Rough Drift

"Small" writing challenges for my small writing talent. Hotel note pads are the only space allowed. Let's see if I can strip it down and tighten it up to learn something. Improving my skill of weird fiction.

51.) Like Lemons for Cigarettes


The coffee pot smelled like breakfast for Rod Folsom. He couldn’t wait to get his part of that Colombian food group. Rod grew up tall in a rural farm machinery state with a wide-open youth governed only by knowing looks from church members. For his grandparents, his father and now himself, coffee is half of a nutritious breakfast when paired with cigarettes. If Keenan would get out of his way, he could relax at his desk with the two vices.

Keenan, hired by Rod for his mesmerizing mechanic skill, rifled through the pile of condiments at the coffee corner. Rod had hired a whole shop full of competent and reliable mechanics to swarm the hangar walkways and floor space for the airline. All great but not one of them could hold a candle to Keenan’s talents. Rod looked over Keenan’s shoulder and doubted his choice to hire him. Rod did not see coffee poured in Keenan’s mug, nor tea. Warm water. That’s all. Agitation manifested in a tapping toe and a grumble as the kid continued to hold up the line.

“What cha-lookin’ for Keenan?” said Rod in a gravel voice.

“Oh, hey, is there any lemon?”

This was Keenan’s second day and Rod tried desperately not to throw him out on his backside.

“Lemon?” said Rod, gruffly, wagging his finger to the side.

Keenan stepped backward as directed assuming juice would appear from someone. Lankily built Rod and his grey head of hair stepped up and poured coffee in his well-loved and abused travel mug that he bought when hired on over twenty-five years ago. Black coffee. Unmolested. As it should be. Keenan watched, wondering where the lemon would come from. A line of mechanics moved through and filled their cups. They made jokes about the opposite sex and talked sports or cars. Keenan realized none of them had lemon for his warm water.

Rod looked over his morning crew while taking a sip. Keenan appeared lost. He was only twenty-two but heavy rimmed glasses and thin blond hair made him look nothing close to that. Rod sipped again and finally had clearer thoughts. This was this kid’s first job out of maintenance school; any new mechanic had at least five-years somewhere else before starting with the airline. Keenan was unusually ready for this but also, as Rod now saw, scared.

“Check the fridge. I think someone left a lemon juice bottle in there.” Said Rod while heading back to his office. A slight whiff of unfiltered tobacco scent trailed behind.

There, he sat down at his desk with an exhale and began making task cards for the afternoon shift. All of his mechanics came from wide backgrounds. Mid-west, east coast, island nations and even Alaska. Keenan was the first kid from a new style alternative trade school from what Rod’s grandparents called hippie country. Rod wrote down on his memo pad to buy lemons, stood up, flipped open his lighter and walked outside.


(Author’s notes) March 14, 2016. Somewhere over Missouri.

I was a flight instructor nearly twenty-years ago in this state. It was not a big place but there were plenty of airplanes around and a small group of mechanics tended to them. Their boss was a tall guy named Joe. He smoked. Most of them did back then. They were all nice but cut from nearly the same cloth. Committed to disciplined work. Their wrench skill started with cars or boats or whatever they had access to in their youth. In my field, flying these things, I would run into another pilot that decided to do the job not because he liked planes, but because they liked the job. Drawn to the work duties themselves. I like the planes and the flying. The duties are a necessary evil for the payoff. Not many like mechanic work for the job. They love wrenching to make things work.


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This entry was posted on March 18, 2016 by in Airline, near-future, observational, present, ritual, Uncategorized and tagged , .
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