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–S is for Surf

S is for Surf

Neville paddled his arms as the small wave pushed him toward shore. He wasn’t sure he was cut out for surfing, but he was in California visiting his American cousin, and apparently this was what his cousin did best.

So, here he was. In the Pacific Ocean. In the sun, for Pete’s sake. One thing he was sure of, he was going to have a sunburn before they were done here. The L.A. branch of the Atwater clan was a sight more sun-roasted than the Blackpool branch. Both lived near the beach, but their beaches were a far and away different places.

As his board ground ashore on the sand, Brad ran to meet him. “Careful of the fiberglass, dude. You can wreck a good board that way.” He chuckled in what Neville thought was an unpleasant way. “Lucky this isn’t a good board, I guess. The rentals are perfect for tourists and newbies.”

“Still,” said Neville, “I don’t want to cause any damage. Maybe I should give up. I don’t think I’m quite getting the hang of this surfing business.”

“Nah, bra! You’ll be catching waves like a pro in no time.” Brad smacked him on an already sun-tender shoulder making Neville wince. “Paddle out to the real waves with me this time. I bet you can get on your feet. It’s actually easier when you’re on a bigger wave. The faster you go, the more stable you are.”

“I’m not certain…”

“Nah, dude. You’ll be fine.” Brad grabbed his own board and splashed into the ocean. “What are you afraid of? Sea monsters?” He laughed as he laid belly-first on his board and started paddling.

Neville felt he had no choice but to follow suit.

Several arduous minutes of paddling later, Neville was approaching the spot where his cousin sat on his board, beyond the breakers, waiting for him.

“That took a while. Gotta bulk up those skinny arms, man. Now, see if you can get your board turned around and I’ll show you… dude. What are you looking at?”

Neville didn’t answer. He couldn’t answer. Instead he pointed to the thing that was a few hundred feet farther out than they were, but moving fast enough under the surface of the water to create a wake they could see.

“Shark! Dude, get back to the beach!” Brad yanked his cousin sideways to help him orient, and then started paddling.

Neville tried to paddle toward shore, but found he was terrified to put his arms in the water. What if one of those things ripped it off? The rational part of his brain knew he was panicking, but he couldn’t make his body work properly.

As he watched, helpless, a large dark mass passed him, took hold of his cousin, and retreated back to the depths from where it came.

  *  *  *

Beneath the waves, two pairs of black eyes danced over their meal.

“Dude, why’d you go after this one? The other one was just sitting there.”

Teeth gleamed in what was almost a smile. “See how nice and brown this one is? The other one was obviously under cooked!”

 

 

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–R is for Run

R is for Run

Marcus looked up as the sun slipped behind dark clouds. “Uh oh. Guys, I gotta go. My mom will kill me if I get caught in the rain.”

After a brief round of, “see you later, man,” and one, “I’ll call you after dinner,” Marcus started home. He wasn’t too concerned. The forecast this morning said it shouldn’t start raining until after eight and it wasn’t even five yet. Still, the forecast wasn’t always right, and those clouds looked pretty bad.

As he walked up Juniper Lane, one block over from the park, he slowed just a little. I really couldn’t hurt anything to take a couple extra minutes just in case Mary Braxton was in front of her house. Right? He had plenty of time to get home.

He passed Mary’s house—the one on the corner with the red front door and dark green shutters—but didn’t see her. Well, it’s not like he’d planned it. Just hoped. Oh well.

But as he crossed Maple to the next block over, he heard his name.

“Hi, Marcus!” He turned to see her head poking over the top of her backyard fence.

He doubled back. “Hey, Mary!” He fought to keep a stupid grin off his face. She was definitely the prettiest girl in the seventh grade.

As he neared her house again her head dropped down and she came out the gate. “So,” she said, “what did you get on the social studies quiz? I only got 82. Forgot to study the bicameral houses stuff and got their powers mixed up. Oh, hey. Are you going to the dance next week? Jennifer asked me to spend the night that night afterwards, but I thought maybe we could all hang out together since you’re probably hanging with Dave and he’s kind of Jennifer’s boyfriend. I definitely caught them kissing after school the other day. Oh my god her mom would totally flip if she knew. Their family is super strict.”

As Mary rambled on, Marcus allowed the stupid grin to take over. She wanted to go to the dance with him! “Wow,” he said. “Yeah, Dave and I will probably hang…” Marcus cut off abruptly as thunder rumbled overhead. “Crap! I really have to go.” He started walking away, backwards. “Talk to you during lunch tomorrow?” He didn’t wait for an answer before he turned and started running toward home.

It was only two more blocks to his house, but he hadn’t realized how dark it had gotten while he was talking to Mary. This was definitely going to be a bad storm… and definitely bad for him if he didn’t get home quick.

The wind whipped the trees and he ran faster.

He turned up Elm Avenue just as the first fat raindrops fell from the sky. “Crap!” he yelled again as he made a beeline for his house… third one on the right with the green roof and grey trim.

It was already too late. The clouds opened up and soaked him to the skin almost instantly.

He pulled open the front door and stood dripping in the entry as his mother came around the corner holding a towel. “I told you not to get caught in the rain,” she said. “You know what happens.”

“I know,” he said as he dried his face and hair. “But believe me, I ran!”

She took the towel from his hands. “I can see that. Do you have any idea how long it takes to get your face back on.”

“Sorry,” he said, looking up from the towel in her hand.

 

 

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–J is for Jar

I’m tired. Sometimes I’m weird when I’m tired. That is my only defense.

J is for Jar

“Don’t forget your jar!”

“I’ve got it, mom. Quit worrying.”

Quit worrying? Of course I I worried. This was the first time Vennit was going camping with the Sun Scouts, and the desert is brutal. Without a hydroscopic water jar, my Scout Sprout would be scorched in split second.

I had another thought. “You have your ice blanket? And your cooling coat?”

“Sand and dunes, mom. You helped me pack.” He rolled his upper eyes at me. The lower pair just blinked and stared. “Everything is in my all-weather Sun Scout camping tote. I’ve already swallowed it.”

“Alright, alright. I know you’ll be fine.” I tried to smile, but gave up and wrapped my arms around him. Yes, I could feel the camp case in his storage gullet. He really did have everything. “It’s just a mom thing.”

He shrugged in my grasp and I had to let go. Only 9 revolutions around our fireball, and already he seems so grown up. I remember his hatching like it was yesterday.

We both looked up when the buzzer sounded.

“That will be Commander Kevnan,” said Vennit. “I gotta go.”

I watched as he got in the Commander’s sand glider. “I’ll take good care of him, Glazyd. We’ll see you in two” They both waved, and then they were gone.

I really did know Vennit would be all right. Kevnan had been a friend for dozens of revolutions. And hundreds, maybe thousands of Scouts took this exact camping trip every year. But this time it was my Sprout. Doesn’t that make it different?

I wanted to take a walk to shake off the stress. But right at that moment a sand storm whipped up. I ran inside as quick as I could, but still got sand in three of my eyes, not to mention some other, unmentionable locations. Never pleasant, but a quick rinse in the gel restoration station took care of it.

I don’t know what made me turn on the informatron a few hours later. I really don’t enjoy the talking heads—I prefer to receive my information from those with their bodies firmly attached, but the locals wouldn’t be broadcasting for a while yet.

That’s when I saw it. A freak storm had blown in. Footage showed the desert in full bloom—the quick sprouting plants taking advantage of the rare rainfall.

Maybe the timing wasn’t perfect, but at least the Scouts would have a cooler night than they’d expected. Nobody would shrivel. I breathed a slow sigh of relief. They really were going to be fine.

In the morning I was surprised by the buzzer. Who would be visiting this early? Maybe one of Vennit’s friends didn’t realize he was camping this weekend.

My gel quivered and chilled when I opened the door and saw Kevnan. Just Kevnan. Not Vennit.

“Sand and Dunes… where’s my Sprout?” I asked. “What happened? Is he OK?”

Commander Kevnan put a hand on my shoulder and took a deep breath. “He’ll be fine, Glaznyd. I told you he would. It’s just…”

“Just what?” I could hear the fear in my voice.

“That squall that hit last night. It was an unusual storm.” He held up Vennit’s jar.

At first I couldn’t speak. Then I couldn’t stop. “Is he lost? Washed away by flooding? I was so worried about the sun I didn’t pack anything for flotation. I… I…”

He pressed the jar into my hands. “No Glaznyd. He’s not lost. He’s right here.”

“He’s… What?” I stared at the jar, confused.

“Vennit melted. Should be fine once you can get him dried out, though.”

I blinked, not sure what to say.

“You do have his original molds?”

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–E is for Evaporate

OK. So I’m resigned to the fact that my stories are getting weirder.

And I’m late.

It is what it is.

E is for Evaporate

“I’ll be gone soon. Don’t forget me.”

The voice in my head is as clear as if someone is standing right next to me, but there’s nobody here.

“I guess grandpa’s brand of crazy passed down after all. Maybe the wreck knocked something lose.”

“No,” said the voice. “But some might see it that way.” A distinct giggle followed.

“Well this is just freakin’ great,” I say, shaking my head. “I’m stuck home with a broken leg, and now I’m hearing voices. Terrific.” I grump and sigh and cross my arms, sitting on this stupid, beat-up leather couch that graces what my mom calls The Movie Room. I don’t know why I bother with what she would call The Histrionics. There’s nobody here to witness my distress.

“I’m here,” says the voice, “but not for much longer.”

“Good,” I tell it. I feel stupid arguing with nothing, but what else can I do?

Unfortunately, I can’t watch a movie or even crappy daytime TV because construction guys up the street dug up the cable. It’s supposed to be fixed tonight, but that leaves me high and dry for the time being.

And my phone… don’t even ask about my phone! It got smashed in the same accident that wrecked my leg and got me a couple days off school. Mom said she’d take me on Saturday to get a new one, which is cool. But I really need something to do right now.

Obviously.

Before I lose what’s left of my mind.

“You could read a book.” The voice sounds excited—what mom calls Chipper—at the prospect. I’m not sure what chipper means, but I’d call it Too Damn Perky.

“She doesn’t like it when you swear,” says the voice.

I sigh. “No, she doesn’t. But she’s not here, is she? Besides, I didn’t really swear. I only thought about swearing.”

“That’s true.”

“You don’t have to listen to it anyway. You could get out of my head and go back where ever you came from.” I look around the room, wondering if maybe one of my friends has snuck in to play a trick on my. “Melanie, is that you?”

“I’m not Melanie. Or Candace. Or Jen. I’m just me.”

“Me who,” I say. “Are you real? I really don’t want to be crazy.”

I sense that the voice is thinking. I don’t know how I know. Then it asks, “can you walk?”

“Not far, but yeah. I have my crutches.”

“Good,” it says. “Come over by the back door.”

I don’t know why I do it—it hurts getting up from the couch. But after a little effort, I’m leaning on my aluminum crutches and maneuvering toward the other side of the room.

“Good. Now, look outside.”

“At what? It’s just the yard.”

“Ah, but what’s on the patio?” The voice sounds… what?… Smug?

I scan the familiar scene. “A couple lawn chairs. The grill.” I shrug. “Dead leaves?”

“What else?”

Else? “What? There’s really nothing. Maybe bugs that I can’t see? A puddle from last week’s rain.”

“Yes,” it said. “A puddle.”

“The puddle?”

“That’s me,” it said. “But I’ll be gone soon.”

“Well, yeah. That’s what puddles do. They dry up. Evaporate.” I shrug again and feel stupid. I’m talking to a voice that claims to be a puddle.

“I just wonder,” it said, “if it’s true what they say.”

“About?”

“The afterlife.”

“Like, God and stuff?”

“I’ve heard that it’s like being in the clouds.”

“Well, that’s how water actually works. I learned it in, like, fourth grade. You’ll actually be part of the clouds, sooner or later.”

“Really?”

“Yes, really.”

“Well,” it said, “when I get there, I’ll try to tell your crazy grandpa hello.”

Oh.

Great.

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–D is for Dry

I apologize in advance…

D is for Dry

 

“Dry. So dry.”

The guard itched uncomfortably between his shoulder blades, listening to the prisoner rasping in the cell. He didn’t want to be here, but he’d drawn the short straw. His fellow recruits were in the yard, practicing with their weapons. Maybe, he thought, they would all share a pint tonight. When he was done here.

But he was here, bound in his Dress Blues. And in the cell was a member of the Red Army.

“You just shut up,” Beryl—Priv Endrin, now—shouted more from frustration than anger. “I been told that you get nothing, so it’s nothing you’ll get.”

The prisoner glanced at him then leaned back against the rough stone wall. “You don’t even know what this war is about, do you? You’re mostly just a kid in a coat that’s too big for you.” He coughed as a cloud of dust puffed of his faded red uniform. “The only difference between you and me is the color of our clothes. You’re a prisoner just as sure as I am.”

Beryl didn’t like that. “I said, shut up.” His chair scraped on the floor as he turned away. He didn’t want to look at his enemy.

“You just keep playing dress-up, boy. Never mind that all I want is a little water for my dry throat. You can be part of killing me slow. Don’t change a thing for me.”

Priv Endrin shook his head. “Nobody killing nobody in here,” he said. He wished he sounded more like it was true. His frustration bubbled again. “That might change if you don’t stop your mouth.”

“Just wanted a little water. Because I’m dry.” The man’s ruddy skin was as ashy and dull as his clothing. His voice sounded dry, too. “So dry.”

Through the stone walls of the citadel, Beryl thought he heard the mid day bells. Half his shift gone.

Good.

He hated the stale air of the cells. He hated that his own mouth felt as dry as the prisoner’s sounded.

A bang outside the door jolted him to attention. If his legion chief caught him slumping… but, no. The chief wouldn’t be here.

He stood and opened the pass to the outer room.

“I brought your midday, Priv. Roaster on bread and a beaker. Too bad it ain’t nothing but water, but at least it i’nt a cuppa the red poison, hey? You tell that one he’ll get a dry loaf tonight, change of shift. I best get back to the mess, now. After you eat leave the slate and cup in the pass.”

Once the runner was gone, Beryl picked up the sandwich and took a bite. Dry bread and dry meat caught in his throat. He picked up the stone mug and washed down the food.

A shiver prickled his back as he took another drink. He turned to see the prisoner on his feet, leaning on the bars of the cell, staring at the cup in his hand.

“So dry.” The redcoat barely whispered the words.

Priv Beryl Endrin lost his temper. “I told you to shut it!”

The man shrieked as he realized he’d thrown the water.

* * *

Hours later the Legion Chief squatted over the dead body of his half-trained Priv, shaking his head. A puddle of red congealed on the floor around him.

The prisoner was nowhere to be seen.

“Who brought the water?” shouted the Chief. “Who put this Color Guard at risk!”

He stood, fury clear above his blue coat. “Everyone knows… it’s the first thing they learn!

“Red runs when it’s wet!”

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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