As dusk fell, the crickets tuned their song, swelling every few minutes into a crescendo that echoed off the bare kitchen walls and down the hallway to the bathroom where Colleen stood in front of the mirror practicing her smile. She found it hard to smile knowing that the crickets had burst out of the dry land, absent predatory bacteria that in wetter times would have kept their numbers in check, and now found themselves inside Colleen’s kitchen with nothing to do.
It had been ten years since she had looked for a job, but tomorrow Colleen had an appointment with a temp agency in the city. She hoped that she would get through the interview without gasping. She worried about “the greens,” those seawater-like, murky visions of the future that hovered over people’s heads. She wasn’t sure she could control her response to the clashing images, the impending weddings and deaths and accidents. It had been so long since she was around strangers.
“What are you doing?” Stanley asked, laughing as he spied Colleen pulling at the corners of her mouth.
“Practicing,” she said. “I don’t want to look shocked when I see the greens hanging over that woman’s head. She’s probably destined to have a heart attack or a stroke or something and I’ve gotta pretend that I don’t see it.”
“Well, pulling at the corners of your mouth isn’t going to stop her from thinking you’re loony.” Stanley turned and started walking down the hall as the cricket crescendo peaked. “My god, those crickets. They’re everywhere.”
Colleen rubbed her eyes and looked at herself in the mirror. The wrinkles along her forehead were as deep as the cracked clay soil that was forcing her to look for a job, defeated by drought.
She remembered one autumn in her 20s, when she had walked two miles each morning and evening, to and from a clerical job on campus. It rained every day for months. Each day, she arrived at 9am, removing her heavy tennis shoes and the soaked socks, forcing her shriveled feet into dry black pumps. It had rained as if the sky were grieving some incalculable loss. It couldn’t stop. It didn’t stop until the Canadian cold fronts swept through and weighty tears had turned into snow. Colleen thought about how she hated that fall, how defeated she had felt each day, casting her socks over a heater under her desk. She had felt waifish and wet, like an unwanted cat.
Now the sere landscape scraped at her memory, begged her to apologize for all that fist-shaking at the rain.
She shook her head and turned to the fantasy that she and Stanley would be heroes. She had spent most of her life denying her gift. She had avoided meeting new people, their futures appearing to her in the greens before she even had a chance to learn their names. So often, those futures had been sad. But Stanley was convinced that her gift could be a force for good. Colleen wanted to believe Stanley. It kept her from shrieking.
The next morning, Colleen put on her only suit and practiced her smile. “Fake it ‘til you make it,” she said aloud to the mirror. She kissed Stanley on the cheek, sidled carefully into the truck, and sang along to the radio while an errant cricket chirped the thirty miles to town.
Colleen walked confidently into the agency, keeping her sunglasses on until the last acceptable moment. The receptionist greeted her. “Oh, yes, Colleen. You have an appointment with Katy Welker. Follow me.”
Colleen followed the receptionist past the counter and back to the row of offices, the greens swishing above the young woman’s head. Stepping into the office, a new flash of the greens struck Colleen; they now swirled above Katy Welker. Colleen could see rain, rain, rain, flooding rain. She knew instantly that the vision was not a year away, not even months away. Glorious rain, she was certain, was days away. Of course, she also realized that Katy was in danger from some kind of flood, but my god, it was going to rain! She had work to do.
“You know what?” Colleen said, shaking Katy Welker’s hand. “I gotta go. I’m so sorry. This was a mistake. Oh and please watch out for floodwaters – you know, when you’re driving. Just stay away from underpasses.”
Colleen turned around and walked out of the building, smiling. Rain. It was coming.
I liked how the crickets felt like a character in this. I also enjoyed how clearly I could feel Katy’s anxiety and relief at the end. I sure hope you are working on a book or something. Id but it…twice!
Oh, good! I love that the crickets are like characters. Thanks so much for reading and for your lovely comments.
loved this! Great imagery with words. Almost poetic.
Thank you, Nida! Appreciate your kind words.
Thank you, new friend!
Your writing is awesome. I love how you took us by the hand and used such beautiful words to convey, great characters and a wonderful story. But also commentary about acceptance of self, and how we are so dependant on the Earth. Loved it!
I’m so glad you discovered the layers to this, especially the self-acceptance part — I’m not sure I was even aware of it when I wrote it but it fits. Thanks so very much for your reading and commenting.
Delightful story, as usual!!! You have such a unique, clever, mischievous voice:0)
Thank you! A mischievous voice — yay! Glad you enjoyed it.
I LOVE this concept of the “greens.” Also the crickets (Laura Ingalls Wilder-esque?). Also everything about this story, not least the hope at the end.
p.s. I’m glad to see these characters again.
Oh, I’m so glad you like the “greens.” I actually wrote a sort-of prequel to the three short Colleen/Stanley pieces. It was for a workshop so it should be showing up at yeah write when we get to share our workshopped pieces. So, testing the “greens” here makes me think people will be able to suspend disbelief (I hope). Thanks for the wonderful feedback, Jennifer. Always appreciate it!
You have quite a story brewing here and I love every single drop (see what I did there?!?)
I’m captivated by introduction of the greens (that wasn’t in the last one, right?) and the buoyancy and hope of it all…even when it didn’t feel like Colleen had hope.
Hah! Every single drop! Funny girl. More to come. Thanks for your sweet words and for taking the time to read. You’re a peach…or a plum…or fruit. 😉
How creative, Meg. Ans so well written. I loved this!!
Thank you, Genna! Hope you got my message earlier today — I had been meaning to get back to you on your fabulous essay.
This story could be turned into a great book Meg. Think about it.
So kind of you to say this. Thank you! Really appreciate this.
Such wonderful descriptions – ‘…wrinkles… were as deep as the cracked clay soil’ and ‘ felt waifish and wet, like an unwanted cat.’ Like Lisa I really engaged with the crickets as characters – especially that one hitching into town.
Thanks so much, Sarah Ann. I’m thrilled that you enjoyed it!
Wow, what a wonderful story, Meg! The crickets are an amazing detail. I feel like I know Colleen – no, I feel like I’ve *been* Colleen. And Colleen and Stanley’s conversation is so beautifully ordinary, very natural. Fantastic job!
The crickets are a hit! 😉 Thanks for your lovely comments, Christine. You know how much I admire your writing. <3
Interesting story! Maybe I am a bit dense but the one thing I didn’t get was why it mattered to her if the lady’s future showed a flood…unless they are farmers in a drought, which I assumed maybe they were, and all their livelihood depended on rain. Then it makes sense why she wouldn’t need a job after all if a big rain was coming to save the day and the crops.
You’re not dense at all. You figured it all out in your comment. The big rain is coming to save the crops. Thanks for reading, as always, Kathy!
In each of these Stanley/Colleen stories, there’s this incredible sadness and a touch of hope. Like the crickets, for instance. They’re a direct effect of this ruined earth they live in, but one of them keeps Colleen company on her way to her interview. The ending left the Eurythmics “Here Comes the Rain Again” in my head.
Now I’ve got that song in my head. I do love the Eurythmics. Yeah, you’re right: a lot of sadness and a bit of hope. Thanks for reading and commenting, Nate!
I hope we see more of Colleen and her gift; I like the way you described it as “the greens”. Such an evocative phrase. And I agree with everyone else; the crickets were a very nice touch. 🙂
Thank you, Michael! Yes, there is some back-story to come. I’ve been dabbling with this. Don’t really know where it is going. So glad to hear that Hadley & the Gang will be back! Thanks for reading, pal.
Meg! You had me at your first paragraph, the way the “camera” snaked from the cricket song down the hallway into the bathroom. The constant cricket refrain was brilliant (especially the errant cricket), and I love your imagination – the greens! That is genius. I was wondering by about paragraph 3 what greens we would get to see, though at first I thought it was something the whole of Earth had somehow developed. As for the rains, I wonder. Does it really mean what she thinks it means? Or am I too suspicious? Love it!
These are great questions, Silver. I’m gonna have to dodge them here and use them as future prompts for myself! So, so glad you enjoyed this. I never know how a piece is going to be received. Thanks for your kind words and close reading.
Always happy to prompt, and to wait patiently for the next part 🙂
I really like the atmosphere you conjure here, blending realism, fantasy elements and dry humour in a way that doesn’t feel at all forced. I think the concept of “the greens” works well because Colleen’s attitude to it is so human and non-fantastical, i.e. it’s something awkward, usually unpleasant and best to be avoided.
As for the humour – I like how it resides in the throwaway observations, such as the crickets who “found themselves inside Colleen’s kitchen with nothing to do” – because, obviously, normally they’d have so many better things to be getting on with 🙂
Hah! Yes, crickets have stuff to do. They are tapping their watches and saying, “Gotta go!” 😉 Very happy to read your comments. I’m especially glad to know that the greens are believable. I think Colleen is self-conscious about it all, not wanting them to run her life or define her. Thanks for your kind words and thoughtful reading, Blake.
What’s the easiest way to find the other Colleen/Stanley stories?
Hey Cyn — I’ve only posted two others so far. Another one is in the hopper, so to speak. Thanks for asking. Here are links:
Jeezum crow! There is a lot going on here, and it’s effing brilliant! I happened upon this late tonight.
I love how you come up with tis stuff:
‘She worried about “the greens,” those seawater-like, murky visions of the future that hovered over people’s heads.’
Hah! Amazeballs! And “jeezum crow” to boot! Thanks so much for your wonderful comments. <3