Word count = 1,037 / Reading time = 5 minutes or less
I’ve been meaning for months now to write a new story in my Copperhead County series of short stories but have been lacking inspiration. As I scrolled through my feed today, I was instantly inspired by a post from a Blogger I’ve only been following a short while, Telling Stories Together. TST runs a unique and very interesting blog, and you’ll be doing yourself a favor to check it out.
TST’s post, titled “Conjure the Nouns”, is a brief exploration of Ray Bradbury’s “method of list-making as a means of creative thinking” and goes on to encourage writers to conjure a list of nouns in preparation to write. I did, and the following story is the result. If you like “Scarlet Snake Lake” and are interested in reading my previous Copperhead County stories, you can access them via my “Categories” dropdown menu in the sidebar.
By the way, this is a first draft so is in need of comments & constructive criticism. Please feel free to help me think about making it better by offering your comments, good, bad, and indifferent, below.
Scarlet Snake Lake
Sunny raced to the rear of her stall, keys jingling in her shaking hand. “Othankgod, othankgod” she murmured as she reached to unlock her cupboard full of backup jam.
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Following a week of calamitous meteorological volatility, the Lakeshore Open-Air Marketplace was in chaos. The summer had begun perfectly; sunny, warm, and balmy, with just the right amount of rain to keep the weather from becoming too hot. The Scarlet Snake Lake vacation crowd was over capacity. All cabins were occupied, and every camping slip had a tent, trailer, or van in it. Several dozen intrepid campers had erected their tents far back in the woods up on Pygmy Knob, where the shallow poplar, sycamore, and elm roots made for uncomfortable bedding. The vendors had, for the most part, anticipated the additional volume and had stocked their wares accordingly. But with everyone trapped there going into a second week, supplies were running low, and tempers were flaring. Desperation sprouted like mushrooms after a cloudburst.
Sunny blamed it all on Ned Shelhauser, owner-operator of The Knick Knacks, next door to her own little stall, Sunny’s Sundries. As if by speaking he had conjured up all that came after. As was his habit before opening shop on Monday morning, Ned had slouched over Sunny’s register smoking a foul-smelling cheroot, sipping his coffee, and spouting his crack-brained conspiracy theories. Last week, before the plague of disastrous weather, he’d ranted about the “Damned myth of global warming foisted upon us by damned bluebelly liberal mo-rons.” Sunny had frowned and kept her mouth shut, not wanting to encourage him, but he persisted. “You seen how perfect this summer’s been, there ain’t been a problem to speak of. Hell, if anything, it’s been nice an’ cool. He straightened up and punctuated his parting shot with a plume of noxious smoke. “Global warming my shiny white heiny!”
Within a few hours of Ned’s rant, every cloud had vacated the sky, and the blue drained right out of it, leaving a dull, gray flatness that looked suspiciously like the lid of a Dutch oven. The temperature rocketed to 105 degrees and only became hotter as the week progressed. By Friday, still under the same sky, panic had not yet set in as the shopkeepers began to shut down their stalls and prepare to go home to resupply and get a little rest. Then, as the sun was setting, the squall hit. The pressure plummeted, the wind began to swirl, and just as the angry disk of the sun’s reflection hit the middle of the lake, an enormous waterspout arose, glowing as fiery red as the lake’s namesake. Within minutes, the entire population of the camp congregated on the shore, mesmerized by the astounding spectacle. Most were dumbfounded by the horrible beauty of it.
The flaming funnel threw off withering heat, and the lake began to boil. Onlookers backed away singly and in groups, some hugging each other, some weeping, some running to start packing to go home. Ned Shelhauser cackled, raised both fists to the sky, and screamed, “Lordy, it’s the end times a-comin’!” Preceded by a stentorian thundercrack, a thick, three-pronged fork of lightning felled a stand of trees with a blinding flash, thoroughly blocking the only road into and out of the camp.
By the second Monday evening, almost all of the food in the camp was gone, and people were beginning to panic. All day Tuesday, fights had erupted out as scared and hungry campers broke into the stalls in search of food while stall owners tried to fend them off. Sunny’s Sundries, which stocked mainly packaged snacks like crackers, chips, and granola, also featured a large supply of Sunny’s handmade jams, jellies, and preserves. She had so far avoided confrontation by offering her goods at reduced prices and allowing folks who were out of money to establish credit after providing their addresses and phone numbers. She became frightened when she finally ran out.
As Sunny watched a massively muscled and very hungry camper shove Ned aside and enter his stall, she remembered the store of blueberry jam she’d laid in to the cupboard at the back of her stall. Her blueberry jam was a perennial favorite. She grew the berries herself and spent half of August and most of September every year canning them. After several summers in a row of the blueberry jam selling out early in the season, she had the cupboard installed before the start of camping season this year and filled it full. She praised her foresight now that the camp had seemingly gone to hell.
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Sunny steadied her hand enough to fit the key into the lock and turn it. She flung the cupboard’s hinged door upward with a few tears of relief tracing down her smile lines. The nature and number of her tears changed drastically when she was knocked back by the scent of fermented fruit and the frightening sight of jars shattered by the uncharacteristic heat.
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Let it rip, y’all, let the comments begin!