The following piece has been in my unfinished pile since April 1991 (and probably predates that by a few months). It’s gone from 5,000 words to its present ~775. The core idea has remained throughout, it’s framing and presenting it properly that’s taken me years to figure out.
I’m waiting for some first readers to get back to me on it. Let me know what you think.
Mace stepped out of his tractor and into the early August heat of the Boston blast zone. He listened for the ocean. It shouldn’t be too far away. Much of Boston was landfill and the bombs – the big ones hidden for years in abandoned buildings – caused the sea to reclaim its own. The stench of The Charles entered him like swallowed bile and he watched the waves come up from the east, from the Atlantic, as if the ocean pushed The Charles’ filth back, refused it, said, “No thanks, those bodies and wrecks are yours, keep them to yourself. I don’t need them.”
The young girl’s voice called him from the bunker. “Hello? I’m not going to open the door until you tell me who you are.”
Mace lifted his service pack out of the tractor, strapped it on his back, and tightened its belt around his narrow waist.
“Hello? Can you hear me?”
Just inside the tractor’s door, on the right and only visible when the door’s pneumatics opened it fully, rested like a high-resolution mezuza; a photograph of a little girl, her arms raised and waiting to be lifted in someone’s arms, her eyes and smile open and wide, her blonde hair caught in some wind.
Mace’s fingers went from his lips to the photograph and he tapped the door to close.
“Hello? I know you’re out there. Who are you? Answer me!”
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