Hot Time in the Old Town

Submitted for Contest #60 in response to: Write a post-apocalyptic romance.... view prompt

30 comments

Sep 21, 2020

Romance Science Fiction

Kelly stands near me, waiting for our shift to begin. Imagine a fine trim figure which accents common work coveralls, and lovely auburn locks perfectly complementing mocha skin which proudly proclaims mixed ancestry. Then throw in great work ethic, amazing skill, and an ability to laugh at the horror our world has become. You get Kelly. We've worked power-station-seven together for years, and I'm ready to pop the question.

The power goes off, and only emergency lighting, running on internal batteries remains on.

"Shit." Kelly's potty mouth activates in times like this. Then comes the competence. "Run a voltage check on three, I'll get seven."

With ten lines, the combination minimizes time. I pull out my voltmeter and clip one end to ground by line three. I read four-forty, which means both one and two are at full capacity. Wait no. I need to ask.

"I'm short by two twenty. How about you?" I love that voice. So sure, so competent.

"Reading at fours." I'm hedging my bet. Kelly knows what it should be, and will tell me what to do next.

"You take one, I'll get two."


It was our first meeting. Site manager introduced me to a new hire at a mixer. Kelly looked exactly like today, only with a sexy little twinkle in those green eyes, so rare in mixed heritage. Never believed in love at first sight. Afterwards, I accepted the reality of instant lust, but was too shy to say anything. I never realized we wouldn't meet again for years.


"Nothing." I call, when I'm at the line. Only two checks- we're lucky today. Kelly runs up, hair waving in a ponytail like a banner proclaiming, here's a good one, there are no more fish in the sea. Like a true pro, already has a plan.

"Max, go check on the end point. I'm calling to see if a generator is down."


We'd been working together for two weeks when Kelly asked me out to dinner. As few bonuses as we get, it was a big gesture. I waited in my best, good denim jeans and a button up shirt with a bolo tie that my dad gave to me. Kelly showed up in tight, low-hip jeans, a white top which showed taught, bare midriff, and cowboy boots much like mine. "Hey sailor, buy you a drink?"

The rest of the night went just as well, though we both drank too much. We never figured out what we did, or didn't do, after staggering back to housing units. I woke in bed and Kelly on my couch.


"Stop daydreaming and get it in gear. The fault's in our lines." Kelly runs past me, desperation dripping sweat like sparks at a grinder. I follow to the middle of the route. We have half a mile to check for where the line has shorted. A simple point, back the way we came. "Go."

I begin inspecting, looking for places where insulation broke. A one inch cable should be easy, but not in these conditions. A quarter mile to go over, foot by foot. Tapping an insulated probe against the cable, hoping my precautions will be enough to survive if I find it. Kelly took the hard part, the one where I can't help until I get further up the line even after I notice something wrong. Because I'm in the safe, down-current position, where nobody has to rush to a distant cutoff switch. And the further we go, the worse it gets. Then I find it, not by probe, but by the scorching, which is only visible looking close, with the light on the line. Water dripped along a seam until it got into the lines and vaporized, blowing out a piece of insulation. But the water kept walking back along the line, a good ten feet.

"Found it," I yell. Kelly runs my direction. I get the best junction box and shunt the power off, then start pulling the bad portion out.

"Crap." Always has a way with words. "I'm faster. I'll get the replacement cable. You prep everything here."


"Where do we go from here? You know dating in the department is against regs?" Kelly asked when we woke up the next morning. "We need to take it slow. Think it through. One of us gets a different position. Then we can make a new start of it."

"I waited years to find you. Now we have to wait again?" I wanted to cry. One night and I couldn't even remember it. The hell was, Kelly had it right, we couldn't afford to both get kicked over this. Nobody wanted to be left out in the cold.


I have the cable stripped out and all the join points clean when Kelly shows up with nothing. I have no idea what to say. I point and ask, "Where's the replacement line?"

"Water got in and all the insulation is useless."

"But these are the main melt runs for this section. We have to keep them working." I'm starting to panic.

"Max. They already closed the security barrier. We're stuck here."

I'm floored. All this time, I've fought the good fight, trying to save us from glaciers created by humanity's short-sighted policies. I've worked hard to keep the heating coils running at their leading edge on this, one of the few surviving fertile valleys. And I wasted my time not telling Kelly how I felt. Because I don't know if he feels the same way.

"Kelly, can you..." Kelly puts a finger to my lips.

"Answer one question first." He points at my name tag. "Why do you go by Max, but your uniform is G Woolrich?"

"Because my first name is Grace and I hate it. I'm anything but graceful."

"And Maxine shortens to Max." I mentioned he was smart didn't I? "I love you Max. Kiss me."

How can a girl resist a request like that? I lean forward, standing on my toes, so my lips touch his. Just as they meet, I hear a horrible grinding sound, the ice rupturing the steel as it closes too much. Kelly's lips are hot even as the temperature around us plummets.


Author's Note- Cornell Woolrich wrote 'It Had to Be Murder' the short story which formed the basis for Rear Window, one of Grace Kelly's best films.  

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30 comments

Lina Ozz
03:57 Oct 02, 2020

Critique Circle (sorry, late) As usual, this delivers. I’ll admit––as a mixed biracial woman, I sometimes enter stories that include mixed characters with some [a lot of] apprehension. I don’t know what I’ll find (exoticization, fetishization, what have you). With this story, I was very pleasantly surprised, and I think [know] my own implicit biases were challenged, which takes this story beyond mere literature; this story influenced action, metacognition, and reflection. At least for me. I entered this story with apprehension; I left...

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Charles Stucker
04:16 Oct 02, 2020

I just got critique circle notices yesterday. Not late at all. I was fortunate growing up to live in an area with many races and to have parents who judged people on their merits rather than appearance. I suspect that, in the future, more people will be mixed race as the mingling brought by falling prejudice naturally occurs. So, I just choose race at random - when I bother to mention it and when it's not dictated by location/time (Japanese people in Japan before the Meiji restoration for example). It's a technique anyone might use- develop...

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Keerththan 😀
02:56 Sep 24, 2020

Wow! The ending was beautiful and l loved the beginning. Amazingly written. But I have few suggestions if you don't mind.. 1)Then throw in great work ethic, amazing skill, and an ability to laugh at the horror our world has become. This isn't a suggestion. Should a comma come even when 'and' is present in a sentence? 2)We've worked power station seven together for years, and I'm ready to pop the question. I think its 'seven years together' instead of 'seven together for years.' 3)bolo tie my dad gave to me. I don't know if this s...

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Charles Stucker
04:33 Sep 24, 2020

Got your back. Yes, you are absolutely right about number 2- except I meant power station seven, so I made THAT clear. I'll look at options for 3 - took "that" side. My comma on #1 is an Oxford comma and there are definitely times you need it. Typically for clarity, sometimes because a publication asks for use of Oxford comma instead of AP style. Thanks for the help

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Keerththan 😀
04:38 Sep 24, 2020

Oh, I understand. I understand about #1. Welcome.

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02:03 Oct 03, 2020

This was so beautifully written, oh my gosh! You did so well in describing the girl. I also love how the characters speak. It's just so interesting to me. Awesome job! P.S Do you mind checking out my most recent story, My Darling, Sophia? I know you may not like self promoting, but I really need some honest feedback on it :)

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Chris Stewart
00:44 Sep 29, 2020

Really cool story and twist. The gender "flip" at least for me because I fell for it, was pretty cool. I had to go back a few times to check pronouns and pretty funny how I went the wrong way immediately. I kept thinking you had messed it up which tells you how engrained some of the gender norms can be, and my idiocy.....I liked the ending as well. I am a first timer and tried a twist at the end of mine (feel free to gander), but I realize it was not nearly as impactful or unexpected as yours. Great job on the writing and the premise.

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23:25 Sep 28, 2020

This is awesome! Your kind of 'power station' speak was cool because they just sound professional to a 10-year old that doesn't know what a volt is. The description was great and your dialogue sounds like they were actually talking with a bit of slang. I don't mind the cussing, although it might be a bit foul for anyone under 5-years old. The ending left me thinking 'They're screwed' but the reference for the names was nice. Excellent job. Keep writing. 👍🏼

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Fplldg Wakdwwdg
12:23 Sep 28, 2020

It's unbelievable how you can describe characters so easily. You unleashed the surprise wonderfully. It's science fiction, it's a romance (I didn't expect this ending, you totally got me.) and I think it could be a thriller too. Anyway, can I request you to check out my stories? My writings are not even near the good as yours but you can help me improve! Your advice is very specific and helpful. (And your previous advice was also very helpful too, it helped me edit.😊 thanks!)

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Molly Leasure
15:40 Sep 26, 2020

That gender reveal had me reeling. I laughed so hard when I realized my own assumptions. I absolutely love your character description in this story, especially the initial description of Kelly. In just one or two lines, we get an entire full picture of him. I also love how the cute story became dire just in the last few paragraphs. Everyone assumes romances have to end well, so I'm pleasantly surprised! As always, I really enjoyed your piece. Your writing amazes me :) (There was one sentence that needed a comma, but I went back to loo...

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Charles Stucker
21:32 Sep 26, 2020

To paraphrase Po (of Kung FU Panda fame) "Ah, my old enemy, Commas."

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B. W.
16:19 Sep 24, 2020

I loved this story and you did an amazing job with it ^^ I dunno if your ever really wanting advice on these since you always do a great job with it but i guess i would agree with the others with the small minor typos and other things. though i never really saw them tbh. so you know what imma give this? 10/10 :) also i guess this might be a bit of good news or not at all but i think with my novel my writers block is finally gone (at least a bit, not fully) so i guess i could start working on it more ^^ all of your stories on here are really ...

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Charles Stucker
16:31 Sep 24, 2020

I always look at advice. I thought I corrected the typos which had been pointed out. Perhaps I caught them already and thus you could not find them.

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B. W.
16:32 Sep 24, 2020

Yeah, ya possibly already did that. or i'm just bad at seeing some of that stuff

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Zilla Babbitt
15:22 Sep 24, 2020

Hey Charles! Go check out my bio... :)

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Charles Stucker
16:29 Sep 24, 2020

Wow! That's a heck of an endorsement.

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Jessica Primrose
21:09 Sep 23, 2020

I really liked the introduction to this story. I felt it had a well- written engaging plot. I especially liked the descriptions of each character and the tension you build from the start. I feel like you could expand on this story if you wanted to but I guess that's up to you. I'm not normally a fan of romance unless it's in the parody sense but I enjoyed this one. Good work!

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A.g. Scott
23:55 Sep 21, 2020

Very clean, only found a tiny mistake. "Nothing." I call when I'm at the line -- should be a comma. Totally flipped the script on my expectations of who was what... I didn't even realize what you were doing until the reveal. Reminds me of how the screenplay for Alien was written without specifying the gender of the characters.

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B. W.
23:27 Oct 11, 2020

I made a new story a little while ago ^^ "Adventure with friends: part 2"

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B. W.
01:49 Oct 04, 2020

Made another new story :) "Crossover: the traitor"

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B. W.
02:12 Oct 01, 2020

I'm almost finished writing one of my novels ^^

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Charles Stucker
03:18 Oct 01, 2020

Great

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B. W.
03:43 Oct 01, 2020

yep ^^

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Kevin Broccoli
23:54 Sep 30, 2020

The story has a great noir feeling to it that I really enjoy.

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Jessie Nice
21:54 Sep 29, 2020

I do love how you really confused the genders in this. And the ending was lovely. Great story, Charles.

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Andrew Krey
15:15 Sep 29, 2020

Hi Charles, I enjoyed your story. I liked how despite the apocalypse human nature doesn't change, and people still succumb to fear/nervousness, which leads to inaction in love...or at least a delay. The gender reveal was well crafted. I really liked the ponytail as a banner line, but after the reveal it took on new meaning for me, and I couldn't help but judge Kelly for stealing Stephen Seagal's style! I hope the feedback was helpful. Happy writing

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Sampada Sharma
05:26 Sep 26, 2020

I really liked the characters and the story. I seriously have nothing to comment on except that it was amazingly written.

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B. W.
23:51 Sep 25, 2020

I may have already asked ya for another story but i just sorta do a lot of stories tbh. So if it's alright could ya check out "Reunion? No thanks"

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19:55 Sep 25, 2020

I'm sorry I'm seeing this too late to make many suggestions! I liked the characters, here, though. You did a good job of using their actions as well as the narrative descriptions of them to make them endearing. I loved the ending, as well! Your stories are always very well-written, and you never disappoint. Thanks for a great read!

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