Sunday, January 17, 2010

Prompt #2 Airport Parts

The prompt: For 90 seconds, write down everything you can think of in an airport.
{Do this before reading further}

Write a story that includes everything on this list. The setting for
this story cannot be set in or around or about an airport.

The response:

Deep in the county there’s a private junkyard of some size, where the airport and a small, forgotten hospital deposit the old crap they couldn’t sell away. The owner, Mr. Timothy, had made his money, so he looked more to his liquor bottle than to sales or security. His dogs were old and friendly and almost toothless. So Billy and Mackey liked to climb the fence, toes of their small shoes fitting easily, and they would see what they could find.

And the hope, they said, was to find something expensive, something valuable, tucked in the mountains of worthlessness, and sell it, so they’d be rich, and their families would be rich, and Billy’s mother would never have to cry over the weird long sheets of numbers in the kitchen at night. It never worked out that way. Ten year olds don’t really have connections, and their friends might think a shiny airplane part is cool, but they don’t know if it’s valuable. So instead the basement of Mackey’s house grew thick with shiny, broken carburetors, the corners stacked full of smutty novels, just in case they made sense one day. There was even an airplane landing gear. With the combined effort of Billy and Mackey, the time of many long afternoons, and the thick, concealing summer grass of those roads that people called country- though a few short miles away from skyscrapers- they got it home. One of those beeping airport carts- only Mackey had ever flown- had a rusty axel, so they couldn’t move it. So they might have been partners in treasure hunting, but the real draw wasn’t the promise of fortune, just being partners.

So on a hot August day they swung over the fence, and a gaggle of happy old dogs came over and Billy and Mackey patted them and the dogs wandered on. The two boys slid in the shadows of tall mounds of castoff metal detectors, of pizza boxes and McDonald’s wrappers, and sweated under the sun as they skirted clear of the medical wastes- syringes glinting as noon approached. In their younger years past, they collected spent shotgun shells; but they learned quick that they only looked valuable- like Spanish coins, they had said. Those were those innocent days, Mackey thought. Today they fought, over a Snickers.

The other day, Billy told him, he stole the candy bar from the 7-11 down the street, and Mackey realized that was what thieves did. His daddy hated thieves, and it seemed there were a hundred kinds of thieves. His daddy yelled at the news a lot. But Mackey knew for sure that if you took something without paying, you were a thief; and where did Billy get the right? Mackey would have paid for him, he’d done it a million times. Before Billy even looked at something, Mackey would offer to pay for it. He knew how Billy’s mom was poor, and how even she didn’t know who Billy’s daddy was. So Mackey would pay for him, just hand him bills as they walked in the convenience store door. Why would Billy steal?

So on this day they fought. They never mentioned the theft- they just bickered, slandered each other in the little, cruel ways that only children can devise. As swear poured down their face, they jabbed out in the ways of the weak, and the little. Billy didn’t steal the candy bar because he wanted or needed it, and Mackey wasn’t truly concerned about the financial troubles of the 7-11 upon the loss of eight-nine cents worth of chocolate and nougat. They had perceived the unseen currents that moved adults along the inscrutable courses, the strange dance steps that made Billy’s mom approach Mackey’s with almost a bowed head. It was self-defense, this fighting. They both had seen the inevitable approaching.

They were so consumed with their arguing that they came deep and blind through the peaks and valleys of toilet paper rolls and televisions, of newspapers and magazines, cell phones and headphones, of the trash that was their shared passion. Arguing still, they came to a place they had never been: a tiny hill, a simple bump in the junk topography, dwarfed by the mountains of garbage all around. It was a pile of liquor bottles. Some were smashed from being thrown from the window of the nearby junkyard office, but as they pile grew and old bottles broke new ones’ falls, they stayed intact. The August sun was refracted and slanted around the shimmering pile, and from the open office door came a buzzing, soft and sweet in tone.

Billy stepped into the shade of the office, and could see nothing in the dark, just hear the gentle raspy song of insect wings. His eyes adjusted and came into focus on the figure of Mr. Timothy, the junkyard owner, reclining with his cap over his eyes. The embroidered nametag of his blue uniform read, in a cursive script- Mr. Timothy. There was a smiled on his face. The brim of his cap cast an opaque shadow over his eyes from which the buzzing was emitted. Billy touched the man’s hand where it rested on the arm of the chair- still warm. A fly, jostled by its brothers, flew a wobbly arc from the shade of Mr. Timothy’s hat out into the dim light of the trailer office, and back into the darkness. Mackey stood in the doorway, a scrawny silhouette against the blinding sun. He entered into dusky office, quiet except for the song of flies. Billy and Mackey looked at each other for a very long time.

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