Hollowed Memories, chapter 9, part 3

May 24, 2015

So Mrissa began to talk.  Yarec closed his eyes (which had been looking very red and tired) but Mrissa could tell that he was not asleep.  Whenever she said something unexpected, he would pop one eye open, and his expression made it clear that he was waiting for her to elaborate.  Sometimes, he broke in with questions—simple ones, mostly—and Mrissa would pause her rambling narrative to answer.

Born down on the beach of the great gulf, Ris Roonbeck had grown up with sand between her toes.  Once, the warm water between the Mississippian Delta and the Yucatan had been swarming with blue shrimp, and the surface had been dotted with little trawlers.  There were still manmade pens in clusters along the shore, for raising fish and invertebrates, but wild-caught seafood was gone.  Far from shore, the only vessels were slow-moving freighters and mobile drilling platforms.  There was simply too much petroleum trapped in pockets beneath the seafloor for drilling in the gulf to be abandoned completely.

However, many oil fields had been shut down, or bombed into oblivion.  Facilities for extracting and storing vast quantities of inflammable material made easy targets in conflict zones.  A single bomb, whether dropped from an aircraft or planted by a suicidal commando, could set an entire well ablaze.  The resulting fire might last for weeks, churning out black billows of smoke.  On one beautiful clear morning, Mrissa had looked out toward the water, and seen yet another plume of destruction rising from an offshore platform; and then she had known that she had to leave.

“Was that during the Second Summer War?” Yarec asked.

“That’s right,” Mrissa said.  “Most of the fighting was farther east, but we got a bit of it too.”

Before she left home, her father had taken her for a walk.  They strolled past the vast industrial shrimp pens, then the processing plant.  Behind the high barbed fence were heaped the prawns’ empty shells, waiting to be ground up to make soil additives.

“You know, Ris,” her father said, “as long as we’re here, you can always come back.”

“I know, Pop,” she said.

“Just be careful,” he said.  “And keep in touch.  Call or send a message.”  He ruffled his fringe of thinning hair.  “You mother will want to hear how you’re doing.  She’ll worry if she doesn’t hear from her daughter.”

When she was a little girl, she would have comforted her father by squeezing his hand.  But that was not possible any more.  It would have aggravated his arthritis, and even apart from that, Mrissa did not think it felt right.

They kept walking, chatting intermittently about matters that were quickly forgotten.  They circled back around to the family bungalow, ate supper, and headed to bed early.  The next morning, Mrissa got on a bus headed northeastward, toward a job an acquaintance had found for her as a lookout at a small boat building facility.  From there, she rose through her chosen profession.  Mostly she worked on very small operations, but there were a few highlights scattered through her record.

After a stint on the eastern seaboard, she had spent most of her career along the Pacific coast of North America.  To get there, she had crept her way west, from job to job, skirting the ugly arid wasteland at the core of the continent.  The land there was almost empty of humans.  When the rainfall had begun to fail, they had mined the ground for all the water it still bore.  Then when that was exhausted, they had abandoned their farms, leaving the ground vegetated only with sport varieties of wheat that managed to survive in spite of the desert conditions.

Eventually, her work brought her to the vicinity of Sankirk.  It had seemed an ordinary job, until after she and Yarec had blown up the chemical weapons plant.


2 Responses to “Hollowed Memories, chapter 9, part 3”

  1. I don’t think any sort of wheat is a low-precipitation crop/plant.

    How’s your assessment of your audience? Your material is stylistically smoother than what you wrote, years past, but I’m not sure I see what readers it’s directed toward.

  2. Buzz Says:

    There are some wheat strains that do well in dry weather. I would imagine that there will be more of them produced and used if the world climate warms and gets dryer.

    I am surely not savvy enough about publishing audiences to know who might want to read my work. I have handful of regular online readers, and for now, that’s what I’m satisfied with.

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