Friday, March 10, 2023

2 Minutes. Go!

The rain falls in sheets, then drips and drops, plodding steadily toward flood. You can see the fear in the eyes of the lowland folk. Those on the hill look at it as a kind of carnival. A chance to stay inside and catch up on being human. A chance to put on their sympathy masks and feel good about their moral benevolence. 

Homeless people will die. The folks on the hill aren't concerned about this. They're concerned about the essential workers. The small business owners. The good ones who fit nicely into the mold that was created to shape them after their birth. 

Some of the hill folk consider the rain a cleansing. After all, the homeless people were part of the dirt. 

The folks on the hill know that they will never flood, but the smart ones are concerned about a real danger. An ever-present danger. They are worried about the day when the serfs will have had enough and decide to climb the hill. 

The flood will be red on that day, and it will be a cleansing that was a long time coming. 


  1. Heartbreaking and hitting and true. That last line punches hard.

    1. I was inspired by this when I wrote my piece, but I didn’t get anywhere near as much trauma and reader connection as you. This is one of the things you do so well – you write bald themes, but with a literary style, both brutal and poetic at the same time. It’s all too real, I’m afraid, but it’s a message more of us ought to be paying attention to.

      Perfection in prose, to use a cliché. I know we’re always being told to avoid them, but sometimes they’re true nonetheless.

  2. Part 1

    Oscar had just slurped down an especially tasty earthworm when he heard the honking and flapping at the edge of the pond. Slower than he used to, he waddled closer, through the thick sweet marsh grass that tickled his paunch feathers, to see what the fuss was all about.

    “They think spring is coming early up north,” said Wentworth, his small bent-flippered cousin. “Wouldn’t that be something!”

    Oscar sighed. Wentworth was too young to remember the Great False Spring, when the flock got all a-twitter about a rumored early season, flew back to their nesting grounds merrily honking all the way, only to find that winter descended a mere half-day afterward. Many of the older geese had died, frozen where they slept. Oscar gazed around the current flock. Nearly to a one, all were too young to remember.

    But he remembered. Yes, his memory had grown hazy of late, to the point where some of the youngers side-eyed each other as if counting his remaining days, to the point where he was no longer asked to lead the squadron, to the point where he got more looks of pity than admiration. But he remembered that terrible spring. He remembered nosing his mother with his bill to wake her. She did not wake.

    He shook his dewlap to bring himself back to the present and honked to get the group’s attention. They stopped what they were doing and turned toward him. Wentworth edged closer to his side. Oscar lifted his head taller. It had been some time since anyone even appeared like they wanted to hear what he had to say, and it would be a lie to say it didn’t puff up his feathers a little.

    “What is this you hear of spring?” he said.

    “That the ponds are wriggling with tasty tadpoles!” one offered.

    “That the clover is already plentiful and sweet,” said another.

    A third young one turned to Albert, the older-but-still-young gander that had led their V-formation south when the chill last came up north. “When do we go?”

    “Yes,” chimed another, imploring their squadron leader, “when indeed?”

    “We fly tomorrow!” Albert said with a puffed chest and an emphatic honk, which was echoed around the assembled geese and ganders.

    But Oscar had the worst feeling in his gizzard that this would be a terrible mistake, and it built and built until he could stay silent no longer.


    They did not stop. They honked and danced and flapped their wings.


    1. Part 2

      They stopped. They looked at Oscar. “It—it could be a false spring,” he said. “It could be too soon. It has happened before.”

      A moment of silence passed, and then a cacophony of criticism was hurled his way. “…jealous...don’t want us to have any fun…” “…what do you know?” “…you don’t get to decide…” And the worst: “you’re too old.”

      Oscar could feel himself shrinking into a ball of feathers in the grass.

      “Albert decides!” one of the youngers, who was Albert’s wingman, piped up. “Albert decides!”

      A chorus of this echoed all around the pond until, like the chiming of fall cicadas, it decrescendoed and faded away.

      “Very well,” said Albert. “We’ll send a scout. One hardy and intrepid goose or gander to fly on ahead, note the local conditions, and return with a report. May I have a volunteer?”

      The flock’s bravery suddenly melted away with the knowledge that whoever volunteered would have to do so alone.

      One head rose above the others. “Send Oscar!”

      “Yes, send Oscar!”

      “Yeah, it was his big fat idea that we shouldn’t go yet, let him be the scout.”

      Oscar could feel Wentworth vibrating and emitting little squeaks beside him. “I’ll do it!” Wentworth said, voice quavering. Then stronger. “I will be your scout!”

      Honks of laughter began, grew louder. “He’s too little!” “It’ll take him all season to get there!” “He can’t even fly straight!”

      Oscar stretched a wing around his small cousin. “We will both go.”

      It was decided, and in the morning, the pair set off. “It is okay,” Wentworth said, as they took flight. “See, we match each other. I am small and you are…well, not a gosling anymore. We fly at the same speed.”

      It was true what his cousin said, and the knowledge of that filled Oscar with great joy. He even did a dive-and-loop, just for the fun of it—well, just one, because it brought on undue fatigue. And when they arrived at their springtime home, they were delighted that the warmth had indeed come early, but showed all the signs of continuation. They nibbled on the sweet clover and paddled in the pond, diving for tadpoles and trilling their joy. Just to be safe, though, Oscar built them a nest of foliage and sticks.

      They were still alive in the morning.

      “We should go, tell the others it’s truly time to migrate, yes?” Wentworth honked. “We will be heroes!”

      Oscar, sitting on the dew-dampened sweet new grass, took in his surroundings and in his breast rose a feeling of contentment and purpose he hadn’t felt for some time.

      “Let’s just enjoy the day, you and me,” he said. “And then we will signal the others.”

    2. I love this. This is so warm and witty. It's a lovely, well visualised - of course; you wrote it - and full of charm. It's so very human too, even though it's about geese. But geese are usually evil, anyway...

      Great writing, Laurie!

  3. Nobody was sure exactly when our county’s swamp-lander problems began. Our border control agencies had been struggling to control our coastlines for decades, nudging away dinghies crammed with asylum-seekers, their tiny vessels so overloaded with people that they could barely remain afloat. Countless thousands drowned when their fragile boats capsized, the coastguard’s cruisers an ineffective tool to manage their efforts. Our government said it was regrettable, that they had done all they could, that a loss of life was inevitable whatever they did.

    Their numbers continued to increase, the annual growth rates accelerating. The demographics of the vulnerable and homeless we turned away began to change. Initially, many were poor or political exiles. And then it had been the terrorists, criminals and others who had heard things were better here. We were soft and benevolent, kind-hearted, and generous. We lived in a land of plenty; everyone was cosseted from their cradle to grave.

    And then the planet began to warm.

    The changes were subtle at first. Birds that had migrated to our isles every year began to dwindle, their populations falling everywhere. The pests they had eaten grew in number, crops failing under their onslaught. Our seas grew steadily warmer, and our winters faded away. And everywhere, businesses prospered as before.

    And still, the boat people continued to come. If anything, they came in even greater numbers than ever before. Families, instead of individuals, their craft sailing in convoys. Our coastal defences had become impotent; they now drifted, overwhelmed by the magnitude of their task.

    Twenty years later, we are a nation at war. There’s rioting and protests and electrical brownouts every night. There’s record unemployment and falling birth rates. And the coastlines bordering our country are significantly shorter.


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