Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘ground’

Falling On High – Part 2

Excerpt from short story collection Saint Catherine’s Baby.

Falling On High – Part 2 – Conclusion

“Hey! Tony! Can you give me a hand?”

Tony put down the leveler, straightened and heard his knees crack, as he trudged once again up to the peak and looked over. Mike was on the edge of the roof trying to hammer in a piece of plywood that appeared warped.

“Can you hold that side down?” Mike asked.

Tony slowly worked his way to the edge and looked more closely. “You can’t use this,” he said, as Mike reached for a nail.

“Why not?” Mike questioned. “If you just hold that end I can get it to stay down.”

Tony shook his head. “It’s warped.”

“Just a little,” Mike insisted, flicking his hair behind his broad shoulders.

“Just a little?” Tony shouted, trying to calm his surging rage. He lifted up the piece of plywood, put it on its end and pointed. “It’s as warped as a politician! You can’t put this kind of crap on a roof.”

“I can do it,” Mike puffed up.

“That’s not the point, damn it!” Tony yelled. “You can’t use junk like that and be proud of your work.”

Mike shrugged. “Hey. It’s just a job.”

Tony felt his ears burn. He thought about grabbing the hammer and hitting Mike up side the head but remembered what George had said. He stood. His knees shook. It’s not just a job to me,” he said. “I’ll cut you another piece.” He growled, taking the warped plywood towards the ladder leaning against the front of the house.

As Tony placed his foot on the aluminum rung, holding the plywood in one hand and placing his other on the roof, the ladder slid sideways and crashed to the ground. The warped plywood followed, as Tony hung onto the gutter by his fingertips.

“Help! Mike! Help!”

He heard footsteps running on the rough gravely shingles and saw Mike’s young face peer over the side.

“Hold on,” he instructed. “I got ya.”

Mike grabbed Tony by the forearm, dug his heels into an exposed rafter nearby and pulled Tony up with a swift burst of youthful invincibility.

Tony crawled to his knees and looked away, hoping Mike hadn’t seen the terror in his eyes, but knowing he had.

Instead of saying thank you, Tony exploded with shame. “You stupid . . .” His voice trailed off as he got his bearings. “Number one rule,” he continued, “always, always make sure the ladder’s secure.”

“I just saved your butt,” Mike sneered, starting to walk away. Tony got up and followed.

“It shouldn’t have happened!” Tony yelled. “That ladder wasn’t secure!”

Mike waved Tony off and shrugged his shoulders. Tony grabbed Mike by the arm and turned him around. “Listen, you . . .”

“Don’t touch me old man,” Mike said sharply.

Tony pushed Mike on the chest. “Not too old to take you out.”

Mike turned and tried to walk away, but Tony grabbed him again by the shoulder.

Tony felt the wind leave his body as he crumbled to the roof, his gut contracting with pain from Mike’s sudden blow.

“I said, ‘don’t touch me’,” Mike leaned over and whispered.

Lying sideways, Tony watched Mike grab his Hawaiian shirt, go to the tar- covered roof and disappear down the back ladder.

Tony gasped and caught his breath. He put his hand on his stinging cheek and felt a bloody abrasion from landing on the shingles. He heard a door slam an engine rev and saw the top of Mike’s truck as it drove off.

“Stupid kid,” he said out loud. “Try to show him the ropes and look what you get.”

Curled up on top of the house, the sun sinking in the Tucson sky; Tony thought about Jake. Drops fell on his cheeks. It wasn’t sweat and it wasn’t rain; it was a foreign substance Tony had heard of called tears. Jake was the last person on earth he’d ever considered a true friend. Now he had nobody.

He sat up slowly, his back throbbing like a gigantic toothache and wiped his nose on his forearm. Out of nowhere his ex-wife’s parting words pounded in his head. “I actually feel for you. You’re the sorriest, loneliest man I’ve ever known. I don’t see how anyone could stand living with you!”

By the time his feet touched the ground night had descended. Walking gingerly to his truck Tony paused and looked up at the first stars out alone in the night. “Ah hell,” he whispered. “Maybe I was too hard on the guy.” It was then and there, in the silence, that he decided to find Mike first thing in the morning.

Tony saw Mike talking with George through the office window when he pulled up early the next day, just after sunrise. George was grinning and Mike didn’t seem too upset about anything. “What’s so funny?” Tony wondered, as he headed towards the front door.

George saw him first. He didn’t stop grinning. Mike, on the other hand, stopped talking and silently looked out the window as Tony closed the door behind him.

“Heard you had a little ‘disagreement’,” says George.

“Yeah,” Tony replied quickly, before he lost his nerve. “That’s why I’m here and not out working yet. I was wondering if I could talk to you a minute Mike . . . privately like.”

George tried to square up Tony’s intentions, then glanced at Mike. “OK with me. How about you?” he asked Mike.

Mike glanced sideways at Tony, who didn’t seem angry or pissed off and said, “Sure. Why not?”

“I’ll be right here if you need me,” George said to both men as Mike followed Tony out the door.

Tony wasn’t sure what he was going to say or how; he just knew that for some reason he didn’t want anyone else in this world to hate him. If there was some way to set the record straight and start over, he was going to give it his best shot.

Mike turned and leaned against the side of the corrugated building. He folded his arms, making his biceps more menacing than normal and kicked at the dirt with the toe of his work boot.

“Listen Mike.” Tony moved a little closer. He wasn’t sure what to do with his hands so he tucked them in his front pockets. “I’ve never told anybody this before and I don’t know why I’m telling you now, but if its worth anything, I’m sorry for the way I acted up there.”

Mike stopped kicking at the dirt and looked at Tony out of the corner of his eye. Tony took up where Mike left off by looking down at the ground and kicking at the dirt.

It seemed to George, who had quietly stepped outside and was watching carefully; that there was nothing to worry about. “At least nobody’s thrown a punch,” he observed.

Mike didn’t know Tony from a hole in the ground and had no idea what a monumental and life-changing event it was for this man to apologize. But he could see that the old man was serious and he wasn’t one to hold grudges.

It took Tony a minute to raise his eyes and see Mike’s outstretched hand. Surprising himself, Tony smiled and gripped the offered hand with both of his own. “Thank you son,” Tony said, sending another shock wave through his system. He never even called his own boy “son”. “If there’s anything you need up their today, just give a holler.”

“You got it,” Mike agreed.

As the two men started walking back towards the office laughing and playfully punching one another in the arm, George looked up at the sky and said, “Dad. Now I’ve seen everything.”

THE END

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Quake, Shake & Roll

Excerpt from collection of stories for children Solar Girl and Lunar Boy.

Once upon a time there were three bad earthquakes and one good little wolf, known throughout the woods as Terra. Terra lived with her grandma, Nova. Nova was one of the oldest and wisest wolves in the pack. They lived together in the far Northwestern portion of the United States, by a city called Anchorage, Alaska.

Terra was a math teacher who taught the younger wolves many important lessons. She taught them how many times to bay at the moon, how to count members of the pack to make sure everyone was present, and how many meters it takes to run, jump and catch a fast moving mouse. Grandma Nova was a retired builder who helped construct lairs and other dwellings.

Terra and Nova lived in a lovely home made of stone. Their home had kept them cozy and warm in the winter storms, but was not built to withstand vibrations from the ground below.

One day as Terra was making their mouse soup dinner, a loud rumbling noise arose from the earth and shouted, “I am the Great Alaskan Earthquake. I’m going to quake and shake and roll your house down!”

Terra stood up proudly and said, “I’m not afraid of you. Our house is strong and made of stone.

The Great Alaskan Quake began to quake and shake and roll. Terra and Nova could barely stand as the walls swayed to and fro. The ground felt like Jell-O rolling under their feet. Dishes fell from the table, books from the shelves and pictures from the walls. The sound was like thunder.

Terra was scared and began to scream for help. Grandma Nova grabbed her by the hand and pulled her under a strong table. When the quake finally stopped they walked outside and saw that the outer walls of their home had crumbled to the ground.

As Terra stood outside crying she asked Nova, “How could our beautiful house get broken? It was so strong, even during a storm!”

Holding Terra tightly Nova said, “Our home was safe and warm during a wind or snow storm, but stone can’t sway back and forth to move with a quake. Our next home will need more support and should be built with material that can move and bend.”

Terra and Grandma Nova moved in with their cousins, whose wooden house had not been damaged by the quake.

Though they liked their cousins and were thankful to have a place to stay, Tierra and Nova both wanted to have their own home.

Within a few months they received some wonderful news. Terra’s relatives in California invited her and her grandma to come live with them and teach a new pack of wolves about math and building.

After a long journey on the Howling Bus Line, they arrived in the mountains of Santa Cruz, south of San Francisco.

In Santa Cruz, Terra and Nova made many new friends and built another beautiful home. This time they decided to not take any chances on losing their house to another big bad earthquake. With the help of their family and friends they made their home out of wood, with a strong floor underneath.

Early one evening, as they sat down to read, they heard a loud, scary sound come up from the ground.

A second quake had found them and began stomping it’s huge feet.

It said, “My name is Loma Prieta and I’m going to quake and shake and roll your house down!”

Terra jumped up and said, “You can shake and shout all you want, but this time our house is built to withstand your temper tantrums.”

Once again the ground began to quake and shake and roll as the Loma Prieta Quake pounded the earth with all his might.

The brave wolves held on tightly to one another under the dining room table and watched their furniture bounce up and down like a Yo Yo. After thirty long seconds had passed the quake came to a halt. Terra and Nova danced with joy as they saw their house was still standing.

Suddenly Grandma Nova stopped dancing and sniffed the air with her soft black nose. “Do you smell that? It smells like gas. We’ve got to get out of here fast!”

The quake had started a gas leak and they didn’t know how to turn it off! They quickly walked out the front door. Just as they turned around they heard a big bang and saw smoke coming out of the windows. From a safe distance they watched their home burn to the ground. There was nothing they could do to save it.

Terra sobbed, “How could this have happened a second time? What did we do wrong?”

Through her tears Nova replied, “We built a strong flexible home but forgot to find out where to turn off the gas during an emergency. When the ground shook it broke the pipe that brings in the gas to our house. Since we were cooking our new Mouse Ear and Tail Soup for dinner, the flame from the stove lit the gas from the broken pipe, which started the fire. If we had known were to shut off the gas pipe when we left the house, the fire would never have started.”

Once again, Terra and Nova were homeless and had to move in with friends. Although they enjoyed living in the Santa Cruz Mountains they decided to move far away to another country and build one more home. They saved their money and a year later flew on a Wolverine Airlines plane to Japan. Japan is a small country far across the Pacific Ocean. It has lots of humans but very few wolves.

They settled in a park, in a city called Kobe. Terra got a job teaching math at the local lupus college, which was named Wolfgang University. They built a sturdy home, with flexible gas pipes, and Nova borrowed some books from the Wolf Den Library on how to safely prepare for an earthquake.

The books said to always stay away from windows, get under a hard table and think before you act. Know where your gas, electric and water lines come into the house and learn how to turn them off. Store flashlights, batteries, lanterns, blankets, a tent, bottled water, canned food and wood in a dry, safe place.

Six years later, when Terra and Nova had forgotten all about earthquakes, a third quake caught them by surprise. They were enjoying a delicious breakfast of mousy pancakes, rabbit cereal and fresh mountain water when they began heard a loud mad roar of fury.

“My name is Kobeka. Look at my power! I’m shaking and quaking and will soon knock your house down!”

Terra answered, “Your brother quakes destroyed two of our homes before and we respect your strength and power, but this time you’re too late. We’ll stand our ground!”

The Kobeka Quake rocked and rolled with all its might. Terra and Nova took no chances. They crawled under their kitchen table, away from the windows and listened to the wood creak and moan. They knew they would live, but would their house survive such a terrible beating?

Even though some plates on the table, books from the shelf, and bricks from the chimney fell down, their house remained standing strong and tall.

They had prepared for another quake by fastening the cabinet doors, putting their breakable dishes and glasses down low and bolting their bookcase to the wall. The quake lasted for only forty seconds but it seemed to last forever. As soon as the shock waves stopped, the wolves nimbly walked outside.

Although their home had not been damaged, others had. With their stored supplies, they helped their friends and warned them of the many aftershocks to come. Aftershocks are smaller quakes that always follow a large one.

Now, whenever an earthquake decides to strike (and it surely will), Terra and Grandma Nova are always ready.

Who’s afraid of the Big, Bad Earthquake? Not the wise little wolves.

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