Watermelonfall, Part 1

Nathan reached into a small compartment underneath his console and retrieved a long blue ribbon, which he tossed to me. “Put this on. Both of you,” he directed.

The ribbon had maybe a half dozen loops knotted off, each a couple feet apart. When Carla and I just looked at it, Nathan grabbed my hand and slipped it through one of the middle loops, and then pulled the ribbon to tighten.

“It is like a leash,” he chirped, as he gave Carla the same treatment. “That way, we shall all stay together.”

The ribbon had a clip on the end, which Nathan attached to one of his belt loops.

“I’m not wearing a leash,” I insisted, but Nathan didn’t hear. He had already spun out of the cockpit and leapt down to the library table, very nearly jerking me over and out of my seat.

“Slow dawww!” I screamed. Nathan moving at full speed and Carla still not moving at all meant that the ribbon had exhausted its slack, and now it was applying what seemed like bone-cutting pressure to my wrist. I grabbed the leading end of the ribbon and jerked it back as hard as I could, which produced a satisfying clang from below.

Nathan staggered back into view. “You just pulled my face into the bathroom door,” he snarled.

“It is rather like a leash, isn’t it?”

I loosened the ribbon around my wrist just a bit, and then grabbed the leading section with both hands so that Nathan couldn’t pull it off. With a nod toward Carla, I sauntered toward the library.

“Hurry up, hurry up!” Nathan urged. Carla and I ignored him, and without speaking, we decided to take the long way around the library.

“Quite the design masterpiece,” I commented. “I suspect all homes will have stairways like this in the future.” Carla could only wheeze in response, but she did so cheerfully.

We, eventually, made our way around the room and followed Nathan out the bathroom exit. He closed the door behind us and took a small black fob from his pocket. He brushed his thumb upwards across it in a practiced maneuver, and his ship thrusted upward.

Knowing where it was, I thought I could spot it, but it was high up and, as Nathan had promised, camouflaged in the sky, and silent enough to not drown out any crickets.

We made our way through the forest, emerging into the oversized and mostly empty parking lot. One man emerged from the store pushing a cart overflowing with bulky canisters. He saw us and changed course to meet us, glaring and not blinking the entire way.

“What the hay-ell are you?” he snarled. At me, rather than Nathan.

I affected a detached air. “Scavenger hunt,” I said with a shrug. “Do you have any buillion cubes?”

The man thrust his arm into his cart and pulled out a small glass jar. He broke the seal, spun open the lid, and a pulled out a gold foil-wrapped cube.

“Good luck,” he wished, as he tossed it to me and turned around to head toward his car, muttering something about “those crazy college kids these days.”

*****

This is a relatively old part of Exile Issues; it comes in the first third of the book and was written pretty early on. I’m fond of it for the leash bit and the related, titular, watermelonfall (which will come in part 2), but it’s also strange to go back to knowing how much is going to have to change in the final version. The whole book is going to be narrated in the third person, for example, and the grocery store that is the setting may not exist in the final cut.

Plotwise, the scene is pretty mundane; Nathan has recently kidnapped Marty and Carla, and having explained his goals and gained their agreement, he’s taking them to a surprisingly large grocery store in the middle of nowhere to buy provisions.

While this is a first draft and its potential isn’t fully realized, it also lays some groundwork for what I think are some interesting character traits. There’s a certain kind of person who puts a leash on another person. (There are also mothers, but—spoiler!—Nathan isn’t Marty or Carla’s mom.)

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