another question, Jefferson continued. “We have been asked by a government agency to do some testing on a possible life form that they can’t identify.”

“Insects? In the thermal pools?”

“Not insects. And they weren’t found in Dallol.”

“But then, why…”

“It is believed to be an exo organism. Xeric in nature.”

“Off world? Cool! But still, why an intern? Usually they don’t let us within a mile of the really ground breaking stuff.”

Jefferson shook his head without looking at the younger man. “Like I said, I didn’t pick you.”

They continued to skirt the outer rim of the artificial environment until Dr. Molesworth stopped suddenly and pointed. Shaun followed his gesture and had to resist the urge to press in nose to the glass to try to see better. “I don’t see anything,” he said.

“Just wait.”

“But I… Oh!” He still managed not to press his face to the glass, but he did lay his hand on it as he saw a thing—the thing—move. “What in the world?”

“Not our world,” Jefferson reminded him.

Shaun nodded and continued to stare. “If I didn’t see it move…”

“Exactly. It looks like a hundred other rocks. But it isn’t. Not even close.”

Shaun sucked in air as if a realization had suddenly dawned on him. “And I’m going to study it?”

Jefferson didn’t respond. Instead he asked, “Do you think you can handle 114 degrees for a few minutes?”

“You mean, I get to go in there?”

The excitement in the intern’s voice made Jefferson realize exactly why this particular intern had been sent. He guided the student to the hatch, a sealed airlock that would prevent contamination of the habitat.

After Shaun changed into specialized, biodegradable, paper-like clothing, he walked into the hatch, waited for the outer door to seal, and entered the biome. He carried nothing with him but a stainless steel tank of purified water.

“Don’t worry,” Jefferson said into a microphone. “It doesn’t move fast at all.”

Shaun made his way back to the rock-like creature and began speaking his observations. “It’s slightly smaller than my hand. Maybe 5 inches long. The surface appears almost porous—similar to coral.”

He unscrewed the cap from the water tank and gently poured its contents—roughly 4 cups of water—in a circle around the creature, just as he had been instructed.

Without warning, tendrils shot out from beneath the creature into the water, drying the ground almost instantaneously.

“The creature is highly sensitized to the presence of water,” Shaun said, his voice wavering. “It’s … oh my god! It’s growing! Only… NO!”

The creature, still expanding in size, sent out tendrils that sank into Shaun, drying him to dust just as rapidly as they had dried out the sand.

Dr. Molesworth instinctively stepped backwards, throwing his arms up as the thing suddenly exploded into hundreds of duplicates, each piece roughly the size of the first. Each one moved slowly, perhaps, Molesworth speculated, searching for water in this Xeric biome.

“Interesting.” He spoke into the microphone so the computer would record his observation. “We may have discovered the means of reproduction.”

 

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

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Friday Fiction – Rainy Night

This is more of a scene than a flash fiction. Raw writing inspired by the storms that blew through during the night.

raining-690930_1280Thunder rattled the windows as the rain hammered a tattoo against the roof. The dog whimpered and pressed against my leg for reassurance.

“Grandma used to call a storm like this a gully washer.” I scratched idly at his ears as I talked. My voice along with the physical contact seemed to calm him. A little. Maybe. “I remember when I was a kid and we sat out on the porch watching the rain. It was kind of amazing.”

I smiled down at Old Gus and patted at his side. “You probably wouldn’t have liked it, but I thought it was pretty cool. We sat in those rocking chairs and just watched the storm. It was almost like it was something alive.”

Gus settled at my feet and started snoring lightly. It was hard to say whether it was my narrative or the fact that the storm was letting up that finally helped him settle.

I woke with a start, disoriented; sure that the storm was picking back up. But no, Gus wasn’t back to whining, and there was no tell-tale patter of rain on the roof.

I wondered what had woken me, and realized it must be the crick I got in my neck from falling asleep sitting up on the sofa. I stood and stretched, careful not to disturb the still-sleeping hound at my feet.

I headed toward the kitchen to warm up a cup of coffee when I heard it. A scraping, tapping sound coming from the front window. A bird maybe? Something had gotten trapped out in the deluge.

I flicked the switch and opened the front door. Warm, humid air assaulted me, heavy with the loamy smell of wet earth. I looked left and right, hunting for what might have been the source of that odd sound. There was nothing obvious.

After a moment of hesitation, I stepped out to do a more thorough search. Something might be hurt out here. I’d feel bad if I found a dead animal in the morning that I might have been able to save tonight.

I walked the length of the long veranda, briefly pausing to push on the very chair I’d sat in with grandma all those years ago. The memory made me smile.

It was clear there was nothing on the porch, so I stepped down the wide stairs to look behind the bushes. A flashlight would have helped, but I didn’t want to go dig one out of the kitchen junk drawer.

Just as I was prepared to write the whole thing off to my imagination, I heard it. Something was definitely there, behind the rhododendrons.

I pushed the bush to one side to try and get a better look. Whatever it was must have been hurt. It didn’t dart out when I disturbed it’s hiding place.

“Great,” I said to myself. “It’s probably going to eat me.” I leaned in anyway, certain now that I could see what appeared to be a small furry animal, cowering.

“That may not be wise.” I jumped, yelping, and managed to get thwapped by the wet bushes as they sprang back into position. “I fear my … ah … pet may not appreciate your ministrations. He is not fond of this planet’s weather.”

I felt myself go weak in the knees as I struggled to comprehend the small body, large eyes, and green flesh of the being that stood before me.

He flashed what I assumed was a smile. “I fear the rain has disrupted our travel plans.”

Copyright Notice: Please note that this is mostly unedited, raw writing. I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story. Please do not copy, quote, or post anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.