Sunday, 20 October 2013

The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie

So, this is for Chuck's most recent Flash Fiction Friday challenge. We were to pick a random song title and use it as the title of our Flash Fiction Piece:

I won the iTunes jackpot with 'The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie', by the very awesome Chili Peppers, but funnily enough, the story I planned out - a post-apocalyptic, alternate-world story about rain-making didn't actually get written. For some reason a very little story was asking me to try to tell it, so here it is. 

My face is hot. I can feel my cheeks burning as I watch Mrs Humphries put her arm in the box. It must be so obvious. I’m sure they’re looking at me. Who decided today was the day to put your heart on the line, anyway? Isn't he one of those made-up Saints, like St. George? So, maybe it’s just a made-up day for suckers like me to give everyone a good laugh? What possessed me??

The room’s thunderously loud, and whether some of us sent them, or are getting them, we’re all acting up for poor old Mrs Humphries, who won’t get registration finished until the cards are given out. She knows it. She must have done it at least a hundred times, which is why she’s given up calling names and is up to her elbows in the paper-covered box on her desk.  It’s red with pink love hearts, obviously.

The noise is just a cover-up for the fact that we’re all burning – some with curiosity, watching the proceedings, storing the gossip to share in other lessons. Did you hear Sarah got 6 cards! Well, Rebekah didn't get any this year, but did you see the evil look she gave Luke? And some of us (namely me) are burning up with embarrassment, anticipation and shame. Seriously -whatever possessed me to send it?

Last year neither of us got any, but that was just fine. Walking home we joked about how pathetic the whole Valentine’s thing was. She claimed boys were smelly, which I’d had to give her. I mean, have you smelt the locker rooms, like, ever? I went on and on about how annoying girls, especially her, were, and we ran home, laughing hysterically at how wet we were getting in the torrential downpour. We tried to trip each other up, elbows weapons against soft sides and we jumped and danced in massive puddles, singing ‘I’m singing in the rain’ at the tops of our voices.  

I got it in the neck from my mum as I walked through the back door, a dirty puddle forming under my sopping shoes, right on her bright, white, Domestos-clean lino. And although I ended up with a cold I couldn't shift for 2 weeks, I was happy.  That was the day I’d noticed how her straight red hair curled in the rain, how bright and shiny her eyes were when she really smiled and what a terrible singer she was. We’d bonded over rejecting all that soppy, sappy stuff and then I fell for her. I think that’s called irony.

I watch Mrs Humphries carrying a single envelope as she walks towards Maggie, the lobster of my affections. At least, I think that’s what mum called her. Sounds odd, but I think there’s other seafood sayings – something about an oyster, maybe? I try to remember the exact conversation.

“’Ey up, George” Uncle Phil said, ruffling my hair as he walked though. I jerked away, smoothing my parting back in place without responding. I was in the middle of the current episode of The Walking Dead and talking to me was not going to get any response.

My mum scolded him on my behalf. “Don’t do that, love! He takes 20 minutes to do his hair these days!” She sat on the arm of the sofa, swinging a damp tea towel to her shoulder. “Oh, but they grow up quick, Phil, don’t they?”

Uncle Phil plumped down in the easy chair with a big sigh. “Ahhh. That they do, Sharon. Take my Kayley. (No, please, take her, eh?!) She’ll be done with Uni soon. We’re keeping our fingers crossed she doesn’t want to come back home after. She doesn't know I've turned her bedroom into a brewery and I doubt she’ll want to climb into bed around my kegs!” They both laughed. I muttered grumpily and turned the TV up.

“Come on, George!” Uncle Phil said, too brightly. “Don’t be a grumpylugs. Turn the bloody TV off and chat with your Uncle Phil, eh?”

“I’m watching TV, Uncle Phil!” I complained, but I switched it off anyway, and turned to him expectantly. “So, what do you want to talk about Uncle Phil? Religion? Politics?” I’d smiled sarcastically, thinking I was winning.

“What shall we talk about? Real life, George! Surely it’s more exciting than your TV programmes, eh? What was that you were watching?  Some vampire/witch nonsense?”

“No. Duh! Zombies, Uncle Phil. Can’t you tell the difference? You’ll have a problem come the apocalypse.” I rolled my eyes, closing them quickly as mum swatted at my face with the tea towel.

“Hey, Mister! Don’t you cheek your Uncle.”  I grinned and sincerely apologised, crossing my fingers at the same time.  

He battered me with questions, “So how’s school? How’s that new teacher doing? Mr Philpot, isn't it? Still on the rugby team? How’s that going? Good, eh?  Still doing that Duke of Edinburgh rubbish? Sure you’ll need that orienteering skill when you’re lost in town of a weekend, eh, eh?” 

I knew he didn't want me to answer him. A) He wouldn't actually be interested; and B) This was an old, old routine.  He’d leaned forward, eyes narrowed, went in for the kill: “So. Got a girlfriend yet, George?” 

Pow! Death blow delivered he grinned, cut a sideways glance at my mum and winked.  He always thinks I can’t see him, but I always can. He’s not that bloody clever.

“Matter of fact, I've got someone in mind for it, Uncle Phil. I’ll let you know when the position’s filled.”

He guffawed disbelievingly. I’d huffed and turned the TV back on, but the Walking Dead had finished. I tutted –reminded myself to stop channeling my mum, because 14 year- old boys don’t tut -- and switched it off again. Uncle Phil circled and tried another death blow, “Oh. That’s a good ‘un, George. Or should I say Casanova, eh? Love’s young dream? Should I buy meself a hat, George? “

“How’s about a cup of tea, Phil?” my mum asked, taking pity on me. I hadn't minded mum rescuing me -- Uncle Phil’s a right pain in the arse. Thinks he’d give Billy Connolly a run for his money. As if.

She’d given me some advice as she went through to the kitchen, me straining to hear. “Don’t you listen to your Uncle Phil, Georgie,” she shouted. “He’s just teasing.  You’ll get your girl, me handsome. You’ll win the lobster of your affection, no worries.”

But ‘no worries’ was a lie.  There were plenty of worries -- choosing a card that said the right thing. One that wasn't too sweet, or cuddly, or old, or serious. I didn't want to declare my undying love.  And after choosing one that didn't completely suck, the agony of what to write?  I’d considered the classic:

Be my Valentine



But that was hardly original and how would she know it was from me, anyway?  

Instead of doing my homework last night I agonised for hours and hours about what to write.  I finally fell asleep without deciding, but in the middle of a feverish night it came:

Rain-Dance Maggie.

Please be mine.


I watch Mrs Humphries walk back and I put my head on the cool desk, hair falling in a screen around me. No turning back. She hates it, I know it. She’s sickened. What if she laughs?? Oh, kill me now and end this agony. Whatever possessed me to send it?! Maybe mum will let me change schools?

My heart is drumming like a Duracell bunny and my face is literally burning.  The conversations and shrieks get louder then fade in and out as I concentrate on the hot pulsing in my ears. The sound of the ripping envelope is the loudest thing ever. I imagine it’s the sound of my heart being shredded into a million pieces.

A soft hand touches my arm. I straighten slowly, eyes on the suddenly incredibly interesting desktop. She’s sitting next to me, Maggie. Where else would my best friend be? 

I feel her gently squeeze and I stop breathing. I look at her smiling, shining face. She mouths the word YES and blushes violently, lobster red to match my blushes, and I think -- Mum was right -- she is the lobster of my affections.

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