Cloud Cover

Here’s another writing exercise I did today, where I just pound out a short work of fiction in record time and let it go where it must. It’s something I’m doing lately to just keep the creative juices flowing. Today I noticed the clouds and decided they deserved a story. Hope you enjoy.

The clouds seem confused today, as if they can’t make up their minds whether to bunch together as a unit or split apart like tiny slivers of land that dream about becoming islands. A few minutes ago the clouds were mostly islands, separated by the blue sky, illuminated by the sun into twelve shades of white. Then they drifted into one another, locking together into a large, amorphous sea of gray. It happened quickly, only a minute or so.

Then they separated again, briefly. Then they plunged back together. Then separated. Then collided.

This is what happens on a blustery day, when the wind makes all the important decisions.

It’s hard to see individual shapes with the clouds like this. It almost defeats the purpose of lying on the cool grass and gazing up at the sky in the first place. As a young boy I would do this often – lie on the grass, look up at the clouds, see what they created. A balloon, a dolphin, a motor bike. Sometimes they would form a shape like a triangle or oval, a rhombus or decagon, but only later, when I learned what a decagon was. Sometimes the clouds would form a dragon. Sometimes a mighty ship, set sail on cool blue waters.

There are ten major types of clouds. I remember that from some long-ago science class. I don’t remember all of the types. Only cirrus and cumulus. I was better at math than science, good with numbers, good with calculating the odds. Good enough to earn a lot of money, and lose a lot of money, and make a lot of friends, and make a lot of enemies. Life is all about calculating risk; money is all about calculating odds. Sometimes you calculate right. But not always.

The clouds don’t care, and neither does the sun or sky or heavens above.

But people care. People care – a lot.

That’s another lesson I learned, but only much later in life, and too late to do me any good.

A few minutes ago I spotted a coyote up in the clouds, or maybe a wolf. Something on the prowl, head lowered and eyes up, hungry and alert. The clouds parted and the sun burst through like a runner crossing the finish line. I had to shield my eyes from the sun; it was that bright. I had to move my arms to shield my eyes. My arms are fine. They left my arms intact.

How long has it been since I lied on the grass, gazing up at the clouds, seeing the shapes they make? Why do we only seem to do this as children, and not as adults? What gets lost inside of us that we decide lying on the grass and watching the clouds is not time well spent?

They fired bullets into both of my knees. Then, for good measure, they fired a round into one of my ankles. They dropped me off here, in this nice, cool grassland, way out in the middle of nowhere, between the deep woods on one side and the grassy hills on all the others.

“Blame yourself, you stupid fuck,” one man told me. Then they drove away.

It was a smart move on their part, the percentage play. Leave me here on the grass, unable to get up and walk away. Knowing that soon enough a hungry coyote or wolf would show up, maybe a whole pack of them, because they are in abundance in this neck of the woods, against the evolutionary odds.

One day, somebody will find my bones.

The clouds part again. I make out a shape. It looks like a heart, then it splits open, then the clouds close off the sun again.

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