More flash fiction … and the start of a new story

In my last post, I mentioned the short story class I’m taking this month. On our first day, we did two writing assignments in class. I posted one; now here’s the other.

To set this up a little — it’s a very rough draft that has turned into a story I’m currently working on (go me!). This is the opening scene. We had to write in response to a prompt, and the one I used was “an outburst of anger near the road.”

This is what I got.

Untitled story excerpt by J.M. Snyder
Copyright © 2012

The battered shopping cart muttered to itself with a squeaky rattle as John Courtland pushed it down the center of Interstate 95. A late summer sun beat down on him, and a fine sheen of sweat already coated his back, sticking his shirt to his skin, even though it couldn’t be more than ten o’clock in the morning. Beside him, Alan Allgood trudged, one hand over his wire-frame glasses to shield his eyes from the sun.

The cart struck a small stone and jerked hard to the left. “Damn it,” Court cursed, struggling with the cart to keep it from overturning. He managed to hang onto it, but only just.

To Alan, he muttered, “Why do I always manage to get one of these with a bad wheel?”

Alan grunted, but Court couldn’t tell if it was in agreement or not. A hot hand touched Court’s arm just above the elbow, where his T-shirt sleeve fluttered. “Hold up. Cars.”

Court glanced down the road and nodded. “I see them.” A couple vehicles lay in a tangled heap a few yards ahead, where the interstate took a blind curve. One vehicle, a late model station wagon, lay stretched across all lanes of traffic, its fender hanging from the back like the hem of a slip peeking out from under a woman’s skirt. As the two men neared the wreckage, Court saw the blue van that had struck the station wagon head on, shattering the van’s windshield. Through the broken glass, the body of the van’s long-dead driver sprawled across the accordion of crumpled metal and lay face down on the hood.

Court pushed the shopping cart up to the side of the station wagon. The windows in the car were closed. Whatever remained inside had to smell ripe, sweltering in the last of the Virginian summer heat. Releasing the cart’s handle, he let it glide ahead on its own as he stepped up alongside it, reached in, and extracted an old, wooden baseball bat from amid the cart’s contents.

“Let’s see what we’ve got here,” he said, tapping the closed window with the end of the bat. “Knock, knock. Anyone home?”

Beside him, Alan grimaced. “Don’t. Let’s just get this over with, can we?”

Court needed no further prompting. Wrapping his hands around the neck of the bat, he touched the glass once, almost reverently. Then he pulled back and swung. “Batter up!”