Monday, March 14, 2011

JC Martin both fighter and writer held a contest to celebrate her 200th folower.  It was a writing contest and I thought I would give it a shot.  I got second place in reader votes.  I am reposting my entry below and it was originally posted at scifi media.  Readers of this blog, you get the special treat of reading my un-truncated (JC limited entries to 750 words).  I only had to cut a little and it still comes in under 1,000 words.  so, without further ado.

Running Late

“BEEP, BEEP, BEEP!” Carlos looks at the clock and thinks, “not again.” He has exactly fifteen minutes to be at school. He throws the covers off himself and launches out of bed towards the dresser; dirty shirt off and in a pile in front of his closet door before he even gets there. He slides into a fresh shirt leaving his pants and socks from the previous day, or a previous day at least. Backpack in hand, he exits his room before the clock hits 6:16. As he leaves his house, he resets his alarm clock from his phone and thinks, “that snooze alarm is going to be the death of me.”

He has been late twice this semester and has cut it close more times than he would like to recall. Carlos doesn’t mind school, but it isn’t really something worth waking up for either. He is an okay student. Smart enough to get by without really trying. That of course leads to speeches about applying oneself and, obviously, showing up on time. He knows the penalty if he doesn’t get through the gates in time.

Carlos hits the sidewalk running as he looks up towards the intersection ahead. It is a main line; the only one between his house and the school. There is no way he is going to make it before the signal changes. “Might as well of grabbed something in the kitchen before I headed out,” he mumbles as he waits the two minutes for the signal to change back. Timmy runs up and stops. By the look of his hair, Timmy has just woken up too. “How much time left on it?” Carlos responded, “you're in luck, about twenty seconds”. Luck, yeah, Timmy wouldn’t make it if he had to sit through another light. It is going to be tight as it is now.

The light changes and as Carlos and Timmy head across the street they see them, the truancy bots. Hovering about eight feet in the air, if the bots caught an image of their retinas they would be tailed and there would be no fudging it. With no violations, or even just one, the bots might ignore them, but two strikes meant these guys were going to get tailed. The problem was that the bots repositioned themselves and tried to image everyone’s retina. Although the purpose of the bots were to get truant kids off the street, the info that they processes had been used to convict people of crimes, call witnesses, and they were public records so even private eyes used them in their investigations of cheating spouses. Legally they were only truancy bots and the other information was just a happy side effect.

Of course the bots saw them, they always do. They were within two blocks of the school and only had five minutes before the gates shut. If they were caught outside the gates for a third time, they wouldn’t be let in, the bots would alert the police and you got hauled off for thirty days. Carlos didn’t know anyone that had ever been unexcused three times, but the rumors he heard weren’t good; some kids said they did this procedure where they stick an ice pick up your nose and into your brain and swirl it around, scrambling the part of your brain that made you misbehave. That sounded a little farfetched to Carlos, but he didn’t want to find out where you went or what happened to you.

Two minutes left, Carlos could see the school. They were going to make it. Just a side street left to cross. Carlos sprinted through two stopped cars and, right as he was stepping on the sidewalk, heard the brakes of an auto car and a crunch. Timmy was on the ground holding his leg. Carlos looked down at his phone; just over one minute left. He looked back at Timmy. Timmy’s eyes were drilling holes in him. They said, “don’t leave me here!” Carlos knew if he tried to help, they would both get caught and he still had a chance by himself. He turned and ran making it through the gates with 10 seconds to spare. He could hear the truancy alarm blowing on the truancy bots outside the walls.

Thirty days later, Timmy returned to school. He was on crutches and his leg was casted up. Carlos, tried to avoid him, but it was kind of hard when they had several classes together. Timmy didn’t seem upset with him, but he wasn’t overly friendly either. Whatever they did seemed to be working because Timmy wasn’t late anymore, in fact he was always early. He dressed nicer and answered more questions too, but he wasn’t interested in playing video games or shooting hoops anymore. Carlos, decided that what happened to Timmy wouldn’t happen to him. He would make sure that he wasn’t late anymore. Violations only stuck for six weeks and he only had two weeks before he was back down to only having one.

“BEEP, BEEP, BEEP!” Carlos looks at the clock and thinks, “not again!”

1 comment:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Second place? That's great, Budd!