Flip Flops and Underpants

Submitted into Contest #77 in response to: Write a story set in the summer, when suddenly it starts to snow.... view prompt

31 comments

Fiction Funny

A chunky rat was gnawing the remains of a hot dog when he felt the first snowflake drift onto his head. He looked up, his jaw still moving. He was a Miami rat and somehow, in his little rat brain, he knew there was something off about that icy crystal perched on his head. Clamping his teeth around the hot dog, he scurried along the wall of the concession stand, over the sand, past a flip-flopped foot and into the clumps of beachgrass.


The owner of the glittered flip flop might have screeched if she hadn’t been holding her phone to the sky.


“Oh my GOOOOOODDDDDDD!!!” she squealed.


“It’s SNOWING!!!” her equally flip-flopped friend shrieked.


“WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!! SNOWING!!!”


The flakes were falling thickly, glinting and sparkling in the sun. All along the beach, toddlers giggled and danced in the snow while their parents scrambled to gather towels, umbrellas, toys and coolers.


“It could be a chemical attack!” shouted one father. Parents jerked their face masks over their ears and thrust them onto their children’s faces as they dragged them off the beach and into their cars.


Meanwhile, bikini-clad teens and hungover college students ran to the water, jumping and laughing in the snowfall.


Miley kicked off her flip flops, grabbed her phone and pulled her friend’s hand.


“Come on, Bells!”


The girls dove into the sea, Miley struggling to keep her phone out of the water as she turned it on herself.


“Coming at you live from South Beach! The water is warm, the sky is blue, it’s July and the sun is shining ….and IT’S SNOWINNGGGGG!!!!”


With a click, she posted it to her Twitter. #SouthBeachSnowstorm.


In an instant, Ronald Buford saw Miley’s Tweet. From his basement in Grimes, Iowa, Ronald kept a fraught eye on the weather. Not even a raindrop escaped his surveillance. His moon face glowed as he squinted through his glasses, his nose an inch from the computer screen. The moment Miley’s video ended, Ronald’s fingers were flying over the keyboard. Diagrams and lists of numbers flashed onto the monitor. With a grunt, Ronald heaved himself out of his chair, corpulent thighs pulling away from the vinyl like taffy. He lumbered over to the wall and studied the graphs, photos, newspaper articles and maps overlapping each other and connected by a web of color-coded string and thumbtacks.


“Mmm-hmmm, mmm-hmm. Humph,” he mused, moving an orange string from a crossword puzzle to a grocery list. The sound of his heavy breathing filled the room as he surveyed his work.


“Ah- HAH!” he said at last. “I knew it!”


He swung around to his computer, plopped into his chair and stared into his webcam.


“Attention, attention, fellow SkyWarners. You have by now seen the videos of the snowfall in Miami, Florida – 25.7616 degrees North, 80.1918 degrees West - at 1337 hours today. Phase 2 is underway. I repeat. Phase 2 is underway. Background summary: A secret group of government agents is changing weather patterns throughout the United States. Goal: To eliminate the COVID-19 pandemic by forcing everyone outside. Phase 1: Warmer winters North of 37.8393333. Cooler summers South. Phase 1 complete. Phase 2 initiated on 12 July 2021 at 1337 hours with extreme weather changes. Expect to see similar patterns at 33.4484 N, 112.0740 W and 34.0522 N, 118.2437 W. Alert, alert: All SkyWarners, turn your Astrotrons 36X500 to 16S 18W immediately. Stay tuned for updates. Buford out.” #ThundersnowConspiracy.


In Arlington, Virginia Samantha Baldwin was scanning her phone as she strode down a hallway at the Pentagon. She stopped when she saw Ronald's Tweet. Her coffee crashed to the floor.


“Oh, shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit,” she said staring at her phone and not even noticing the splatter on her Ferragamos. She stepped over the coffee puddle and clicked down the hallway, jaw set.


She glanced over her shoulder before opening an unmarked door that could have been a cleaning closet in the Pentagon’s maze of corridors and offices. No one noticed as she slipped through and made her way down a narrow staircase that spiraled far beneath the building’s two basement levels.


On the final step, she stared into the biometric iris scanner and a steel door opened. Inside, ten men and women sat at computers, facing a wall of monitors, most of them flashing red. The only sound in the room was the clicking of keys as they typed. No one looked up as Samantha entered and went straight to a computer in an alcove set apart from the main space.


She punched a button and the chiseled face of a man in military fatigues appeared on the screen. Red lights flashed behind him. An alarm blared in the background and a woman’s voice repeated: “Misfire. Misfire. Misfire.”


“What the hell happened, Colonel?” Samantha demanded. 


“Misfire, ma’am,” responded Colonel Pringle.


“Obviously. How?”


“Well, ma’am, we had intended to send a cold front to Florida today. The temperature broke 102 degrees Fahrenheit and more than 80 percent of the population was spending the majority of the day inside. But we had a systems breakdown where a miscalculation was made, verification protocol was bypassed and a damn blizzard was fired at Miami.”


“Well stop it.”


“We’re working on it, ma’am. It should end in a few minutes.”


 “That error is unacceptable, Colonel.”


“It is, ma’am. We are taking care of the perpetrator.”


“Very good. We will deploy a team of scientists to the media to offer a credible explanation.”


“Yes, ma’am.”


“Colonel, we have a more serious problem.”


“Ma’am?”


“7501-1222 has figured out what’s going on thanks to that snowfall.”


“Buford? The fat fella in Iowa? Well I’ll be. Smart son of a bitch.”


“Colonel, this is an 84-20.”


“Yes, ma’am. We’ll deploy to Buford immediately. Did his followers redirect their Astrotrons?”


“Yes, my team will hack into them and disable them. We’ll also hack into the Miami phones and delete all video of the snow.”


“Yes, ma’am. Anything else?”


"Yes. You'll need to create an event in Miami. Something to divert attention from this incident."


“Copy, ma'am. Over and out."


45 minutes later, Ronald Buford heard a pounding on his door. He was clumping up the stairs when the rapping sounded again and a rough voice shouted, “We know you’re in there, Buford!”


Two soldiers stood on Ronald’s front steps. He glared at them through his glasses, which sat askew on his nose.


“I’ve been expecting you,” he said.


“Like hell you have,” said one soldier.


“You’re coming with us,” said the other.


“I know,” said Ronald, sneering. He waved his hand at the zip ties they held. “You’ll not need those. I’ll go quietly.”


The first soldier looked at the fat folds of Ronald’s legs spilling out from his underpants.


“For God’s sake – put on some pants.”


Back in Miami, the blizzard thinned to a squall and then to a flurry of chunky flakes drifting one by one onto the sand. Miley and Bella scanned the sky.


“I think it’s over,” said Miley.


“That was so WEEEIIRRD,” said Bella.


“Yeah, totally.” Miley scrolled through her Twitter looking for her video, but she couldn’t find it. She looked on her phone, but the last video was from that morning when she and Bella had tried the Whipped Chocolate Coconut Frappuccino.


“What the…? Check your phone, Bells.”


Bella couldn’t find her video either.


“That’s so BIZARRE.”


“Yaaaahhhh….Oh my God, Bells.”


“What?”


“Look at my feet, my nail polish is all chipped! Let’s go get mani-pedis.”


The girls slung their bags over their shoulders and sauntered down Ocean Drive. All over Miami that afternoon, beachgoers puzzled over their missing videos. Even the local news led with it: “Conspiracy Afoot? Blizzard videos DISAPPEAR!” But the mysterious explosion of a popular beachfront bar the next morning diverted all the attention and the summer snow faded into mere Miami legend.


Meanwhile, a pointy nose poked out from the beachgrass and sniffed the air. The rat scampered across the sand and to the concession stand where he found a thick potatoey fry on the ground. He sat on his haunches and clasped his prize, wriggling his whiskers. The air felt different. Lighter, cooler. His paw weren’t moist with sweat and he breathed easier. He set to gnawing his French fry. All was well.   




January 22, 2021 13:48

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31 comments

Kristin Neubauer
13:53 Jan 22, 2021

Author's Note: I wanted to write something light after my past couple of heavy stories. My friend Liz came up with the premise for this one and while I had fun writing it, I fear it's a little predictable, a little pat. I don't know much about the world of conspiracy theories, so just had to rely on the stereotypes out there. My partner Brad read it just before I submitted it and said he would've gone more inside the head of Ronald Buford. I see what he means - again, it's that character-based versus plot-based thing I struggle with. Pl...

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Daniel Hayes
07:03 Mar 07, 2021

Wow Kristin, this was fantastic. I loved the humor, and you wrote this story so well. I also liked the ending, with the rat eating his French fry. Maybe that's what this world needs -- a really good French fry to electrify our dopamine levels and take us all to a happy place :) I also loved the title of this story. I didn't know what to expect going in, but it was a great ride. Great Job!

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Kristin Neubauer
13:36 Mar 07, 2021

Thank you! I had fun with this one, and really wanted to try out that storytelling method of linking one random scene to the next to the next to the next and then bringing it back around. A few people had mentioned doing a more in-depth character-based story on Ronald. I actually started that and think it was coming along pretty well, but some weeks life keeps getting in the way and I've sort of lost my momentum on it. Hopefully I'll return to it at some point. It was also important to me to do this light one and the previous two to "Fl...

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Daniel Hayes
17:26 Mar 07, 2021

I hope you do return to the story you were working on. I know how life gets in the way of things, but I'm sure that once you get started it will turn out great :)

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Kip Packard
04:07 Jan 26, 2021

Great use of point of view. Loved the contrast between the different POVs, from the rat to the influencer to the conspiracy nut. Very tongue in cheek, one of my favorite types of humor writing. I'd love some feedback on my story "Sledding" if you have a chance to check it out.

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Kristin Neubauer
23:40 Jan 26, 2021

Thank you so much! I had a lot of fun with this one and it brought me up after my last two really depressing ones. If I can manage to finish my story by deadline this week, it will be a deep dive into Ronald Buford. I'm working on it, but work keeps interrupting me. I loved Sledding! Just read it and apologies for the delay!

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Yolanda Wu
03:29 Jan 23, 2021

Yayy! I was so excited to see another story from you, Kristin! This one was an absolute delight to read. I love how it both started and ended with the rat - he may be my favourite character in this story, lol. I so enjoyed the humourous nature of the story in both the narrative and the dialogue - I think you really do have a talent for that, it really reminded me of your earlier stories. Don't get me wrong, I love all your stories, depressing ones included, but you have such a charm in your more funnier, light-hearted ones. I loved the way y...

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Kristin Neubauer
19:33 Jan 23, 2021

Thank you so much, Yolanda! It's really helpful to know what works as I didn't feel so secure with this story. I'm glad you liked the rat....for the past two weeks, I've been walking 15 blocks from the Metro to my office at 10 am and 11 pm (because of all the Inauguration security). My office is in the heart of DC, two blocks from the White House, and that late at night, the rats come out to play. As I made my walk each night, I'd generally be walking with between five or six rats, depending on where I was, and they kind of grew on me. ...

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Yolanda Wu
23:18 Jan 23, 2021

I totally agree, Kristin! Reedsy has me a lot of space to learn and experiment with my writing. Literary fiction is definitely a tough one in my opinion, I've written a few stories like that, but it's definitely not something I'm very good at - I think I have to be in the mood to write literary fiction in order to write it well. I think my mind has also been on rats lately, because recently there was one scurrying around in my house, right near my desk area. I live in quite a bushy area so it's very often that I bump into a lizard or a snake...

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K. Antonio
01:56 Jan 23, 2021

First of all, great to see a story from you before the end of the contest (you were cutting it close xD). I really enjoyed the creativity of this story. How you set it in Florida 2021 during COVID-19. The story though, was not at all predictable, the conspiracy theorist popping up was so out of the blue, it was unconventional but humorous. I laugh kinda easily, so by line 10 I was already laughing, but the story was ridiculous (in a good way). I liked how you started with the rat and ended with it too, but the last paragraph even thoug...

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Kristin Neubauer
19:24 Jan 23, 2021

Thank you SO much for taking the time to read the story with such a thoughtful eye and then taking the time to make such constructive comments and compliments. You have given me a lot to think about and comments like these - where I can understand what works and what doesn't - definitely stays in my head as I go onto future stories. I can understand how the final paragraph with the rat feels a little contrived. I really wanted to try taking the story full circle....from the rat to the teenage girls to the conspiracy theorist to the gover...

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H L Mc Quaid
16:06 Jan 22, 2021

Hi Kristin, It's well-written. Not sure if it's predictable, because usually the conspiracy theorist is looney tunes. :) Starting and ending with the rat was a nice touch. Onto a few stylistic things, and really this is just my opinion, so take it for what it's worth. I was wondering whether 'research in this sentence "Not even a wayward raindrop escaped his research." could be replaced with 'surveillance', as it seems more accurate. Tho there is some nice consonance with 'raindrops' and 'research' so maybe you want to keep as is. Wh...

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Kristin Neubauer
17:56 Jan 22, 2021

I can’t thank you enough, Heather for such a comprehensive and thoughtful response. Your suggestions are fantastic and yes to removing some adjectives and adverbs. Usually, I try to finish a draft on Thurs and then run through it a few times to polish it up and cut. But I squeezed this story out in a couple of hours last night and posted before work this morning. I am running between meetings now, but I will try to make those changes a little bit later. Additionally, I think my overuse of adjectives reflects my uncertainty with the stor...

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H L Mc Quaid
18:30 Jan 22, 2021

I'm glad it was helpful. And we've all been there, posting an early draft when we know there is always more editing to do! Interesting self-reflection that your use of modifiers might be related to the uncertainty/lack of confidence in the story...I'm wondering whether I succumb to that as well... I also worry that my preference for brevity results in over-simplified prose that lacks enough descriptive detail. Well, if you get a chance to look at my latest story (The Skeleton Crew), maybe you can give me the hard truth. :) Have a product...

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Kristin Neubauer
21:11 Jan 22, 2021

Fixed! I took your suggestions an cut out a bunch of modifiers. It definitely reads better. Thanks again - I'm heading over to your story now!

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H L Mc Quaid
21:45 Jan 22, 2021

Nice, nice, nice! The changes you made defo make it punchier and pacier (not a word, but it should be). well done.

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Kristin Neubauer
00:19 Jan 23, 2021

Thank you so much!! I declare “pacier” an official Reedsy word - it’s perfect!

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I.B. Dunn
14:58 Feb 05, 2021

I loved this. The rat reminded me of Templeton from Charlotte's Web when he went to the fair. I also loved the title. I was laughing out loud before I even started to read. As for the story and your disclaimer, I think you sell yourself short. This was a fun read with just enough technical jargon to make it funny all the way through. Fantastic offering. :-) I know you are swamped but when you get a moment can you check out my latest "Him". It's totally out of my comfort zone and I would love to know what you think.

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Kristin Neubauer
21:32 Feb 05, 2021

Thank you so much! That means a lot. I tend to look at my work with a pretty critical eye (I think we all do that with our writing).... I just read “Him” and am now thinking how frivolous “Flips Flops” sounds. I wish I could write like you, but I think I have to keep in mind to write however I write, write what I enjoy, improve where I can and make sure I enjoy it. I appreciate you taking the time to read and saying such nice things!

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Nainika Gupta
13:42 Feb 02, 2021

Oh mah gawd, Kristen XD This was honestly the funniest thing I've seen all week! With all its twists and turns that flowed SO WELL, I thought you did amazing with it! I loved the rat's POV at the beginning and the end, and how you tied it all together!!

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Frances Reine
19:23 Feb 01, 2021

Definitely a huge difference to the last one you posted. Bouncing from the rat to the other characters and to the rat again was something delightful. And the capitals were cute :)

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Kristin Neubauer
19:02 Feb 06, 2021

Thanks so much! And I’m sorry it has taken me so long to reply - crazy couple of weeks. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I had so much fun writing it and being silly. Yes, I wanted a complete pendulum swing away from Tick and Easier Days!

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Frances Reine
19:16 Feb 06, 2021

Hope your schedule gives you a chance to relax soon

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13:07 Jan 28, 2021

I loved how you took me down one path only to highjack me to another later. The twists and turns of this story made it fun and very entertaining. Thanks for sharing!

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Kristin Neubauer
15:41 Jan 28, 2021

Thank you so much! I hadn’t intended to do it that way, but once I started writing, I started twisting and turning and hving fun with it. Thanks so much for taking the time to read - I’m glad you enjoyed it!

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Kristin Neubauer
15:42 Jan 28, 2021

Thank you so much! I hadn’t intended to do it that way, but once I started writing, I started twisting and turning and hving fun with it. Thanks so much for taking the time to read - I’m glad you enjoyed it!

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Maya W.
00:04 Jan 26, 2021

Hi Kristin! I read this a while ago, but never commented because I was busy - I'll reread it and comment soon. Just letting you know I have a new story out!

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Maya W.
03:13 Feb 04, 2021

And I just published another new one!

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A.Dot Ram
19:47 Jan 23, 2021

It was so interesting how this one bounced around-- how one thing connected to another. That boosted the conspiracy theory feeling, like strings on a map. I agree with your partner that Donald would have been an interesting place to dive in, as the hub of all the strings.

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Kristin Neubauer
21:14 Jan 23, 2021

Thanks, Anne! When the premise for this story locked in, I really wanted to take it from the rat to the teens to the conspiracy theorist to the government and then back through all of them to the rat. There is something about the interconnectedness of it all that intrigued me... it never even occurred to me to do a deep dive into Ronald until Brad said it. But since so many people have said it would be a good idea, I'm thinking of doing that character-based story on Ronald this week with the hobby prompt. Kind of like a spin-off. The go...

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A.Dot Ram
21:31 Jan 23, 2021

I definitely loved how it went in a circle, back through the characters down to the rat. That was fun. But Brad did seem like the guy pulling the strings (haha, literally). It would be interesting seeing a spin off! Yes, he has an interesting hobby. I recommend starting with his motivation. Why does he do this? But keep asking why several layers back.

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