The Natural Disaster: A Just-In-Time Story

The story of the week! Yay!

The theme of the week was reflections, although it’s a little sketchy how I fit that in this week. See if you can figure out how it relates to the theme.

* * *

Putting my car into park, I yanked the key from the ignition. The house keys, prison keys, and trinkets from Russia jangled noisily as I clipped the carabiner onto my belt loop. Had I made it on time? was the only thing on my mind as I reached for the stamp-covered envelope on the passenger seat.

I threw the car door open, looking both ways before running out into the congested street. Cars honked as I dodged them like an Indian. Jay-walking, I knew, but I had to make it on time. It was worth the risk.

“Seph!” called a voice from down the sidewalk. I groaned inside, and knew I had to ignore her if I wanted to be on time. It was Miss Lamey, who worked as a full-time grocery stocker on the corner. She was an eccentric lady who had no time for life, as she poured it all into putting cans of powdered milk on shelves and sweeping red and black tiled floors. Miss Lamey was the last thing I needed, because she had this terrible habit of looping the end of her umbrella around my arm as she talked incessantly, to make sure I didn’t “Run away.” And she’s used that exact wording—“Run away”—which makes her an even stranger person, socially.

I tried not to see her. I looked up and around me, at the tall brick buildings contrasted by a sepia sky (pollution, ugh). The warning sirens stood like gargoyles on a cathedral, ready in case the Natural Disaster should happen by. As I ran for the blue mailbox awaiting my deposit, I felt a wooden crook latch onto my jean sleeve aggressively. Sweat forming on my brow, I turned to face the pink-clad stocker (or stalker?) apprehensively.

“Have you heard the news?”

I shook my head, and made one attempt for the mailbox, rudely shaking her umbrella off my arm. One final leap brought me to the patchy-blue mailbox with a brushed-metal sheen. As I pulled the mouth open, my eyes fell upon the notice next to the pick-up times. COLLECTED EARLY TODAY. HOLIDAY.

I kicked the mailbox, and the empty shell clanged noisily. I had missed it!

“What’s wrong with you today, Seph?” asked Miss Lamey. “You’re so rude today!”

“Sorry Miss Lamey,” I said, realizing that what I was saying wasn’t true. “I have a deadline to catch.” Suddenly, my eye fell on a streaked white truck making its way around the corner. I could just make it if I ran fast. Without bothering to say goodbye to Miss Lamey, I booked it over the sidewalk, running my palm across the pumice-smooth brick walls. As the postal truck sat at a stop sign, the world crystalized into a fragile golden moment. I didn’t want it to break.

My feet slapped over the hard cement, and I lunged at the truck as it was starting to roll forward. It was that moment, heralded by the warning sirens, that the Natural Disaster decided to blow through the streets.

It started slowly at first, that distinct rumble of sand, that distinct grinding sound as it brushed past brick buildings worn smooth from years of this phenomenon. Then I could see it—a huge, hundred-foot-tall cloud of particles barreling through the narrow streets. The postal truck stopped dead in its tracks, and the driver told me to come inside. I jumped in, and the truck rocked on its shocks.

“Just in time,” he said with a thick Southern accent, smiling a crooked grin.

I nodded, and we watched the sand careening toward us. It hit the car, pushing it back a little, grinding across the windshield.

As the storm stopped, I heard the street-sweeping vehicles coming out of garages and  scratching over the roads, pushing the sand on its way back outside the city limits lest we all be buried alive. Every time the sand-storm stopped, everything was smoother and shinier. Perhaps not because they were actually noticeably different, but because it got everyone’s mind on the subject.

I handed the postman my envelope. “Just in time,” he said again, slipping it into his bag.

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12 thoughts on “The Natural Disaster: A Just-In-Time Story

  1. You did get this one in “Just in time.” 🙂

    The setting confused me a bit. I wasn’t sure where this was taking place, or when. I thought the details you painted Miss. Lamey with were a great touch.

    • Sorry…it was supposed to be a sort of urban fantasy/dystopian theme. Maybe I’d need to brush it up and “sand it down” a little. 🙂

      • Maybe just a little “buff and polish”. I did get the impression that this was some kind of future desert like world, but I wasn’t 100% sure it wasn’t just set in a dry place like Morocco.

  2. My inclination was that this “sand storm” was somehow polishing this world… but you don’t use sandpaper on a mirror!

    On the other hand… I guess you can see a reflection in anything that’s shiny and well-polished.

  3. The protagonist seems to reflect on life in this story. I also enjoyed the way Miss Lamey was described. The umbrella to keep people from becoming run aways is nice. I thought this was set in a south that had dried up in the future / or at least was subject to dust storms.

    I didn’t get a good feel for why the character had prison keys (is the protagonist a prison guard/warden?) and russian trinkets.

    • I’m not exactly sure why he had the Russian junk and the jail keys. I was just trying to make it interesting, although I suppose those are some loose ends I definitely would have to tie up, if this story were to be something I took seriously. 🙂 And a hint: I wrote this story in about an hour, trying to make it for T.S.’s contest.

  4. I caught the play-on-words in the way the story was presented (vis-a-vis just-in-time)… but I guess I was looking for something tha had more to do with “reflection”…

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