Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Microfiction: 'The Wild Umbrella'


Marcus stepped outside his house and stared up at a sky gray as pigeon's feathers. "Rain" he thought, though the streets were still dry. Miles away, thunder was grousing. As he walked toward the train station, a few icy drops fell on his scalp and down the back of his neck.

With a sigh, he reached into his nylon briefcase, rummaged around among the paperbacks and wrinkled photocopies, and pulled out a black, compact umbrella. Pressing a button on the handle made it blossom, with a pleasing "twack," like a black flower. One of its points had come loose, and a portion of the fabric flapped back and forth like a broken wing.

A sudden gust turned the umbrella inside out. Marcus pivoted and aimed it into the wind, which pushed it back into its proper shape with another "twack."

As Marcus trudged along, the shifting wind forced him to do a little dance, aiming the umbrella in different directions to keep it from deforming again.

While he was doing this, he bumped into a trench-coated stranger walking in the opposite direction, who was also fighting to keep his umbrella under control. The umbrellas brushed against each other with a swishing sound. Marcus caught a glimpse of the man's face: thin, wrinkled, with a whitish beard, and momentarily startled.

"Watch where you're going, knucklehead," the man barked. Just as he said this, another gust filched the umbrella from the his grip, and the man went scuttling down the shiny sidewalk after it. It blew into traffic and was crushed by a passing van. "Shit!" the man yelled, not so much at Marcus as at a malicious world.

Marcus turned away and resumed his march toward the train station. It was raining harder now, and the bottoms of his pant legs were getting soaked. He stopped at an intersection, waiting for cars to pass. The umbrella tugged at his hand as if it wanted to escape. The station was in sight, less than a block away, and, despite the downpour, a tiny aperture of blue had appeared in the sky.

It's a bad umbrella, Marcus thought. He released it to the wind, and it flew off into the sky, like a wild bird.

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