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  • Jordan Keller

Story idea: Snow Cones

I want to write a story about a group of friends who have to stop some evil in the heat of an Oklahoma summer when all they really want are snow cones.


This may or may not be the start of that story.


****


Fast was a good way to describe the Rose siblings.

Madeline Rose tore through the single-story ranch house. Family photos threatened to fall off painted walls, and ceramic roosters clung to their counter-top perches in her gale force. She smashed her feet into earth-stained sneakers containing four years' worth of bunny ear knots that would never become loose. With one arm barely snaked through her windbreaker, she left the house with the slapping screen door her only farewell.

Clouds unsure of their color; slate rolling into black rolling into ash rolling into steel, and unsure of their shape; billowing spheres, radial slats, imposing cubes, made the wide Oklahoma sky ominous. The unsure colors and the unsure shapes promised one sure thing. A storm. Potential rain. Potential wind. Potential hale. Potential lighting. Guaranteed power.

With her heart acting as a weather tracker, Madeline was drawn to the storm. It beat like a normal organ, but each beat was a blip on a weather radar. Madeline Rose was a storm chaser.

The dark clouds were her gold medal. She just needed to catch them first. Her home shrank behind her as ran down the driveway. Her legs toned from her self-induced training. She had made the same pilgrimage every day for the last two years. Regardless if a storm cheered her on or a harsh sun punished her endeavors, the 1.7 miles to the end of her rural street passed by in a dry blur of dying grasses, forgotten fences, empty fields, and faded houses.

Inhabited houses dotted the neighborhood as frequently as trees didn’t, so no one saw the teenager walk home defeated and winded in her training sessions. Several times Madeline dreamt of lassoing a painted horse she imagined living in one of the fields and riding the creature home. Her pulsing feet, shaking calves, and pinching sides liked the daydream very much.

When she chased a thunderstorm, however, her body became immune to the pain. She pressed forward with the same drive an Olympic athlete possessed when eyeing their finishing line. Nothing would stop her. Nothing could stop her. The ionized air energized her core and rocketed her red-stained sneakers off the cracked one-lane road. She didn’t check for traffic as she crossed the street, the wide plains on either side couldn’t hide a car if it tried, and she didn’t check for a property owner as she ducked under the fence. The owner, and the property lines, had died with the horses.

The rain started on the other side of the faded, cracked, molded wooden fence. It peppered her jean shorts gray and slid off the arms of her windbreaker. Loose strands of brown hair stuck to the sides of her face before she cleared them away with her hands. The peppering became a stoning as Madeline ran closer to the epicenter. The clouds had finally decided on their color: black. They had finally decided on their shape: twisted.

Madeline did not stop. She couldn’t when she was this close. Her shoes plunged into the wet earth with vigor.

This storm had only claimed her for the last three miles, but Madeline Rose had chased storms since one devoured her home eight years ago. The family house was rebuilt, and the family belongings replaced, and the family photos resupplied by generous aunts, cousins, and friends. But, the rage never left Madeline’s heart. At eight years old, Madeline was only allowed to run to the end of the driveway before her pa would call her back. At ten, she could ride her bike to the end of the street. At thirteen, the first year her pa left, no one held her back. She ditched her bike for her legs after a broken chain kept her homebound for two promising storms. That younger Madeline chased storms to seek her revenge. This current Madeline chased the static energy in awe.

She skidded into the epicenter. The storm did not like the intrusion. The rain fell in sheets, painfully striking the intruder. The wind gusted down and tore the girl’s hair into tumbleweeds. The lightning shattered the sky and shook the ground.

Madeline felt as alive as the air.

She felt as dangerous as the storm.

Reaching into the swirling clouds, she begged the wind to lift her up. Her heart blipped excitedly, nervously, hungrily, longing to be in the storm's eye. Whatever energy spun above her, she wanted. Whatever unknown spirit called to her soul, she needed. Madeline wasn’t sure why or how, but she knew if she could just catch a storm, all of the empty holes in herself would be filled. The storm would provide.

Lightning struck inside the cloud mass. Its glowing fingers snaked through the storm and ripped apart the sky. The rain softened. The wind faded. A roar of thunder dissipated the storm entirely.

Madeline collapsed to her knees. Her skin stained as red as the mud around her. The damp earth was the only proof the storm existed. A five-color sunset took its place in the sky without so much of a pardon me. Red faded to orange to purple to blue to black. Madeline’s passion disappeared with the storm and now she kneeled in the mud.

The chill the storm brought was overpowered by the southern summer air still hot despite the departure of the sun; a ball of bright orange painted as an afterthought inside the curtain of colors. The mud beneath Madeline dried and caked against her legs and hands. She refused to untether herself from her failure inside her red-stained casket until headlights illuminated her like the cemetery statue she must have looked like: crumpled, sad, weather-beaten.

The headlights belonged to an old cherry red Mazda with a surprisingly straight hand-painted black racing stripe. The Mazda belonged to an eighteen-year-old gear head with enough know-how to fix the car when he got it for next to nothing off an impound lot. The tinted driver side window rolled down to reveal a bright smile that took the place of the dying sun.

The small but fierce Venus star overhead checked her cosmic watch to make sure it was indeed twilight. The planetary body wasn’t used to two suns.

Madeline shielded her eyes with the back of her hand. Healing knuckles reflected the sunshine back into the driver’s window.

“No wonder they call you storm chaser,” Jason Rose teased behind the wheel. “Are you ever going to actually catch one?”

Madeline lowered her hand and replaced it with a glare. “How old were you when you ate your first sun?”

By way of answer, Jason slid his scorched black tongue through his perfect teeth. The permeant burn was a mark of victory. One Madeline was kept aware of with every meal, conversation, taunt they shared. She left muddy handprints on her windbreaker as she dropped her hands to her side. She crossed the headlight beams, her elongated shadow stretching far into the field before them, and entered the car.

“Merrick wanted all of us to go out tonight,” Jason said. He commanded the Mazda to donut inside the mud before Madeline could click her seatbelt into place. His own belt was fastened behind him to stop the car from screaming when he didn’t actually wear it.

“Moon’s not full though?” Madeline patted her palms against her shorts hoping the damp material would take her muddy offering, but her hands and nails remained stained with Oklahoma red dirt.

Jason shrugged. His own stained hands, colored by the sun and not the earth, gripped the wheel while his foot pressed harder against the gas pedal. Once the Mazda slid onto the main road, the car squealed to faster speeds. The cracked vinyl interior was hot despite the AC wheezing through the cab. Jason didn’t seem to mind. Madeline used the hand crank to lower her window.

“Maybe he’s trying something new?” Jason asked. “You can stay home if you want. The warden is making road stew.”

Madeline wrinkled her nose at the mention of their mother’s roadkill dinner delight. “Oh no. I’m going.”

Jason accelerated, and his car happily obliged. “Good. I wouldn’t have time to drop you off anyway.”

Madeline rolled her eyes. Her older brother acted like he’d die each night at sunset, and demanded he accomplish everything in the daylight hours. Even if that meant kidnapping her for misdeeds, like vandalizing the water tower when they were in middle school. Their names were still messily spray painted on the white orb.

Jason navigated the tight black roads like he carved them himself. His own personally designed race track. Sitting next to him, Madeline felt the afterglow of the storm. Raw and powerful, something more than just a weather pattern. The same energy radiated off of Jason like the warmth of a compact sun.

When she did catch her storm, she wondered how good it would feel to contain that energy.

Impatient was a better word to describe the Rose siblings.







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