She looked at the dark landscape. "Sins of the fathers." A Short Shots Entry
Sarah poured the hot, brown liquid into a cup, letting the steam whisper across her face. She glanced at the can labeled Koffee. Better living through chemistry ran through her head and brought a smile to her lips. She knew it was a slogan from long ago but couldn’t remember where she had heard it. It was probably in one of those old magazines I found last year. Once more, she wondered what real coffee had tasted like.
The steam fogged the window and she reached, tracing a circular pattern in the moisture. She stared at the face that peered back, seeking any traces of the girl she had once been. The pale skinned, hollow eyed woman who returned her gaze was a stranger.
“Where did Sarah go?” she quietly asked. She remembered – or did she just assume from reading about it – how the earth used to be. Images of a young girl, running across a park, blue skies dotted with white clouds that shone brightly in the mid-day sun, teased her mind.
It wasn’t like we didn’t have warnings, she mused. The politicians in the early twenty-first century denied anything was wrong. The election of xenophobic leaders who refused to cooperate led to an inability to address the real issues of the time like climate change until it was too late. She looked past the reflection at the dark landscape. Sins of the fathers.
The pollution couldn’t be controlled and the feeble efforts at developing renewable energy like solar power was overwhelmed as the clouds became thicker, blocking the sunlight. Farms and forests began to wither as water sources either dried up or became toxic. Still, man focused on his own survival rather than trying to heal the planet. More technology, more energy production, more destruction. “Selfish bastards,” she corrected her earlier thought. It should not have come as any surprise when the earth turned on mankind.
A bright flash caught her attention and she focused, peering through the crazed glass and noting the oncoming storm. Oh shit! It’s going to be a bad one! “They’re going to have to shut down the grid again,” she muttered to herself. This was becoming an unwelcome routine. With a sigh, she began pulling out glow sticks in preparation.
“Mom?” A tiny voice cut through her dourness. Ben entered the room with his hair still spiky from sleep, his pajamas stretched and baggy.
"Good morning, little man," she said, turning to watch him.
His face lit up in a welcoming smile. He looked at her digging in the cupboard. “Again?”
“’Fraid so, honey. It looks like we’re going to have … a jammy day,” she finished with a laugh. “And, to celebrate, I have a special treat for you!”
Ben’s eyes lit up. “What? What?” he said excitedly.
Sarah ushered him to the table. She reached into her pack and pulled out an orange. “Real fruit!”
Ben stared at the small, orange ball. He reached out and touched it gingerly. “For me?” he said in a hushed voice.
“All for you. Now, let me show you how to eat it.” She carefully peeled it, saving the rind for recycling before delicately pulling it apart. “See those seeds? We save those so that we can grow more. Those little tiny seeds will one day be trees and produce more oranges.”
Ben watched as she removed them and placed them in a jar. “Now what?”
“Put a slice in your mouth.”
Ben did and his face split into a big grin. “Mmmmph, Juicy! And sweet! I love oranges, Mama!”
Sarah laughed at the joy in his face. “And I love you! What should we do next?” Just then, the lights went out and the air system went quiet. “Besides turn some light on,” she giggled, trying to keep a light tone.
Outside, the storm had moved over the compound. The crack of lightening filled the air with deafening noise and the smell of ozone. Ben ran to her and crawled into her lap, his orange forgotten in melee.
“It’s just noise, sweetie. It will pass.” She looked at his face, seeing uncertainty. “Promise, honey,” she said, protectively pulling him close. She sat humming a tuneless song, rocking him, hoping she could keep her promise. Someday, I may not be able to.
The lights finally flickered and came back on. “See, just like I said,” she stated, grabbing his tummy and tickling him.
Ben laughed and squirmed out of her lap. “My orange! I can see it now. It’s pretty,” he said, stuffing another slice into his mouth. He finished it, even licking the plate when it was gone.
“So, little mister. What should we do now?”
“A story!” he demanded. “Let’s read a story about before.”
“Are you sure?” she laughed, already knowing the answer. His head bobbed up and down. “OK, then. Go pick a book out.”
Sarah and Ben curled up in the living room. Sarah took their favorite quilt off the back of the wingchair and soon they were snuggled down.
“So what did you pick out for us?” she asked, taking the book from his small hands. The cover was a dark green and the title was nearly illegible. She opened the cover, the smell of must and old paper calling forth memories of a time when she and her own parents would read on rainy days.
She read out loud, “The Silent Spring written by Rachel Carson. Really, Ben? This is what you want to read?”
“I love to hear about the before times, Mama.”
Sarah pulled him close, surrounding him with her arms. “Well, then, let’s go back in time,” she said, tickling him. “There once was a town in the heart of America where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings.” She paused, her memories flooding her mind. “The trees would start to grow, their green leaves appearing overnight and magically transform the world into a beautiful green place. It would be sooo bright that the color would paint the air. Have you ever smelled the color green?"
Ben dutifully shook his head "No. But, that’s not part of this story."
Sarah playfully pinched his nose. “Right you are. Let's see ...The town lived in a checkerboard of prosperous farms …”
Sarah's voice continued but Ben was already drifting into the images she was conjuring in his mind with her familiar words. He turned slightly, burrowing closer into the comfort of his mother's lap and felt the unremembered warmth and gentleness of the earth.
An entry for "Short Shots: Official WDC Contest"
Word Limit: 2000
Word Count: 1090