Thursday, May 27, 2010

Friday Fiction for May 28, 2010

Hey, Friday Fiction is hosted this week by Joanne over at An Open Book. Pop over there, leave a comment for Joanne, and check out the other offerings this week!

The kitchen scene finishes up this week from Celia’s perspective in Part 7 of “Maelstrom’s Eye.” She learns a bit more than she expects in this part. I hope you enjoy.

Maelstrom’s Eye

Part 7

And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them. ~ Daniel 8:10

I do not know how the Third World War will be fought, but I can tell you what they will use in the Fourth – rocks! ~ Albert Einstein


Celia watched Carl slicing carrots, and reached the conclusion the man wasn’t nearly as incompetent in the kitchen as she had first thought. His motions weren’t as polished as a chef that practiced regularly, but neither were they as clumsy as someone wielding the blade for the first time.

The man was an enigma. He obviously knew something about cooking, and yet, rarely had anything besides the frozen convenience foods and fresh produce from his garden. He had gone to a trade school and learned construction, yet gave her glimpses of such intelligence that he would have excelled in any of her college classes. He needed friendship and community, but shunned contact with most of his neighbors.

He scooped the sliced carrots into the stewpot, and then began slicing the onion.

“You didn’t wait for me to tell you to cut the onion. I thought you didn’t know how to cook?” Celia asked.

“I said I don’t know how to can, and asked what if I didn’t want to learn to cook or can,” Carl said. “You never asked me, though, if I already knew how to cook.”

“So, why don’t you cook more for yourself?”

He shrugged. “It just seems like a lot of trouble for just me.” The diced onions went into the pot, and he began cutting potatoes into cubes. “You’ve got me making a stew that will feed a small army, and most of it will go bad long before I eat it all.”

“You don’t have to make large meals, you know.”

“I don’t have to make any meals. I can let the Arctic Frozen Dinner company do all the cooking and clean-up, and get just the amount I need without the work.”

“I just don’t understand why you would eat bland frozen foods when you know how to cook things that would taste so much better.”

He set the knife on the counter, and turned around with his hands in his pockets. Looking at the floor, he took a deep breath and released it. “I’d just eat the produce from my garden, if I could get away with it, but I need more than I can grow. With the frozen stuff, I can just order it on the network, and it gets delivered to me. I don’t have to worry about going to a store and shopping. What I want is in stock, and the quality never changes.”

She let out an involuntary snort. “The quality never changes, because it’s not that high to begin with.”

“It’s good enough.”

“What’s wrong with going to a store and shopping? I could go with you, if you wanted.”

“I’d rather just stay home.”

“You need to get out of this house more often. If you don’t like stores, you could always come to church with us tomorrow.”

He shook his head. “The less I’m around people, the better.”

“Why? Why are you so afraid of being with people?”

“Why don’t you ask your father that question? I think he did a pretty good job of answering it last night.”

“The people at our church aren’t all like my father.”

“Enough of them are, I’m sure. It doesn’t matter what group I find myself in, the moment they learn that I had anything to do with Maelstrom, I get the same treatment I got from your father last night. People hate Maelstrom, and they hate anyone with any connection to it.”

“You don’t have to tell them.”

“They’ll find out eventually, and then I’ll once again be tainted by Maelstrom.” He turned back towards the counter. “No matter what I do, the world will always see me in the light of Maelstrom.”

“They will, Carl, because that’s how you see yourself. What happened out there? Are you the same Carl Anders that went to space to build something? Were you like this before?”

His voice became quiet. “I was pinned in a hatchway, and they couldn’t free me until they’d taken measures to make sure my damaged suit wouldn’t decompress the moment they opened the hatch. I stayed there until they brought two thick bars, which they bolted together to clamp my legs and my suit above the injury, but they couldn’t give me anything for the pain. They had to tighten the clamps sufficiently to make sure that no air or blood could escape, because on the other side of the hatch, my legs were already gone.” Closing his eyes, he continued. “They had to crush my legs again to save my life, only it was slower the second time. One of the guys disabled my helmet microphone so they wouldn’t have to hear me screaming while they did it. At that point, I wanted them to just open my suit and let me die, because it would have been quicker and less painful.”

“Carl, I - ”

“It might have been worth it – the pain, the loss of my legs, the rehabilitation and physical therapy – if it had been for something that was going to advance knowledge and science, but then, I learned what we had been building, and I realized I was just the first of heaven only knows how many casualties Maelstrom would cause.”

She laid her hand on his arm. “It doesn’t have to be like this, Carl. What’s done is done, but you will never leave it behind so long as you only see yourself through Maelstrom’s eye. There is another eye that is much more important, and you need to see yourself through His eyes.”

He stepped away. “You can finish the stew if you want, or just leave it. Take it home and finish it for your family, for that matter – I don’t care. I’d rather be alone right now, so I’m going to bed.”

“Bed? It’s only five o’clock.”

“Good night, Celia.” He walked out of the kitchen without a backward glance.

Celia stood there for a moment feeling helpless, and then turned to the partially cut potatoes. I wonder, Lord – was it easier to call Lazarus from the tomb, because being dead, he couldn’t argue with You?

To be continued…

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Friday Fiction for May 21, 2010

Christina Banks is graciously hosting Friday Fiction this week, over at “With Pen in Hand.” Don’t miss all the good reading that the Linky Tool will take you to from there!

“Maelstrom’s Eye” continues this week, with a little glimpse into Carl’s past. Incidentally, while this story employs a bit of speculative fiction, much of the capabilities of Maelstrom that I’ve listed are within the reach of current technology. I find it a rather sobering thought that we – or another nation – could put a weapon platform similar to this in space.

Maelstrom’s Eye

Part 6

And I will plead against him with pestilence and with blood; and I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many people that are with him, an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, and fire, and brimstone. ~ Ezekiel 38:22

The Brimstone Weapon System was designed by Starfire specifically for installation on Maelstrom. The unique Brimstone missile, barely larger than a bottle of soda, is designed to withstand the rigors of atmospheric reentry. Once in the upper atmosphere, the Brimstone guidance system insures target accuracy of less than one meter from the designation point. The Brimstone launcher holds thousands of these missiles, and any number may be launched simultaneously at individual targets anywhere within a thousand kilometer plus radius. ~ Isabel Hawkins, CEO, Starfire Integrated Technologies Corporation


It was the basics all over again, and he remembered far more about cooking than he decided to admit. Celia maintained a running monologue on everything she was showing him, but his mind drifted elsewhere.

Freida – Freddie, as you preferred to be called – you were easily the most tomboyish girl in school. Rubenesque in figure, many of our classmates dubbed you “Fat Freddy,” though they rarely said it to your face more than once. Your six older brothers were all coveted by the football team for their muscular bulk, and if your rough-and-tumble interaction with them didn’t equip you to adequately stand up for yourself, all it took was for one of them to catch wind that someone – anyone – had hurt their baby sister. Your mother made sure they weren’t bullies, but that didn’t mean they let anyone mess with you.

There were a lot of pretty girls in school, but there were none more fun to hang around with than you, Freddie. By our junior year in High School, we were a couple, and I thought we’d spend the rest of our lives together - provided, of course, I managed to survive the annual family football game. As your boyfriend, I somehow always ended up carrying the ball, meaning that every large relative on the other team was racing to tackle me.

You loved cooking, almost as much as you loved me, and I spent many hours with you in the kitchen, both at your home, and at your parents’ restaurant. I still remember how thrilled you were to be accepted to the culinary institute after we graduated. While I was learning construction skills, you were learning gourmet cooking. It always seemed so funny when we’d chat on the network at night, and compare what we’d learned that day.

You’d be arguing with Celia over techniques right now, wouldn’t you, Freddie? You were always rather particular about how certain things should be done. ‘Rock the knife, don’t jackhammer it,’ you’d tell me. ‘Good pepper doesn’t come pre-ground,’ and, ‘People these days don’t know what food really tastes like.’

You also taught me to never trust a skinny chef. Why do I suspect you’d think Celia is too thin to be a good cook?

I said I’d come find you when my job in space was done, but I didn’t – you came and found me in the hospital. You told me to come see you when I got released, but I never did. Your eyes told me what your lips wouldn’t, Freddie. I wasn’t going to be able to skip down the aisle after our wedding. I wasn’t going to be able to play in the annual football game with your family any more. There weren’t going to be long hikes in the woods, or chasing playfully between the trees. You needed a guy who could keep up with you, but you loved me too much to tell me so.

I saw on the network last year that you found him. I wondered what it might have been like to have been the one to stand next to you in front of the minister, and say the words I always imagined saying to you. Would we have made it that far, Freddie, with how much I’ve changed? How long could you have tolerated my new limitations, before your kindness finally ran out? Would you have ended up sad, or completely resentful, that your children had a daddy who couldn’t play football with them, like your father played with his children?

I know he’ll treat you well, Freddie. Your brothers will make sure of that. I hope he loves you even more than I did, because one of us, at least, deserves to be happy.

Celia gave him a gentle poke with the handle of a spoon. “Are you paying attention?” she asked.


“You looked like you were drifting out on me, Mr. Anders. Do you find me boring?”

“Oh, no, that’s not it at all. I was just thinking about someone I used to know.”

“Well, just be sure you keep your mind here when you have a sharp knife in your hand. You wouldn’t want to add electric fingers to go with your legs now, would you?”

“No – you’re right. I sure wouldn’t want that.” Freddie told me things like that more than once, too.

Signing up for the program to build Maelstrom was the dumbest decision I ever made, Freddie, because – in the end – it was the decision that forced me to leave you behind. I thought at the time I’d make enough that we could get married and live happily, but I never dreamed then what it would end up costing me.

Maybe it would have been better if the accident had killed me. Then, you would still have been able to meet your husband, and I wouldn’t have been left to lie awake at night, wondering ‘what if?’

to be continued...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Friday Fiction for May 14, 2010

Friday Fiction is hosted this week by Catrina Bradley on her blog, A Work in Progress. Visit Catrina’s blog to read all the submissions this week, and to add a link to your own.

Maelstrom’s Eye continues this week, with some work in the front yard.

Maelstrom’s Eye

Part 5

For when they shall say, “Peace and safety;” then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:3

One of the strengths of Maelstrom is that it embodies the ultimate in stealth attack. It does not reflect the sunlight, making it impossible to see even a glimmer of it crossing the sky at dusk. Its radar cross section is smaller than that of a pigeon, and it is capable of modifying its orbit at any time. Even if an enemy would know when it last passed overhead, they have no guarantee it will continue on the same vector for the next pass. Unlike a conventional airstrike, then, the target will have no way of knowing that Maelstrom is approaching. If, by chance, they do manage to detect the approach of the weapon Maelstrom has launched against them, it will be with so little time that they will not be able to react and save themselves. In most cases, they will never know what hit them. ~ Western Coalition General Executive Mark des Loupes


Carl tended to the trees in the front yard, making a point of not looking in the direction of the Santos home. Guillermo was sitting on his front porch, and he didn’t want to meet the condemning gaze of the older man again.

The two orange trees and the lemon tree were doing well, and he used the hoe to remove the persistent weeds from the wells at their bases. It was about time for a fresh layer of mulch, and he would have to see how much he had left in the garden shed. If necessary, a call to his favorite nursery would schedule a delivery of several bags on Monday.

Other neighbors worked around their yards, or tackled projects in their garages, while children ran about playing. It reminded him of the Saturdays of his youth, back when he could still run. He hacked at a particularly stubborn weed to distract his mind from the fact that Saturdays were pointless now. One day was little different than another, living on the annuity settlement from the accident. His days were defined by the tasks that needed to be done, and not by an employment or school schedule.

He moved to the avocado trees. They were still young and small, and it would be a few years before he could expect much fruit from them. He examined a branch, pleased at the new growth in recent weeks.

“You should plant roses,” Celia said, walking up behind him.

He gave her a glance over one shoulder and shrugged. From the corner of his eye, he spotted Guillermo watching. “Roses are pretty, but you can’t make guacamole from them.”

“True, but Mama always said flowers help make a house a home.” She touched his arm gently. “I brought you a rosebush to plant.”

Carl turned around, and she held the potted plant out to him. The leaves were vibrant green, and the flowers a delicate pink.

“I think it would look good at the corner of your porch,” she said, and then tilted it so that one of the buds was close to his face. “Sniff – I picked this one because the flowers have a nice fragrance. So many of the hybrid roses have big, colorful flowers, but no smell. What good are roses if they don’t smell like roses?”

He put his nose over the bloom and inhaled deeply. The scent made him think of his grandmother, and he smiled.

“Do you like it?” she asked.

He nodded. “It’s nice, but you really didn’t need to bring me anything.”

“If I needed to, it wouldn’t be much of a gift, would it?” She walked over and placed it on the ground by the porch, and then stepped back with her hands on her hips. “Here, I think – close enough to the walkway to be appreciated, but not so close that you have to keep it constantly pruned back so that your visitors don’t get caught on the thorns.”

“What visitors?” he said, catching up with her. “You’re the only person who ever comes over here.”

“Maybe you’ll decide sometime you want to throw a dinner party.” She poked him playfully in the chest with one finger. “After I’ve taught you how to cook sauces with your tomatoes.”

“I’m still not sure I want to learn to cook or can.”

“I was hired to help you, and the best way I can help you is to teach you how to do things on your own. Maybe you think those frozen meals are okay, but you can’t live the rest of your life eating that stuff. You need to learn to cook some real food.”

“I thought I was the boss here. Are you usually this demanding in all your jobs?”

“When it is important, yes.” She gave him a raised eyebrow look. “Now, would you like to plant your rosebush while I take care of cleaning the bathroom and making your bed? The instructions are on the tag, and when you’re done, you can meet me in the kitchen for your first cooking lesson.”

“It’s going to be pointless to argue with you, isn’t it? Your father warned me you were much like your mother in that regard.”

She just waved her fingers at him in response as she walked into his house.

He looked across the street at Guillermo, whose expression conveyed that he was both confused and not happy with what he had seen. For all your carping about Maelstrom, old man, you’re doing a pretty good imitation of a watchful eye ready to strike.

The shovel was in the garden shed, and he headed towards the gate for the backyard. Like you have anything to worry about anyway. Celia knows I’m not going to try anything, and if she was going to make the first move on someone, it sure wouldn’t be on a broken cripple.

to be continued...

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Friday Fiction for May 7, 2010

Friday Fiction is hosted this week by Karlene, on her blog, Homespun Expressions. We’ve had some really good stories lately, so be sure to visit Karlene’s blog, read her story, and then use the Linky tool to read more terrific fiction. You’re welcome to submit your own story link, too.

I realized this week that I should probably explain that this story is NOT intended to be any kind of political commentary on the current Administration, nor am I speculating on what might happen if our Government follows a given path. Instead, this story is more just a look at a few days in the lives of some people living beneath a “guardian” that isn’t exactly welcomed.

To start the story from the beginning, just click on Part 1.

Maelstrom’s Eye

Part 4

And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood; and the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed. ~ Revelation 8:8-9

Maelstrom’s full capabilities are classified, but suffice it to say, the rock dropped on the Separatists was only large enough to accomplish the mission. Should the need arise, it is within Maelstrom’s design capacity to boost something much, much larger at any given target. The Keseechewun Crater is small compared to the damage we could inflict on a foreign enemy, which simply makes it a foolish move to attack us. ~ Colonel Ichabod Lastin, Alpha Rotation Commander, Maelstrom Crew.


The dinner conversation remained muted – mostly small talk that never quite led into deeper interaction. Celia took a sip of her tea, stealing glances at the two men. Papa’s expression was guarded and suspicious, while Carl was subdued and downcast. Her father wasn’t ready to restore any level of trust to their neighbor, and from his expression, Carl seemed to feel unworthy of it anyway.

Catalina, on the other hand, wore a slight smile of amusement, as though the tension between the men was somehow entertaining.

Give him a chance, Papa. I don’t think he has any more love for Maelstrom than you do. What was it Pastor John said a few weeks ago? ‘Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?’

She took a tomato from the bowl and sliced it into quarters. The flesh was firm with a wonderful color, and the aroma seemed stronger than the flavor from the store-bought tomatoes they’d had recently. The first bite was almost as though she’d never tasted a tomato before, and she finished the quarter in three bites. She extended her hand with another quarter towards Papa. “You have to try this, Papa. I don’t think I’ve ever had a better tomato.”

“Maybe later,” he said.

“Then just smell it, Papa.”

He reluctantly leaned forward and gave a quick sniff. His expression immediately changed, with the evident struggle between his pride and his appetite.

Celia smiled as the appetite won. Tomatoes have always been your weakness, Papa.

He took the tomato wedge and popped the entire thing into his mouth. He chewed it slowly with a look of intense satisfaction on his face. Before he’d even swallowed and asked, she was handing him a whole tomato from the bowl. He didn’t bother to slice it, instead biting into it like most people would an apple. “I don’t remember the last time I had a tomato this good,” he commented between bites, as a trickle of juice made its way down his chin.

“I’m glad you like it,” Carl said, without lifting his face. “I could send you more with Celia. It’s a good crop this year, and there’s no way I’ll ever eat them all myself.”

“Have you ever canned them?” Celia asked.

He shook his head. “My grandmother knows how, but I don’t.”

“I could teach you to can produce,” she offered. Papa shot her a look, and she tried to discern whether he was trying to discourage her from possibly diminishing a ready supply of fresh tomatoes, or that he didn’t like the idea of her spending any extra time with the man. “With your own canned tomatoes, you could use them for sauces and stews year ‘round. Home-made sauces are always so much better than store-bought.”

He took a drink of his water, and shrugged. “I’ll think about it.”

The walls are back up, almost like they were when I first came to work for you. You were finally starting to open up to me; are you going to shut me out again?

Carl returned his attention to the remainder of the food on his plate, and finished his dinner without any further comment.

When they withdrew to the living room after dinner, things didn’t improve much. Everyone sat around in an awkward silence, and even Jimmy’s fascination with the prosthetic legs didn’t lighten the mood any. It was almost a relief when Carl stood to leave.

“I really should get home,” he said. “Thank you for dinner; the food was wonderful.”

Papa stood and walked him to the door. “Thank you for the tomatoes; they are the best I’ve had in years – maybe ever.” His tone was still reserved.

“We should have you over more often,” Celia said, and on impulse, embraced him the way her church hugged each other.

His right hand gave a tentative return of the embrace, with only the lightest touch on her upper back. “I’ll see you tomorrow?” he asked.

“Of course,” she said. “Why wouldn’t you see me tomorrow?”

He gave a weak smile, as if the answer should be obvious. “Good night. Thank you again for having me over.” He stepped out into the night.

“Good night,” Papa said, and closed the door. He took a deep breath, and released it slowly. “Thank heavens that’s over.”

Celia’s hands went to her hips. “Heaven had nothing to do with that, Papa. I cannot believe the way you treated Mr. Anders tonight. What would Mama have said?”

He gave her a shocked look. “You heard what he said. He helped build that thing.”

“You heard his words, Papa, but did you hear his pain? He did not need your condemnation – he has enough of his own.”

“He should feel pain. How many innocent lives has that thing taken?”

“Was everything your company built always used for good, Papa?”

He crossed his arms over his chest. “My company did not specialize in death machines.”

“No, but you know as well as I do, that some of what you made was used on Maelstrom, too. Shouldn’t you feel pain, too?”

“Our products were designed for other purposes. That they were appropriated for an evil application doesn’t negate their positive applications.” He pulled one arm out and pointed at her. “Besides which, I had a wife and daughters to provide for.”

“You don’t know what he had to provide for, do you? If he’d had a wife and children to provide for, would you have been more accepting of what he had to do?”

He gave her only a stern look in reply.

She lowered her head and closed her eyes, feeling the surge of emotion welling up in her. Abba, I prayed once that You would let me see people as You see them. Is this hurt what You feel when You look at Mr. Anders? “Papa, how will he ever know that God will accept him, if we cannot?”

To be continued…