Write about what you know and love, they say. This story is fiction but certainly contains an essence of its author. As a product of modern times and also very much a product of my own history and blood - what is known and unknown - I was born in Wichita, Kansas but never lived there. Yet powerful prairie thunderstorms fascinate me. Cast often as dangerous and destructive, could they also be so extremely good at what they do that when their thick and pulsating underbelly passes over us we forget the infernal clock for a blessed minute? What better season than Lughnasadh to enjoy the harvest of our work but also, in the cutting, to decide what the new work will look like next season. Enjoy and blessings of Lugh to you!
"If our calculations prove to be correct, this will be the most frightening discovery of all time." Dr. Emery Bronson, from the 1951 movie, When Worlds Collide (1951)
Brightened by a half moon and the streaming galaxies, the calm Ground Fire that had traveled the open prairie for days stopped and licked the wet sparkle. Attracted to Water's flowing calm and cool softness, Ground Fire drank long and deep. Enamoured by his passion and will, she unfolded around him and his hard edges eased. Lost in this dream through the whole night and into the next morning, each relished the new sensations found in the other, floating as they transformed into steam then cooling and hugging the land again. They forgot who they were. They forgot time.
Wind found them easily, but separating proved difficult and dangerous. There was a great struggle. Confused and conflicted, Ground Fire and Water were blown higher and higher above a growing shelf cloud. In the struggle, Ground Fire grew and raged. The sky boiled, and huge chunks of their souls started to vaporize. Wind howled abusively, corralling them securely with his gathering electrical tension. Water cried and fell back to earth in streaming tears. Fire screamed and reached for her but she was resolute and melted in his grasp. Doomed, Fire doubled-over when an icy current punched him, painfully cooled him, and carried him further and further away.
Pooling alongside tall grasses, Water watched the churning clouds race to the graying horizon. The love between Water and Ground Fire had once warmed and soothed the land. Now the sky prepared to crack - clouds swelled and other winds whirled nearby, out of control and tearing the earth to shreds.
The scantily dressed and tattooed witnesses nearby the confluence of the Arkansas and the Little Arkansas rivers, but long before those were their names, joined hands and hearts against the tempest and rattled gourds filled with beans, united as they were to dispel the late spring storm threatening their village. Their efforts, however, reached beyond the present, uncontrolled as these things often are but nonetheless required, and touched the future so that when She was born, she was immediately dispersed and removed.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
It's the autumn of her life and she'd always planned to be setting on her porch watching the sunset and drinking mi-tai's beside her soul mate. Of course, she planned to do other things too - good works, helping folks and helping the planet - but let's keep the priorities straight. Besides, there's a bit of trouble actually getting to the porch.
"You're competent and fun to work with, Dana. Your team would follow you anywhere. Just don't sabotage your future here by underselling the transport. We expect to see more express shipments from you and your team, less ground. Overnights are our gravy."
Boat. Leaky boat, she added to herself. But she tried to nod convincingly. John saw what he wanted to see - a chastened colleague, back on board. He opened the door of his office and concluded, "Especially in this lousy economy, it's a slam dunk. Everyone is squeezed for time and they all need their stuff yesterday."
She cast her eyes away until the flash of fire behind them passed. Then she sighed. This was the second coaching session from him in four months. One more and she knew she was out. Still, if she honestly had to crisis-manage many more pallet-loads of foam cheesehead hats air freighted from Singapore to Wisconsin she might have to have her own head examined.
Her dwindling workforce unduly complicated matters. Half the staff had been laid off but shipping volume grew ten percent in just the last quarter. Her brokers and shipyards experienced the same squeeze. Most all of it for stuff - sure, there was legitimate urgency to some requests, such as for medical and humanitarian needs. But, really, did seemingly everyone in landlocked Nebraska absolutely, positively have to have freshly harvested Maine lobster overnight? We couldn't all of us, at the same time on this very planet, be insane. Could we?
On the way to her cubicle, she passed colleagues whose looks implored an answer. She gave them the pseudo gang symbol - two fingers to the head, one to the chest. More layoffs were coming. Although the coaching sessions with her boss weren't about staffing, she didn't want them to have the least glimmer of corporate hope. Not that any of them did. Least of all her, the department's fearless leader.
Fearless? Why was she hanging on to a livelihood she no longer believed in, let alone needed? We ship newly created gadgets all the time, why can't we create a new economic system? She pondered, Maybe not new but more retro-revolutionary like barter - some of my corn for some of your cotton? But no, she countered, it's the worst recession in two decades. Quitting now, with no serious alternative securely in place, would only be rattling the cougar's rickety cage, and doing so at feeding time. Thoughts started chasing each other again, round and round, liked race track damned greyhounds going after the mechanical rabbit. She felt she was in some sort of vortex, spinning madly out of control. Again.
Three decades earlier, at the dawn of her logistics career, her daughters needed things to accent their middle class upbringing. They need music and swim lessons, parties and vacations. Most of all, they needed good education with her limited one. She jumped on the capitalism merry-go-round. Now, with the truth shining brightly above her as the Pole Star shines above Earth, she wanted off. Still, it would be nice to have a bit more put away for the grandkids. And what about the peeling fiberboard mess disguised as her kitchen cabinets? There were always more things to buy.
She leaned back in the chair, closed her eyes and breathed deeply. A slice of fear opened between her heart and solar plexus. Can she truly leave not just ACME Carriers but leave the corporate world and all its culture? What am I waiting for, really? How about a sign? Then the building rattled, the fluorescents flickered, and the windows shook. What the. . .
The summer storm cell passed directly overhead, dark and furious in its enterprise. Whereas half an hour ago the air was hot and dry, now the rain fell in buckets. But it was the thunder that had roused Her.
Abruptly, a grasshopper landed on her keyboard's "enter" key. Normally afraid of bugs, she surprised herself and chuckled. The silly green creature, triangular legs and cylinder body, was breathing heavily. Astonishingly it had gotten inside the building and then inside her cube. It was exhausted too. She let it be, and closed her eyes again.
This time, immediately, she saw a cougar and it was as hungry as ever, salivating from its jaws. But something was missing. Something important. She started to feel anxious. What was it?
She opened her eyes and shook her head. Really, she thought, this is all getting to be a bit too much. It's true I no longer care about the logistics industry. Nor do I believe the planet can support one million people a day jetting about, let alone all of the stuff we haul. But, honestly, isn't this upheaval I'm feeling just a passing storm? Besides, what about some new kitchen cabinets first?
She checked her keyboard. Grasshopper was still there. Poised on "enter". Her brow furrowed. She closed her eyes again and tried to calm her mind but now the lightning and thunder began to come as one, drowning out any wishing of the rain to ease the building tension.
CRACK. A flash of lightening illuminated the problem. There it was. er, wasn't! There was no cage.
BOOM. The cage was gone. Where's the cage?!?
GGGRACK LISTEN. The cage is not important. Like hell!!!
OOMPHBOOM. Then the Cougar leapt on her and ate her.
When she opened her eyes, grasshopper was gone. The "enter" key was now available and so was a blank page on her computer screen. She sat up in her chair and poised her fingers over the keyboard.
Please accept this as my . . .Thank you for the . . . However, my interests have changed and I feel it is time to move on to new opportunities and challenges.
When Dana had finished the resignation letter, her heart rate was back to normal. The surly thunderstorm had passed and left in its aftermath air surprisingly refreshed and recharged. Suddenly, she felt as if she'd loosed some bounds she been trapped in for eons and come Home.
Two months later, she's sipping mi-tai's on the porch of her house with her soul mate beside her, watching the progress of their organic herbs and corn in the waning season of summer.
"The flower that follows the sun does so even on cloudy days." - Robert Leighton