Thursday, September 16, 2010

Beyond Peaking - Aaron M Wilson

Elise Winter sat down with a large bowl of popcorn. After a long day of work, she was ready to relax and think about something other than her boss’s pending promotion, which would mean she’d likely have to do the work of two for several months. However, Elise had poured a stiff rum and Coke and her favorite mysteries were on tonight.
Elise didn’t think it was odd that violent imagery, murder, and alcohol helped take the edge off an exhausting day. Instead of the gore, and if you asked her, the gore did bother her, she focused on the sexy, smart detectives and the workplace drama that empathized right and wrong – catching the bad guys. Everyone, including the crime scene cleanup crew, was nothing but smiles. Elise’s work place was full of ambiguity and sullen expressions.
About half way into her first mystery, a reporter interrupted. “Sorry for the interruption. We go live, now, to the White House for coverage of what we have been told will be a turning point in American history. No wait, world history.” The reporter looked pale and ill prepared. “We’ve been told that in just a few seconds we will be addressed by the president.” There was a strange pause as the reporter listened, putting his hand over his left ear.  He looked into the camera and sternly said, “We go live to the White House.”
Elise didn’t believe that anything this president had to say was important enough to interrupt her mysteries. As she waited on the couch, too tired to get up, too depressed to even try and change the channel, she started thinking about work. What was going to happen? Should she apply for her boss’s job when her boss got the promotion? She didn’t want to have to work under anyone else. Her current boss was a good boss. She listened to Elise’s input and took it seriously. Elise thought they worked well together and didn’t want the team to separate. Besides, it had been a long time since Elise had had a good boss, and she felt she’d had her fair share of terrible ones. 
The president sat in the oval office, but Elise had tuned him out. He wasn’t her president. Her president would have respected the sanctity of evening mysteries. However, she sat up and paid attention when she heard the words, “gas prices,” because she commuted an hour each direction, to and from work, and the trip was too expensive at $2.75 a gallon now.
The president continued: “OPEC and the oil industry, either in an attempt to keep the junkie hooked up or in ignorance so complete, have lied to the American people. They have lied to the world. I deeply wish that I had better news, but we – the human race – have come to a head…”
In her pajamas, Elise pushed aside her popcorn and grabbed the keys to her car. She was seeing an environmental economist a couple times a week. He was a cutie, but he was depressing and overly serious about the state of the world’s natural capital, whatever that was. What he did have going for him, besides his looks, was a deep voice that cause Elise to dream of better tomorrows on sandy beaches. She hung on every word he spoke. One night, he had told her over dinner that if the president ever said “OPEC” and “lied” in a national address, she’d only have a few minutes to act.
Elise couldn’t believe that her boyfriend was right about all this fossil fuel mumbo-jumbo. She had wanted to stick around and listen to the end of the presidential address, but she had taken her boyfriend’s advice and driven to the nearest store. She felt lucky as she stood in line at Wal-Mart that Wal-Mart was only just down the street. She was drawing attention from other shoppers, but she knew what she was doing was right.
The cashier asked, “How many? I can just scan one, if that’s all you got in your cart.”
“Twenty. I could only fit twenty in the cart.” Elise put hand over her mouth. “What if twenty isn’t enough?”
“Ma’am, I’ve never seen anyone buy more than one at a time.”
Elise nodded and paid with her credit card. She hated credit cards and used it only for absolute emergencies. She couldn’t think of bigger emergency than this one, but she still hated the feeling of the potential interest accruing if she didn’t pay it all off at once.
After loading her car, Elise noticed that the streets were still quiet. She was having a hard time understanding why no one was on the move. Was she just that far a head of everyone else? When she saw her boyfriend again, she would have to thank him. She was sure that he was out doing the same thing right now. She thought of calling him until she realized that as she hurried out of the house she’d left her cell phone on the coffee table in front of the TV. Elise pulled into the first gas station she came across.
The Shell station was empty. Elise didn’t understand what was taking everyone so long, but it was in her favor. First, she filled up her car. Then, she slowly, carefully filled up each of the twenty, four-gallon tanks she’d just bought from Wal-Mart. Filling all twenty went faster than Elise had expected. After replacing the pump, she watched the small gray and black screen. When the screen was finished asking her if she’d like a carwash, coffee, or cheap cigarettes, and she selected “Yes” for a receipt. Her receipt read as she expected it would read: $2.75 per gallon.
After loading her car and pulling out into the street, she stopped at the light. Elise could see down the hill into the valley headlights pulling out from driveways. She thought she could hear angry car horns in the distance. Still waiting for the light to turn, she happened to look in her review mirror. The Shell sign that had just read $2.75 per gallon, now read: “Closed. Gas Reserved. Homeland Security.”  

Aaron M. Wilson
© 2010
all rights reserved
"Beyond Peaking" originally appeared in The Hive Mind. Ed. Alexandra Wolfe. Web. 18 June 2010.
This is an excerpt from Mr Wilson's novel-in-progress, Solar Capital

1 comment:

  1. Had me from the start. Great characterization, build-up and details. Nice finish too. This is the sort of writing that really grabs and doesn't let go. Really enjoyed this, Aaron.

    Keep me in the loop for when your novel comes out.