Thursday, November 18, 2010

Happy Again

Today's muse: Three Word Wednesday

Today's words: clutch, delight, happy

* * *

Happy Again

The look on her face was raw delight as she snatched the solitaire from my hand and thrust it onto her third finger. She twisted her hand in the air, bouncing refracted colors off the living room wall. She laughed—a high-pitched squeal—then took my face in her hands and pressed a noisy kiss on my mouth.

“Yes!” she shouted, dancing around the sofa. “Yes! Yes!”

I thought my heart would burst.

Now, facing the stained glass windows, hushed voices behind me, my tuxedo compresses, squeezes air from my lungs. Misgivings rush at me in fast-forward; a Charlie Chaplin film of what my life will be, highlighting all the reasons this is a mistake. But I don’t have the balls to stop it. My heart pounds, chases sweat down my back. My bowels liquefy. I thrust my sweaty hand into my pocket, searching for a handkerchief to mop my face. Or hide it.

There is frantic movement in the pews behind me as a vicious game of Broken Telephone ripples through the crowd. At once, the voices are silent.

My best man clamps a hand on my shoulder. His voice breaks. “Hey, man…”

I shake my head. This is a happy moment and I don’t want him to mar it. I clutch the crumpled piece of paper in my pocket where my linen handkerchief should be. I don’t have to read it—I know what it says.

It makes me smile.

Friday, November 12, 2010

By Chocolate

Today's muse:

I'm ashamed to say I can't remember where this prompt came from. I know the word was (or had something to do with) Chocolate, but I can't remember where I found it. If you recognize the prompt, please let me know where it came from and I'll add a link to that site.

Though, I suppose, it would qualify for The Daily Writing Practice's prompt of "falling back". But I know that's not what it was. Sorry, Marc.


Thanks to Heather who reminded me that the prompt came from The One Minute Writer. In fact, as you'll see from my response below, I first found the prompt while browsing Heather's site.

* * *

By Chocolate

The Mixing Station towered eight stories above the warehouse floor. Measuring twenty by thirty feet, the floor of the platform was covered in anti-static rubber to protect the sensitive equipment that controlled the operations at Chocolate Bliss.

Alone, high above the main floor, Abigail Bedford went about her work, unsupervised. Not that she needed anyone telling her what to do. She'd been doing her job for more than forty years and could do it in her sleep, if she had to. Not that she'd sleep on the job, of course. She hadn't become Senior Chocolate Supervisor by sitting on her laurels, no sir.

Tired of listening to her pleas, Abigail’s father took her to work when she was only eleven, thinking that the tedious work of sweeping the floors at Chocolate Bliss, would soon show her that the hard life of a factory worker was something she could wait for, even avoid. Instead, from the moment she walked into the building, Abigail was mesmerized.

“There are fifty-two vats of chocolate,” Mr. Bedford explained as they walked between the enormous vats. “Each one measures three stories high and two hundred feet in diameter.”

Abigail tilted her head back to follow the dozens of ladders propped against each vat; ancient wooden rods that stretched all the way to the top. Factory workers, clad in faded and patched overalls, climbed the rickety rungs, boulders of cocoa balanced on their shoulders.

“When they get to the top,” Mr. Bedford said, “they drop the cocoa into the vat where it boils and melts.” Abigail watched a man, high above her, struggle to hoist an enormous chunk of cocoa over the ledge. It landed with a loud splash that echoed throughout the warehouse. As the day wore on, and the level of melted chocolate rose, Abigail noted the workers were sprayed with scalding chocolate, leaving angry red blisters on their faces and arms. Even at that young age, Abigail knew the position of Climber was perilous. By the time she was thirteen—old enough to climb the ladders herself—she had witnessed eight deaths.

Oddly, the high mortality rate didn’t seem to hinder moral at the factory. Queues of hopeful workers snaked for several blocks whenever the factory posted a notice for hire. The salary that Chocolate Bliss paid their employees far outweighed what came be to known as the inevitable end. In turn, loyal employees worked hard, increasing production year after year when other businesses around them failed. Indeed, Chocolate Bliss had survived two World Wars, The Great Depression and several recessions, its revenue growing exponentially every decade.

Now, decades later, Abigail had seen overall-clad workers replaced with chromed robots, supervised by a handful of human employees in crisp white lab coats. Though revenue was not what it was in the early years, Chocolate Bliss continued to be a major player on the stock exchange. Several past presidents had rung the opening bell; the current president, Reginald Bliss IV, honoured with the task just last week.

One of the monitors beeped an alarm and Abigail glanced at the message box open on the screen. Core temperature dropping. Not the least bit alarmed, Abigail made her way over to the computer, tapped in a few codes and made some adjustments. The computer made a satisfying beep and Abigail smiled. She adjusted her hair net and wandered back to the small overhang that jutted out from the high platform. The Lookout, as everyone called it, was directly over the one enormous vat of chocolate that had replaced the fifty or so smaller vats that once lined the warehouse. Large chunks of cocoa rolled down a chute to rest beside Abigail. She pressed a button that released the mechanism to eject the chocolate into the melted liquid below, where it landed with a loud splash. Chocolate geysered up a few inches shy of the Lookout.

Years ago, the smaller vats were filled by the end of each work day; emptied at night by the midnight crew. Now, the lone vat was filled to brimming every six months; emptied with a simple click of a button.

“Almost time,” Abigail thought, as she glanced at the gold watch on her wrist, presented to her several months ago at her retirement party, where Mr. Bliss gave a touching speech before sending her on a two-month European cruise. Her colleagues cheered, some cried.

“Don’t be sad,” Abigail repeated over and over to her friends as she hugged them. “It’s been wonderful working here and I couldn’t have asked for a more satisfying career. Bliss Chocolate has taken good care of me and my family and I couldn’t ask for more.”

Her peers nodded in understanding, for they all benefited from the company’s generosity.

Abigail checked the monitors one more time. Lines bounced across the screens and she made a few last-minute adjustments before stepping onto The Lookout. She gazed over the vast warehouse at her colleagues going about their duties; small white specks so far below her. A bell sounded somewhere in the distance and the tiny dots stopped moving. She thought she’d be afraid; instead, she was quite calm. As the bell sounded once more, Abigail turned around, her back to the edge of The Lookout. She could hear her understudy climbing the rungs to the platform, ready to take over the helm. Satisfied that everything was in order, Abigail closed her eyes, spread her arms out like wings and fell back.

She plummeted from The Lookout, landing with a soft splash into the warm chocolate. The core temperature had dropped enough that it wasn’t uncomfortable. Indeed, it was warm and comforting, like a hug, she thought. As the chocolate swallowed her, filled her ears and nose, Abigail’s only thoughts were of joy and peace.

In the executive offices, Reginald Bliss IV glanced at his computer. Reports were coming in from the Exchange, confirming another stellar year. Reg leaned back in his custom leather chair, folded his hands behind his head and smiled. The gods were once more appeased.

On the warehouse floor, the white dots resumed their work.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Buttered Popcorn

Today's muse: Three Word Wednesday

Today's words: abrupt, kernel, wield

* * *

Buttered Popcorn

Silence, abrupt and final, shrouds the tiny apartment as the last seed explodes. Lured by the bewitching aroma, Brenda wanders into the galley kitchen to find Evan (or did he say it was Ethan?) standing at the counter, wearing nothing but an imitation Rolex.

He pours the tiny cloud puffs into a clear bowl, snatches the few that scamper away. Brenda sneaks up behind him, presses against his back, trails her tongue across the eagle tattoo on his left shoulder. He murmurs his assent as she reaches around, delighted to find him ready. He presses a popped kernel into her mouth, muttering incoherent promises.

His prowess doesn’t quite have the effect he expected. Brenda wields the heavy corn popper high in the air and brings it down in a lethal blow.

“I said no butter.”

Monday, November 8, 2010

Into the Forest

I found a new muse: Microfiction Monday over at Stony River.

Every Monday, Susan Carleton posts a photograph or illustration as our muse to write a 140 character short. Perfect for Twitter, I might add.

I realize the photo speaks to bunnies and kittens, but I'm in a dark place right now and my mind wandered to more lethal things.

Microfiction Monday #56:

* * *

Into the Forest

Eyes squeezed shut, hands clamped over her tiny ears, she cowers in the shadows of the forest and prays the screams don’t find her.