Divine Drought

We pray for rain. For three days, we go without food, no water. We spend the nights on the floor of the sanctuary, the dust of the ground layering our knees.

We didn’t fast by choice. Circumstances led to this. With the city shut down, grocery stores were looted, we had no power for miles, and no running water. The church garden struggled to feed the remnants of our congregation. Pastor John dug up the corn crop last Tuesday. It was brown like smoking tobacco. The tomatoes and cucumbers blossomed, then died, before becoming vegetables. The soil was arid like sand.

“Do you think this is the end of the world?” Jessie whispers.

“Shhhh!” Mother Jones is in the front pew with the pastor and his associates. We can see the wrinkled, cellulite skin of her thighs underneath he rolled up skirt. She prefers to pray in silence so she can concentrate on what she wants to petition to the Lord, and she’s easily distracted and fumbles over her words when other people are talking. She must hate Sister Teresa right now. She circles the sanctuary, shouting her pray aloud.

“We ask you to send the rain, God!” she screams, her South Georgian accent coming out strong. “Shower down on us as you did the manna for the children of Israel.”

“Does she have to be so loud, though?” I say.

“She wants to make sure God hears her.”

“The whole continent can hear her.” We both snicker into the cushion of the pew, and again Mother Jones shhh’s us.

My stomach rumbles, and I lick my lips thinking about what I could eat. Juicy sweet apples to quench my thirst and my hunger. The crisp pop of them when I sink my teeth into the skin, and the liquid drains down my chin. The sour Granny Smith, the succulent Fiji, the classic Red Delicious.

“I’m so hungry I could eat a cow,” Jessie says.

“Just put me in a pool full of apple juice and ham sandwiches.”

“Eww, then the bread would get soggy!”

We laugh out loud. Mama reaches over and slaps my hand, and we fold our arms and bow our heads and mumble incoherently like the men in the pews behind us and Pastor John standing at the podium. Speaking in tongues, they call it. I wonder if it’s because their tongues roll like an Indian war cry.

At the end of the three days, I can confidently tell Mama I’m starved to death. I feel my ribs through my shirt, and my stomach is flat and sunken in above my belly button. Jessie and I sneak to the bathroom to suck on soft peppermints she had stashed in her fanny pack. We’ve managed to stretch them the whole week. It’s enough to suppress the sting of hunger, at least for now, until we can go outside and see our prayers answered in the form of gray, cloud-covered skies, of torrential rain pouring down, of the ground soaked through in puddles.

But when Pastor John opens the double doors to the church, the heat pushes him back, and the sun is blinding from spending three days in candlelight.

“So does this mean there is no God?” Jessie asks.

“Hush with that blasphemy!” Mother Jones pops her on the behind, and I shield mine with my hands just in case she feels moved to punish me too for talking all through her prayers.

“There is a plan and purpose for everything.” Pastor John says to the stiff, stifled air outside. “But we can only keep praying.” He closes the doors, flinging us back into darkness. The melted down candles a poor substitute for the blaring sun.

“What about the children?” Mama says.

Pastor John looks from the side of his eyes at one of his associates. A silent conversation exchanges between them. Then the associate pastor nods, spins around towards the stairwell, he snatches off the flash light hanging on a hook next to the door, and stretches out his arm to push in the horizontal door handle but stalls momentarily, the door too heavy for the strength that remains in his arms. He uses his body weight to force the door open, then jogs downstairs, the floor vibrating underneath our feet.

“We’ll ration out the bottled water in the basement,” Pastor John says. “Women and children first. But everyone will still fast food.”

“Do you have any more peppermints?” I whisper to Jessie.

She shakes her head. “That was the last one.”

The mint has melted down to a flat disc on my tongue. No use in spitting it out and saving it for another day. I don’t know if I can survive an extended fast. Already I can’t stand on my own. I curl my fingers inside the waistband of Mama’s skirt and hold myself up, leaning my shoulders against her hip. I wish she would pick me up. I feel myself regressing the longer I go without eating. First my legs will go out and I’ll have to resort to crawling around. Next I’ll be too weak to speak, and if we ever get food again, it’ll be too late; my muscles will have forgotten how to pick up a fork, how to move my arm back and forth from a plate to my mouth, how to chew and swallow.

“It’d be better if it was the end of the world,” Jessie whispers. “Maybe we’d die quicker.”

Mama takes my hand and leads me back to our pew. We bend down, press our foreheads against clasped hands, and begin praying again. But I know rain won’t be enough, and water won’t hold us. So Jessie and I agree it’ll be easier just to pray for death.

—Nortina


It is Short Story A Day May, and today’s prompt asks us to write a Cinderella story, but isn’t there enough “Cinderella stories” on ABC Family (or Freeform)? But I do like the story arc of trying to find happiness, and failing, so here’s a story about trying and failing, and then finally accepting the reality of one’s situation.

Drought

Our water is manmade
They dig mile-wide
ditches with shovels,
fill it with rain.

Land-locked town
sinks in torrential
downpour. Porous
soil, water flow in

and out, floods
surrounding rivers
that quench thirsty
cities nearby.

—Nortina


frapalymo#frapalymo (the German version of NaPoWriMo) is hosted by FrauPaulchen and translated from German into English by Bee at Just Fooling Around With Bee. Catching up on yesterday’s prompt, which was: “a river poem.”

Rummage

“Water! They have water!” Linda shrieks. She yanks the dusty lamp from the cardboard box, squeezes it against her gut, and bends over to twist the glass cone from its base. Her stomach rumbles violently, shaking her entire body. She drops the lamp, and it rolls to the attic door, falling through the ceiling.

“Ouch!” Ryan whines from below.

“See if you can open it!” Linda yells, breathing heavily. “Did you find any food?”

“Just moldy bread.”

Linda sighs and crawls back to the ladder. Her hands can barely grip the steps as she descends. When she reaches the bottom, her foot slips, and she collapses into Ryan’s side, causing him to drop the lamp. The glass shatters on the hardwood floor.

“Shit!”

“Aw, there was only a few drops in there anyway,” Ryan says. “Enough to make you mad.”

“I don’t know how much longer I can last,” Linda croaks.

Ryan cuffs his hand under her upper arm, grasps her wrist with his other hand and pulls her up. “We’ll try the next house.” He drapes her arm over his shoulder. “Maybe they have Twinkies. Those never go bad.”

word count: 190

—Nortina


rummage Sunday Photo Fiction is a weekly challenge for writers to create a 100-200 word story using the provided photo prompts. Click the froggy icon to read other stories inspired by the photo and add your own.

Scorched

Jessie shifted all of her weight onto her left leg. She wildly flapped the fan in front of her face, watched the water drip from the sculpted swan’s icy beak and disappear in the turf below. The officer guarding the exhibit was staring at her. He knew what she was thinking.

I just want to lie in front of it, she pleaded with her eyes, have the water drizzle down and saturate my dry tongue, moisten my cracked lips. I won’t break off its head and suck its crown. I won’t lick its frozen feathers. I won’t rip off my clothes and hump its frigid body like that man from the shelter did to Venus.

“Move along, miss.” His lips barely moved. Could he even pull them apart, or was the parched skin adhesive like the back ends of tape.

She rushed from the museum unquenched, the ice sculptures serving as a hopeless temptation. She’d rather burn her feet on the molten asphalt, melt under the ever-approaching sun.

word count: 168

—Nortina


Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers is a weekly challenge where you write a story in 100-150 words (give or take 25 words) using the provided photo prompt as inspiration.

Click on the froggy icon to read other stories and add your own!

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