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The Hurricane's Eye Blinked · Original Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
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It was the most ‘red’ thing I had ever seen—two olive pit-sized rubies, sitting there round in the drawer with the old ash trays and cassette boxes, like little holly berries found in the dried dead sticks of a heath. They honestly caught my curiosity, and I asked her about them, to drum up some conversation.

“I got them when I went to the beach,” she answered me. “Down at the shore, thirty minutes from here. Many years ago. They are quite lovely, eh?”

I stared at them a while longer. It wasn’t the word I would have used; I didn’t know what word to use.

“They’re fine,” I said, in the interest of being polite. “I thought maybe you were an aficionado.”

The television was on, and everything in the living room looked covered in dust which was revealed by an outside light. Her big cranium bobbed, watching the screen—but really contemplating, I supposed, my interest in her old jewels. I wondered if the old days disgusted her, really, after all this time, and she didn’t want some young guy yakking to her about her oddments.

“You’ve heard the news about the weather,” she said, changing topics.

I shut the drawer to the little side table, and said, “Category three. Or four. I don’t remember. Yeah, something bad.”

“Four,” she said, relishing correcting me a little. “There’s a big difference between a three and a four.”

“Of course,” I replied.

I wasn’t bothered by it. It was my job to clean a bit and make sure there was food in the cupboard, that meals were on time, etc. I was happy to indulge her in moments like these, because my biggest dread was making sure that she was on schedule with her medication. Sinemet. My stepmother, who was a nurse, asked me why I would go into this work with such a fear. ‘Direct support’, they call it. I took the idea from her, in fact, because I had nothing else I could do. And it’s not so irrational. Cooking and repairs are things I can do by myself. Medication was something the old lady and I had to do together. There is a line between when someone is stable and when they are not, that I have to pretend doesn’t have a dependent factor. Friends through thick and thin, us.

It was every five hours or so—or so! Like a landing pad that was either one mile this way or the other. And if we were off, she wouldn’t be able to control her legs—that was the first thing. And she’d become confused and forget where she was, and what I was doing there. It would seem as though the world had suddenly turned against her—and maybe it had. But what was I supposed to do about it?

For now, though, she had taken her pills, and was giving me guff about the news. We were in the clear, as far as I was concerned. We sat across from each other on the ‘L’ of her loveseat sofa arrangement. I let her have the couch, in case she needed to lay down or move her legs. It was quiet. I wanted to think of something to say—to make the best use of that medication, and maybe show her, perhaps, that I was on her side.

“You know that big red spot on Jupiter?” I said, smirking a little. “The one you always see in photographs? It looks like a scab. Well, that spot is actually a big hurricane. One that would make this new one feel like a spring breeze.”

She thought for a moment. “Jupiter… Jupiter…”

I pulled out my phone. “Here. You’ll remember.” Of a sudden, I felt excited to get her talking about something outside the confines of the mobile home she lived in. Something to think about when she looked out of one of her little windows.

She gawked at the screen for a moment, smiled for me, and returned to the television.

“I thought of it because of your red rubies,” I said, trying to cajole her. “There must be some fascination between the color ‘red’ and hurricanes, huh?”

She didn’t like that one. Then, something came back to her.

“My sister bought them for me,” she said, emphasizing the word. “The rubies. I remember—it was the most beautiful day you could imagine. In those days you could go out for a walk and have the whole beach to yourself. Miles and miles of white sand and sand dollars and summer water. You would think it’d be warm, but it isn’t—it was so, so icy cold that time of year! And you could walk and see shops along the boardwalk and listen to the rhythm of the ocean, it was quite lovely.”

“You’re right,” I replied, stiff as a rock on a jetty. Somehow, it gave me a sinking feeling listening to her talk. I wanted to move her away from thoughts the distant past. I said, “Still, when I’m at the beach, or when I hear about extreme weather conditions, I like to imagine what life would be like on other planets. That spot that I showed you? It’s the size of hundreds of Earths, with winds that could blow apart mountains like nuclear explosions,” I said—exaggerating, but I figured it didn’t matter. “It’s ammonia—the gas form of the stuff you keep in that bottle under your sink. And it’s been whirling about for one-hundred million years. It’s interesting to think of what’s out there, the scale of things. You know?”

She nodded. Then something came on TV, an old dance number, and she started to sing along with it. She had been a music teacher, before the illness, and a folk singer. Her voice was clear and confident, and muscled away all talk of planets and storms that I could muster. It was her world again.

I counted—it was still three and a half more hours to go.

The song ended. Then, she began to muss the folds of her robe. “Do you want some coffee?” she asked, and tried to stand up.

“No thank you—" I answered, hurrying over to restrain her. I pressed my hands lightly down on her shoulders. “Wait—you still need help standing.”

“I’ll be okay,” she replied, resisting me. I couldn’t do anything—the thought of forcing her down didn’t sit right—so I took her gently by the sides of the shoulders. “Do you want me to make coffee, then? Well, maybe I’ll have some. I can take you into the kitchen, if you want.”

She was already trying to move. “This way,” she told me.

We ambled slowly through the living room into the kitchen, where she stopped and looked around, as though she found herself in a different place—her old beach, maybe, I thought. She smiled at the morning light coming in through a narrow glistening window over the sink, and started to walk toward it. Outside I could see a tall bush which obscured the road, and brown birds flitting in and out of its branches.

I tried to remind her about the coffee. “Let’s get you over here,” I said, coaxing her toward the table. “Here we are. I’ll get the machine going, and we can enjoy a morning brew together. How does that sound?”

Something inside her seemed to become sad. “Do you want some breakfast?” she asked me.

“I’ll make breakfast, and coffee, and you can have a seat and relax,” I said, embarrassed to be so tense. I was still holding her lightly by the shoulders.

“That sounds nice,” she said, with her eyes still out the window.

I removed my hands and went over to the fridge. “I’ll heat up some hash browns from yesterday.”

“Oh, that’d be quite lovely.”

The hash browns yesterday had been a tremendous success. It started because she wasn’t sleeping and woke me up with a noise in the middle of the night. I ran out of my room when I heard a THUD! and figured she had fallen, more maybe even had thrown something in confusion. But then, an even more frightening instinct came to me—that she was not confused at all. This had made my heart race, and had made me feel guilty for sleeping with the door shut. I found her in the living room—she had knocked over the cable box trying to play a VHS tape. It was Flashdance. By now it was two-thirty in the morning, about the time when the Sinemet had begun to lapse.

I was averse to putting on a screen—a hundred of them wouldn’t have saved us—so I made the hashbrowns, which weren’t medication, but it got something in her stomach, in her body. And she ate voraciously, without a fork, like a dog which had gotten into something. It startled me, seeing her like that.
I filled the frying pan with leftover potato cubes and added some oil, glad for the sound of the gas and for the crackle of the stovetop. “So when are we supposed to get the hurricane?” I asked, making small talk.

“Oh, it’s going to miss us,” she informed me. “It’s going to go right north of us, into Georgia.” As though it were a fact. She started to play with her robe again. “How’s that coffee coming?”

“It’ll be up soon.”

She tried to stand up again. “Here, let me help.”

“I don’t need any help,” I said, stopping her.

She looked disconcerted. She put her hand over her chest, and said, “I think the… I need… Gosh, I feel dizzy. Can you go into the cabinet and see if you can find...”

“Are you talking about your medication?” I asked. There were still three hours to go. “It’s not time. Besides, we’re going to have hash browns, just like last night. Maybe we can watch a movie.”

She got short. “You’re wrong. I’m having trouble breathing. This doesn’t happen after I’ve taken a pill. I need… more.”

She stood up and stumbled on the leg of the chair—I rushed over to take her in my arms, without dropping the spatula.

“You’re not supposed to be walking!” I couldn’t help shouting. But she didn’t care anymore. As she writhed in my arms, stabilizing herself, it felt like all the doors to the house had been locked. I knew she could sense me, now breathing with her, how afraid I was, how I had hidden myself behind her memories and images from outer space. I felt weak, useless; much weaker than her, just a meat pile struggling within her walls, against her old cabinets and the flower inlays of her slot kitchen window. The light was shining through its panes onto a faucet which was rusted like old dry blood.

“Let’s watch TV,” I said, letting smoke rise out of the frying pan on the stove. “Come on, I’m sure there’ll be something that you remember.”

Her breathing slowed. She closed her eyes and rested her large, round head against my chest, and gaped at the mouth. Her fingers loosened their grip. I did not try to rouse her again, for fear of another panic attack. We simply stood in the kitchen, with breakfast burning, as time seemed to have come to a standstill—her time, looking through the window where she was onto the long life she had lived, and my time for its pointillism, its staidness in the heat of the fight she was having out.

Then she began to hum. It picked up, and became a melody. She sang it out loud, like I was her audience and I had always known it, and she took me by the hands. Just a few touches—no force—and we went into a slow dance. She led, pressing her noggin into me. I couldn’t sing, I couldn’t move, couldn’t make a joke—I could only follow. Her warmth was overpowering. I waltzed with her, slowly, like one of the moons of Jupiter.
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#1 · 1
Also a few editing things in this one that look more like lack of editing time than anything else.

Hm, this one doesn't come to a conclusion any more than the first one, but it still feels more coherent, because the context isn't what gives the story its meaning. The important parts of it are apparent enough, and it's a similar window into a day-to-day moment, and here, the day-to-day-ness of it is the point. It's not that anything new is happening—it's that it's a day like any other, which is the main source of its tragedy. My only suggestion is maybe to be clearer about their relationship. I think he's a paid caregiver, but I don't know for sure. He might be a family member.

Whereas I like the first story for its whimsical tone, I like this one for its realism.