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Random Fiction #3 – 112918

A lone eagle soared high above the swollen Mississippi River, city blocks submerged under the gentle waves, the sign on the roof of the once grand Kahl Building barely visible above the skyline. In another day or so, it to would succumb to the power of the Father of Waters.

The last cargo carrier was about to depart from the roof, providing refuge for the final diehards who refused the earlier evacuation orders of the Federal Marshals.

Joe Walker looked back out over the city he'd known since boyhood. The only sights he could make out were the once stately homes of the well-to-do merchants perched on the bluffs overlooking what once was downtown Davenport.

Farther to the west was the house he called home. He'd once joked to his college roommate when asked if his family had been affected by the Great Flood of '93. “It would take a flood of biblical proportions to hit our house,” he said, flush with the cocky certainty of youth that his neighborhood at the top of a steep hill was safe from harm.

Forty years later, Joe took one last look out across the watery landscape and shook his head. His once off-the-cuff comment had now come to pass.

He boarded the vapor shuttle and settled in next to a mother and her young son. The tow-headed mop he called hair shook to and fro as he raced a vintage Hot Wheels Corvette StingRay across the plate metal floor. His mom hugged her knees tightly, rocking back and forth with her feet in the air, staring blankly in the distance, unsure of what life would bring next.

Joe shook his head, too, angry that the woman had put herself and her child in such danger. He was a stubborn old mule and knew why he hadn't left when the FEMA troops arrived. He had no one to care for, but himself and even that didn't matter much to him at his age.

He looked closer at her, afraid to say what was really on his mind. Her jet-black straight hair, almond-shaped eyes, and sunburned cheeks could have passed for a tourist on holiday in the Carribean. Instead, she was now a refugee like the rest of them.

He resisted the urge to strike up a conversation, a rare occurrence for Joe, and sat back against the cold metal wall. He swung his tobacco burst leather satchel around to his lap so he could inspect what he'd managed to salvage. The beat-up leather, buttery soft from age and abuse, slumped over the contents, a far cry from new when it was stiff as Trigger and stood up on its own.

He pulled out a smooth, dusky brown leather pen pouch he'd cut and sewn himself from a batch of Horween leather, back when he was young and dreamed of having time on his hands for such hobbies. The red waxed linen stitching had faded to a cherry pink over time. He pulled it close to his nose, inhaling the faint scent of fresh leather that somehow remained. He untied the red leather fastening strap and opened the flip-top, a gleaming trove of silver fountain pens inside.

“Damn, I hope they have ink wherever we're headed,” he said to himself. He'd forgotten to grab a bottle of Noodler's Jet Black from the shelf when he raced through the house one last time.

Joe fasted the strap and set the pouch aside. He pulled out an A4 sized Leuchtturm1917 journal that he'd started filling the day before, fearing the worst but hoping for the best. “Can't do much writing without ink,” he thought. “Maybe I can bargain for a stash of No. 2 pencils. They'd do in a pinch.”

He paused as his hand touched the last item in the satchel. He wasn't sure if he could bring himself to look at that just yet. His wrinkled old hand, covered with age-spots and scarred from one-too-many errant knife blades, rested on a rusted metal 5″x7″ picture frame. Joe had never married, preferring a life of solitude, but still held a candle in his heart for the one who got away all those years ago. He wondered where she was, hoping that she was safe and warm, cozied up under a woolen blanket with the one she loved.

Joe shoved the frame deep into the bottom of the bag and rounded up the other two items from the bench. He gently placed them inside and flopped the outer flap over to close away his memories.

The young woman finally spoke after the little boy whispered in her ear. “He wants to ask you, why don't you just use an iPad?” The little boy giggled as his mom handed him one from her purse. “All that stuff you could do just as easily with this.”

“Well, ma'am, I guess you'll never understand,” Joe said. He shook his head once more, leaned back, and tilted his cap down over his eyes and went to sleep.

Copyright © 2018 Chad V. Holtkamp.

All rights reserved.

Yong Chuan

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