Friday, December 17, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Two-Hour Delay

They armored up. Boxers, t-shirts, socks, jeans, another pair of socks that you pulled up over the ends of the jeans, polar fleeces, snow overalls, military boots, winter jackets, earmuffs and knitted caps. They didn’t want to shovel, didn’t want school to start at all, but in raiment that would make Iron Man envious, the boys were at least proud.

Leigh and Finnegan each took a shovel. They slung them over their shoulders like rifles – well, Leigh held his like a rifle. Finnegan imagined a spear. They marched onto the porch, Leigh clearing left, Finnegan right. In the distance a car’s tires snarled for traction on ice.

“The blizzard’s overtaking the whole state,” said Leigh, even though the snow had already stopped. “It’d be an emergency if, you know, it hadn’t killed the president.”

“Oh yeah. Washington is a wasteland now.” Finnegan went along. He cleared off the last and stood there, reflecting on the roads, ploughed but slushy. There was no traffic. “I’ll miss people.”

“We’re the last,” said Leigh, sidling past him to begin the path to the driveway. “Just me, you and Mom.”

“Good thing Mom can cook.”

A red SUV rumbled by. Both boys turned their backs to it, not even letting it violate their peripheral vision.

“Everyone wiped out. All the Gym teachers.”

“All the Math teachers.”

A harsh wind whipped their backs. Leigh stiffened and Finnegan wiggled.

“Quit it.” Leigh smacked his brother in the butt with his shovel. “You’re drawing attention.”

“From who?”

“The Lord of the North. He’s the one sending snow. Can only tell where we are if we move.”

Finnegan fidgeted to stillness. He glanced up and thought he made out a pale castle resting in the clouds. Of course. The Lord of the North.

Their path was made of big slates. Leigh cleared one square, Finnegan did the next, and so-on. Leigh brushed all his snow on the left side, facing the street. Finnegan turned around after one square to find his brother collecting all the snow he’d dumped and adding it to his leftward piles.

“What are you doing?”

Leigh pushed the drift up higher. “Building a wall so when the Lord of the North sends his orcs they’ll have a harder time getting in.”

“Orcs?” Finnegan stared across the street to the amassing hordes. Their bloody flags poked through snow-bent trees. “Are those orcs?”

“What else would they be?”

The Lord of the North sent another gust, and Finnegan turned his back to it. It blew his hood over his face, so that all that showed was a pondering frown. The orcs banged their axes on their breastplates in-between the tinkles of the house wind chime.

“I think they’re gathering,” Finnegan warned, trudging to the driveway. “We’ll need an escape route.”

“I made a rocket engine in case that happens,” Leigh said, shoveling all the same. “It’ll let the car drive over the snow.”

“You did not.”

“I did.”

“When did you learn to build rocket engines?”

“At camp.”

“You didn’t go to rocket camp.”

An arrow whizzed by, nearly taking off Finnegan’s cap. It dug so deep into the snow that only the feather showed. A black feather.

“Orc arrows?”

Three more zipped down, digging into the drift by the path. The boys dropped their shovels and dove onto the slate.

“They have archers?”

As though in answer, the wind pulled a fresh blanket of snow from the roof. Black arrows tore through it mid-air, pelting the side of their house. A few clattered down and bounced off the boys’ legs.

“Don’t move,” Leigh warned. “The Lord of the North can see you.”

“We’re behind the wall.”

“He’s in the sky. He’s probably telling them where to aim.”

“That can’t be how it works.”

One black arrow drilled directly into the slate between Finnegan’s legs. His eyes bulged. He knew someday that part of him was going to be very important, if it wasn’t eaten by orcs. He shimmied out and grabbed their shovels.

“We can’t shovel anymore,” Leigh screeched, taking his all the same. “We’ll be killed.”

Finnegan held the blade of his shovel over his head like a shield. Arrowheads dinged off the plastic like rain. Leigh gaped, then mimicked with his. It was kind of like 300.

They kept the shovels above their heads while they peeked over the wall. Orcs were crossing the street and beginning to ford the snowfield of their lawn. They carried bannered spears that fluttered in their Lord’s evil breeze. And they weren’t alone.

Finnegan asked up at him, “Do they have a cave troll?”

 “They can’t!” Leigh insisted. “It’s day out. Snow’s white and they live where it’s dark.”

The cave troll roared. The boys hugged each other, the sound shaking their bodies. The roar kept going, perpetual and inhuman, until Mom pulled out of the garage. It wasn’t a troll at all; it was the roar of a gigantic engine jutting from the hood, spewing jets of fire. She leaned out the window and called.

“You guys took forever out here. I’ve got your bags, now come on. The delay’s almost up and there is school today.”

“Told you it wasn’t a cave troll,” said Leigh. “And that I make rocket engines.”

He waddled over, no longer afraid of black arrows or Lords of the North. Finnegan stayed behind, huffing through his nose and thinking about Math quizzes.

“I wish it was a cave troll.”

33 comments:

  1. John, that is some clever and fun writing. Where do I start? You had me with the world that ws being suggested. Then when it was just imagination I instantly thought of my 8yr boy does at that age. Duh. Great character names by the way. Also the story had a nice flow and pace.a

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  2. This was too clever with the twists and turns and the grand reveal. I do love your writing so much John. I want you to know that you're a magnificent writer.

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  3. At 3:00 AM "I Hate Gay" from last week is getting more comments than the new stuff. I think I should be proud, or worried. Thanks for reading along!

    Julio, I've wanted a "Leigh" for a long time. Just finally got around to him. Glad the fantasy-Fantasy worked on you!

    Carrie, I really appreciate your kind words on my craft. Like you, I put a lot of work into my prose, even if sometimes it's for utterly goofy purposes.

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  4. The way you protrayed the imagination of youth was nothing short of majestic. Brilliant, John, just brilliant...and so timely he said watching the flakes drift outside his window. Any tips on dealing with orcs?

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  5. I guessed the ending but it didn't stop this being a wonderful piece of fiction. A true testament to the power of imagination. Excellent stuff!

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  6. Well, of course - a cave troll is a lesser adversary than a Maths quiz.

    "fidgeted to stillness" -great snippet, so true.

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  7. “You didn’t go to rocket camp.”

    I loved this line. It has that sense of incredulity that just keeps the story on that edge between imagination and the harsh reality of shoveling your way to school.

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  8. Love it John, wonderful imagination. Laughed and spewed a little coffee at the "rocket camp" part. Outstanding!

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  9. I don't know. I've been reading your great stories for a while now, and they're all awesome, but this just might be my favorite.

    So many great lines. "Some part of him would be important one day if the Orcs didn't eat it" made me laugh out loud. You've got a clear channel to 10-year-old mentality.

    Just love it.

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  10. My favorite line: "You didn't go to rocket camp."

    Great as always, John.

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  11. and snap the jobs a game. much of my childhood was spent fighting invisible hordes, quite stressful now I come to think of it. was almost retrospective for me in a way, yeah I was there.

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  12. John, This story not only stands on its own, it takes me back to childhood. I enjoyed it on many levels. Very clever use of an experience most of us can relate to. I really enjoyed it.
    Deborah

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  13. I do this with my kid when we shovel! You nailed the random twists and kept it interesting. Nice work.

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  14. Sam, the best way to deal with orcs is to hire a plough. Cheap parents can send their kids out, preferably the expendable ones first.

    Icy, did it feel like the ending was a mystery?

    Mazz, Aragorn and Legolas never took down a giant fraction. This is a fact.

    Laurita, Harry and Tony, the "rocket camp" line was actually the last thing I added. Looks like it was a lucky touch.

    Gracie, I should have known this would appeal to you more than usual! Want to build a snow castle with me?

    Squidinc and Deborah, I spent hundreds of hours of my childhood fighting invisible hordes as well. I am not above any of the things depicted in this story. We should form some sort of "nostalgic Walter Mitty" committee.

    Matt, thank you for one of my favorite comments. That parents do this with their kids warms my heart, despite my official stance on hating children.

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  15. Excellent imagination on those two. I see a little (okay, a lot) of me in them. Loved this one!

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  16. My brother and I are 18 months apart and had many a snow day like this. We were quite the imaginative pair. It was fun reliving that through these boys. Great job. beaming with nostalgia face

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  17. That was great — a good reminder that kids have imaginations and they aren't afraid to use them.

    And your RT of my story was hilarious, BTW!

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  18. A nice bit of imaginative writing John, I think I too prefer orcs and trolls and such, to the everyday mundane life.

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  19. Eric, no problem having a little or a lot of them in you. I think it's a problem if you don't.

    Danielle, aww, nostalgia face. The best face, or so I remember it being.

    Mr. FAR, my pleasure on the RT. Sometimes jokes just materialize.

    Steve, the best if you can weigh your orcs and bills against each other, so they co-exist. A healthy delirium.

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  20. Oh, how I long to be that mother! My boys (11 and 13) have been home ALL WEEK due to snow, and, just my luck, their holiday vacation started today. Already my house smells like wallowing prepubescence and there's two more weeks to go!

    Obviously due to experience, I knew just where this was going John, but that certainly didn't take the fun away. I love the voice and their dialogue is fantastic. Fun story!

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  21. I love the depth of your latest stories. Wonderful voice here, brought me back to my own wild childhood. Peace...

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  22. Was looking serious for these two for a while... Liked your cute/clever twist, John... Snow days were the best when I was a kid!

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  23. As I was reading the dialogue I was wondering why the characters were acting so nonchalant and of course they are kids, but mind could not choose whether to believe them or not. As I read further I fell for it because I got lost in their world.

    Very strong dialogue made this twist possible, which is not one of my strong suits.

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  24. Fantastic stuff here, John. I love the imagination of the kids, and how you captured on the page their language and play. I remember the days of shoveling snow when I lived in Michigan years ago, though I never made it as much fun as these two did. Good stuff.

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  25. I pictured Calvin and Hobbes cartoons all the way through this and thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it. I spent three hours shoveling ice off the driveway a couple days ago and realize now I missed an important part of the job. I saw no orcs or cave trolls. Silly me.

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  26. I really enjoyed this piece. The first part reminded me of playing paintball.

    I liked the way it starts grounded in reality (mostly) and then gradually builds on them ignoring that reality and then brings us back to the beginning.

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  27. Ah, the imaginations of boys. And you have captured it well, sir.

    "One black arrow drilled directly into the slate between Finnegan’s legs. His eyes bulged. He knew someday that part of him was going to be very important, if it wasn’t eaten by orcs." That was my favourite line...

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  28. A cave troll or an orc, anything is better than having to face a math test. Poor kids. Great story, John. Sorry it took me so long to comment.

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  29. You know this reminds me of my elementary school days. (only they weren't orcs but shark people) I loved the imagination and the logic that the kids used to reason behind it all.

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  30. I love this. It sums up the imagination of children perfectly. Also the relative peace that comes with heavy snow. I really enjoyed this story.

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  31. As the story bulids and their fantasy builds with it, i wondered where the snow would take them next, and then mum comes and spoils it. These kids have great imaginations. I want to be small again! Loved the feather arrows.

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  32. Living where there is no snow did not hamper my enjoyment of this. Loved the imaginative fantasy world the boys created. A timely reminder to never let one's imagination remain dormant.
    Adam B @revhappiness

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