99 Word Prompt: Lighthouse

July 6: Flash Fiction Challenge

Wendy and Jack approached the old lighthouse with other tourists.

“I just love these old buildings!” Wendy gushed.  “Don’t you, dear?”

“They’re okay, I guess,” Jack replied.

“But it’s so grand looking!  They knew how to build things then.”

“It’s just an archaic brick building with no more use.  Modern ships rely on more advanced technology.”

“But it’s historical!” Wendy reminded.

“It’s useless,” Jack insisted.  “There is no more need for it.”

Just then the long, ugly sound of a ship crashing upon rocks and resulting screams filled the air.

“Okay,” Jack admitted, “maybe this lighthouse is still useful.”

Pacific Television Theater – Oasis

Episode 4 of the drama anthology Pacific Television Theater, performed and live broadcast from Community Television of Santa Cruz on May 27, 2017.  Oasis is a half hour drama about a dispute over a community garden.  The people of the neighborhood want to save it while the owner of the land has different plans.  Selena and her father Diego meet with Roger, who works for the land owner, to find out what’s going to happen to their community garden, and if it’s possible to save it.

Redwood Summer Part III Chapter 12

Jason hurried along Santa Clara Street as the glaring, late summer sun heated him from above. The unfamiliar feel of his necktie stifled him. He loosened the knot as he was moving, unbuttoned the collar, and let the heat out. He turned south onto Market Street and crossed through shadows cast by mid sized office buildings. He then arrived at an oval island of grass and trees two and a half blocks long from north to south in the middle of Market Street. He ran across the northbound lanes between traffic and onto the sidewalk.

Jason anxiously looked around for Christine as he walked alongside the park. He spotted her sitting on a bench on the other side near the park’s southern end, and felt some relief. He went across the park toward her as she looked the other way seemingly unaware of him. He thought back to the first time they met, when he saw her across the room at a party as she was talking to friends, momentarily unaware of him until he came to her and introduced himself.

As Jason was approaching Christine finally saw him. She smiled at him, and he managed to smile back. He dropped himself onto the bench next to her and let out an exhausted breath.

“So how did it go?” Christine asked.

“Worst job interview ever.”

“What happened?”

“It was a goddamn sales job!” Jason fumed. “Should’ve known.”

“Really?” Christine said with surprise. “The ad didn’t say that.”

“Of course not, that’s how they lure you in.” Jason replayed the whole event in his mind.

“First, they crammed all of us into this room and have us fill out this one page application that looked like it came right off the copier. And then before anyone can finish filling it out, some loudmouth jerk walks in and starts giving us this spiel about making sales, closing deals, and fleecing people. And then some other clown walked in and gave us the same bullshit speech, but even louder and more obnoxious!”

“That sounds nerve wracking,” Christine said.

“I swear, he was like the evil twin of the Downtown Datsun guy,” Jason complained. “Whole thing was like a weird, bad dream. But what gets me were all the applicants who just sat there and bought the whole song and dance, and then they joined in all the noise like sheep! What kind of a person acts like that?”

“It does seem that a lot of people are going into sales these days,” Christine pointed out. “Lots of want ads in the paper for sales jobs, guess there’s a lot of demand for it.”

“Not for me,” Jason rejected as the memory of the event became less haunting. “I can’t bullshit for a living.” He relaxed a bit more. “Remember how the ad in the paper sure made it sound like a once in a lifetime opportunity? What a load.”

“I guess it did sound too good to be true.” They stared out across the park silently.“Something better will come along,” Christine finally said as she put her hand on Jason’s knee encouragingly.

“Yeah, but I’m going to need something more than ‘some college’ and just a few skills to put on my application. I guess I’m going to have to lie more.”

“It does help make getting a job easier.”

“It’s funny,” Jason observed, “when you’re a kid, your parents and teachers and all the other adults are always telling you to not lie and to be honest. But when it comes down to it, you do what you have to get by, even if it means lying, and everybody is fine with it.”

“They should teach that on Sesame Street,” Christine joked.

“And you know what else is bothering me,” Jason continued. “Even if I did find a good job, how do I know that place won’t get bought out, and then they start firing people and making new rules and all the other bullshit that’s happening now at my current job. No way out.”

“At least you’re still working,” Christine said optimistically. “No need to grab the first thing that comes along.”

“Yeah, that helps. I just hope something comes along soon. I don’t know how much longer I can stand it there.” Jason stared out across the park. “You know, I always thought that showing up on time and doing a good job was all it took to make it through life. No one said anything about the office politics and ownership changes and the closed door meetings where your future is decided. Too complicated.” Jason looked out over the grassy field, then up a new twenty floor hotel across the street from the park as he tried to figure out his options. “You want to get something to eat?”

“Sure.” They got up and started walking up the concrete path that crossed the middle length of the park. Christine linked her fingers into Jason’s and their hands held onto each other. They walked along and approached a fountain to their right. About two dozen jets of water shot up from the flat, square sectioned concrete. The water came up to just above Jason’s eye level then flowed back down in a foamy stream. Children in soaked T-shirts and shorts ran in and out of the water in front of watchful adults. “Looks fun,” Christine commented as they stopped to watch.

“Yeah,” Jason agreed. While watching the flock of children he looked into the sun sparkled mist and saw glints of color. He thought back to when he was younger and all the long carefree summer days spent at backyard swimming pools or hanging out at the beach. “Wouldn’t mind being a kid again,” he said partly to himself.

A mother holding an infant emerged from the ring of adults and carried her child into the
fountain. She cupped her hand into one of the founts and then gently applied the water onto her child while the playing children tried not to bump into her. Jason looked upon the scene while still feeling preoccupied, then noticed Christine watching the playing children intently.
“I saw Randy the other day,” Jason said.

“So how’s he doing?”

“Well, he took me out for pizza, and paid for everything, with beers. He said he owed me.”

“Sounds like he’s doing better,” Cristine said. “Right?”

“One minute he’s broke, then suddenly he’s flush,” Jason replied.

“Where did he get the money?”

“I asked him, but he wouldn’t say. And you know what that means.”

They stood quietly against the sound of the splashing water and playing children. “How do you know?” Christine finally asked.

“What else could it be,” Jason replied. He looked upon the fountain scene as he thought of that day and remembered how Randy didn’t give a straight answer when he asked how was doing. “I have been ragging on him lately about not being able to hold a steady job and never having any money.” The mother cradling the infant rocked her child a little more while the children played around her, then sauntered out of the fountain. “Maybe I pushed him to it.”

“You can’t blame yourself,” Christine insisted. “It was his decision.”

“I don’t think he feels he has a choice,” Jason said.

“I know, it’s terrible, and I feel for Randy,” Christine said, “but he is an adult now, and he’s responsible for his own actions.”

“I wonder if he even knows what responsibility is.” They watched the children play in the
fountain for a little more then moved along. They walked up the east side of the park and the sound of the splashing water faded away as they came alongside a wall of traffic noise. “You know,” Jason began, “I actually used to be jealous of Randy. I always had chores to do, a little sister and brother to look after, had to be home by a certain time, but it seemed Randy could do just about anything he wanted, could come and go as he pleased, could stay up as late as he wanted. I thought he was so lucky.”

“You’re the one who was lucky,” Christine countered. “He needed that kind of structure and guidance. He’d be a different person right now if he had.”

Jason noticed the concrete front steps and large white pillars of Saint Joseph’s Cathedral in his right periphery as he reflected further. “Randy has been one of my best friends for almost as long as I can remember, and I thought it was always going to be that way. I just never imagined Randy not being a part of my life.” He dwelt some more as they walked along. “I know the smart thing would be to just let it all go and get on with my life. But how do you that?”

“It’s tough, I know,” Christine said, “but at least you’re concerned about him.”

“Doesn’t feel like enough.”

“You’ve done more for Randy than anyone else, and that’s all anyone can do.”

“I suppose,” Jason said. “I just wish he’d stop hanging out with Darren and all those other sketchy bastards. That’s a bad scene.”

“As long as you’re there for him maybe he’ll realize that. He can still turn things around,” Christine added hopefully. They continued walking toward the north end of the park. “I’m sure the next interview you have will be a lot better than that last one.”

“For sure,” Jason agreed. “I got one tomorrow and another one next week,” he said. “You
know what else is bothering me, when my folks got married they bought a house and raised a family on one paycheck. Now you need two paychecks just to get by. I’m not trying to make excuses, but how the hell did that happen? I thought life was supposed to get better.”

“I know. And do you ever notice how older people always talk about how hard life used to be and everything they had to go through? Which is probably true, but everything sure was a lot more affordable back then.” Christine wrapped her arm around Jason. “But you know what, something good will come along. And it won’t be like that place where you just had that interview from hell.”

“I’m over it,” Jason said and put his arm around Christine. As they came to the end of the park they saw a small plaque in front of a young tree. They stopped, read the plaque, and saw it was a memorial to a Vietnam veteran who was still missing in action. They silently looked upon it for a moment, then moved on.

 

©2017 Robert Kirkendall

Tonight’s Show!

Episode 4 of Pacific Television Theater will be performed and live broadcast tonight at 7:30PM PDT from Community Television of Santa Cruz.  Tonight’s show is Oasis, a half hour drama about a struggle to save a community garden.  Within Santa Cruz, Pacific TV can be seen on Comcast 27 and Charter 73.  Elsewhere it can be viewed online at: http://www.communitytv.org/watch/ctv-public-access-2773/

Coming Up On Pacific TV – Oasis

Oasis, episode four of Pacific Television Theater, will live broadcast on Saturday May 27th at 7:30PM PDT from Community TV of Santa Cruz, Comcast 27, Charter 73, and live webcast at http://www.communitytv.org/watch/ctv-public-access-2773/

Oasis is a 30 minute drama about a dispute over a community garden.  Selena and her father Diego go to see the owner of the land to see what his plans are.  They are met by Roger, who works for the owner.  Roger presents various plans that the owner has for the land, whereas Selena and Diego want to keep the land as a garden.

Pictured above are Francisco Oliva as Diego, Mariana Aroxa as Selena, and Christopher Fung as Roger

Redwood Summer Chapter 11

You don’t believe me, do you,” Phil said impatiently.

I don’t know, Phil,” Larry admitted, “ that all sounds pretty off the wall. And how do you know anyways?”

Anyone can find out if they’re willing to look beyond the establishment mass media,” Phil restated.

“Here we go again!” Larry said with grand facetiousness. “We’re all just a bunch of brainwashed idiots because we don’t listen to all those radio stations at the far end of the dial.”

Jason sat at the other side of the break room table and looked upon the conversation while glancing at the sports page.

“Laugh all you want, but I’m telling you,” Phil lowered his voice, “this place was helped started by ex-Third Reich scientists.” He looked around the table expectantly.

Well big fuckin’ surprise!” Kevin replied. “Our entire space and missile program was fortified with scientists that our military whisked out of Germany at the end of the World War II. Everybody knows that.”

That’s what I’m saying!” Phil implored. “Doesn’t that seem suspicious? They used to work for the enemy.”

But they weren’t politicians, or generals, or even soldiers,” Kevin stressed. “They were scientists, and some very brilliant ones at that. They just happened to be working for the wrong side, that’s all, so we fixed it. Their knowledge and expertise was extremely valuable to us, and still is.”

Yes, I know, I saw Dr. Strangelove,” Phil agreed dismissively. “But you have to wonder about one thing.” He hunched down secretively. “Do they still have any loyalties to their old regime?”

Hey, as long as they’re loyal to us who cares what they believe in,” Kevin asserted. “If we didn’t get them, the Soviets would have. Now imagine that.”

The Soviets got the bomb anyways,” Phil reminded.

“We got it first, and used it,” Kevin said ominously. “That sent them a message.”

“It sent a message to the whole world,” Phil added. “You know, a lot of those scientists ended up at IBM. Big Blue is riddled with fascists.”

Now you’re talking like a crackpot!” Kevin said angrily.

Am I?” Phil countered. “Didn’t you see those visitors who came this morning? Wouldn’t you say they were a little shady?”

So that’s what’s got you on this rant,” Larry said with a laugh.

“You think everybody in a suit is shady,” Kevin alleged.

Jason finished his coffee, got up and left the break room. He crossed through the warehouse to his work area, then looked up at the window of the second story office and saw it was occupied with more people than usual. The men in suits who had arrived earlier did most of the talking while the supervisors listened.

Jason watched the meeting for a moment, then looked around and saw Stan nearby writing on a clipboard. “Hey, Stan.”

Stan looked up from his clipboard.

Jason walked up to him as he nodded toward the office. “Who are those guys?”

Stan glanced up at the office. “The corporate shock troops, I assume.”

So who are they?”

People way above our pay grade,” Stan said and went back to his clipboard.

They do look kind of important,” Jason said as he looked up at the office again.

“Why, because they’re wearing suits?”

“I suppose,” Jason said, “plus the limousines they arrived in.”

Stan looked up again from his clipboard. “And then they breezed right through and didn’t even say hi, just straight to the head office like they own the joint.” Stan moved along and Jason followed him.

Yeah, that was pretty rude,” Jason recalled.

You know why, of course.”

“Because we’re below their pay grade?”

“It’s because they don’t want to get too close to anybody in case they need to terminate some of us,” Stan said as he took the papers from his clipboard and put them away into a steel filing cabinet.

Jason was taken aback. “So this is it?”

Stan slid the cabinet shut. “Don’t tell me you’re surprised.”

Sure, I heard some rumors,” Jason admitted, “but I thought that was all BS. You know how people like to talk, didn’t think any of it was true.”

Well, it’s not a done deal yet,” Stan said as he started toward another section of the warehouse, “but I wouldn’t wait too long to get your resume together.”

Jason was taken aback as he tried to assess the new information. “So now what?”

All I know is that once Alice and I sell our house we’ll have more than enough for a house up in Grass Valley. The hell with this place,” Stan said as he walked down an aisle of inventory.

So you’re moving away?” Jason asked as he followed Stan. “That’s sudden.”

Not really,” Stan replied as he stopped in the middle of the aisle. “We’ve been planning on moving out of the Valley for a while now. Price of living is going through the roof, and it’s getting more crowded every year. Most of the people we know have moved away over the years, whole city is full of strangers. Even our kids are thinking about moving away. This isn’t the place it used to be, and Alice and I just don’t have a lot of attachments here anymore.” Stan continued walking down the aisle.

That seems to be happening a lot,” Jason said as he followed Stan. “One of my friends from the neighborhood moved all the way to Modesto, but he still works here. He commutes two and a half hours each way every day, we never see him anymore. The affordable houses may be far away but the good paying jobs are still here. No way I could handle a commute like that.”

Well I don’t have to worry about that,” Stan said as he stopped again. “Already got a job lined up,” he said confidentially.

“Doing what?”

“Dispatching for a freight company up there,” Stan revealed. “A buddy of mine from my trucking days helped set me up.” He continued walking down the aisle.

Sounds like you got it all worked out,” Jason said as he followed Stan. “Guess it pays to have connections.”

“Yep, the more the better.”

“But I don’t know if I could leave home just like that. My life is here.”

Yeah, it’s home all right,” Stan said as he turned down a walkway at the edge of the warehouse and came to another stop, “but have you seen the price of a house lately? A couple hundred thousand for a two bedroom hovel? Alice and I bought our first house for a tenth of that price, and it had three bedrooms and a big backyard. What are you going to do when it’s time to buy a house?” Stan said then continued along the walkway.

You mean I have to worry about that too?” Jason said with new apprehension. “I thought Ihad to get a new job first.”

You can worry now or you can worry later when it’s too late to do anything about it,” Stan counseled as he came to the doorway of a glass walled office. “Even a good job isn’t enough. Now it takes two paychecks, and who knows what the price of a house is going to be by then. And I don’t know if you plan on having any kids or not, but if you do that’s going to cost you a whole lot more.”

Well thanks for all the good news,” Jason said half seriously as he followed Stan into the office. “I sure have a lot to look forward to.”

“I’m not not trying to bring you down, I’m just telling you what’s up.”

“I know things aren’t what they used to be, but this is my home. Everyone I know, everyone that’s important to me, is here, and I’d seriously miss them, even if I did leave because of some better job somewhere else.”

“Not just a job but an affordable place to live,” Stan pointed out.

“It’d still be painful to leave home.”

Yeah, that’s understandable, but home is where you make it,” Stan said as he stopped in the middle of his work. “You know, I used to love it here. Everybody knew everybody, plenty of open land, you could do all your shopping downtown, anything you needed. Just like a mall, but better, before it was full of homeless and crazy people. You could also fish in the reservoirs, hunt rabbits down by the foothills, and you could always get some spending money by picking fruit or working at Del Monte or one of the other canneries. Tourists actually used to visit here just to see the orchards when they were in bloom. Now look at it, my hometown turned into an overpriced little LA, all spread out and crowded with strangers. Time for Alice and I to pull up stakes and go somewhere quiet.”

“You know, downtown isn’t as rundown as it used to be,” Jason defended. “It actually has some cool hangouts these days.”

“But it ain’t like it used to be, and I’m too old to hang out with yuppies and college kids.”

Jason tried to figure out a new line of discussion. “So what’s your new place like?”

A nice, cozy little home right by a lake and a forest. It’ll be Eden compared to this place.”

That sounds relaxing and all,” Jason said, “but what’s there to do out there? You’ll go crazy with boredom.”

I’ll be living in the great outdoors,” Stan reminded, “can’t beat that. And there’s Lake Tahoe and Reno nearby, and lots of woods and small towns with friendly people. We’ll only be a couple of hours away from the Bay Area so anyone who wants to see us can come and visit us, especially during the skiing season.”

“You going to charge them? Make a little extra on the side?”

“I might. You know, San Jose was a small town at one time, or at least a lot smaller when I was growing up, and we didn’t think it was boring. We had plenty of fun. Back in high school, we used to soup up our Chevys, Fords, and Dodges and cruise Monterey Road looking for girls. Gas was only a quarter a gallon back then, those were the days,” he reminisced. “Now gas is over a dollar and the cruisers are all gangs.”

Guess I can see why you’d want to leave here,” Jason said, “but why leave the Bay Area? This is where everything is at.”

That’s the problem, people keep pouring in. Traffic is a mess, the pressure to get ahead makes everyone neurotic, and it’s only getting worse,” Stan pointed toward the main office, “not to mention big brother always looking over your shoulder.”

“But you were able to get that new job because of experience you got here. If I went somewhere else I’d have to go back to square one.”

“But with less competition you can rise up the ladder faster. Jobs like what you do here come and go, and they tend to have an unknown future. You really ought to look for other opportunities while you’re still young.”

One time Christine tried to get me to work for her uncle.”

What does he do?”

He’s a contractor.”

Really, you should consider it,” Stan suggested. “Never a bad idea to learn a trade. Any skill you learn can only help, and the more skills you have, the more options you have. And contracting is the kind of work that if you do it long enough you can go into business for yourself.”

Those all sound like good ideas and I appreciate the advice,” Jason said, “but I also want to stick with school and try and get a degree.”

Well now’s the time to decide which road you want to take,” Stan said as he returned to his work and typed a few keys on the computer. “Meanwhile, I’ll be far away from this headache.”

Jason began to leave the office, then thought again of the activity he saw in the main office. “So what do you think those guys are talking about up there?” he asked.

You know what we do here, right?” Stan said.

Yeah, basically we create images that are taken by satellites.”

And what kind of pictures do you think those satellites take?”

“I know they’re used for map making.”

“And?”

Studying clouds and weather systems.”

“Anything else?” Stan probed.

Well I assume some pictures are of other country’s armies and navies,” Jason guessed, “what

they’re doing, their movements, keeping an eye on them. Right?”

Right,” Stan replied. “The Berlin Wall is down, the Soviet Union finally has a decent leader, the Pentagon budget actually went down for the first time since Pearl Harbor, but we’re still busy as ever. Doesn’t that seem a little curious?”

I don’t know,” Jason said. “Guess I never really thought about that.”

Most people don’t,” Stan pointed out. “All anybody really wants is a paycheck, just as long as they get it from somewhere.”

Well I like to think of this place as more than just a paycheck,” Jason maintained. “The job is interesting, the atmosphere is friendly, most of the people are cool, and management has been accommodating around my school schedule. Is that all going to end?”

It will if it interferes with the bottom line, which it probably will.”

Didn’t know we were such a burden,” Jason sulked.

Now you’re getting it,” Stan joked. “You know, they say there are satellites up there so accurate that they can take a photo of a Russian’s newspaper while he’s reading it in Red Square.”

Yeah, I remember hearing that.”

So what’s to stop them from taking a picture of you or me or one of our neighbors while we’re having a cookout in our own backyard?”

I don’t know,” Jason doubted. “That’s sounds like the kind of paranoid thing Phil would say. Why would they want to do that to us anyway? We haven’t done anything wrong.”

But they could if they wanted,” Stan emphasized, “and we can’t do the same to them. And I’d bet a year’s pay that they figure out a way to survive this peace craze, probably already have.”

Jason tried to comprehend. “Well now what do I do?”

I’m not trying to get you down,” Stan appeased, “all I’m saying is be a realist, look out for

yourself and the people around you, because you sure can’t trust them,” he nodded toward the upstairs office. “They’re only looking out for their themselves, and we’ve got to do the same.” Stan went back to his job.

“Guess I’ll get back to work.” Jason left the glass office and headed toward his work area. As he was walking back he glanced up at the office window. He looked at the meeting and the men in suits were still addressing the supervisors. He wondered for a moment what was being said, then he moved along.

©2017 Robert Kirkendall

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