Saturday, May 7, 2016

Surveying Skeeters (Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge)

For most of us, disasters are rarities. Rather, we build our positive or negative memories upon mounds of tiny successes or clouds of nagging defeats. We go camping, and take home a bright image of a tasty fish caught and grilled for supper, or we recall only the battle to defend our ankles from the bite of ticks and chiggers.

I recall one spring, when we were searching for an appropriate place to hold a human-powered vehicle speed challenge in the Western Rockies. Our two-man team went out to survey roads in Colorado. We were hunting a paved surface with a specific slope (0.66%), 200 meters for the timed stretch, with a gentle catenary curve leading down to it, and as few bumps as possible. How hard could it be, after all?

It would have been a pleasant outing, with wonderful scenery, and purposeful work to survey our candidate roadsexcept for the biting insects. Deer flies, gnats, and the never-sufficiently-to-be-damned mosquitoes were out in force, and I was the best buffet they had available. 

In the prompt this week for the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge, Charli Mills asks us to include insects in a story. Yet these pests need no invitation; they show up for dinner, and, if we let them, ruin the party!

May 4, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) include insects in a story. Periwinkles, bees laden with pollen, ants building hills. What can insects add to a story? Do they foreshadow, set a tone, provide a scientific point of interest or a mystical element? Let you inner periwinkles fly!

In the end, if you are wondering, we did find a downhill run that met our parameters, and the four-cyclist engine powered their Pininfarina-designed vehicle to just short of a record. Nowadays, these runs are made in Nevada. I fortunately have no idea what pests wait for surveyors in that dry environment!

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Surveying Skeeters

A spring somewhere uphill feeds a soggy ditch paralleling the road. Every road we've surveyed seems to have its own mosquito bog. I squint downhill through the transit to the rod my partner holds, and, jotting the numbers, spot the blood-sucker on my hand. 

Whap! My notebook serves a second function as a skeeter-swat. I turn the transit to the back-line and spot the previously-sited stake. Wiping my sweaty forehead, I dislodge a team of gnats. My hand comes away adorned with another mosquito.

That night, doing calculations from my surveyor's notes, I find more dead mosquitoes than numbers.