Exercise Vignettes

Vignette One

One square yard of dark tinted screen. Three feet by three feet. Was it aluminum fabric? Some sort of cloth? I couldn’t tell. It was screen affixed to a square steel frame, forming a horizontal platform perpendicular to the vertical exterior of a window. I was standing on that square yard, perched on the side of a building, nothing beneath my feet but a thin screen and one hundred and six stories of air.

The harness around my waist and chest, attached to a twenty-foot length of rope, would protect me in the unlikely event the screen broke under my weight or the platform separated from the building. But, still, I’d fall twenty feet and would, no doubt, smash into the windows on the one hundred fourth and one hundred fifth floors. And I was only being paid $800 to do this, to demonstrate the magic of this new super-strength screen.

Vignette Two

“Please, Kim, don’t put the tape over the stitches.” Sam watched as she covered the wound, and the eight stitches that closed it, with a double-folded gauze pad.

“Kim! You’re getting too close to the stitches with that tape!”

His paramour, almost twenty years his junior, stopped for a moment, and then stepped away from him.

“Okay, maybe you should do it yourself. Obviously you want an adult to look after you.” She emphasized “adult” and cast a withering stare in his direction.

“Lover, I’m sorry. Your geezer boyfriend is just a wimp!” His lips curved up at the ends, exposing his perfect white teeth.

She couldn’t resist his smile. She grinned broadly.

“You are a piece of work, grandpa! I don’t know how I got tangled up with an old cry-baby!”

Kim leaned in toward Sam and took his face between her two palms, pulling his lips to hers, and kissing him deeply for a full thirty seconds.

A tiny drop of blood seeped from the edge of the half-dressed bandage. Then another one, larger than the first. And another. And more. Just a few more seconds and the blood soaked the bandage. Kim felt something on her stomach. She looked down to see a large red spot on her light blue t-shirt, then noticed the stream of blood spiraling the leg of the stool on which Sam was sitting.

Vignette Three

When Connie awoke, she knew instantly that something was different, but she didn’t know what. The air felt odd, she thought, like it was tinged with cold steel, though that thought, itself, seemed oddly misplaced and implausible.

Duarf, normally aloof and distant until Connie pierced a can of cat food with the manual opener, clung to her shoulders beneath the covers.

“Duarf, sorry to disturb you, but I’ve gotta get up.”

Connie swung her legs over the side of the bed and slid her feet into a pair of leopard-print slippers, pulling Duarf away from her neck with a gentle tug. The cat  refused to leave quietly; his claws clung a little tighter.

“Okay, you little beast, I don’t know why you’re suddenly so cuddly, but I’ll take a little extra loving whenever I can get it.”

The cat’s unusual affection complicated, but did not derail, the process of Connie pulling on her robe. Still feeling that something, aside from the cat, was different, she shuffled to the bedroom door.

The moment she opened the door into the living room, she saw it. Outside the bank of windows on the east side of the house, the color of the cloudless sky was unlike anything she had never seen before; it was a shrill green, the color of a ripe lime.

Overcome by a mix of confusion and fear, the startling ring of the telephone amplified Connie’s shock.


“Connie, have you looked outside?” Glenda Cove’s voice conveyed urgency.

“I just got up.  It’s bizarre. What is it?”

“They’re not sure. Turn on the TV. It’s like this everywhere. Nobody can explain it. It started in Europe about six hours ago. All the sudden, right in the middle of the day, it changed, like somebody flipped a switch. And, here, it was like this when the sun came up.”

As Glenda spoke, Connie clicked on the remote. The news anchor, looking earnest and official, said, “Here’s the President’s announcement, just moments ago on the White House lawn.” The scene switched to President Echo Ward, standing behind a lectern, speaking to a mob of reporters.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I am just as surprised, just as curious as anyone. As of this very moment, I have no idea what is causing this odd and troubling shift in the spectrum of colors we see in the sky. But know this: as far as we know, it is simply a change of color. Nothing suggests we need to be concerned about anything. I hope you will, like me, go about your regular activities today without speculating or spreading rumors. I will rely on atmospheric scientists to determine what is causing this and what, if anything, it means.”

Duarf, who had been circling around and between Connie’s feet, stiffened.  A low, guttural growl escaped his half-opened mouth.  The green sky seemed to dissolve into purple. Connie heard Glenda breathe in deeply, then “oh my god” before the phone went dead.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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One Response to Exercise Vignettes

  1. joyce says:

    Both postings today are “special keepers”

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