A blogger I follow Opinionated Man (OM) over at HarsH ReaLiTy put a Flash Friday Fiction challenge and I decided why not jump in and have a little fun. The challenge was to describe a city. Enjoy and please check out the others who have joined in on the fun.
my mother asks every time we talk, “when are you coming home?”
“it’s not the same,” she says. “it’s like a big city now.” she tells me about how main street doesn’t look like main street anymore and how there are lots of job opportunities.
she never wanted me leave home. more specifically she didn’t want me to leave the farm. truthfully it wasn’t much of a farm. that is if you can call one scrawny cow that gave enough milk (on a good day) for my dad’s morning coffee, a few chickens, a three-legged rabbit, an unwanted fox, a mangy dog, and a goat a farm, then yep that was our farm. the best thing about it and the town really was the verbena field. i remember waking up to that smell — fresh squeezed lemons. that smell doesn’t exist in the city unless it comes from a bottle and that smells like a chemical.
my mother sent me some dried verbena on the condition that i come home. i agreed, not because she sent me the verbena, but because I hadn’t been home since graduating college, nearly three years.
after getting off the plane i noticed a strange smell. charcoal, but not in a good sunday afternoon, tailgating kind of way. it was nauseating. thick. it hung in the air and landed on your tongue and got trapped in your nose and lungs. the smoke stacks from mr. george’s factory were operating at full capacity (guess he got tired of paying fines). there were black smoke clouds coming out of them that hid the blue sky and blocked out the sun. as i got closer to where my parents were picking me up, the smell grew worse and more putrid.
i got outside and my mother was standing with her arms outstretched and a big grin on her face. she hugged me as tight as she could and my dad gave me a slug on the arm, “welcome home.” as we drove into town, i noticed the smoke getting thicker and the smell hunkered down in my chest until it was oppressive. i couldn’t breath. i felt like i was suffocating.
“what’s that smell?” i asked.
“the folks that bought mr. george’s factory are experimenting with alternative fuel,” my mother said grinning at me.
“what kind of alternative fuel smells like that?”
“it’s an experiment. i’m sure it’ll all work out in the end,” dad said.
i rolled down the window to try to get some fresh air, but all I got was that smell and a faint whiff of verbena.
my father drove down main street at mom’s request and she was right it didn’t look like a small town anymore. it was very rodeo drive-ish.
when we finally got to the house i was glad it smelled like it always did – lemon verbena. my room was exactly as i left it three years ago. in fact nothing had changed.
after dinner i took a walk around the farm. the cow and goat were half dead, but mom couldn’t bring herself to put them out their misery, the chickens were plucking away at the dirt and the unwanted fox seems to have taken the place of the family dog. i walked out to the field and the verbena leaves weren’t bright and vibrant. they were covered in a thick gritty ash. actually the entire farm was covered in it.
dad was right you do get used to the smell, but i was glad for the verbena. mom, dad, and i sat on the porch discussing the day’s events and at that moment i was glad to be home.
“it’s getting late,” mom said. “we’ll go into town tomorrow, so you can really see what’s changed”
i couldn’t sleep, so i walked around the farm again. i didn’t notice it before but the factory was lit up like a christmas tree and smoke billowing out of its stacks. i decided to take a drive. i found myself at the factory going through the hole in the fence we cut as teenagers.
“humph,”not very security conscious.”
the factory was fantastic. in spite of the ash and soot the building was sparkling. the base was a super smooth pink concrete, i could see my face in the steel trim and the windows went from top to bottom.
i peered through one window and could see clear to the other side. i saw men, women, and children standing in the center of the room. the floor opened up and a fiery ball spewed out. then suddenly half of them were gone and one of the smoke stacks belched out smoke and ash.
i ran back to the car as fast as i could and drove back to the farm. i noticed the lights on and mr. george’s car there. as i walked inside i heard mr. george saying, “we have another loose end we need to tie up.” my mother turned and smiled at me and i felt a sharp pain and then darkness.
when i woke up i was in my bedroom and my mother sitting next to me holding my hand. “i’m sorry,” she said. “we couldn’t let you leave.”
“why can’t i move?”
“it’s the drugs. you’ll get used to them.”
“why didn’t you kill me?” i asked.
she smiles and chuckles, “i couldn’t do that. i love you too much.”
that’s the same thing she said about the cow and the goat. she loved them to much to put them down even though they were barely living.
“i know how you like the smell of fresh picked verbena, so i picked some this morning. smells just like lemons in here doesn’t it?”
i think i nodded because she grinned at me.
“i’m so glad you’re home.”