While the Sun Still Shines
1141 words long
One day they'll be the starring characters in the snowpocalypse. Until then, there will be time for brief, petty squabbles on long, sunny afternoon hikes.
Notes from the author:
This, like all of my timed writing sessions in August, came from the Conquer the Craft in 29 Days challenge. The Day 10 prompt was to "liven up a group scene" by including three characters, one of which was the "oddball." With two characters allied against the third, tensions would ignite and conflict would increase.
Since I was revising "The Impact of Snowflakes," I decided to visit with Ashley and Josh and Katie on an afternoon hike well before the events of the story. It would be a perfect opportunity to gently pit the stoic Josh and the easily irritated narrator, Ashley, against their much less enduring friend Katie.
Katie is everything I'm not; at least, she's naturally all the things I've had to work consciously at becoming competent in. She's the girls I'd watch in high school being effortlessly witty and comfortable in high-energy, social situations that made me want to crawl into a corner with a book. I envied that, and I fear envy turned into a little resentment, which my treatment of Katie's character makes all too clear.
I hoped that the exercise would help me make correct that bias and make Katie more of a sympathetic character. But it wasn't until I was revising this piece for Friday Fictionettes, weeks after submitting the story to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, that it became clear that Ashley was the odd character out after all.
Today's hike is Mount Sanitas again, and this time we're going all the way up to the summit. It's a good trail, steep enough in places to make you feel like you're earning the gorgeous view, but not so long as to utterly wear you out. Katie would disagree with that last bit. She starts grumbling before we reach the first scenic overlook. "My feet are killing me," she says.
Inwardly, where no one can hear me, I groan. And so it begins. Not that grumbling is unforgivable or anything. I've done my share of grumbling, God knows. Sometimes the grumble is just in your brain, taking up all available space, so loud you can't even hear yourself think, so you say it because that's the only way to get some peace and quiet inside your skull. And someone else'll say, "Oh, me too," and there's this moment of sympathy and commiseration, a sort of We're all in this together moment. And it ends there.
And sometimes you say stuff like that when you're all relaxing over beers after the hike, and it's not really grumbling, really, more like a kind of bragging. You're showing off those sore feet or twitchy thigh muscles. They mean that you worked hard. You did a strong, bad-ass thing. You earned those aches and pains.
But it's neither of those when Katie says that kind of thing. It's an honest to God complaint. She says it loudly. She'll say it again. And again. That first grumble is like a declaration of war.
This has been an excerpt from the Friday Fictionette for September 19, 2014. This excerpt also appears at Wattpad. The fictionette appears in its entirety at Patreon and is available to all Patrons pledging at least $1/month.