Trouble on the Horizon

Tax Return Time Gene McCandless 2020 MCAC Art Exhibit.jpg
“Tax Return Time” by Gene McCandless, exhibited with the author’s story.

Elvin watched the approaching cloud, closed the mailbox, and sighed deeply. The rolling blackness, shot through with bright flashes of orange and green, had already obscured the northern horizon and moved toward him with intent. From the porch, Elvin’s wife said a short, unkind word then called to him. “The Perkins boy?”

The old man slowly made his way up the walk, mail in hand. “Ayup, Delia. The Perkins boy. I told him not to mess with that old book without me there. Now look what he’s done.”

Delia shook her head and waited patiently for her husband to slowly mount the steps. “You can’t go blaming youth. Remember what you called up when you were an apprentice? My Pa nearly had a fit and didn’t about half the town find itself missing for a week?”

“That was different!” Elvin frowned into his wife’s warm smile. After a moment, a harsh rumble that could have been a growl from an inconceivably-large throat shook leaves from the trees in the front yard. Delia raised an eyebrow and cocked her head until her husband shook his head and rubbed his hands on his faded denim pants. “Better get the blessed shotguns,” he said. She giggled and clapped her hands and went inside the house, which was starting to glow with a faint blessed blue light.

“And get them powders, too,” he called to her retreating form. “This is a big un!”

In the northern sky, the top of a grey-green tentacle, larger than a pickup truck, slowly protruded from inside the cloud.

This is the second of three stories I wrote for the Mattawoman Creek Art Center’s 2020 Winter Open All-Media Show, which is a cooperative effort of the MCAC and the Charles County Chapter of the Maryland Writer’s Association. The first story is right here!

I’m not entirely sure the artist liked my story but I liked his painting quite a lot. The cloud looming over the quiet farm house caught my attention from across the room and, even though I’m sure the artist didn’t mean to make it quite so menacing, menace was really all I could see in it. That is a cloud that moves, as I wrote, with intentions.

I had a bit of a time getting this story to fit on one sheet of paper. Elvin and Delia wanted to chat a bit and reminisce through the resistance and coaxing. Unfortunately, I couldn’t let them. Maybe we’ll revisit the scene at some point in the future. Then again, maybe it’s best we remember them as we met them here. What do you think about all of it?