Thursday, April 22, 2010

30 Days, 30 Stories: "An Inconvenient Task"

An Inconvenient Task
by Melva Gifford

2010 copyright; author retains all rights to the story. Please do not use this story without author's permission.

"Nervous?"

Renni looked up at his mom. The long fingers of her hand pressed gently
onto his shoulder. He shook his head, but shifted in his suit and tie
that was usually reserved for Sundays. Their family Robo-Maid had pressed
it just an hour ago before storing itself back in the closet. Why
couldn't he just wear a T-shirt like everyone else?

She bent down until she was eye level with him. "First, the reporters
will want to ask a few questions. Then they'll watch you pull the chain,
Okay?"

His stomach twisted and then settled. He and his Mom had practiced
pulling the chain dozens of time, so it wasn't something new. This time,
though, the chain was real and would actually do what it was suppose to
do.

"I'm Okay."

Grandpa snorted from his chair at the dinner table. "Remember your
birthday, boy?' His voice rose in pitch. "What happens to light bulbs in
Winter when they're cold and suddenly get turned on?"

Renni knew Gramps didn't like the whole idea of what he was going to do
nor all the reporters crowding around to watch. At least the reporters
were outside their house, circling the stand in their front yard. Renni
looked evenly at his grandfather. What was Gramps saying?

Suddenly, his grandfather bellowed, "Pop!" and slapped his hands
together, making a noise that echoed. "That's what happens when a bulb
gets too cold and you suddenly turn it on–Pop!"

He forced a laugh. Sometimes he couldn't tell when Gramps was joking.
Overhead, Renni heard the whoosh whoosh whoosh of helicopter blades
cutting through the air outside. The front room's clock chimed; one
o'clock in the afternoon on a hot Arizona summer day.

His parents followed Renni out into the front yard. Cheers and applause
greeted them. Cameras floated in the air, like metallic balloons. The
three of them mounted the steps of the stand, smiling.

As the hubbub quieted, a reporter stepped forward.

"World Media," the reporter began, "has said that a child should be the
one to perform this important task. How do you feel about winning the
chance to take the first step toward preserving our world and its future
generations?"

Renni stared at the man and shrugged his shoulders.

The reporter leaned forward. "What exactly are you going to do, Renni?"

He drew in a breath and slowly blew it out. His gaze shifted to the chain
hanging directly above him. A few feet above the chain hung an electronic
switch. Balloons, held between helicopters high above, kept the two in
position. With a pull of the chain the breaker switch would transmit a
signal to the Hydrogen dampers positioned in space.
The switch would turn
on the dampers...

Renni looked back at the reporter. "I'm going to turn off the sun."
***

"Son, it's time for bed."

Renni didn't move. He continued to sit on the couch that lined the widow.
The couch fabric felt gritty from the wind of a few hours ago. The front
door had been left ajar to capture the evening breeze. It had been weird
to have it dark in the middle of the day. Several hours earlier, it had
taken just over eight minutes for the sun's remaining light to flow to
Earth before thinning into darkness.

His mom waited.

Renni looked up. "I'm not tired yet. Can't I stay up a little?"

She hesitated. "I guess a little longer wouldn't hurt. Today has been a
pretty exciting day for you. Alright, you can stay up for a half hour,
then off to bed." She hesitated. "And don't let Grandpa's teasing get to
you."

"I won't."

She bent down, kissed his forehead and left the room.

But Renni didn’t tell the truth to his mom. What Grandpa had said was
still bothering him. Renni looked out the dusty window to the platform
still bathed in spotlights. After all the media, their whole yard looked
like an old trashed fairground.

The only thing missing from the afternoon's ceremony was the chain and
switch. They would return to the stage tomorrow, when Renni would than
perform the task of turning the sun back on.--

That is if it could be turned back on.

"Can the sun get cold out in space?" Renni asked himself. "Is it like a
light bulb on a cold winter day?" He leaned forward, hugging his knees.

And when it suddenly got turned on--would it pop?

What would happen if the sun couldn't be turned back on?

Renni stared out into the yard. Tomorrow he would know. For tonight,
throughout the night he would wait...
and wait...

3 comments:

Taffy said...

Wow! Turning off the sun is interesting!

Emily said...

I definitely want more of this! I gasped out loud when I read "turn off the sun." Great idea.

Cathy Witbeck said...

Holy camole, what if it doesn't turn back on. This isn't just a story, it's a book.