Wednesday, June 20, 2018

WEP: Unraveled Yarn

A "yarn" (in writer speak) is a long and rambling, often implausible, story. Hard to do as a short story, let alone a 1000 word flash. So the hosts at Write..Edit..Publish have tweaked the prompt to THE UNRAVELED YARN for the June challenge.

I'm going to try to write a long story in a flash. Can you unravel the truth of this Yarn?

word count: 999

The rumble of a John Deere rivals the thunder as it parallel parks out front of my store. Had to be Mike Shirley; the only idiot farmer with a tractor large enough to brave the flood waters and come in from the fields during a winter rainstorm. Three reasons for his being here, and only two would set easy with me. His wife needs milk and meat because there's no way out to shopping on the county roads; he just wants a beer and bullshit. Or another city slicker idiot ignored the warning signs and drove his Mini Cooper up 7 mile road.

Well, I hoped it was AFTER a rescue. It’s been several hours since I last heard chatter on the scanner from my county volunteer fire fighters. The code-speak told a tale of a car with three passengers floating in a fifteen foot dip. Mike's John Deere has the towing capacity of a tank, and Mike is a certified scuba diver. I know, you're wondering what use a County volunteer fire department in the middle of rice farm country has for a scuba diver with a John Deere tractor.

Mike and his family moved here about ten years ago. Why a Navy Seal with no family ties to the community would ever want to settle in this land-locked county of farmers nobody ever bothered to ask. We’re not rude here in the sticks, and his wife hired on to Social Services before they moved here. Mike and his wife bought fifty acres, planted wheat, rice and barley, hired on local immigrants; fit right in with the community. The two boys made friends quick and easy, joined the FFA; they raise high quality pigs that bring in top dollars, and donate the entire profit to the school.

Mike didn't join the fire department right away, but he seemed to be around every time a crisis was happening, and just tagged along. Always knew what equipment would be needed, what trucks to take. Whether or not to have an Ambulance or helicopter on standby. Just too much weird; but in a good way. Didn’t take long for him to make Chief.

The Mennonites think he is a demon who causes calamities so he can be a hero and won’t let him on their properties. They pray for the souls of those he rescues; the living and the dead. The Baptists think he’s an Angel with a direct line to God. The lives lost are not his fault; people don’t always listen when God talks through his emissaries.

“Hey Mike,” I say as he practically falls through the door. The wind has been picking up over the last hour.

“Yo Del. Got any coffee?” He slams the door, shakes water off his slicker and tugs at the zipper.

If he's taking off his raincoat and galoshes there isn't an emergency.

“A pot.”

“Good.” He kicks his galoshes to the side and walks in his socks to the coat tree beside the deli counter.

I keep a few camp chairs in front of the fifteen cup coffee pot. There’s a rug on the concrete floor, an old pot belly stove, a basket of near expired muffins and cookies, and paper coffee cups. And the scanner. Nobody ever sits there in the spring and summers – locals have too much work to do and the travelers mostly seem to know the area isn’t for strangers. Late fall and winter though, its usually filled with old farmers and well known duck hunters with gossip on their minds. I don’t charge them for the coffee and treats. Can’t put a price on good company.

“How’s that family you rescued?”

“A close thing, but all are safe. Even the one I had to dive for,” he says, pouring the last dregs of the pot into a cup.  He immediately dumps the filter, pulls out a fresh one, adds coffee, then turns with the empty pot and starts around the deli case where a mini kitchen and toilet is hidden. “Ah, mind if I make more?”

This makes me a bit worried. He could want to hang out – its Wednesday and he’s known for hauling his wife to their parked car at the edge of the flood zone. Or he needs a pot for the road. I shrug and return to my cigarette count.

“We’ve no coffee at the Fire House,” he announces, interrupting my count. The Fire House is next door to my store. “And, all the thermos’ are missing. Again.”

Damn. I put down my pencil and paper. “The crew turned in a few last week. And I got a stash upstairs in my apartment. Should I, make another pot upstairs?”

“Nah,” he says, pouring the water into the compartment. He pushes the button, then retrieves his cup and sits down. “But if you could bring me those thermos’ I’d be grateful. Damn, but its cold in the House.”

“Uh huh,” I say, and head to the kitchen and the stairs to my apartment.

I dally a while, praying that Mike is just bored and wants to get the House stocked for the next call. Or maybe the crew is having a meeting tonight. This last call was tough on everyone; a babe trapped in the car seat, Mike going down before the gear was fully attached, parents screaming in their cell phones on top the sinking car as it floated downriver.

When I go down the stairs I hear Mike on his cell phone.

“Yeah Babe, I got this. Won’t hit the call center, I promise. Already got the coffee going. I’ll stop them with my badge and tractor, and nobody turns down free coffee on a day like this. Bet Del will let me take all the stale muffins too. That casino bus will turn around.”

I send better than stale muffins when Mike leaves half an hour later with the Deere, three thermoses of coffee, and the last of my paper cups.

There's my submission for the Unraveled Yarn. Of course if you prefer the more recognizable yarn story involving a ball of woolen string, perhaps you should visit the WEP linky and read what other participants have written. I'm sure there is something cozy or kittenish submitted.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sounds like a guy who knows what he's doing and likes to take charge. Although there could be something more going on...
Like the atmosphere. You nailed the country setting.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Donna - this was a fun story ... and now I keep seeing tractors - made all the more sense ... I hope you're going to elaborate this ... as Alex says could definitely be some more here ... take care - cheers Hilary

cleemckenzie said...

Wow! Did I enjoy reading this. Really. The characterization was spot on, and I knew these people after only 999 words. Great job.

Yolanda Renée said...

When you see Mike it means all hell is going to break loose. Great setting. You nailed it!

I am on the mend and writing is still the goal!

Pat Garcia said...

An ex-navy seal as a farmer. A delightful story that I enjoyed.

Shalom aleichem,
Pat G

Elephant's Child said...

Smiling broadly. And wondering why it is that I think that the Mennonites have a point.

Olga Godim said...

Interesting and a bit mysterious. What is going on with the casino bus?
Your Mike is such a character.

Pat Hatt said...

Hmmm could surely be something deeper there. Sure got the small town down indeed. I dreaded when I saw some people coming to my old work place, as they'd just sit and yap about the same nonsense day in, day out.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Really interesting story. I liked the characters a lot. Thanks for sharing!

Denise Covey said...

You're right Donna. This could be expanded into a much longer story. But even in 999, you created a snappy, atmospheric tale which I'm sure will continue to unravel. Love the characterisation. Spot on. We all know a Mike and Del and stale muffins. But stale coffee in a pot is a shot I'd rather do without LOL.

Thanks for your great entry for WEP. Awesome!


Nilanjana Bose said...

Your stories are always enjoyable, a great pleasure to read. I loved the descriptions. And the formidable characterisation. Not just Mike and Del but also of the two boys in just two sentences. Whatever is going on with the casino bus I hope Mike can put it right...

Very atmospheric, somewhat mysterious and wholly delicious, including the stale muffins. A superb take on the prompt.

dolorah said...

Alex: thanks

Hilary: right! You live in farm country now, lol.

Clem: thanks, wasn't easy.

Yolanda: Be well.

Pat G: takes all kinds, I guess :)

EC: lol, I'm a Baptist at heart!

Olga: I like him too.

Pat H: bored farmers can be the worst gossips!!

Natalie: thank you

Dx: I don't like coffee, but can relate when it comes to flat Diet Pepsi.

Nila; thank you. Stale muffins are not as disgusting as stale donuts, lol.

desk49 said...

A good story
for life on the land
where things really happen
to family and friends

Elizabeth Seckman said...

What a great character. He'd make for a hero in a novel any day!

Tyrean Martinson said...

I love this entry! It's perfect! The characterization of both Del and Mike is superbly shown through their actions and words. Excellent writing! I'm not participating this month, but you've got my vote!

Adura Ojo said...

Interesting backdrop of the country, Donna. There's something not quite right with Mike. Can't wait to find out what it is. Or maybe Del is the weird one, really. The mind boggles.

I'd eat stale muffins if I'm hungry enough.

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

John Deere? Good use of iconic tractor name. Mike Shirley is also a solid country name (I've liked the name "Shirley" since Airplane). I also like your use of metaphor. "Rumble" rivals the "thunder." That's good.

You also nail the setting well. For some reason, it's not a stretch for me to instantly believe that the narrator has got a police scanner. That's just a given in small towns.

Fifty acres seems kind of small to take on employees. My dad and I had a farm that was fifty acres and managed it just fine with us two for eighteen years. Fifty acres typically doesn't generate much money either. We're talking $10,000 for an entire growing season.

I like this story overall.

J.H. Moncrieff said...

Awesome story, Donna. Short fiction is always fun. This is a great reminder I need to write more of it.

Thanks for sharing it with us!

D.G. Hudson said...

Very realistic country setting. I'm not much of a country girl and I am not fond of small towns. Something seems a bit strange about how you said it was never Mike's fault when the recovery failed, and the fact that he seemed oblivious to dangerous situations. Was he suffering from PTSD? Perhaps he was trying to do something to counter the guilt he may have from doing the SEAL job. Killing is a large part of it when a rescue is done in a military zone. An interesting entry. I like long short stories, too. Well done.

Jaya said...

Nice story. The setting was so vivid.

Unknown said...

An interesting tale, with a well, thought out setting. Well done.

dolorah said...

Desk49: A farmer's life is full of unexpected intrigue.

Elizabeth: yes! But is he the true Hero of this snippet?

Ty: thanks. Missing you this month :)

Adura: yep, these are odd people, lol.

Mike: oh, umm, yeah. 50 acres just flowed nicely off the fingertips, lol. But at least 3000 is required for this level of income to support that awesome tractor. Thanks. I'll fix it after the winners are announced and call it a typo, lol.

JH: I always fight these challenges, but really love the end creation usually.

DG: ya know, I always remind my children of exactly the decisions they will have to make in any special ops or assassin employment. They just see the glory of the Games. Watching programs like 0 dark thirty put that in perspective for them. Supernatural powers aside, I think all military is a Hero.

jaya: thanks

Chris: thank you

Deborah Drucker said...

Interesting scene with the store and the volunteer fire department.

Cathy Kennedy said...


I have the attention span of a toddler and you held mine with your near 1000-word count flash piece. Well done! You did an excellent job creating a scene that became visible in my mind, leaving me with a sense of warmth of community. :)

Crystal Collier said...

Such a different world than the one I live in right now. Fun getting into a different mind set.