Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Blast - 326 words
Sarah Van Name

I was fourteen when the threat level was raised to triple-red. It was the middle of summer, and my mom called me in from the hammock. That’s how I’ve known my mother since that Saturday: head tilted up, scanning the sky for missiles or military planes, the tension visible in her taut white neck.

On Monday, our suburb was flooded with polite men in suits, who handed out pamphlets recommending the construction of personal bomb shelters and outlining the ways in which government funding could help. I don’t know if we would’ve done it if it hadn’t been for Mom, but she was insistent. “All the neighbors are doing it,” she said to my weary father, before she listed the dangers from the radio broadcast.

So the bomb shelter was built: a reinforced concrete basement, stocked with canned soup and books.

The threat level has teetered at triple-red for three years, in which time I completed most of high school, learned to drive, and started dating Lee. Two weeks ago it slid into quadruple-red. Every night since, Mom has sung me a lullaby of our plans before letting me up to bed.

Her timeline is precise. The radio reports that if a missile was fired, we would have fifteen minutes from detection to impact. She allows three minutes for us to collect our things, and seven more for my grandparents to arrive from the neighboring suburb. Her plan and the shelter locks up at ten minutes.

I haven’t told her yet that I’m planning to get Lee in. His house is twelve minutes away if you drive quickly. She will protest. But I plan to hold firm, because I know the truth: the bomb shelter isn’t going to save us. If it happens, no concrete or lock is going to hold back that force of light and death. And in the final blast at the end of the world, I want to be holding his hand.

The Temptation of Adam - Josh Ritter

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