My mind is still reeling from a weekend of holiday hosting duties, so instead of one of my usual essays, I decided to take another stab at writing some short fiction as prompted by the ever so handy dandy Writer’s Toolbox (you can find an earlier piece here).
For those not as familiar with The Writer’s Toolbox (affiliate link), it prompts you with a first, middle, and last sentence as well as a series of descriptions to include and a protagonist. I hope you enjoy it –
Dad gave me a wink like we were pals or something. Then again it could just have as easily been a bit of pollen or dust caught in his eye. It always took a while for the orbiters to get reacquainted with uncontrolled wilds of earth-bounding living again. Gazing up into the twilight sky at the stars above, I thought I saw a circling bat. They had no idea what they were giving up, living up there. He had no idea.
“Where is your sister?” he barked the question out between coughing fits.
So definitely the dust then. How silly of me to think he was actually trying to reconnect. “I haven’t seen her,” I replied returning my attention to the meal in front of me. It was the truth, but then again I rarely saw anyone outside of the lab. For some strange reason, people didn’t seem to think that my passion for paleoclimatology combined with my charming personality produced the most stellar party guest. It was also why I agreed to this open-air dinner in the first place. I bit into a slice of apple savoring its juices. At least the food was good even if the company was less than ideal. “Last I heard, she had her eye on some bartender from Seattle. Maybe she’s taking up stalking?”
This time, I suspected the resulting frown on Dad’s face didn’t have anything to do with his allergies. “This isn’t a joke, Bill. Your sister is listed as failing to report to the launch deck this morning and I only have so much influence I can spend.”
I fought the eye roll by focusing on the straggling cuticle on my right thumb. Dad could never resist the opportunity to remind any of us exactly why he was living in space while the rest of us were on the ground. As if I’d ever want to. “Well then, I don’t know what to tell you other than I haven’t seen her since last week.”
“And you aren’t concerned?”
I shrugged. “She can go off for a few days if she wants too. She’s an adult – unless you hadn’t noticed.”
“I’ve noticed. I’ve also noticed that she has started taking up a lot of bad habits. Habits I would prefer weren’t associated with the family name.”
I waved his concern aside. “Lucky for you, I’ve been using Mom’s name for years.”
Dad’s frown deepened so much I briefly wondered if it might cause his entire face to collapse into his crisp uniform. “Listen, I’m not trying to be combative here. It just would be better if I found her before command does.”
“What? Are you that really that afraid of what her AWOL designation might do to your reputation?” I snorted. “I’ve seen you smooth over worse.”
“No, I’m afraid because as much as either of you might not like to admit it, I am your father. And because I found this in the briefing room.” Dad shoved a piece of fabric at me featuring a vaguely familiar looking pattern.
“Have they taken up quilting?” I asked with a smirk, picking up the fabric. “Well, that’s a relief. That group really could use a hobby other than making the rest of us miserable.” I couldn’t help adding just to annoy Dad as I rolled the piece of cloth around in between my fingers. The jab wasn’t strictly necessary, as Dad knew full well what I thought of his cronies, but it was always fun to remind him that this apple had fallen far from the proverbial tree. As in two hundred and fifty miles, give or take a mile.
“Bill, for the last time, this isn’t a joke.”
“Fine. No jokes.” I replied holding up my hands before examining the fabric more closely. Where had I seen it before? “So what is this then?”
“Something that has no business being up in command if your sister is still on the ground. It’s from her dress.”
Was that really a bat circling overhead, or was it a drone? Did Bill’s sister get mixed up in a larger conspiracy or did she simply run off with a bartender from Seattle? And will Bill’s experience with paleoclimatology actually play a part in the plot, or is that a throw-away detail? Who knows!