Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Review and Another Story Ramble

All the short stories I've posted on this blog will eventually be made available on Wattpad.  So far I have "Fruit" and "Suzie and the Little Man" available there. I'm also looking to build an actual web site through a hosting company.  Then, I will make free downloads to the ebook version of Jimmy Miller the Super Powerful: Forecast Acid Rain for a given amount of time.  Stay tuned.

I will provide a quick review and then punch out another round of flash fiction, hopefully error free.  My recent read was The Returned by Jason Mott. It was not a Kindle version, but a hardback copy that I borrowed from the public library.  

People who have been dead, some for decades, have suddenly been coming back to life, only to try and find their loved ones who are still living.  For Harold and Lucille Hargrave, their long dead 8-year-old son, Jacob, is brought to their door step by an agent from an international bureau whose job it is to deal with these "Returned."  Chaos ensues as the "Returned" are not accepted by everyone.  Throughout the world there are those who harness their fear of the Returned into anger and hatred, including in the little North Carolina town that the Hargraves' live in.  When the Returned become too numerous and as fear and hatred for them increases, the bureau and world governments find ways to intern them away from the rest of society.

When I first saw the book, I envisioned something like "The 4400" television series.  The story is nothing like that and it isn't a zombie story either.  Jason Mott uses the Returned as a metaphor for many sides of the "human condition."  He explores the fear and anguish of death, the fear and hatred of people or things that others don't understand, the courage and compassion others take for standing up for what is right, and how quickly people are willing to deprive others of their rights by labeling them as something other than human.  While I was hoping the Returned would give the ignorant fools in the story a more Stephen King-type solution, Mott keeps everything down to earth.  The Returned do not have any special powers and they are not immortal, but they simply challenge the reader's notion of what it means to be human.  This book in many ways is a triumph for Mott in his debut novel.  The Returned has a poetic quality to it that is refreshing to read.  Definitely, check out this book--you'll be a better human for it.

And now time for a brief bout of flash fiction:

The Snowball That Ate Recess
Billy's fingers throbbed from the damp, chill from the snow that found its way into his water-resistant and insulated dark blue gloves.  His tongue hung out and he ignored his discomfort as he worked at finishing one of the largest snowballs he ever built in his young life.  Despite his mom making sure he had all the equipment for play in the snow, stocking cap, scarf, snowpants, gloves, coat and boots, none of this really gave Billy Young much protection.  When Billy Young played in the snow, he just dived on in.  He loved this stuff and since the temperature was expected to drop well below freezing for the next week, into the teens in Fahrenheit and negatives in Celsius, this snow would last for a while.

He was so disappointed that the snow storm wasn't as big as expected and only dumped roughly three inches.  School wouldn't be cancelled, but no matter, he would just play in the snow at recess.  Poor Billy.  No one wanted to help him except for Ashley Jones who was the only other student dressed in proper snow attire.  It was fun to build with her, even though she normally never came near Billy or any boys during recess.  That girl was head-to-toe pink and every bit as wet, chilled, and uncomfortable as he was.  They had managed to roll this snowball to the middle of the playground when it just got too heavy for them to move.

Ashley struggled, but eased up and stood straight up.  "Hey, let's just leave this and build a smaller ball.  Let's make a snowman."

"Alright," agreed Billy.  "You think we have time?"  Billy knew that lunch recess typically flew-by, especially when he was doing something exciting and fun.

Both of their cheeks were all reddened from melted snow and a north wind that had just whipped up something strong.  Ashley answered, "I don't know.  We can always come out tomorrow and finish it if we don't."

Billy shrugged his shoulders.  "Okay.  Let's get started."  

He and Ashley started to pat together another ball when Jake Collins, a fifth grader with a mean attitude, noticed what the two third graders were up to.  Only in sneakers and a thin jean jacket, Jake snarled, "Oh, look.  Jack and Jill are building a snowman.  Oh no!  My foot wants to destroy."  He kicked the snowball with his foot and it knocked a big chunk out.  All of his friends noticed what he was doing, and decided to join Jake in his snowball destruction.

Ashley whined, "Hey, we've worked hard on that."  She almost burst into tears.

"Yeah," Billy joined her in her protest.  "Stop!" he screamed and ran over to the boys.  However, those bigger boys just smashed the ball into a heap and Billy couldn't do anything to stop them.  Those fifth graders just laughed and ran off.

Jake chortled, "Oops.  Looks like Mr. Snowball had an accident."  Now, Ashley was totally crying.

Billy felt the same urge and fought back tears.  His anger mounted at those boys who just walked away, pointing back at them and laughing that laugh that bullies liked to make.  Ashley yelled at the boys, "I'm telling!"  She was on her way, fleeing to the nearest supervisor.  Billy just stood there completely at a loss for what to do.  With no outlet for his anger he chose to take it all out on that now ruined snowball.  He kicked at it and pounded it.  Billy even swore at it and now his tears were also streaking down his face.  Just as his foot went into it for the tenth time, suddenly he could not remove it from the snow mound.  He fell backwards, losing his balance.  When he looked up, he saw that the snowball had reformed, but his foot was stuck inside.  The thing growled quietly.  Billy could not pull his foot out.

Ashley almost made it to the supervisor when she turned to see the snowball was reborn and that Billy's foot was inside of it.  Perplexed, she dashed through the snow back to Billy, tears still present, but not as much.  She heard the thing growl.

"Did you remake it?  How? And why is it growling?"  Ashley stared down at his face.

"I don't know, but my foot is stuck.  Can you help?"  She tugged on his leg.

The snowball's growl turned into words.  "How dare you kick me!  How dare anyone destroy me!  It's my turn."  It rolled on top of Billy and sucked him inside of it.  Arms formed out of its sides, and one hand grasped Ashley by her waist, she screamed, and it pulled her in with Billy.  They both sat all scrunched against each other, but it was too dark to see anything.  Then, they felt the thing roll.

Billy yelled, "What's happening?"

"I don't know!" Ashley cried.  

As the snowball rolled, it grew as more and more snow packed around it.  The playground supervisor saw it as it approached her, and she screamed, blew her whistle, and tried running off.  But, she wasn't fast enough and the snowball swallowed her up as well, and now she was smooshed against Ashley and Billy in the dark.  "Who's in here?" she wondered.

Ashley answered, "Ashley Jones and Billy Young from third grade.  I don't know what's going on."  

Now the snowball increased its speed and bowled over every child and every adult on the playground, sucking each one on the inside.  The screams of all the people trapped inside could be heard and the snowball left the school grounds with the entire third, fourth, and fifth grade students of Madison Elementary School.  

Billy hollered, "Where is it taking us?  Are you dizzy, Ashley?"

"No.  Just squished and I can smell your stinky breath.  I can smell everyone's stinky breath."

"And someone has bad B.O." Billy revealed.

They heard the snowball growl, "Now we'll see how you kids like it when someone tries to destroy you.  Time for a little swim down by the river.  Or how 'bout rolling on down the railroad tracks."

All the kids screamed in terror, "No!  We don't wanna die!"

Jake Collins exclaimed, "Why do you want to kill us?"

Only, the snowball just laughed at the kids.  "Dead kids don't smash snowballs."

Only, as the snowball headed for the river down a field, the heat from all the children inside took a toll and it began to melt.  The snowball became more and more slushy.  Just as it neared the bank, it could no longer hold all 150 students, and they all fell out of the snowball as it collapsed into a mound of semi-melted snow. They had been at least ten miles from the school.

Everyone sat on the ground, dazed and confused.  Jake Collins was so terrified that he actually wet himself.  "It's just from the snow!" he yelled at the other kids who pointed their fingers at him.  Unfortunately, the scent told the other students something different, and he became the subject of ridicule.

Billy stood on his feet and grasped Ashley by her gloved hand and helped her up.  He smiled at her as he looked around the field and river with all that snow covering anything solid.  "That was so cool!  I love snow!"

The playground supervisors each called the school explaining where they were and how they got here.  A series of school buses would be dispatched to pick up the students.  It would take nearly a half-hour before they would arrive.

Ashley asked Billy, "What are we gonna do while we wait?"

"I know," he said with a smirk.  "Let's build another snowball."  They smiled at each other and knelt down in the snow, hoping that maybe they might whip up another adventure.

Have a great week.  Be good to yourselves!


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