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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Environment · #1877524
All the warning signs are being ignored
Charlie Kane stood motionless at the end of his gravel driveway. A hot wind, blowing from the south, rustled the tall weeds growing around his mail box, but did little to clear the sweat from his brow. He made a silent declaration to himself as he tucked his mail under his arm.

Once this heat wave ends; I’ll cut down those weeds.

Charlie turned to walk the quarter mile back to his house and the shade under an old oak tree that still clung to life. Everything else had burned up in the unrelenting July heat. Tufts of brown grass dotted Charlie’s pride and joy. Dust devils picked up the last remnants of his lawn and scattered it across the lifeless prairie. Even the genetically engineered field corn had lost its battle to survive. Rows of scorched stalks leaned sideways and littered the landscape that should have been bathed in greenery like a parade of living sentinels.

The orchard hadn’t escaped nature's wrath either. The young fruit had withered and had fallen to the ground. Just the night before, Charlie’s wife had said, “Don’t expect any fresh apple pie come September, Charlie.” And then she broke down crying. He had wanted to console Ruth, but he had run out of the right words to say weeks ago. They were being challenged by the same horrendous disaster as the rest of earth’s population. Planet Earth was burning up.

Charlie stopped when he saw a dust cloud rise in the distance. It came closer and grew larger in the summer’s haze. Looking up the road and to the north, the old man squinted and could see a vehicle approaching. Then he heard loud music and he instantly knew.

It’s them boys from town, driving to fast in their blue convertible; the same bunch who were caught transporting illegal fireworks across the state line.

Charlie stood his ground and waited. He’d warn them if they’d give him the opportunity. He raised his arms in the air and waved.

The car sped by, kicking up loose gravel, dust and dirt. In the turmoil, a roaring engine and thumping speakers didn’t mask the vicious obscenities the boys screamed as they tossed empty beer cans at Charlie. Their aim was no better than their manners. They missed.

Charlie forced a smile. He knew that rowdy group was heading for their favorite swimming hole. He figured they didn’t know; Miller’s pond had dried up a week ago.

Something else those boys may not know.

A half a mile from Charlie’s driveway, where a bridge once crossed Lame Johnny Creek, there was now a gaping hole. The aging concrete structure had crumbled and collapsed.

Will they see the warning signs in time?

Charlie heard an explosion, looked south into the sweltering wind and saw a fire ball roil into the late afternoon sky. He turned away and plodded up the driveway.

I guess they didn’t see the signs.

Ruth sat waiting in the kitchen. That’s where she sat most days, still hoping the electricity would come back on and once again cool her beautiful home, pump her water and do all the other needful things she had relied on.

“Was that thunder I heard, Charlie?” Ruth asked.

“Yes, I believe it was thunder, Ruth. Maybe it will rain tonight.”

Charlie lied. Ruth was beyond hearing the truth. Charlie figured that Ruth was like a lot of people and didn’t want to hear the truth.

“What’s for supper, Ruth?” Charlie asked.

Hot dogs,” she answered.

Charlie hid his face, went to the cupboard and took their last can of beans from a shelf. He vowed to let Ruth go on pretending as long as he could.

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