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(Author's Note: This is an entry in Rogan's Summer Challenge contest, and while I know it falls well below the 2,000 word limit, I've decided to post it anyway. I'll forfeit the chance to win, if need be.)

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"It's one of those days," says Flass, and the way he says it, I know he believes it. "Just you watch. Something's gonna give."


He's right, too. Something always does. Last year it was the apartment complex. Before that, I think it was the Quick Market. I can't remember anymore.


It's supposed to be 110 degrees today, maybe more. The TV was talking about thunderstorms, but they never come. They've been saying that for weeks now, and we never get any. Sometimes, though, you can go sit on the roof at night, and watch the little flashes of light on the horizon, over the cornfields. Flass says it's heat lightning, which means it's fake...but I like to imagine that there's a storm out there, and if I wait long enough, it'll come here. I like storms- the lightning best of all. I try to stay up until morning, just in case the storm comes right before then, but I usually can't. Flass likes to get up early during the summer, when it's still a little bit cool outside.


I think I'm hungry, but it's hard to tell through all the sweat and stuff. What I really want is a big bottle of cold root beer, and if I'm lucky, Flass will give me a dollar to get one from the Quick Market. Sometimes he does if I just keep asking, but once he got really angry and wouldn't let me have anything to drink until I lay down on the ground and started panting real hard. Then he got all scared and ran in and came back with a bottle of Sprite. I really liked that, so I never told him I was faking. He would've been mad.


We're walking through this corn field, only nobody's growing anything in it this year. The ground is hard, and all the corn stalks are still there, chopped up and stuff. It's kind of slow to walk through it, 'cause you'll put your foot down on one of the little stalks that are still in the ground, and it'll go -crunch!- which is kind of fun, but gets you all sweaty too fast. At the end of the corn field is a little parking lot. It's the parking lot for J.J.'s Liquor, and it never has more than two cars in it. I know Flass is going there to try and buy beer, but he's also going there 'cause the girl who works behind the counter has a big crush on him. She doesn't like me, though, and she's always yelling at me when she thinks I'll break something. There's a lot of glass bottles in the store. They'd probably be fun to break.


If Flass gets his beers, he'll take them over to the bridge to drink. He calls the bridge an overpass, but I like to call it a bridge. Then I can imagine all the cars zooming by below are actually water, and if I fell in it would just be clear and cold. I don't want to fall in, though, because it isn't water.


The bridge is really far away from home, but when Flass says we're going somewhere, he means it. I sometimes wonder if he'll come in one day and say "Wake up! Wake up! We're goin' to Jupiter today. It's gonna take awhile so you'd better pack your fuckin' bags, quick!" And then we'd go to Jupiter. I read in a book, though, that Jupiter is made of gas, so you can't really do much there. I don't know if Flass knows this, though.


The reason Flass likes the bridge so much is that he can watch all the cars and talk about where he's going to go when he gets away from here. The bridge is like a little bit of the rest of the world, and if he squints hard enough at the distance, it's like he can see all the way to where he wants to go. He says he won't take me with him, though, but that's okay. The liquor stores out there probably have mean girls too.


On days like this, it gets so hot that everything just sort of slows down. People don't walk as fast, because it gets them all sweaty and stuff. I sometimes wonder what would happen if it got REALLY hot. Would people move in slow motion? That would be fun to watch.


We walk out of the cornfield onto the little parking lot, and all of the sudden a breeze comes by and blows a silver candy bar wrapper past my shoe. I want to pick it up, but I don't. Germs. The really weird thing, though, is the wind. It's the first wind in days, and it feels so nice and cool on my face and neck. I want another one, but it doesn't come, and I follow Flass into the liquor store.


The pretty girl is there, so he goes up to the counter to talk to her, and I walk back to the back, and look at all the posters and stuff. There's one I always look at that's a picture of a woman smiling and holding a bottle up above her mouth. The stuff in the bottle is sloshing out, but she isn't opening her mouth to catch it. She's just smiling. I always wonder if she's going to get splashed by the stuff in the bottle, but I never find out. After a while, Flass comes back. He goes in the bathroom, then comes back out, and we leave. He doesn't have any beer.


"Fuckin' cooze," he says. "She's 'afraid of getting fired'." His voice gets all high and whiny when he says it. It doesn't sound much like the girl, but it sounds mean, and I kind of like that. "It's the heat, kid, it's getting to everyone today. Just you wait. Today's gonna be it, you'll see."


I nod. Today would be a good day for it. Every summer is like this. We get a bunch of hot days in a row, and no storms or clouds or anything. The heat starts to scramble some people's brains, like old man Pfister's brains are scrambled, but not that bad. Then someone goes crazy and robs a store or something. Last year it was the Quick Market, but it didn't really count because the nice old woman behind the counter had a gun, and she shot the robber in the leg. This year, Flass thinks its going to be the liquor store.


"Would serve that bitch right," he says. "Won't sell me beer... Christ!"


We reach the bridge. It looks like it does every day, and I wonder where all the people in the world are going that they have to drive up and down the road all the time like that. I don't know, and if Flass does, he won't tell me.


"Look at them," says Flass. "They've got somewhere to go. They can just drive wherever they like, instead of being stuck in this shitty little town with a snot-nosed kid...man...what I wouldn't give to get out of here..."


I'm not listening, though. I'm looking at the place where the road meets the sky. Not because I expect to see the places Flass wants to go. No, I'm looking out there because I think I can just see a little line of dark clouds on the horizon. Maybe.


Then, suddenly, a little gust of wind blows my hair back from my head, and I know that what I saw was real. Below me, the cars zoom by, on their way to Chicago, or Jupiter, or wherever, and I can still hear Flass talking about how much he hates this town...and suddenly I know I'll remember this moment for the rest of my life, and I get the weirdest feeling, like I was looking down a long tunnel at myself or something...


Then the feeling passes, and I decide to ask Flass for a dollar so I can go get a bottle of root beer, and as I walk across the road I imagine that I can hear the rumble of a summer thunderstorm, somewhere far away.






------
"Quit this world, quit the next world, quit quitting!" -Sufi proverb.


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Comments

The following comments are for "Summer Thunder"
by Beckett Grey

I likey...
I think the best aspect of this story is the central character. He's both genuine and easy to like. I think you acheived this by creating a unique voice for him and how he imagines his world (I espeically like the part of wondering about the woman in the poster). My gripe with this story is that there is no crisis, and therefore, no resolution involving this kid that I liked within a couple paragraphs. You hinted that something might happen because every summer people begin to lose their wits, and I think the story would really improve if you ran with that (involving the kid and his brother some way, maybe with the coming thunderstorm which could tie the story tight.)

The only other thing I would say to watch is economy of language (I've noticed this in your other writings too). Suggest, don't tell.

Great story, man, I enjoyed it.
-logikflaw

( Posted by: logikflaw [Member] On: June 5, 2002 )

clarification needed
This is really good work. But we need clarification about who the main character is. How old is he? Is he a he? What's his relationship to Flass?

Overall, though, you have some really compelling writing here. I like some of the ideas and passages. Just clarify.

( Posted by: Seanspacey [Member] On: June 5, 2002 )

Sweet
I read every word and was loving it. The main character was developed superbly, as was the town, with lots of great details.

Unfortunately, it just sorta ended with no real resolution. But I have an easy fix for you sir, simply write a part II. That way you'll get better use of the wonderful characters you worked so hard to create.

At least, that's what I hope you'll do because I'd really like to read more.

Richard

( Posted by: Richard Dani [Member] On: June 6, 2002 )

Sequel?
I have to say, i'm kinda hoping for a part ii as well, but i'm not really sure. I liked everything about this story. I liked how he Flass would dream of leaving. I like the narrator's view of the world- so naive and mature at the same time. Wonderful story. I'm not sure whether i want to see more of it or just leave it at this beautiful glimpse of life.

( Posted by: E.G. Evans [Member] On: July 27, 2002 )

*S*
I thouht this was a really great piece, Beckett.

The main character reminded me of Lennie, from Steinbeck's 'Of Mice and Men'. That sort of naive innocence, you know...and I think the fact that you ~don't~ tell us how old he is just adds to that quality.

Ok, granted to tose who pointed this out, not alot happens, but like the storm in the story, there is the possibility of things happening. I think it's a good thing that we aren't ~told~ what happens, it leaves us free to wonder...for example, I imagine that Flass is the one who robs the liquor store, he does this just as the storm hits. In my mind I can see him doing it, and 'snot-nosed kid' is looking at his poster, and then...tragedy.
So much more fun to imagine than to be told...there is no wandering of thought, if you are told that ~this~ is what happened. Hmmm?

Great Job, as always, Beckett.

--jasmine

( Posted by: Jasmine [Member] On: August 12, 2002 )

excellent
You got your narrator's voice perfectly, and it's easy to place him in his relationship to Flass. I particularly liked the ending, with its implication of a beginning.


libertus

( Posted by: johnlibertus [Member] On: May 5, 2004 )





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