This is definitely an “idea” story. My goal was solely to express a particular point of view through fiction. I hope I succeeded without making it too boring to enjoy.
Standing on the street corner, Jason slid his thumb across the screen of his phone. With each flick he discarded an email message: from his boss, from a client, from his sister, from a deposed prince in Nigeria, from an online pharmacy, from his boss, from his boss, from that same client, from his boss, from client, from bosss, client, boss, boss, client, boss, client, client, client–
An illuminate white figure reflected on the screen and he stepped off the curb. His head snapped back suddenly as someone grabbed his collar. His phone spun out of his hand onto the pavement a few inches in front of him and was obliterated by the wheels of a office supply store delivery truck blowing through the red light.
Jason’s heart pounded in his chest and it took him nearly a full minute to realize he was not breathing. The other pedestrians only paused a moment to be sure there were no other vehicles barreling through the intersection. They flowed around him like a stream around a stone.
“Hey, buddy, move!” someone grunted, bringing Jason back to his senses. He looked around frantically. Through the lunch hour wall of suits and uniforms, he caught a glimpse of a woman. She was out of place, though Jason would have been hard pressed to explain how. She was dressed like the rest of the businessmen and women, save for the round mirrored sunglasses and the fact that she wore gloves in mid May. Her hair was platinum, shorn close to her scalp and he thought he saw a tattoo peaking out from beneath her collar. Then she was gone, lost in the throng.
Jason turned back to the crosswalk. The orange numbers counted down. 10… 9… 8… His phone was a trail of glass and plastic bits strewn across the broad white stripes. Everything important in his life was on that phone. It was all gone.
Jason stepped back onto the curb as the countdown stopped and a red, open palmed hand flashed at him.
Five years later, Jason was moving the slicer back and forth in rhythmic fashion. Thin slices of smoked salami dropped in a stack on the paper behind the rotating blade. He considered the stack, pushed the loaf across two more times and stopped. When he weighed the salami it came to 0.53 pounds. “the extra’s on me,” he smiled to Dolores across the counter.
“Look at you,” said Dolores in mock admonishment, “coming on to me with your pregnant wife not ten feet away. The nerve!” She tilted her head at Lucinda at the register who smiled and blushed as she always did at their weekly joke.
The chime above the door to Lucy’s Deli rang. Before Jason could look up to greet the new customer, a cacophony of sounds filled the deli. There were screeching tires and screams to “Watch out!” and a thump and the sound of glass shattering. Dolores was thrown against the deli counter as another figure slammed into her.
Lucinda screamed and Jason ducked for cover. He rushed, knee walking, through the broken glass to the little gap that separated the deli counter from the register counter. There he found Lucy and held on to her. As she sobbed, he checked her found wounds with his hands while he looked across his little shop. Dolores was a crumpled mass, unmoving. Next to her was another figure, a middle aged man, unkempt and hungry looking. He was wearing a long coat and underneath it Jason could see a short barreled shotgun. He too was motionless. Behind the two bodies, wedged in his front door and window, was a yellow taxi. The driver looked confused but unhurt.
“I’m okay,” said Lucy. Jason turned her face to look in her eyes. “I’m okay,” she repeated. Jason believed her. He stood up and walked carefully to the taxi and searched the street beyond. He heard people chattering frightened and excited and irritated at the inconvenience. Someone had walked into the middle of the road and the taxi had veered and hit that bum looking guy and smashed right into Lucy’s Deli, they said.
That was when Jason saw her, platinum hair and mirrored glasses and tattoo. She was only visible for a moment before disappearing onto a side street but hew was sure that he had seen her.
Jason began to consider climbing over the hood of the taxi in order to get outside and follow her. A soft moan from Lucy stopped him. He turned to see her sitting in a puddle. “I think he’s coming,” she said with a look equal parts pain and joy.
Jason stepped off the front porch into the dewy grass. Pale pre-dawn light filtered through the Vermont sky. “Come on,” he said. “The horses aren’t going to feed themselves.”
Nine year old Jason Junior – JJ – trudged out of the house muttering under his breath. Something about it being summer and sleeping in. “Let’s go,” ordered Jason sternly. “When I was your age my dad would have chased me to the barn with his belt.” That was not really true, but it seemed to sound convincing enough to get JJ moving toward the barn.
Jason and Lucinda had sold the deli and bought the farm shortly after JJ was born. Jason had told her that he did not want to raise his son in the city, that he wanted his son to grow up on a farm like he had. That was almost true. Now, in his forties, Jason could see the value in his rural upbringing even if he had tried desperately to escape it for most of his life. He had succeeded, too, first by going off to school in the city, then by getting a finance degree and working for banks making more money in a year than his parents had ever seen in their lives.
He gave that up, though he could hardly remember why any more. He had had a scary brush with mortality and decided to change things up. He had walked away from his job that very day and used his considerable savings to buy a deli he loved. Having no experience running a deli, he almost sank it in its first year but wisely hired a manager to oversee the details while he worked happily behind the counter. He fell in love with that manger and married her.
In the barn, Jason and JJ hayed the horses, mucked the stalls and carried buckets of water. He told the same stories of his growing up among animals, as he always did, knowing that JJ was not really listening but hoping that if he repeated them enough the lessons from those stories would quietly sneak into the boy’s head. They were simple lessons about the importance of family and the sanctity of life and perseverance in the face of hard work and hardship. Even though JJ rolled his eyes and balked, thinking about video games and television shows, the stories did sink in. Jason would never know that for sure, however.
JJ was 17 years old when Jason died. Jason died alone in the pasture, kicked in the head by one of the horses. Lucinda found him. She had gone looking when he did not come in for lunch. By the time JJ got off the school bus and jogged the mile from the stop to the farmhouse, the sheriff and the coroner had arrived alongside the EMTs.
After they all left and his mother had quietly cried herself to sleep, JJ sat on the porch steps and drank a beer – something his father had done with him on occasion. Once, for just a moment, JJ thought he saw a figure down on the far end of the driveway, eyes flashing in the moonlight.
Before Jason died, JJ had planned to leave to go to school. He could not leave his mother alone, though, and decided to go to college locally and run the farm. In his sophomore year he met a girl from Ohio named Melanie. She only ended up at his school because her application to her first choice school had been lost and she had not found out about it until after the deadline. They met at the opening of a little coffee shop, used book store. Someone had left fliers for the even on their windshields the day before.
JJ and Melanie married the summer after they graduated. They intended to go on a Thanksgiving cruise for their honeymoon but Melanie had an accident at the veterinary clinic where she worked. A woman had brought in a dog that turned suddenly vicious. Melanie was bitten and had to be quarantined for two weeks for possible rabies but was otherwise unharmed. They missed their cruise but it turned out for the better: under quarantine, they stayed in all week and, having nothing better to do, made love continuously. Their daughter Lucy was born in August.
Lucy was always the oldest kid in the class since her birthday put her just beyond the cutoff for kindergarten. Since she was always the oldest, teachers turned to her, even in the earliest grades, to lead the other children, to guide them and help them and even admonish them when need be. Sometimes, all that responsibility was too much for young Lucy and she acted out, hoping to be removed from her position of authority.
At those times, JJ would come to her – not to holler at her or punish her, but to talk to her. He would pass on all those stories he had heard in the barn, all those lessons Jason had taught him. Lucy would listen and calm down and dry her eyes and take command of herself, and then her classmates.
Lucy seethed. The delegates of the Americas Commonwealth had stormed out, leaving the Afro-Blok and the Euro-Asian Union at each others’ throats. As General Secretary, Lucy was supposed to control them. Frankly, she did not want to. If they could not manage to come a compromise, to hell with them.
No. Lucy knew it was too important for that. The world was almost unified with only three major powers remaining. She could not give up and let it collapse once again into innumerable self interested tribes and nations. Surely they were at a crossroads of monumental importance. When then did they have to bicker so?
The future, not just of the Union but of Earth itself, hung on this decision. If Lucy could simply make it, proclaim an answer like an autocrat, she would. That was impossible. It would never work. It had to be consensus or it would all fall apart.
“Madam Secretary,” said Angela her Chief of Staff. “We are running out of time.”
“I know,” said Lucy. She felt like a child again, surrounded by unruly classmates. That was when it happened, at that thought. She remembered then, suddenly and all at once, all the things her father had taught her, all the lessons past down to him from her grandfather that she had never known.
Lucy breathed deep and took command of herself. “Recall the delegates,” he told Angela.
“Yes, ma’am,” said Angela.
As he assistant started to leave, Lucy asked, “Angela, do you think I can make this work?”
“Yes ma’am,” said Angela, and slipping her mirrored sunglasses onto her face she added, “I will do everything in my power to make certain it works out right.”