Appeared in HUNGER MOUNTAIN #21, "Masked/Unmasked"
A week after I told Fergus I’d proposed to Abby, he woke me at two in the morning with a text that they’d lit up a hellhole in Mecklenburg, and we had to go see it before it burned out.
I sat up in bed as I read the message and immediately began to shiver. Dad had splurged on a big chunk of our winter gas ration during Christmas break to keep Aunt Sarah warm, and now he turned the heat down so low, the house was like a refrigerator at night. I could see my breath as I squinted bleary-eyed through the frost that glazed the window beside my bed and imagined just how warm and toasty the fires of hell would feel right about then. Outside, the moon hung in the clear night sky like a forty-watt bulb somebody had flicked on in the basement to keep the city’s pipes from freezing, but it wasn’t working. Ice encrusted the cars and houses all along my street, while the university buildings on the far hill glinted like blocks of quartz in the silver glow from the snow and moon and stars.
I scanned the message again and slammed the phone on the bedside table. I was pissed that after a week of dead silence Fergus had woken me for a goddamned hellhole. But he was always getting worked up over crap like that, crap he couldn’t do a thing about. It was just like him to get twitchy because the gas company had lit a match to a sinkhole in some farmer's lower forty. Here was a kid who trolled the eco blogs like most guys hunt for porn. When he was twelve he even wrote a letter—an actual, honest-to-God letter, with a stamp and envelope and everything—just because the Starkist people started putting dolphin meat back into the tuna fish. My attitude was, well, what’s left out there for them to put in it? But he went off and wrote his letter, and six months later he got back a coupon for five bucks off his next can of tuna.
I thought that was pretty cool because at least it meant a real person had actually opened his letter and read it, but he got so worked up about it he had an asthma attack and was out of school for two days.
I snuggled back under the covers, shoved my face beneath the pillow, and tried to conjure up the dream I’d been having about Abby doing that thing she does with her tongue, but my phone buzzed again.
It was Fergus texting he’d meet me out front in fifteen minutes...
(Full text available in HUNGER MOUNTAIN #21)
© 2017 Rob Costello