Heart

heart-772637_640I’d like to share a story inspired during this week’s Two-Minutes-Go on JD Mader’s Unemployed Imagination blog. Great writing happens there. Maybe one week you’ll come by and play. Because it’s fun. And fun is good.

—–

Heart

He didn’t recognize the purple-inked handwriting on the note he’d plucked from beneath his windshield wiper. Maybe his eyes were whacked from staring at computer code all day. So he blinked again, and again, and saw only the same few words in the tiny and most likely female script: “I heart your car.” A black cloud descended over his thoughts as he shook his head and crushed the slip of paper in one pale fist. More jokes. He drove a beat-to-crap Honda Civic that wasn’t even born in this century, hardly the stuff that inspires women to verb a perfectly good noun like “heart.” And if this writer of purple prose knew who owned the car? Yeah. Game over. He saw how they reacted to him. Women whispered when he walked past, gave him a wide berth in the hallways, as if afraid they’d catch something. A computer virus. Nobody wanted to talk to the dorky code guy. He wasn’t all smooth and sexy like the dudes in advertising or sales. No. He sat in the basement under the fluorescent lights and drank cold coffee and wore Spiderman socks.

Maybe he should rethink the socks.

He tossed the crumpled note on the back seat of his car.

When he turned, a girl was standing there. He jumped, and pressed a hand to his heart, which from her sudden materialization, had started to verb.

“Sorry,” she said, the left side of her mouth lifting for a second. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

She was pretty. Her hair was long and dark and neatly parted on the side. Her glasses sat crookedly on the bridge of her nose, and he couldn’t explain his desire to straighten them. He opened his mouth to say something hopefully clever, maybe to ask her name or if she was new because he’d never seen her before, but his mind felt like a giant intersection, all the strings of words confused as to which had the right of way.

She gestured to his car and said, “I have the same one.”

That explained the note. He looked up, across the neat rows of parked vehicles, and as if to assist him, she pointed. “I keep thinking I should get something newer,” she said. “But then I’d have to find new bumper stickers, and I don’t know that they make any like that anymore.”

She kept talking, something more about her car, but he had followed the line of her finger. One of the stickers read, “I’d rather be watching Firefly.”

And then he smiled, and his heart really started to verb.

Two Minutes Go: Spring Break Road Trip

Strange golden smoke taking away from coffee seedsHappy Friday, everybody! JD Mader is having some technical trouble today, so Two Minutes Go is at my place. So, pull up a chair, pour yourself some coffee, and enjoy. Or, as he so eloquently wrote in the bit I stole from his website:

Hey, writer-type folks. AND PEOPLE WHO JUST WANT TO PLAY BUT DON’T IDENTIFY AS ‘WRITERS’ – all are welcome here! Every Friday, we do a fun free-write. For fun. And Freedom!

Write whatever you want in the ‘comments’ section on this blog post. Play as many times as you like. #breaktheblog! You have two minutes (give or take a few seconds … no pressure!). Have fun. The more people who play, the more fun it is. So, tell a friend. Then send ’em here to read your ‘two’ and encourage them to play.

Here’s one to start us off.

“He is always the smartest man in the room.” That’s what everyone used to say. Best student, best and brightest, all spit-polished and gleaming, walking tall in a beam of God-ordained sunlight while occasionally he wafted a little my way, as if in pity, as if sometimes hit with a sliver of consciousness that the good lord was lavishing too much goodness upon him and it was unfair to do that to humankind. Not once did he lack for something clever to say; not once did the hems of his pant legs not break crisp and perfect over his shiny shoes. But I knew differently. I saw her. Picking up his dirty socks as if he didn’t have human feet that sweat and stank. She smiled when she did so. Most of the time. Most of the time like a Disney princess in training. And then I skipped a class. Came home to the room I shared with Mr. Inevitable. Maybe she didn’t hear me come in; maybe for a second she was transfixed by one of those dirty socks, reexamining her life in a way I never thought her capable. I always thought guys like that grew to a certain age and God handed them one of these women, who had been similarly groomed to serve, and I felt pity for these women in the same way Mr. Sunbeam pitied me and the other paltry citizens of the planet. She and I, we’d never really talked before. Nothing more than the hellos and goodbyes in passing, the nods of recognition, her shy smiles that attempted to explain why she had a key to our room. It was not for nefarious reasons, certainly not the commerce of key juggling my friends and I had performed for our girlfriends. She was there to serve him in a more Godly manner. And serving him was what she was about that day, until I found her sitting on the bed, clutching one sock between her knees. Tears gleaming in the one beam of sunlight he’d left behind, a shining path of enlightenment down her bruised left cheekbone.

Flash Fiction Smashing Pumpkins Edition

pumpkinA story I wrote for this week’s 2-Minutes-Go was partially inspired by actual events. Four years ago, Hurricane Irene wiped out many of the Hudson Valley’s pumpkin patches, among other devastation. Pumpkins float, in case you weren’t aware, and when the flood waters rose in New Paltz, the crop at Wallkill View Farms was washed into the neighboring river, disappointing children and amusing reporters for miles around. On a recent drive, seeing all the jack o’ lanterns on the front stoops, I was reminded of the news footage of the renegade pumpkin flotilla.

——-

The wind picked up. Eyeing his quarry as he wobbled on the east bank of the Wallkill, Pete threw out his arms and prayed for balance, his slick dress shoes doing a piss-poor job against the wet grass and the mossy rocks. This was supposed to be a quick trip. A fast dash up the Thruway, pick out a pumpkin at the big farm market, return home triumphant. A hero to his little girl, not so little anymore. But the old farmer had just lifted his raggedy eyebrows and laughed at him. “There go your pumpkins,” he said, waving a hand toward the swollen river. “Guess you don’t read the papers much, huh.”

And indeed, there went the pumpkins. A recent flood had turned the Springtown flats into a lake and, lighter than they looked, the gourds had left the building, so to speak, turning the Wallkill into a giant bob-for-produce tub.

This was ridiculous, Pete knew as he stood on the bank, the old farmer’s bark of a laugh piercing his memory, that this rash action would not make her forgive him. Would not erase the narrowed eyes, the huff, the slamming of the door. He’d tried so hard to get to the school in time to see her solo last night, but it was like the world had conspired against him. Meeting running late. Then traffic. And the goddamned rain. Now, silence from his only daughter. Before the divorce, they’d take their yearly pilgrimage to the valley, to the farm market, and she’d delight in picking out her own jack o’ lantern pumpkin. But this year, she couldn’t be bothered. His fault? Her mother’s? The adolescent need to distance herself from her parents? He didn’t know. Maybe all three.

He focused on one of the orange globes, bobbing in what looked like approachable distance. It wasn’t too bad, didn’t look like it had been damaged in its slalom along the rocks. He inched down the slope, knees shaking, his hand going for the security of a fairly strong-looking sapling.

“Come here, baby,” he crooned, stretching as far as he could. His fingertips were nearly brushing it when his feet began to move. As if they were fresh-waxed skis on the diamond slope. He knew he was done. That he was powerless to stop. He knew in that way that lengthened time, that had him windmilling his arms in an ineffectual, cartoonish attempt to change…nothing.

And then all he felt was cold. Cold water, seizing his lungs, pressing against his flailing arms, until his hands hit…something smooth. Something round. Something solid. He hugged the object as if it were his retreating daughter, as if it were the only thing standing between him and that slamming door. When they finally dredged him out, shivering with hypothermia, minus one shoe and laughing maniacally, he was still clinging to the pumpkin.

Two Minutes Go ROAD TRIP!

Don't worry. I always keep my eyes on the road during this process. Kids, don't try this home. Professional writer on a closed track.

Don’t worry. I always keep my eyes on the road during this process. Kids, don’t try this home. Professional writer on a closed track.

Hi, y’all.  JD had to go do some things to make the world a better place, so he handed me the keys for this week’s flash fiction rave and quilting bee. So make yourselves at home, kick off your shoes, raid the fridge… or, in the man’s own words that I stole from his website:

Hey, writer-type folks. AND PEOPLE WHO JUST WANT TO PLAY BUT DON’T IDENTIFY AS ‘WRITERS’ – all are welcome here! Every Friday, we do a fun free-write. For fun. And Freedom!

Write whatever you want in the ‘comments’ section on this blog post. Play as many times as you like. #breaktheblog! You have two minutes (give or take a few seconds … no pressure!). Have fun. The more people who play, the more fun it is. So, tell a friend. Then send ’em here to read your ‘two’ and encourage them to play. 

Here’s one, a little longer than two minutes, to start us out:

The air teems with humidity, drafted from the open ocean, and the scent of mud. Always the scent of mud. It’s a beautiful aroma, the smell of money in the bank. George fills his lungs with it, presses a hand to his chest and smiles. Some scowl when he takes out his camera to shoot a stranded motorist, a mother risking her life to scoop a bawling child out of harm’s way; when he hands out his business cards, they accuse him of preying on destruction, on distress, to scare people into hiring his company at usurious rates. But he’s performing a public service, really. To repair, you first have to document. You have to show the possibilities, show what can happen if you don’t heed the warnings, if you let your children run around in this mess or don’t buy enough insurance. Mother Nature could be a raging bitch, could snap a hundred-year-old tree like so much kindling. So what if he feels a rush of righteous indignation when it crashes atop a car he could never afford? Hell. Maybe after the season, he’d buy one of those sweet rides for himself. Park it somewhere nice and safe, nowhere near the trees.

He thanks the wisdom of fishermen’s gear as he wades into a street-turned-river, teeming cocoa-brown with that heady aroma of moving earth, aiming for what looks like a good shot of a kitten clinging to a forked branch caught momentarily around the pole of a stop sign. From the roar of rushing water, a cop’s voice barks through, telling him to get the hell out of there. But he doesn’t listen. Just smirks: you do your job and I’ll do mine. Damn, the shot is perfect. Distressed little thing, eyes huge, fur matted. He raises the viewfinder to his eye, already seeing it on the cover of the next brochure, on the home page of the website. Something scrabbles beneath his feet and in the next second he’s off them, and in the sudden movement bobbles the camera, his hands lunging for it like a juggler in a strong wind. A curse is the last thing that leaves his lips as the current sweeps him away, bashing his head into a concrete retaining wall before carrying him downriver. The kitten, finding purchase in his stout back, plunges in her claws and rides his inert body to safety.

2 Minutes Go Road Trip Redux

Cardinal_2During the night, the Mader signal shone through the fog into the night sky, and our hero put on his cape and sped away to fight for truth, justice, and the right to wear vintage clothing…and hats. Lots of hats. So he gave me the keys and his secret burrito recipe, and 2 Minutes Go is happening here today. Or, in Mr. Mader’s very words, which I stole from his blog:

Hey, writer-type folks. AND PEOPLE WHO JUST WANT TO PLAY BUT DON’T IDENTIFY AS ‘WRITERS’ – all are welcome here! Every Friday, we do a fun free-write. For fun. And Freedom!

Write whatever you want in the ‘comments’ section on this blog post. Play as many times as you like. #breaktheblog! You have two minutes (give or take a few seconds … no pressure!). Have fun. The more people who play, the more fun it is. So, tell a friend. Then send ’em here to read your ‘two’ and encourage them to play.

——-

What? You miss the uber-cool orange background and the motorcycles at JD’s place? No worries. You can hang with Napoleon. Or just close your eyes and pretend. Vroom. Here’s a bit from me to start us out:

The ocean swallowed her whole. That’s the myth, anyway, the news story of the day, the collective shrug of a young nation with jazz on its mind and better things to do than investigate the disappearance of a pirate ship that had kidnapped a flighty American heiress in Dubai and taken her to a fate one could only imagine. You’ve been studying this lost cause for your dissertation—another lost cause. You’ve been studying her. Newsreels, microfiche, cracked and yellowed pages of magazines, the presses of which had long been dismantled or melted down and made into other things. Yes, the clothing – more like costume – looked frivolous and altogether impractical, unlike your up-and-run ensemble of jeans and T-shirts. And to the casual gazer, the smile would appear as if she didn’t have a care deeper than which bit of fluff to wear for dinner. But the eyes. They were smart. They held secrets. They told stories. You’d dug for them. You were relentless. Then your advisor called you into his office. Suggested a different angle. Suggested you’d been working too hard. Hinted at obsession. Problems at home, perhaps? Biting at the inside of your cheek, you thanked him for his concern, said you’d think about it. And then you had the dream. She was calling to you. Three nights straight, she called for you. Told you where to find her. So real, like you could reach out and touch her rouged cheek, her flapper jewelry that would now be called vintage and go for a mint. You took the plane ticket and left the note, because you could not bear to deliver the news in person and watch another face soften with concern, another pair of eyes attempt to hide their disapproval. Now you mash your toes into the hot sands of the desert by the ocean, waves of heat warping the margins between sand, sea, and sky. A bit of something down the beach sparkles in the sun. You dig. It’s battered, tarnished…but it’s real. A necklace, pearls embedded in a delicate, broken web of silver. Vintage. Hers.

Flash Fiction, Carnival Edition

nbvyt7L0What a week! So I blew off a little steam at the hula-hoop rockabilly break-the-blog revival at JD Mader’s Unemployed Imagination. Maybe you’ll join us next Friday for a little two-minute (give or take) flash fiction. Here’s one of my pieces from this week. I hope you’ll also roll on over and check out what the other writers threw down. So much fancy word-dancing in one place.

———-

The kid with the Harry Potter glasses had an arm on him—the only worrisome prospect Joey had seen all night—but three tries, no dice. “This game is rigged.”

Joey smirked. “Tell it to someone who makes more than five bucks an hour. Next!” But the troublemaker didn’t move. Just pressed his lips together and gave him the stink-eye. “What? You casting a spell on me?”

“I want my money back!”

“Beat it, kid. Go get sick on corn dogs or something. You had your chance, let someone else take a turn.” He grinned at the tiny red-haired girl behind him. “Step right up, little lady, three chances to knock a bottle down, three chances to win!”

“It’s rigged,” Harry Potter said to her. “You’re not gonna win.”

She pursed her lips at him. “Says who?”

“Says physics, that’s what. The bottles are weighted on the bottom. The balls aren’t heavy enough.”

“Jeez, kid.” Joey pressed his palms into the counter and leaned forward, trying to look menacing. Not easy in the stupid candy-striped vest management made them wear. “Trying to make a living here. You think my various vices and devices come cheap? Now step off and let the lady try.” He hooked an eyebrow. “Unless you’re afraid she’s gonna show you up.”

The kid stood straighter. “I’m not afraid.”

Still eyeballing Harry Potter, Joey rustled up three balls and smacked them down in front of the girl. She gave the boy a testicle-withering glare, fired back and bam-bam-bam, three bottles toppled over.

Mouth falling open, the kid reached for his back pocket. “I wanna try that again.”

Joey stuck out his palm.

Six tries later, the boy groaned in disgust and skulked away.

When he was out of view, Joey beckoned the little girl forward and slipped a five into her hand. She dropped her gaze to the bill, then back up at him. “You promised seven.”

He slid her a grin and added another couple of bucks to her take. “You learn quick, sweetheart,” he said, tugging on one of her braids. “One day you’re gonna make Mom and I so proud.”

———–

Laurie Boris has been writing fiction for over twenty-five years and is the award-winning author of five novels with another on the way. When not playing with the universe of imaginary people in her head, she’s a freelance copyeditor and enjoys baseball, reading, and avoiding housework. See what’s on sale this month here.

Want to join the mailing list and learn about special deals and upcoming releases? You can do that here.

Viewfinder

640px-FirstChurchofChristScientist2One summer I took a photography class at the Art Institute of Boston and spent most of my free time roaming the city for interesting shots. During this week’s 2-Minutes-Go flash fiction fiesta at JD Mader’s blog, I remembered one of my favorite places, and this story popped up.

——

Viewfinder

A tiny finger poked my shoulder. “What are you doing?”

I’d been as still as one of the stones in the Christian Science Center’s courtyard for so long that it took a moment to remember. An even longer moment to figure out how to explain it to the pixie-faced girl who’d asked the question, then peered at my camera. “Watching the world go by,” I said.

She wrinkled her small nose. Obviously, I’d chosen the wrong words. “I’m taking pictures.”

“Why?”

I pegged the girl at about five, the perfect age for her spongy brain to fill up on information about the big issues, even if she couldn’t catalog and analyze them yet. I didn’t think she’d be interested in knowing that it made me feel connected to humanity, or reduced my stress level by giving me an outlet for my frustrated creative impulses, or even because I liked the way the waning sunlight played on the reflecting pool and the smooth, polished metal surrounding it. Or because I couldn’t bear to be in the house when he came by for his things so he could move in with his new girlfriend. “Because it’s fun,” I said.

“But why is it fun?”

That one stopped me. What was “fun” about staring into a postage-stamp-sized pane of glass, lining up a shot, waiting for the right moment when the beautiful man turned his head just so as he walked beside the sentry of streetlights guarding the pool? Satisfying, maybe? But fun?

“Do you want to take a picture?” I made room for her to slip between me and the tripod.

Her eyes swept to the cobblestone, a finger pressed to her lower lip. Of course. She might think I’m some kind of freak. Stranger danger. “Or not,” I said.

She glanced up at me, and I could imagine the calculations going on in that spongy mind. If I was safe. If taking pictures of essentially nothing looked like fun.

“Can I take a picture of you?” she asked.

I looked like crap; I’d escaped the house to make way for him, so I was still wearing ripped jeans, grubby old flip-flops, and a stained T-shirt, my hair in the roughest excuse for a ponytail I could beat it into as I walked from the subway stop to the reflecting pool. But the light in the giant eyes made me melt a little, gave me a glimmer of hope that the world I’d been watching through my viewfinder still had some life in it.

Adorably self-important, as if she were a miniature Hollywood director, she told me where to stand and how to hold my arms. I did everything she asked. And as I was waiting for the shot, she tightened her hands on the camera and tripod and took off at a dead run.

Fuck.

I sprinted off after her, but in my ratty flip-flops, I couldn’t keep up, and she disappeared.

I stopped, staring off in the distance, my shoulders sagging forward. Oh, well, I thought after a while. At least it wasn’t my equipment. And knowing that was kind of fun.

——–

I hope you have a great week ahead. Just to let you know, most of my titles are on sale this month. Check here for the details.

2 Minutes. Go! Road Trip Edition

Come on-a my house, my house, I’m-a gonna give you candy… Well, not so much. But I have something better. I’ve got JD Mader chained to a radiator in my basement and he’s letting me host the luau today! So…

Hey, writer-type folks. AND PEOPLE WHO JUST WANT TO PLAY BUT DON’T IDENTIFY AS ‘WRITERS’ – all are welcome here! Every Friday, we do a fun free-write. For fun. And Freedom! And for JD! (Jeez, I hope nobody can hear him screaming down there.)

Write whatever you want in the ‘comments’ section on this blog post. Play as many times as you like. #breaktheblog! You have two minutes (give or take a few seconds … no pressure!). Have fun. The more people who play, the more fun it is. So, tell a friend. Then send ’em here to read your ‘two’ and encourage them to play. 

I’ll start us off…

———

The doctor slips the SIMM card into your trembling palm. Amazing, how small they can make them these days. Not like the prototype the researchers had nicknamed “Das Reboot,” clunky with chips that needed re-seating every year, the video chattering and breaking down. You turn it around in the light.

“Nice, huh?” He crosses his arms over his chest, like he built the damned thing, like he ground the rock into silicon dust and poured the molds. It is impressive, though, but—

“And these are…” You suck in a breath. “Authentic memories?”

“Well. Given the state of the technology, as authentic as we can code. But I’m confident you’ll find that once it’s installed and the software is uploaded, the random selection of stepping stones from your life will equal or even surpass the significant memories the average person can access.”

You level your gaze at him, one question on your mind. His quick glance to his shoes tells the story. There is no guarantee that you will remember Eddie. Not the first time he smiled at you, the goofy look on his face when he asked you to dance. It’s all been fading away so fast. Already you can’t remember certain things. You know there were children; you can see that from the pictures. People tell stories about him, but it’s like they’re describing a television show; it doesn’t hook into anything that feels real, that feels like at some point, you were actually there.

“Tell me straight, Roger. All these years between us, you owe me that. What are the odds?”

He shook his head. “It’s not good, Lucy. But it’s something. I can get you on the schedule for next week, if the possible outcome is enough to hang your hat on.”

Your eyes ping wider. He wore a hat. Or at least you think he did. “Yes.” The smooth, cool device in your palm seems to sing to you, old lullabies, crooning in your ear during that first dance. “Sign me up.”

Flash Fiction, Freelance Edition

file0002054526820Poor, sad, neglected blog. Today I want to share something I wrote for “2 Minutes. Go!” on JD Mader’s Unemployed Imagination website. I love our Friday flash fiction fiestas. Maybe next week, you’ll come over and play with us. Here’s what we wrote this week—great, short entertainment for nada! Nothing. Zip. Just your eyeballs. Bwa ha ha.

——

The Freelancer

After typing “I didn’t know how else to tell you,” no more words would come, no matter how hard Delilah pressed that mental pencil against the cells in her brain that were supposed to perform those functions.

Maybe there was something wrong with her. Maybe in her sleep, the karma skulking around her corners had unhooked her battery, cut her brake lines, slashed her tires. Because she cranked out assignments like this every damned day. Okay, it was a strange freelance gig, but she thrived on the strange, the out-of-kilter, the anything-but-normal. In this world of have what you want when you want it, why not throw down a few bucks on PayPal and hire someone to write that break-up letter, to give that bad news, to tell that idiot who won’t leave you alone to take a hike? They were even fun, mostly. How many people were paid, and paid decently, to exorcise the vitriol out of their heads? Her husband didn’t make much; it was nice to have a few bucks of her own; and because she’d never see her clients, or the results of her work—all was carefully monitored to shield the writers’ identities—it was relatively easy. But the screen where she was supposed to load her latest assignment remained blank.

Hoping for another blast of inspiration, she reread her instructions: “Want to ask my wife for a divorce, she’s always working, I fell in love with someone else, really crappy with words.” Yeah, that didn’t help. In fact, it just made Delilah angry. The light stuff, the snarky stuff, the hey-roomie-take-a-shower-once-in-awhile stuff, that was fun. It was an act of kindness, if you looked at it a certain way. But when it got heavy like this? Now it just felt wrong. Damn it. She’d already claimed the assignment, so she had to file or lose her five-star ranking. But this was the last one. She’d be happy to write about bad breath and chewing with your mouth open and PDA, but no more missives about shit getting this real.

So she sucked in a breath and began typing a version of Breakup Template #3. When it shaped itself into something she could almost live with, she pressed the submit button and went straight for the wine.

Two glasses later, her husband working late, she followed up to make sure the deposit had gone into her account. Then checked her email.

The first message began, “Dear Delilah, I didn’t know how else to tell you…”

Water

puddleShe wondered where the water was coming from. It hadn’t rained in weeks, the town had banned the burning of yard waste and drought warnings threatened, yet a trickle of runoff burbled its way down the culvert ditch that cut beneath the base of her driveway. Her mouth tightened, and she stuffed the day’s mail back into her box and decided to head upstream. The water gurgled, cutting over the remains of winter grit and the thin grasses brave enough to sprout in the dip alongside the road. She passed house after house—no activity, no lawn-watering, no car-washing, nothing to indicate an unnatural stress upon their aquifer. But as she climbed the hill, beyond the empty Cape Cods and redbrick boxes and by-the-numbers McMansions, the trickle became a stream and the rush of the water grew louder.

The only house left before the dead-end was the Patterson’s colonial, and as far as she knew, Dr. P was on sabbatical and had taken the family to some country she couldn’t pronounce on an archaeological expedition. That was definitely water she heard, though, as she approached the property. And a bottle-green VW Bug she’d never seen before sat in the driveway. A housesitter? What the hell? Mrs. P didn’t believe in them, wouldn’t trust a soul with her precious Hummels and Danish modern furniture and Baccarat crystal. She didn’t even let anyone take in her mail.

“Hello?” she called out, thumping on the front door, but the rush of water was coming from beyond the house. She followed, inching through the not-as-tidy-as-usual grass. And then she saw it. The giant, inflatable pool. The garden hose, which apparently had been employed to fill it, had slipped out and was now turning the side yard into a swamp.

She huffed and stabbed her fists into her hips when she saw the apparent owner of the Bug, apparently asleep on a floaty chair in the middle of the outsized kiddie pool, wearing only boxers and a contented smile. The waste infuriated her, plus the fact he was the kind of man who was so model-gorgeous that he probably felt the world owed him, him and that designed-to-be-devilish curl that fell into his eyes. Her sneakers slipped and sucked mud and soggy turf as she dashed to the side of the house to turn off the faucet, but then had another idea. She grabbed the hose and aimed it straight at the man’s six-pack. He only managed a wide-eyed gasp before capsizing his SS Minnow and came up sputtering while she twisted the nozzle tip closed.

“What the hell, lady?” Now standing in belt-high water, he shook his loose brown curls like a dog.

“Drought,” she snapped. “Climate change. Waste. Do those terms mean anything to you?”

“They should. I’ve been working the last three days putting out that wildfire up on the ridge.”

“You’re…”

“Yep. Firefighter. They called us up from Connecticut to help. My uncle said I could crash here between shifts. Was filling up the pool, guess I fell asleep.” He yawned, then gave her a slow once-over. “Hey. You look like you could use a dip, douse some of them flames shooting out your eyes.”

She readied the nozzle at him. He held up his hands. “Kidding. Jeez. I’m sorry. I should have been more careful.”

“How’s the fire?” she asked, dropping the fist clutching the nozzle to her side.

“Mostly out.”

“Thank you.”

His smile picked up speed but flagged when she narrowed her eyes at him. “Hey. Didn’t mean any harm. I’m just saying, hot day, pool full of water, and Uncle P has the makings for a pitcher of kick-ass margaritas. It’s not every day I meet such a cute environmentalist.”

She aimed the nozzle at him; he cringed and covered his face. When she didn’t shoot, he lowered his hands.

“Is it cold?” she asked.

“Your reception? A bit frosty, yeah. Maybe you want to work on that.”

“I meant the water.”

When he grinned, a little more humbly than before, she tightened the faucet and kicked off her shoes.

———

This story was inspired during JD Mader’s 2 Minutes. Go! writing fiesta flash-a-thon, held every Friday on his blog. Here’s what we wrote this week. Maybe next week you’ll come by and do some writing.