I waltzed out of the local grocery store, pushing a cart full of bags and shoved them in the back of my Honda Fit.  I slid into the driver’s seat and then huffed in annoyance. A folded flyer was stuck under the windshield wiper. I yanked open the door, balanced on my left leg, and reached around to pull the flyer loose.  I unfolded it and read the large Times New Roman bold letters:

“The earth is shifting beneath you.”

16 responses to “Flyer

  1. “The earth is shifting beneath you”

    I immediately looked down. My left foot was still on solid parking lot pavement and I was embarrassed that I had fallen for such an obvious joke. I looked about and was surprised that my Honda was the only car with a flyer so I searched the parking lot to find the laughing prankster who was watching for my reaction. The lady with two preschoolers in tow was too busy keeping her eyes on them; the guy in sandals with socks was shouting into his phone as he unlocked his minivan and heaved his bulk inside; I was the only other person in the lot.
    I checked the neatly folded flyer again. This was not the sort of message that was a lastminute joke. It was printed on a printer, not hand scribbled and other than the message itself, there was no other markings on the white 81/2 by 11 sheet.
    I surveyed the lot one more time and shook my head. Some doomsday prophet had probably chosen the Honda as a random message board. Nothing to it at all.
    I crumpled the flyer into a ball and tossed it on the passenger seat as I climbed back into the driver’s side.
    The routineness of the short drive back to my apartment eased the anxiety that the note had caused. I was tired after a long workday, that’s all. I pulled into my parking stall and sighed as I turned the engine off and walked to the back of the vehicle to grab my shopping.
    I didn’t have time to scream as a hole suddenly opened beneath my feet and I dropped like a stone. I looked up and saw the earth shift to close the hole and all was black.

    • A very nice story with a surprise (at least to me) ending. I think doomsday prophets do single out Hondas, especially hybrids, for use as message boards. People who drive Hummers, for example, tend to be unconcerned with the doomsday message.

  2. I waltzed out of the local grocery store, pushing a cart full of bags and shoved them in the back of my Honda Fit. I slid into the driver’s seat and then huffed in annoyance. A folded flyer was stuck under the windshield wiper. I yanked open the door, balanced on my left leg, and reached around to pull the flyer loose. I unfolded it and read the large Times New Roman bold letters:
    “The earth is shifting beneath you.”

    Well damn, I think. That’s the kind of message I find tempting. Maybe life isn’t as predictable as I thought (and thank goodness). So there I am, sitting in my Fit, trying to decide how to interpret the flyer. I look around. No other cars have flyers under their windshields–just mine? O k a y… just me. Apparently, the earth is shifting beneath me. Quicksand? Earthquakes? Too much lemon vodka? Anesthetic from my root canal? Unexpected attacks from my mother-in-law? An alien invasion?

    No, those are all too predictable. The earth is shifting beneath me because there is always a moment–a kind of head slap or the unfathomable one hand clapping–when it is important to check into an alternative reality when the usual is not a given.

    Now is my moment–that moment when we all have to shake our heads and say, “Who knew?” When the idea that we might be sucked down into an unknown void is a possibility. Of all certainties, gravity as related to the ground beneath our feet has been assumed since childhood.

    Bingo! The great “ah ha!” The unknowable known at last. Time to surrender.

    I decide to accept that I’ve been given a gift, a great revelation. The earth is shifting beneath my feet. All bets are off. My Honda may float. My groceries may catch fire. I may decide to engage in a backflip or seek out a high wire, a la the Flying Wallendas, to demonstrate my superior sense of new balance, no matter what the earth is doing. I shall do this!

  3. “The Earth is shifting beneath you.”
    Yes. We are so inundated with the unbelievable attacks on what should be obvious–the value of families, the benefits of diversity, the issues of fairness for all (yes, women are equal to men), the virtue of love regardless of sexual orientation, even the Golden Rule (read: tax cuts for those who don’t need them), the need to tell the truth, and the importance of individual liberty–that we risk slipping into a pit of indifference, as the ground slips and slides in a downward spiral while we struggle to keep our eyes on what democracy is all about.

    • The more I thought about this, I had a little aha moment of my own. I tend to think things literally – if the ground is shifting beneath me, then the earth moves under my feet (yes, Gary, after I wrote that I thought of Carole King 🙂 ) Ann, you have reminded me to open my thoughts. Thank you.

  4. We are worried about Ann in one of the current Beginning Writer’s Workshops. We haven’t heard anything from her in awhile. Can anybody confirm that she is OK?

  5. I’m here, and I’m okay. Rest assured that my responses to Assignment 12 (short creative pieces) will be coming soon. Thanks for your concern!!

  6. I unfolded it and read the large Times New Roman bold letters:

    “The earth is shifting beneath you.”

    Thinking this might an ad, or free tickets, to the long awaited “Carole King Experience” (not Carole King, but an incredible simulation) at the Smithville Little Theater, I hurriedly turned the paper over.

    It was there, on the back side of the flyer, that I became aware of its intended message. In the same large Times New Roman bold font (Dan Rather Gothic), was the qualification, “IF… you join the United States Space Command!”

    I became almost instantly intrigued. The timing was perfect as my job at GameStop was ending, and I hadn’t heard anything back from either Toys-R-Us or K-Mart regarding the possibility of a similar position with them. So, I read on.

    “Are you a male between the ages of 16 and 30 who enjoys video gaming and yearns to serve his country in a non-critical capacity? If so, the all new Space Command may be for you.”

    Wow, I was all of those things, or so I thought. I could hardly wait to read the next section of the flyer.

    “To find out if you qualify, determine if you can answer ‘yes’ to the following questions:

    – If you were ever presented, hypothetically, with the opportunity to have sex, would it would be with a female?

    – Is Superman more powerful than Batman?

    – In the game “Grand Theft Auto – School Shooter,” does the triangle button activate Insanity Defense Mode?

    – Could the Enterprise defeat the Millennium Falcon?

    – Did you answer ‘yes’ to all the previous questions?”

    Once again, things were looking good for me as I was able to ‘ace’ the qualification test. The fourth question did stump briefly however. I think Enterprise D could easily defeat the Millennium Falcon, but Enterprise A had only a 4 mega-Cochran dilithium chamber, and that wouldn’t be enough against the MF’s Mark 7 blasters. Fortunately, I answered the question ‘yes,’ which was, at least in that case, the right answer.

    Of course you don’t wind up in the sweet position of living in your grandparent’s basement at age 28 without having a pretty good handle on life. Since ‘this guy’ has been around the block a time or two, I was well aware that some jobs simply sound too good to be true.

    As if the flyer had anticipated my concern, the very next section was about compensation.

    “New recruits to the United States Space Command enter at the rank of Space Cadet and earn a competitive salary of $8.25/hr. with ample opportunity for advancement.”

    This was seventy-five cents more than I was making at GameStop, but, to be fair, I could often purchase unsaleable games that had ‘Warning, printed with LEAD-based ink’ hand-written with indelible marker on the case, at a reduced price. This was a nice perk, but since GameStop had installed additional video cameras, fewer games were marked this way, so Space Command was still looking better all the time.

    “Still not sure if you’re right for Space Command?” the flyer teased, even though I was sure I perfect, “Watch our 5 minute YouTube video.”

    “Who doesn’t have 5 minutes?” I thought, and besides, Grandma and Grandpa would be at the Colostomy Center until at least 3. So, I picked up my iPhone and excitedly entered the URL.

    The video began by informing me, in accordance with an agreement between the US Space Command and attorneys for James Cameron, that the “James Cameron” who directed the YouTube video was *not* the same James Cameron who had directed Titanic and the Terminator movies. That was disappointing, but at least the video had been written by Arthur G. Clarke. I’m a huge fan of his work.

    The video –

    Opening sequence: Evocative of NASA’s “Mission Control,” a high-ceiling room is dominated by a huge display showing a Mercator projection of the Earth with numerous important-looking flashing symbols. Facing the huge display, a series of high-tech consoles are arranged in concentric semi-circles. A display on one of the consoles begins flashing a red symbol as a klaxon sounds.

    Cadet Rodrigues – “Sir I’m reading a blockage in sector 9, quadrant 2.”

    Major Braxton – “Sector 9, quadrant 2, that’s…”

    CR – “Yes Sir, the men’s room next to the vending machine closet on the third floor.”

    MB – “Damn. That sounds like the work of the Hanging Lizards of Beta Mu #2. Those log flushing bastards are at it again. You know what to do Cadet Rodrigues.”

    CR – “Yes Sir!”

    Cadet Rodrigues reaches under his console and pulls out an object with a long cylindrical shaft. An inverted funnel is attached to one end.

    CR – “The phase modulated pressure pulse generator.”

    Cadet Rodrigues stands and begins making his way to the door

    MB – “Cadet, aren’t you forgetting something? What do we know about the Hanging Lizards?”

    CR – “Right Sir, the carbon activated atmospheric desentometer! I nearly forgot.”

    MB – “That’s a mistake you’ll only make once Cadet.”

    Cadet Rodrigues, feeling as though he is now properly trained and equipped, begins his mission. Major Braxton nods with satisfaction as the cadet leaves the room.

    End Video –

    There may have been more to the video, but a squirrel ran across the parking lot and jumped over a shiny pull-tab, momentarily distracting me. Grandma and Grandpa would be expecting me to pick them up soon, I promised I wouldn’t forget again, so I crumpled up the paper, some kind of flyer I suppose, and pitched it out the window at the squirrel. He picked it up and ran away.

  7. I have a new puppy that has the same attention span…
    Since it wasn’t the free Carole King simulation tickets, this was the next best thing.
    Maybe Toys-R-Us or K-Mart will get back to you.

  8. And now, from “The earth is shifting beneath you” file….

    Moon Rocket Explodes, Destroys Home.

    Cleveland, OH AP – Kletus Durtz of the 600 block of King Drive, Cleveland, is at Mother of Mercy Hospital this hour following a failed early morning attempt to launch his home-made “moon rocket.” Durtz, a self-styled “science type person,” designed the gasoline powered vehicle himself in the hopes of expanding man’s understanding of the cosmos. Following a lengthy mission planning session held at O’Reilly’s Inn-Town, the local inventor made the decision that all was “go for launch.” Witness’s claim Durtz likely began counting down sometime after the 2 AM city-mandated closing time. According to a neighborhood surveillance video, the fueling process was delayed at least once do to a lack of sufficient quantities of lawnmower gas. Thanks to the assistance of a vacationing neighbor, Durtz was ready for launch sometime around 2:43 AM, this according to a report filed by the St. Ann’s Rescue Squad, who were first on the scene. What happened next is a matter of some conjecture, however it seems that some rocket propellent Durtz had spilled while “paying it no nevermind” was prematurely ignited by a cigarette the astronaut-in-training had tossed from the rocket hatch before launch. The resulting fire destroyed the moon ship, the Durtz home, and five additional residences in the 600 block. A statement from the Mayor’s office condemned ‘legal loop-holes’ that allow the manufacture and launch of unregulated moon rockets. Durtz is the son of Sal “Salamander” Durtz, also of Cleveland, who drown in Lake Erie in 1998 while testing a home-made atomic submarine.

  9. Whenever I feel the unsettling movement of the Earth shifting beneath me, I seek out a place where I can be alone. ALONE, Alone, alone…. Where I can enjoy that “all by myself” kind-of-feeling that comes from the security in knowing that no one else is around. Not the monster under the bed. Not the ghosts of Indians whose burial grounds were desecrated by the company building the new aquatic center, and especially, not the troll who lives in the coal furnace in the basement. They all write on other blogs. Perhaps I seek oneness with no one for the sake of tradition, or, perhaps it’s little more than old fashioned laziness. Still, I find myself compelled to write for ALWaYCT. A place where I am at home with my aloneness.

    HELLOooo, Hellooo, helloo. See.

  10. I’ve often thought that creative writing is a lot like trying to come up with one’s own creation story or set of tales that suggest how this present all came about. I’m not religious, but I hear that stretching from here to (way out) there in what you write. While I never had a troll in our old coal furnace, I did once tame a furious circle of barking dogs by threatening them with a stick and growling about imminent punishment if they didn’t shut up. I was surprised at my power to make the earth shift beneath their paws. Alone together.

  11. So we roll on, Honda Fits against the wind, borne back ceaselessly into the past. Alone together. 🙂

  12. Reprinted from the Illinois Grange-Land Grant Gazette (Used by permission)

    Every Thursday, and slow news days, our roving reporter, Buck Stromm, makes the trip over to the William Jennings Bryan Strip Shopette to gauge the pulse of the people. This week’s question to the unwashed masses is “Do you feel the Earth is shifting beneath you?” A topic certainly worthy of careful and deliberate consideration by the residents of our circulation area. Here is what your friends and neighbors had to say.

    “Yeah, I do. It’s this whole Mayan calendar thing you know. The world ain’t ended, but it’s shaky. You know what I mean? You can feel it if you stand real still. There. Feel that? It shifted. Them Mayans understood this ya see. Crazy, ain’t it? Just crazy.”
    – John “The Bag Man,” No fixed address

    “It’s not so much a shift as it is a feeling I get. When it’s hotter than blazes, and real humid, I start to smell the jungle. On nights it’s still, like real still, you can hear ’em in the rice paddies. Plantin’ punji sticks in the mud. That’s what they’re doin’. VC gibber-jabber. Just laughin’ at us. Then, it all goes quiet, and like, all of a sudden I’m back in-country and the killer instinct just takes control. Makes me lose all track of time. I wake up, sometimes hours, or even days later, in a cold sweat and covered in blood. That ever happen to you? Happens to me all the time. The doc at the VA used to say it was real common.”
    – Storm Thorson USMC ret., YMCA, Downtown

    “Oh, the Earth shifting, I don’t know. I’m certain it’s important I suppose, but there are just so many important issues today. Why, I can’t keep track of them all. Just the other day, my neighbor, Myrtle, she wears the ugliest dresses you know, but that’s not the kind of thing I’d want to put in the paper, well, anyway, she told me she heard the Russians sent dogs into space. Have you ever heard of such a thing? She read it in the Reader’s Digest. Dogs in space. Why, who is feeding these dogs? I certainly think ravenous dogs in space is more important than whatever you were asking about. What were you asking about again? There are just so many things today.”
    – Melvina Stump, 57 West 30th St., Rockford

    “The Earth shifting beneath me? What kind of new-age horse shit is that? The Earth is shifting beneath me. You know what would help the Earth? I mean, really help it? More parking spaces here at the shopette. That’s what. Look, I’m parked way over there at the damn laundromat. I told ’em, sat down and wrote a letter, any moron could see there wasn’t enough parking for a six store shoppette. They didn’t listen. Bunch of worthless sons-o-bitches. Earth shifting, my ass.”
    – Ed Carmike, Apt 17, Millard Fillmore Towers, Rockford.

    “I suppose that if the Earth is shifting it’s just another sign of the rampant Godlessness we see every day. You see it here at the shopette. Look at those young people over there. They’re probably smoking or using drugs. Rumor has it, and I don’t like to spread rumors, but, there’s a man who peddles drugs right here in this very parking lot. Yes. You can tell he’s a Godless dope fiend just the way he’s always going on about Mayans or some fool thing. He probably has brain damage. It’s God’s plan you know.”
    – Bernice Schlept, 97 Forest Lawn Acres, Milburn

    “Oh yes, it certainly is shifting. You can trace this all back to the creation of the Fed. It’s never been audited you know. Basically, the entire monetary system of the United States is a pyramid scheme involving the creation of a fiat currency in the form of script. This deprives the working man of specie, or hard currency, which was previously guaranteed him by operating under the gold standard. The big banks loan themselves money, which they then repay with script on a par basis with the average yield on prorated 20-year treasury certificates. You can easily see how it works. The whole thing was created by the Rothschilds. They’re foreigners you know. Kennedy was able to put two and two together. That’s why they shot him.”
    – Melvin Stivik, Complex D, Park Heights West, Rockford

  13. hysterical. love the names.

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