“The Complicated Twirl,” a flash fiction by AJ Atwater

Even with advanced techniques like the Complicated Twirl, the Deep Dive, and the candidly difficult balletic Shoulder-Spading, the Shovelers fail to unearth their client. Sweating from the attempt, they polish shovel blades and buff wooden handles with luminous wax from polish kits they carry. They settle shovels carefully into cases like those for violins or two-piece custom pool cues, snap the cases shut and with dawn racing toward them in the sky above a deep, thick woods, they comb their hair and wipe sweat from their faces. This Shovel Team is assigned to unearth those in violent relationships. Those in blood-sucking jobs. Those who toil next door to combative neighbors. Those who run willy nilly about their house trying to find chargers for too many devices. Those who pull triggers. Those who cheat in business and in love and in government. This Shovel Team opens minds, unearths divisiveness and tedium among all people for the common good and for the common gain. Their failure tonight, they know, signals emergence of those whose main reason for living is feeding off dissatisfaction and mistrust. Those who are impervious to the accepted and expected shoveling rituals that daily unearth apathy and evil and allow for civil society.

The Shovelers gather cases and quietly go to their rental car left nearby in the deep, thick woods. They come from the North where snow is shoulder-deep and winds blast from the Pole at a level 40mph daily before summer bobs in on a warm breeze and lawn chairs are quickly set up for evenings of beer and barbeques and parties and dancing and it’s there the Shovelers assign clients to Shovel Teams and those teams service satisfaction around the world. Now they slide across leather seats in their rental car, slam doors, and as they drive, the sun rises. They catch their flight, shovel cases stacked neatly and hopefully in the hold of the 747. The Shovelers order martinis. Eat peanuts. After the plane lands, they are greeted by wives and lovers. Secure their shovels from baggage claim. Each Shoveler curls up near wood stoves with families for it is deep winter in the North and their failure is set aside. As it must be. Shovelers can’t carry the past with them no matter how gravely it shapes the future, for if they did, who would be there to shovel them out.

 

 

***

AJ Atwater is a Minnesota/Manhattan abstract painter and literary fiction writer with stories forthcoming or published in Literary Orphans, PANK, Vestal Review, Crack the Spine, Cowboy Jamboree, Barely South Review, The Gravity of the Thing, 50-Word Stories, KYSO Flash, and others. More: ajatwater.com.

Image: DodgertonSkillhause, morguefile.com

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