As happens occasionally, Mewhinney has gently prodded me to take a whack at the weekly Daily Post challenge, and welcoming any encouragement that I receive, I thought I might give it a whirl. Fiction is a funny thing for me, as I read very little of it. Most recently, I adored Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies, and I am excited for the third volume. This is an aberration for me. I am drawn to hulking non-fiction works, and I was just joking with a friend about how on my honeymoon I sat on the beach next to my lovely bride, she with a stack of crime novels, and I happily immersed in Holloway’s fascinating Stalin and the Bomb. When I was noodling around a few ideas for this (which is against the spirit of flash fiction, I guess), I realized another heavy dose of fiction in my life is Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion, so I need to be careful about not letting any Minnesota Lutherans creep into what I write.
I have previously alluded to something I call, for lack of a better term, writer’s block. I have it in my mind that this blog be a place of constructive writing, and have tried to steer clear of rants and whining. Yet much of the material I start to write recently seems gravitationally drawn towards a negative slant which I do not like, so I have left a lot of it to molder in various drafts I doubt will ever see the light of day. I am not going to delve into why this is, but it is part of why things have been so quiet around here. I wondered if flash fiction might not jump start things, but a few false starts suggested to me that the vapor lock remained in effect. Then I wondered if I might not trot out a modest homage, drawn from a favorite fiction indulgence. Permit me to turn to Spaceman Spiff, one of Bill Watterson’s great inspired creations in his Calvin & Hobbes works.
Spaceman Spiff peered around the edge of the airlock. Reassured by the silence, he crept into the docking bay, noting the blast damage from the assault. Crossing the room quickly, he knew he must destroy the flagship before the aliens could learn anything from its systems, and that required removing the shielding from the reactor. He unfastened a service panel, lowered himself into the conduit that ran the length of the ship, and hurried aft. As he passed the belly turret mounts, his heart stopped when he saw two of the creatures examining the guns. As the closer beast started to call out, Spiff raised his laser, squeezed the trigger twice, and both lizards collapsed to the floor. Hurrying on, Spiff reached the engine room. Fishing a key out from around his neck, he slid it into a red circular fixture on the control panel and turned it three deliberate rotations until the lights on the panel began to pulse urgently. With five minutes until the release of the plasma core, Spiff raced back towards his shuttle craft. He neared the ladder under the docking bay, just as the ship lurched with the first small blasts from the crippled cooling system. Heaving himself onto the main deck, he spotted four aliens approaching. Two of them drew and fired as Spiff leapt across the corridor and rolled behind the cover of the hatch. Sprinting for the airlock, he slammed it shut and mashed down the emergency unmooring switch. The craft jetted away from the flagship, and Spiff could see explosions rippling across the engine housings. A blinding white flash engulfed Spiff, and for a moment all seemed lost. Debris rattled off of the hull as the shuttle accelerated away. He opened a channel to HQ and calmly reported “Mission complete.”