The Work Area

This is where our experiment begins. Please leave your entries as comments. Here we go!

Published on May 22, 2010 at 12:31 am  Comments (13)  

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  1. Chapter One- Leadville
    The gravy was actually quite good. Not too thick, nicely peppered but not overbearing. It would have been great on a chicken-fried steak, and was likely meant for that purpose. The problem was that he had ordered an open-face turkey sandwich, and it wasn’t working at all. The potato salad was a mildly frightening yellow color that should have been served with a hazmat sticker.
    At his age, he figured that if you only had one artery left to plug up before you met your maker, then it should be while choking on the proper collard greens served as a side with the proper chicken-fried steak, with the proper damned gravy on it. His last thought should be to regret that he wouldn’t make it to the sweet potato pie.
    But not here in Leadville, Colorado. On its list of shortcomings, one would have to include; polite waitresses, water in general and specifically at restaurant tables, sweet potato pie, anything resembling chicken-fried steak,and potatoes that glow in the dark. So why in the world did they have a decent black pepper gravy? Where was it really meant to be? Certainly not where it sat right now, although the pepper flakes seemed to absorb some of the unearthly glow from the potato salad in an attractive Christmas-lights sort of way.
    His wife sat across the table, smugly enjoying a half-rack of ribs served with potato salad of an entirely acceptable hue. And how could that happen? Was it because the waitress had asked them to move to a smaller table even though the sign read “seat yourself”? And that they had asked for water?
    They had been driving all morning, en route back to Denver from Albuquerque, having decided to take a more northerly route, just to have a last look at the high mountain passes before the snow set in.
    You had to be a little careful this time of year. At these elevations, you could start out with temperatures in the 70s’ and blinding sunshine, only to find yourself in a white-out. And they did not want to end up on the western side of the Eisenhower tunnel if the snow got serious.
    So they had made good time throughout the morning, and thought that a long lunch break could still be worked in to the day’s schedule. Once you got to I-70, Denver was only about an hour. Plenty of time, even at a leisurely pace; they’d be home easily by five pm.
    And it turned out that it was while in Leadville that the world changed. Their minds would later mark the time and place, and would label that moment as if it had been chiseled into the face of the nearest mountain.
    And it did not have the immediate impact that one might expect. People always seemed to be aware of portentious signs only in retrospect; like a field mouse who has seen the shadow of a cooper’s hawk and lived to tell about it.
    As they sat and joked about sending his potato salad away for lab testing, the room suddenly shook violently.The entire building shook, and a massive low-frequency groan seemed to radiate from everywhere at the same time. Several glasses in overhead bar racks slid out and crashed to the floor, and an open wine bottle on the bar fell and dispensed its contents as it rolled to the far corner of the room.
    But all that is not what his mind chose to remember. It was the moments just afterward; that fifteen or twenty endless seconds in which there was absolute silence, and no movement at all. As if no one present dared to go any further, to be the first one to act in a somehow altered reality.
    The first sound after that eternity came from the bartender, who dialed 911 (650 wds, Roger)

  2. and then dialed 911 again. Joseph thought maybe the lines got crossed. But the phone line was dead. He slowly returned the phone to it’s cradle and looked up. “Anyone hurt?” he asked. A quick perusal of the room showed around 20 or so customers, a typical number for a (50 words, DS1)

  3. small diner at this hour. No one answered. Earthquake? A-test? A small murmur spread through the restaraunt as people began to look at each other and check to be sure that each was not the only one who heard and felt something weird. People began to speculate out loud.
    He pushed the turkey sandwich aside and said to his wife, “Ya ready to go?” The rumble and shake left him feeling a bit…pissed off. He couldn’t say why. She said, “Scott, lets get out of here. Maybe the radio will tell us what happened.” He said “Fuck the radio.” (100 words) Glenn

  4. normalcy teetered on the edge, like a drunk determined to prove that he was not, damnit, undertheinfluence, looking like it would fall, recovering for a moment of stability, then heading for the edge…

    suddenly the wide-screen Hi-Def (under the sign that offered “free wings for the playoffs” ) sprang into 109db life and all hope of passing this ‘event’ off as an odd roadtrip moment, to be remembered once for friends and then forgotten, died like Elvis locked in Pfizer Pharmaceuticals for a holiday weekend.

    “Turn that fuckin’ thing off!” was Joseph’s contribution to re-establishing order to a diner full of very frightened diners. “I said turn that fuckin’ TV off”, Joseph shouted again, taking refuge in repetition with volume as added talisman. Someone found the remote control and the “is he still alive” musician was silent, as were the Patrons at Arthur’s Eats (“food and fine spirits”). Although it was only 12:15 the light seemed to dim as the silence in the restaurant began to grow, daring anyone to make a sound.
    This silence was brought into a focus by the sound of quiet laughter coming from a booth in the farthest corner of the dinner room. “I thought

  5. the Governor said that he might do some excavating up here to shake out the last of the silver. Blew up Central City, too. Tourists thought it was all for them.”
    ” Shut your damn face, John. This isn’t funny. Will you go have a look outside, I’ve got to check for damage. Mill, where are you?”
    Just as he moved towards the kitchen door, it burst open. ” Joseph, there’s a gas leak. We don’t know where the shutoff valve is.”
    “All right, Mill. I do. But now we’ve got to clear this place. You get ’em moving outside, I’ll be right there.” He pulled the firebox handle as he went back towards the grill, and yelled at the cook to get out. He could already hear a siren in the distance. That couldn’t be good. If they were moving already, they had to be going somewhere else.
    Millicent began asking people to leave. The noise from the alarm was not helping at all. They were already scared, and now the alarm made it all seem suddenly more official. She could see that some didn’t want to go outside, and she realized that the high-pitched panicky voice that was insisting that they go was hers.
    The couple that that she had asked to move when they sat at the double table was the first to get up.
    The man actually crunched up the check and threw it at her as he stormed by. His wife just looked down as she followed him.
    The check bounced off her chest and fell at her feet. She just stared at it blankly. She could picture herself shouting at him, but it seemed to be taking place at the end of a long tunnel. The room was spinning, and the tunnel was telescoping, and suddenly ( Roger, 300wds)

  6. she found herself standing outside next to their recently purchased late model Lincoln Navigator parked on the far side of the restaurant’s parking lot. She stood there in disbelief, feeling her grip on reality slowly slipping as if she were playing a loosing game of tug-of-war. Inside the diner, her husband Scott was suddenly staring at an empty space his wife’s body occupied only seconds before.
    “What the…hey! did any of you just see what happened?” he screamed at his fellow diners. He was hoping no one noticed the sudden vibrato in his voice but that

  7. was not what people were paying attention to. The fear and growing panic were palpable. Scott shot the waitress a parting sneer and went outside. “Turn the fucking radio on.”, he ordered his wife. They both got in the car and he started the engine. She turned on the radio–and got nothing. She starting scanning the frequencies. Nothing. Static. They looked at each other. She said, “Scott…what’s happening? Why are there no radio stations?” In a futile gesture he scanned the frequencies himself. As if to say, “You did it wrong. Let ME do it.” Still, no signal. (100 words)

  8. …the quiet laughter from the farthest corner booth still hung in the air, kept afloat by the absence of diners. Other than the two occupants sitting in booth 11, the room was deserted.
    Chelsea, pulled away from her companion enough to turn her head towards the door, which was finishing it’s slow pneumatic closing even as the last restaurant patron took refuge in the frightened crowd forming in the parking lot. “God”, Chelsea whispered, “I thought that I was dreaming, I felt the vibration as I always do. I had to think out in my mind a description of what I was looking at, in order for my eyes to focus. You didn’t slip me anything during dinner, did you Jimmy”?
    Jimmy, leaving his hat balancing on the bridge of his nose, slumped back in the rolled and tucked genuine Naugahyde booth, just smiled. He had a way of smiling and glancing out of the corners of his eyes that Chelsea both loved and hated. It was if he was not prepared to commit to actually being involved in the conversation, even as he sat next to her, separated by only clothing and a decaying sense of propriety.
    “If I had any sense,” Chelsea laughed, “I would have left you in that motel room after we first met. You weren’t in any condition to stop me then and even though you could leave right now, we both know that it is way, way too late for both of us.”
    As if to give support to the statement, Chelsea could feel as much as see, Jimmy begin to respond to this, his response a now familiar prelude to both she and Jimmy abandoning what little in common still remained.
    As if to demonstrate a strength and independence that both knew was a lie, Jimmy separated himself from Chelsea and moved towards the door. Scooping up the cash that Jimmy left for a tip, Chelsea moved quickly to stand behind him. They both could see and almost hear the conversations that formed pockets among the people in the lot, all sound forming an impromptu chorus of fear, punctuated by a raised voice coming from a pickup parked nearest the door.
    …”let me do it” was the strident refrain that forced Chelsea’s attention away from the crowd to the short, wiry man who seemed to slap his wife with the force of his words. Drawn to the fear coming out of the front seat, it was the woman that fascinated Chelsea…a scene from her past came to her so strongly that she stumbled. Like a flashback from her hallucinogenic phase, the memory was palpable. If she were aware that she was standing in a parking lot in broad daylight, Chelsea would have looked for hands on her body to account for the physical reaction that the shout triggered. Giving herself up to the memory storming out of her sub-conscious, Chelsea began the mantra, long her only anchor in the storm of emotion that accompanied these attacks, “this is a memory that I was given…this is not me, I did not choose this…”; within the small quiet part of her mind she watched with a familiar fascination as her mind and her body fought for control of what she knew to be a changing

  9. internal landscape; internal, at least until now.
    The scene outside the door was one of total disorder. She had never seen Harrison St. with this much activity. There were people standing in small groups all up and down the street, and the fire truck and EMT van were both up at the light at W6th. Two cars had T-boned, and they were working on someone out on the ground. There were sirens and alarms coming from all directions.
    It was precisely then that she realized that the incident was not confined to the restaurant. This had happened all over town, and she was glad, in a way, that it was real. It wasn’t just another episode, and that was good, right?
    And then…Jimmy drove by, the car headed out towards Rt.24.
    She hadn’t even noticed him sliding away in the confusion. She caught his eye as he went past. That cruel, slightly upturned grin…she knew it well. She was actually being abandoned. The vertigo she suddenly felt took her knees out, and she grabbed onto a parking meter.
    ” Thanks, you slimy motherfucker…’ she thought.’ At least I got the tip money.” And now, what to do?
    Ft. Collins was a ( 200 wds, Roger )

  10. long, long way yet and she didn’t think the tip money she nicked was going to cover cab fare that far. “Maybe”, she thought, “I could get a ride with the couple she overheard talking earlier. They were headed for Denver. It would only be about 62 miles from there to Fort Collins. She was feeling better now as she walked over to the Lincoln Navigator. Luckily it had not left yet.
    There were still a lot of people mulling about, walking no where really, as if some force had spun them around like a top and released them to (100 words, DS1)

  11. the winds. She approached the couple. The man was swearing at the radio–but generally just spewing at anyone and anything. She knew his name was Scott because she had overheard them in the diner.
    “Scott?…is it?”
    He looked up.
    “Yeah. What the fuck do you want?”
    “Well, I overheard you in there saying you were heading to Denver. I was wondering if I could catch a ride with you..”
    “You hear that, Wanda? This girl wants to ride with us.” He addressed that to the woman in the car who was still futilely trying to find a radio station.
    “She looks Ok to me, Scott. Why not?”
    Scott thought she “looked OK” too–but in a different way. She got in the back seat and Scott hit the accelerator and away they drove.
    “My name is Chelsea”
    “Hey Chelsea, what the fuck happened back there?”
    “I’m not sure. I was hoping you knew. Find anything out from the radio?”
    “Yeah, we found out there is no fucking radio out here.”
    She knew that this close to denver, there were plenty of stations. Wanda showed her how there was nothing coming from the entire dial.
    “Whatever that (200 words)

  12. can’t be a good…
    “Wanda, is it? Pleased to meetcha”! Chelsea leaned forward in her seat towards the space between Wanda and her husband, the automobile passenger’s version of offering her hand meeting a new person.
    On hearing her name, Wanda seemed to come alive, straightening from the hunch, a bowing of the head and shoulders that Chelsea had seen too many times in certain women.
    “Yeah, glad to have the company”, said Wanda, turning in her seat to face the backseats, leaning forwards with her left hand on the console.

    “What happened to your wrist?…those are some pretty colorful bruises you have there” Chelsea’s voice was light and friendly, belying the intensity that came into her eyes. “The blues compliment your eyes, though I think you might want to put some makeup on the yellowing that seems to be coming through, those finger shaped ones”
    “Hey Scott! It is Scott right? Is this as fast as you normally drive”? Laughing, Chelsea put her right hand on Wanda’s with softness that was completely un-expected as she leaned through the space between the two front seats.
    “Boy! I remember when I was learning to drive, my father would drive like this.”
    “Chels”, he would say, “if you go drive too fast you will surely find yourself in a spot that you are not going to get yourself out of girl, plan ahead, always plan ahead when you drive”.
    “My dad he was something, always rough-housing with us kids, great guy, quick with a joke, the life of the party…everyone seemed to like him. But then…hey what I am doing, boring you two with family tragedy”

    Chelsea started laughing, a sound that filled the car, but somehow seemed to come from a point outside of the space she took up.

    “So, scooter” Chelsea turned to Wanda, from the side of her mouth said, “He has a sense of humor doesn’t he?” Wanda seemed to shrink back into her seat as Scotts face seemed to recoil from Chelsea’s tone.
    “You don’t mind I call you scooter do you? I had a friend when I was in school, his real name was Scott but we all called him scooter. He liked it”

    The radio, without a hint of static jumped into life, causing all three to jump in their seats.

  13. this section now closed

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