Coal, Not Cole, But Only Because Bart Can't Spell Properly

Submitted into Contest #57 in response to: Write a story about someone who travels to the future, and isn’t happy about how they’ve been remembered.... view prompt

11 comments

Science Fiction Historical Fiction

           Waste not, want not, is what I always believe. Which is how I, Cole Lavine, had the brilliant—if I may say so myself—idea to dig in the ground for energy.

           I’ll give you a little background. My buddy Allen and I were fresh out of high school, top brains of our grade, and figured that golly gee, we ought to, you know, contribute to the fine U.S. of A. How to do that? The army, of course. I mean, there was an entire war going on off in Europe, and we figured the two of us could make mighty fine soldiers. The Allies needed themselves some mighty fine soldiers and there we were, fighting for our lives and the lives of all the people who couldn’t fight.

           One grimy, sticky evening Allen peeled off his uniform as we set up camp for the night. “Gosh dang it, I sure hate how dirty I’m always feeling.”

           “Yup,” I agreed as I kindled the fire.

           “I sure would love a good shower.”

           “But golly gee, it does make me feel badly for dumping out the dirt like it’s…”

           “Dirt?” Allen asked. “You’ve lost it, Cole. You’re feeling bad about dirt!”

           War changes you.

           So, once the war ended, and mind you, we won, I couldn’t stop thinking about dirt. Allen went and flirted and found himself a pretty little wife and had a few pretty little babies, but somehow when I tried hooking up dirt would sneak its way into the conversation and the girl would either turn away, disgusted, or openly mock me in front of whoever roped her into dating me.

           That’s why I’m surprised you’re choosing me, Cole Lavine, to make the documentary on. Allen’s got the better life, more progress, and a better job and all that. I’m working as a suburban landscaper and Allen’s in the corner office, doing a 9-5. If you want a well-adjusted soldier, go to him.

           And if you don’t think I’ve gone plum crazy, just you hold your horses.

           So, about half a decade later I was walking through Main Street, pretty dejected, when I thought golly gee, imagine if something useful was hidden deep in the dirt! I kicked the ground a few times in my excitement and ran into Allen’s pop’s garage to find the biggest shovel I could. That Saturday I set to digging up the empty lot with the help of a few neighborhood boys kicked out of their houses by their exhausted ma’s.

           By the end of the weekend we had dug so deep the mayor came and told us what we were doing was illegal, and I told him “Golly gee, sir, I’m certain there’s something good hiding in this dirt and I’ve done served my country, please let me have my fun!” And I guess me and the boys looked so earnest he let us go.

           Allen surprised us one night and snapped a photo with the new camera his pop had gotten him for his return and threatened to send me to an asylum. But he shut up real quick when he saw his boy Bart digging with the rest of us.

           It was summer so the boys could dig for the next week, though my job and the fact I had to pay my taxes like an upstanding citizen meant I was busy landscaping. I was weeding some kindly grandma’s flower beds when somebody pinged me in the head with a pebble.

           “Gosh dang it, Allen!” I shouted. It was a habit of mine to steal his catchphrase when he annoyed me.

           “No, boss, it’s me!” Bart cried.

           “Golly gee, I’m sorry buddy-“ I began, but Bart interrupted me as he showed me a small, shiny black rock. “What’s that?”

           “I don’t know, but Dickey found a ton and lit them on fire, and you wouldn’t believe how much they burn, boss!” he grinned.

           Now if you think that’s wild, just sit tight for a few more seconds because things are going to get even crazier. And let me hold the microphone myself, I’m not a bumbling fool.

           So, Bart leads me to where Dickey and the boys have a small mountain of the black rocks and they’re on fire, burning like the 7th layer of Dante’s inferno, and I’m beyond plum confused but also pretty pleased.

           “Boss, you know how easy this was to find?” Dickey proclaimed. “It was so easy! Now our ma’s don’t need wood to cook!”

           “Look Boss!” Little Billy was riding his tricycle but had replaced the wheels with small shovels. The stones were flying out from behind him. “Look, I can dig so speedy!”

           “Well that’s great boys!” I was plum pleased. “If we can do this large-scale, we could revolutionize the future!”

           And that’s exactly what we did. Bart called the stones Coal, after me, Cole, but he spelled my name wrong, which is why it’s Coal, not Cole, but the point is, not to brag, I had an entire energy source named after me. And that energy source powered a little machine Dickey and Billy led me to one Thursday evening.

           “It’s the anniversary of Coal, boss,” Dickey exclaimed, gesturing for me to enter the machine, “and we want you to ride in our present to you.”

           I don’t know what those boys had eaten the day before to create such a machine. It looked like one of those fancy tanks I wasn't qualified enough to use in the war, or a large water barrel, or a fancy aeroplane. And a good deal of pressure on my head and a few flashes later I’m in the middle of a city, where people are walking around with little light boxes in their hands, cars look like monster machines and are zipping about so quickly, the air feels hotter, heavier, and...stickier, and a whole group of boys are standing with signs.

           “Whatcha doing there, boys?” I said to one with long hair.

           “Excuse me, I’m a girl, and I have no time for your misogyny.” She, apparently, turned her back, leaving me plum confused at why a girl was wearing trousers.

           “Golly gee, watcha doing there, kids?” I asked pointedly.

           “Protesting,” a taller one explained, holding a baby on her shoulder. She lifted up her sign. “There’s no Planet B,” it said.

           “Protesting what?” Now I was plum bewildered.

           “Global warming,” the baby gurgled. I guess he wasn’t such a baby. Or maybe babies in this alternative timeline could talk.

           “Why?”

           “What are you, ignorant?” the snappy girl snapped. “The Earth is burning, leaving our generation with an uninhabitable lifestyle! But the government doesn’t seem to understand that we need to stop using fossil fuels. They’re destroying what we have a Constitutional right to!’

           “Now, now, Missy, the government isn’t all that bad,” I scolded. At least the U.S. of A.’s government wasn’t all that bad. We had won the war. “And what are fossil fuels?”

           She rolled her eyes and scoffed. “Coal, duh.”

           “Coal?” Did she mean my brilliant energy source? “But that’s revolutionary!”

           If she rolled her eyes any harder they would get stuck up in her brain. “Typical. You old-fashioned people can’t get past your outdated ways, and you’re willing to ruin all of our lives for your own convenience.” Her and a load of the other kids all turned their backs, ignoring me, and I made a show of huffing back to the machine, personally insulted, and climbing back in it.

           So, then it takes me back here, to this blessed town where I promptly squished it with Allen's pop's car, so that those protestors will be stuck in their awful society forever. It's much better here, in the fine U.S. of A. Children know their place and don’t smart-mouth us visionaries. I’m still plum bewildered on what that Missy was talking about. Coal is cheap, easy to find, and all-around great. It’s given millions jobs working to mine it and allowed so many others to afford houses with their own energy systems. Forget those gosh darned kids. I’m not sure why they looked down on me so. My boys and I have started something new and important, and I’ll bet it’ll be the energy of eternity.

           Golly gee, thank you for this interview. Here’s your microphone back. And yes, this is the truth, and no, I’m not plum crazy.

August 29, 2020 16:37

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

11 comments

Meggy House
16:40 Aug 29, 2020

Hi everybody! So this is my second story and I would really appreciate some feedback! I was inspired by the climate crisis and the protest movement, which I am personally a part of. I don't know about all of you, but I live in America and we can do a lot more to save the planet. I'm hoping that us writers can influence the populace, and maybe even the government, to grow a sustainable nation. Obviously this is heavily based in fiction. The most realistic part is the fossil fuel boom after WWII, but no Cole Levine existed (and if he did tha...

Reply

Show 0 replies
Tessa Takzikab
00:24 Sep 25, 2020

Hi, I know it's much too late to fix it, but I just wanted to let you know that in the phrase 'plumb crazy', plumb is spelled with a b. While I'm here... Great work! I love how you made Cole's voice so strong throughout the story. Also, I love how you used his voice in the title too, even though it made it a bit long for a title. Also, I love the way you did had him tell the story through through an interview!

Reply

Meggy House
12:27 Sep 25, 2020

Thank you so much! Yes, I can't edit the story anymore, but thank you for catching that plumb error. And I'll see about shortening the title.

Reply

Tessa Takzikab
14:10 Sep 25, 2020

No! Don't shorten the title! it's good that it's long because it's still his voice.

Reply

Meggy House
18:38 Sep 25, 2020

Ohhh! Thank you for clarifying! And thank you for reading :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Clara D Berry
07:43 Sep 08, 2020

Hi Meggy. This story is absolutely brilliant. I love the title, which drew me in right away. I also really like how you threw him into a protest of global warming. I did not see that coming. The way you described the future through his eyes was very realistic and fascinating. I like how he assumed the crowd was full of boys because of their clothing.

Reply

Meggy House
18:03 Sep 08, 2020

Thank you so much! I'm happy you found Cole's perspective realistic, because I personally have never lived in the 1960s so I was a bit worried about how that would turn out, so I'm happy it worked. I really appreciate your feedback!

Reply

Clara D Berry
18:32 Sep 08, 2020

I haven't actually lived in the 1960s either ;), but it sounded pretty real. You're welcome.

Reply

Meggy House
20:18 Sep 08, 2020

:)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Regina Perry
13:17 Sep 07, 2020

I really like this story, Meggy! It was clever of you to frame it like a documentary. And the concept is great, as are your brief descriptions of the future.

Reply

Meggy House
18:34 Sep 07, 2020

Thank you so much! I'm happy that somebody has finally read the story :) And I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

Yes, you! Write. Format. Export for ebook and print. 100% free, always.