Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Miasma : a very short story

A ride with increasing unknown pressure, no resolution.  Driving into a pin prick of light at the end.  And all around it, the odor rising from all sides like a silky black curtain streaming up from the land caked with night-shade

            Cars seats
            Canned fish

            She enumerated the needs of the family, but the list was too long, and the trunk was narrow, tall, and all the articles could not fit without a reorganization of both the list and the space in the trunk…

            Toilet Paper
            T-bone steaks, frozen
            Surgical masks… boxes and boxes..

            So she began to stack items everywhere, although she knew it would distract the twins.  But what did it matter?  It was imperative to get away.  So she began to pitch things into the car without a semblance of control.  More toilet paper, an extra packet of diapers – no way of knowing right now what would be key and what would be discarded and beyond this terrible reality, this field of unknowns in a new world.

            The twins were strapped in their car seats.  She pulled away from daycare in a sharp k turn.  The sat wide-eyed and plump, seemingly cognizant of their world, but neither forming a cogent word at this late age.  They took no notice of the mask on their mother’s face.

            “She I worry about them?” she asked Dr. Kane a year ago.

            “No, not at this point,” and he explained standard distribution of human abilities to her, a pointless exercise, as she knew already.  “Some children speak early,” he told her, “but most speak about an average of X months,” she could no longer remember the time.  “Then some children are behind the bump of the curve.  They don’t use words till late.  That’s what is happening with the twins.”

            So there they sat in their seats, still on the leading tail of the curve, too fat puti exchanging objects they could grasp: Dixie cups, paper towels, and gum drops, all the while gurgling and trilling as if labeling the word fresh like Adam.  She watched in the rear view mirror, transfixed as they dismantled the minutiae of their world: a baseball without its leather cover, a teddy bear bereft of stuffing, a plastic lizard without a tail.

            Distracted, she hit a curb and was on the sidewalk.  A plume of gas erupted from the dying Zoysia.  People peeled away from the car like water vapor hissing from the onslaught of a flame.  When she reached the cross street, she cursed, for a line a traffic extended back from the bridge like the tail of a sluggish snake.  She pulled on the sidewalk once, again, pressed down the gas, and after taking out a decorative Japanese red maple nearly stripped of its leaves, was speeding on side streets sharply for another route.

            24 Flares         
            Flare gun
            10 writing tablets
            20 boxes of bandages
            16 rolls of duct tape
            27 yards of plastic sheeting

            She knew she had little time.  When one began to cry, and the other would start as well.  There wasn’t conscious coordination in this act.  It simply happened, just like rain turning into snow on a progressively colder day, or snow changing to rain on increasingly warmer day.  She hope to reach the ferry before that. 

            The single late country road was nearly empty, which was good in the sense that no one was heading toward the ferry, but bad in that the ferry might very well not be running.  She imagined an empty dock, a sealed ship, a car full of supplies and two twins on the verge of a mammoth collapse.

            When she skidded on the gravel of the ferry parking lot, a fog had rolled in off the water.  She pinched her nose around the mask as she opened the door, and then tried in vain for two minutes to get masks on the twins.  They resisted in their playful, thoughtless way, not heedful of the subtle moods and exigencies of the moment.  She gave up, even as she began to cough in heavy air, and as he head swam in the dizzy soup of her disintegrating mind.

            She turned and peered through the fog, she saw the running lights of the car deck of the ferry.

            She was the only one on the ferry.  The twins sat upright in their car seats, improbably asleep as the night set in early.  Usually one was always up, but something about this night, the thick fog, the rolling darkness, the slight pitch of the wave, had lulled them into slumber.  A teenage walked through the bulkhead and into the room with long, chipped orange benches, a closed snack stand, and life vests stowed away in the overhead.  He stopped by her, about to say something, and then seeing the babies in their seats, he hushed his tone.

            “Heck of a night,” he said just above a whisper.  His twanging tone revealed his country origin – a boy from the farm now working on a ferry between the old town center and the mainland.

            “Yes,” she answered.  “Crazy… I just don’t…”

            “Know what to make of it,” he finished her sentence. “No one does.  Everyone is streaming out of the city to the north, and look at this ferry.  Empty but you are your babes.  Crazy thing.  Just crazy.  Where are you headed?”

            “I have a brother in Greenburg,” she answered. 

            “Have you heard about the situation there?” he asked.

            “I’ve heard some stuff, but not everything.”

            “I hear everyone has decamped,” he answered.  “Just left the city.  Gone.”

            “Well, no one knows for sure.”

            “That’s true,” he answered, his face skewed to the left.  “All we have is rumor.  Well, good luck miss.” And the boy left the cabin.

            When the ferry docked at the port, the deep fog enveloped the land.  The twins were up, playing with a squashed Dixie cup, cooing and murmuring in their dialect.   She turned to car up the ramp.  She felt the gravel beneath the tires, but could not see above or below, ahead or behind, right or left.  But she had no choice.  She had to move.  The twins had somehow taken hold of her carefully stowed gear.  With the wonder of naive savants, they passed the objects between them: cheese, canned fish, salt, pepper, tissues, toilet paper, T-bone steaks, surgical masks, a flare gun, flares, writing tablets, bandages, and rolls of duct tape, yards of plastic sheeting, more.

            She was already in the deep haze before she realize they had opened a window, and tossed the supplies on the road.  And by that 
time, it was too late.

No comments:

Post a Comment