Ten Minutes Above

Empty T-Bar Lift

Prompt: Writing Prompts by Writing.com app
Place: a ski slope
Character: a court reporter
Object: a flatscreen TV
Mood: Aggravated
proofread: R.L. Campbell

“No, no. First the ski-lift stopped, then the lift shook along with the trees.” Rosemary said into her phone. She was the only person in the four-person chairlift. “I cannot get through to the lodge.”

Below her, the snow was shifting. The trees on her right had already been dozed by the moving snow a good fifty feet wide. She knew the lodge far behind her would have suffered the same fate. She knew, because she had heard just yesterday the concerns of one of the managers. That scene in the lobby had resulted in the manager being fired for attempting an evacuation.

‘He knew and he tried to save us,’ she thought for the thousandth time since the lift had stopped. ‘Why didn’t I leave!’ She wasn’t asking herself, she was berating herself. Others had left. She didn’t know if they had known the manager on a personal level, or if they had overheard his argument with the resorts owner. For her, it was the latter, but regardless, they were smart enough to leave. She should have been that smart.

The operator on the other end of her conversation was not cooperative. She didn’t know what was more aggravating, the fact that he was not taking her call serious, or that he kept referring to her as “sweetie”. Who cares how many college pranksters claim a massive avalanche has taken out the biggest ski resort in the state? All emergency calls should be considered serious. As a court stenographer, she knew of plenty of deaths related to imbecile emergency operators.

She was about to reiterate herself for a third time, when she saw the trees shake again. This was more than just an avalanche caused by record snowfall, it had to be something in the ground. Every time it had happened, the trees shook first, then the cable swayed and the chairlift swung. Long before the snow came.

She braced herself with her right arm around the safety bar. Whatever happened next, it would be big. She had never seen the trees sway that much. They started to shatter in the middle.

“Oh God!” Rosemary declared into the phone. At that moment, she abandoned her aggravation. Shear terror controlled her now. The phone fell as she flung her left arm over the back of the seat. Her torso was not long enough to lock the back of the chair up under her armpit, she would have to use her elbow instead. If the lift swayed half as much as the trees had, she would be flung off for sure.

The feeling of weightlessness tickled her stomach when the chairlift dropped a few feet. She looked up just in time to witness a massive wall of snow plow into and over the lift support ahead of her. It buckled and bent toward the full chair in front of her. The wall of snow crashed over like an ocean wave hitting the breakwaters in a hurricane. It engulfed the chairlift in front of her and she saw a bright orange backpack fall off.

Her chairlift bounced up and down this time, instead of swaying around. It jarred her spine, but she held tight. Her bladder released, but she was not aware of it. One of the people in front of her had become dislodged and was hanging by a foot. Rosemary watched in horror as the person tried to bend up and grab the chairlift, arms flailing. The snow below was closer, maybe less than eight feet.

The person fell.

Like quicksand, the snow swallowed him alive. Rosemary started to cry. It was involuntary, but she wasn’t going to attempt to stop. She saw only two heads left on the chairlift in front of her. Two people left, not the three there should have been, two. The backpack had not been a backpack after all.

The Ski-lift support was bent down slope. She was no engineer, but it didn’t take one to know it would break any moment.

“Oh God,” she wept. “Please let it hold. Please God.” She closed her eyes.

Tornado McGee

Image of od street in cityscape.

Prompt provided by: Writing Prompts by Writing.com app.
Place: a smokey poker room
Character: a young reporter
Object: a full spiral binder
Weather: a tornado approaches
Proofread: R.L. Campbell

Brentworth had already watched two different young men enter Hook’s Billiards in as many days. Not only had they seemed to be there for the first time ever, it very well could have been their first times in a any bar. Most of the patrons here were upwards of 60 years or more, but those two couldn’t have been any older than 20.

The first young reporter Brentworth had seen was all gung-ho and fast talking. He had been clean cut and wore a black sport-coat with a matching tie and slacks. Tailored. The hat could have been purchased ten minutes before entering Hook’s Billiards. He even had a white card tucked into the hats ribbon. “Press”, it read, printed. Somebody thought a lot about himself.

He had strode right through the door took a few paces and stopped to look around. He stifled a cough from the thick smoke, then walked straight on to Ole Jimmy tending the bar. As he approached the wizened barkeep, he flourished a small notepad and a pencil from his pockets.

Brentworth watched as Ole Jimmy just looked at the fellow and listened to the spew, never stopping his polishing of the drinking glass he held. Whatever that kid had said, it was not what Ole Jimmy was waiting for. The barkeep just shook his head and waved Mr. Press off. That was when Brentworths’s interest in the boy ended. He looked down at the Scotch in his hands and ignored whatever else would take place on the other side of the hidden window. He drank the Scotch in one gulp and poured another two-fingers.

The second young man came in the next day. No press tag tucked in the hat ribbon this time. No sports jacket either. The tie was loose and the shirt stained at the pits. He wore his hat pushed back about as far as it could go, and pin-striped slacks. He took in the room, much like Mr. Press had yesterday, and once again strode straight to Ole Jimmy. This time, instead of a notebook and pencil, a pack of shorts. He pulled one out and tapped it on the bar while asking Ole Jimmy something.

Just as the day before, Brentworth watched Ole Jimmy do no more than listen while polishing a drinking glass in his hands. When the fellow stopped talking, Ole Jimmy just shook his head, and Brentworth ignored the rest of things on that side of the two-way mirror. Time for a Scotch.

It was about 4 hours later, just before Five O’clock when he watched the third young reporter enter. This one look aged beyond his years, obviously young, but dressed… older. He wore no hat, or sport-coat, but his bow-tie was tied and matched his sleeve garter. He did have a buttoned up vest and what appeared to be wool britches. He wore glasses and his black hair was slicked down and back, parted at the middle.

As the young man entered, Brentworth watched him hold the door open as if waiting for someone behind him. After a short moment, the man glanced back as if he expected someone to be there. Nobody was there, and the young man released the door. His walk to the bar was tentative, and he took a stool three down from where Ole Jimmy polished another drinking glass. The young man gestured the number two with the fingers of one hand while dropping a few coins on the bar with the other.

Brentworth watched as Ole Jimmy put down his polishing towel and the drinking glass he had been rubbing. Ole Jimmy Hobbled over to the young man, took out a bottle of whiskey and a shot glass from under the bar. While Ole Jimmy poured, the young man leaned forward and spoke as if to not be over heard. Ole Jimmy leaned in to listen setting the bottle on the bar-top. The young man didn’t have much to say, and without waiting for a response, downed his shot. Ole Jimmy poured a second shot and when the young reporter looked up at him, Ole Jimmy nodded.

That was all Brentworth needed to see, he stood and pulled the curtain on his side of the two-way mirror closed just as Ole Jimmy pointed toward the door to the poker room. Brentworth took a bottle of whiskey and a second glass off a shelf between the mirror and door in one hand, while unlocking the door with his other. He settled into the booth table and placed a full spiral binder from the bench next to him onto the middle of the table.

He poured two glasses, whiskey for the new-comer, and Scotch for himself. His heart rate had increased for the anticipation. The young reporter who would come through that door in just moments must be the man Johnstein had trusted with the evidence, before his sudden and mysterious death. It must be him, otherwise Ole Jimmy would not have nodded and pointed the young fellow toward his door.

Tornado McGee’s trial was coming to town. Brentworth was the last secret witness. He couldn’t go to the district attorney, but that binder needed to be put into play. How else but through a young investigative reporter? That was Johnstein’s backup plan in case of death, and it was now up to Brentworth to enact it. He would do it. He would see that Johnstein’s friend got that evidence, and published it.

He took a few deep breaths and waited.

Betsy

Photo of a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter.

Writing Prompt by Writing.com
Place: on a boat
Character: a violinist
Object: one airline ticket
Mood: overwhelmed
Proofread: R.L. Campbell

The first thing I remember is the cold. It beat at my face like stabbing swords. Tiny stabbing swords the size of toothpicks. It hurt, those piercing little toothpick blades. Only, they weren’t “blades” at all, but … coldness. “Beat” isn’t the right word either. Splash, I guess, fits better. It was ice water after all. And even colder air.

I opened my eyes when the feeling of drowning overwhelmed the pain of the cold. I coughed, and that hurt more. Something was in my throat and in my nostrils, stinging me. Soda pop? Miniature bees? Water. I tried to roll over but found my body constricted. I could not move. Hogtied? … Kidnapped and drowning?!!

Betsy!

Blinking, I strained to look down at my body. Maybe it wasn’t even there, that would explain why I could not move. It was there. Well, something was there. I don’t wear plaid! No, not hogtied. I’m wrapped up and laying down. A plaid blanket. A cold blanket.

It was then when I started to feel like I was gaining my senses. Lying on my back, I could make out—see the overcast sky. I could smell smoke, acrid burning, chemical smoke. To my right a hard wood floor and a bundle of… another person. I am a person. A blue face but with puffs of visible vapor from the too-blue lips and nose at regular intervals.

Betsy.

A gasp and cough from the other side of me. I turned my head. It hurt. A similar sight.

“We … We will … make … it. Thank Ggggod … We will …make … it,” the bundled person to my left coughed out. He or she? I could not tell, but eyes I will never forget. They stared into mine. I could see beyond the physical and recognized shear relief and joy despite the shades of his/her blue lips and white cheeks. A smile even, though it seemed it would shatter those smooth frozen-looking cheeks.

I think we crashed into the water.

Betsy!

Thunder from above. Man made, the familiar thunder of a helicopter. Agonizing minutes rolled past as I searched frantically for the source of the sound. It was up there, and it was loud, like it would land right on top of me. Then I heard footsteps as bright yellow and orange jacketed men appeared. Comforting words, and confident commands.

The person to my right was gathered into a long basket. I knew what was going on now. My plane had crashed. It was a “water landing”, and some of us had survived. What about Betsy? I could not loose her. She was my only key to the future I had dreamed of. She was all I had brought with me on the plane.

It was just a short flight, no need for clothes or other baggage. Just fly in, audition, and fly out. Betsy would be the clincher. Without her my dreams of being a world-renowned violinist would shatter to a million pieces. The whole village depended on Betsy and me. They gathered the money and I would represent them.

Oh Betsy…

I didn’t even own a violin. The village only had one. It was lent to me for one month. That’s all I had and time was running out. One more audition, and the money was gone. If I did not get the seat, we would return home, Betsy and I, with my tail between my legs, so-to-speak. And the fate of my village for my failure? Who could say. They had invested in me. Me and Betsy.

The two passengers gone, the coast guard returned to me. Was I all that was left? The last to leave the little fishing boat that had plucked me away from what surely would have been a better future than returning home in shame, and without Betsy… No, death was not better. It was good to be alive. I will survive, and the village would prevail.

“I think this is yours,” the orange-vested man said and tucked something under my blanket. I could tell what it was. I remember holding it on the plane. It was something I had always thought I’d cherish, but now, I didn’t want anything to do with the airline ticket. It had stole my dreams, my passion, and my honor.

As I drew near the hovering helicopter, I was well aware that somewhere down below, perhaps in the cargo bay of the downed airplane was a trapped and drowning Betsy. If her case had survived, it would become her coffin, if violins could have one.

“So long Betsy,” I croaked out in a hoarse whisper. “I am sorry”