Friday, June 02, 2006

What Price a Beautiful Sunset?

Len was bounding in towards New York at 20,000 feet, his power-sled automatically arranging air clearance and adjusting to inbound flight instructions. He had spent the week hitting all the hot spots of Europe and pressing the flesh with the rich and infamous, and while Europe was nice, if you really wanted to rock New York was the place to be. He had an ETA to the Big Apple of about twenty-five minutes where he would resume his usual life of big screen TV coupled with extreme leisure and makeovers.

Just as the city’s super-skyscraper skyline broke the horizon an EM pulse light flared and the power-sled automatically dropped to hover mode. “What the…” Len began to say, when the entire horizon lit up with a sun bright burst of flame and light. Len’s ocular implants faded to black which under normal circumstances would have blinded the young man but today the light was so bright he could still make out the boiling flame of what had once been the New York skyline. Fortunately he was still twenty miles off the coast so there was no immediate danger of shock waves. “Well that’s just great,” he thought, “first the ozone layer and now this. What am I supposed to do now?”

Len pondered this important question as the nuclear powered hurricane force winds began to blast past the power-sled’s hover shield. He decided that maybe it was time to head south. Check out some new action, maybe make some new friends and influence people. Right, he chuckled to himself as he powered up the sled and turned south. Miami would be nice to see. Maybe he would even stop in at Disney World on the way.

However, so go the best laid plans of mice and men, as one old guy with a lot on his mind once said. The entire Atlantic seaboard appeared to be a vast landscape of smoldering wreckage as far as he could see. Ruined, burning city followed burning, ruined city and all the shoreline in between was burnt and ruined as well. “This mega-sucks,” Len muttered to himself as he turned inland. Before long he was hovering over the crater that had at one time been Orlando, Florida, the place where Disney World had been. “Heck!” Len thought, “I better go to Key West!”

Half an hour later Len had set down in Key West and ordered a couple of margaritas. The drinks were brought by a pretty young thing who flashed him a big smile promising many things. Len realized that this was only a cheap ploy to get a big tip, but he filed her away for future reference anyway.

No sooner had he downed his first drink than one of the local characters came and sat at his table. The stranger was fashionably dressed in Hawaiian shorts, scuffed and cracked cowboy boots, a weather-beaten straw hat and mirrored aviator glasses. He borrowed one of Len's empty glasses and poured an amber liquid out of a silver flask into it. He leaned back in his chair and surveyed Len.

“You from out of town, boy?” inquired the character, who was eyeing Len's suede flying suit.

Len flipped up his flying goggles. “Yeah. But then, this seems to be the only town going. Everything else looks like it was blasted by a nuclear war or something.”

The local smiled to himself and nodded again. “Nuclear war. That figures. But it does explain a few things.”

Len noticed that the salt from his margaritas was making him thirsty, so he ordered another. “What does it explain?” he asked.

“Everything. Drink up boy. My name is Key Wess Jess and we've got things to do!”

Len finished his drink, and then he and Jess strolled out into the gentle Caribbean breeze. They got on the power-sled and shot out over the ocean in the general direction of Cuba. The sky was a steady steel blue and the water below sparkled in a self-satisfied sort of way, yet Len was starting to get glum. With the entire civilized world vaporized it was really going to be difficult to get any new CDs or DVDs. The enormity of the situation was beginning to become clear to him.

Then Jess slapped him on the back. “You know Len, this is quite the opportunity we have here. You, me, this power-sled, and we're all together in the only really good place on the whole planet. Key West.” Jess looked back towards the mainland and smiled. “Now you could have been in New York when it got toasted, or London, or any of a hundred other places, but no. You were over the Atlantic, safe, and I see the hand of God in that. You were supposed to survive, and you were supposed to come to Key West, and you were supposed to meet me. Call it destiny or kismet or jumbldy doo or whatever you want. It was just meant to be.”

“How do you figure that? I mean, why?”

“Why indeed. Let me explain. Key West has never been totally independent of the rest of the mainland. We depended on them for quite a few things. Toilet paper for example. Now we can get along quite well without toilet paper, but we need electricity. Not a lot, you understand. But some. A little.”

Len was still not sure what the point of all this was. “And?” he prompted.

“And your power-sled, Len. Battery powered, isn't it?”

“Yeah. But not a very good one. It's only a Sears Ride-hard 250. I've had it about a year.”

Jess was nodding to himself again. “I'll tell you Len. I'm the first to admit that I'm not up on current battery terminology, but doesn't that mean that your battery should last about another two hundred and forty nine years of power-sled use?”

The light came on for Len. “Okay, I see where you’re going with this, but I don't understand why you need electricity. I mean, you're welcome to the battery, but why do you need the power?”

Jess looked west towards the setting sun, a small smile playing playfully on his lips. The setting sun as seen from Key West is the most beautiful sight in the world. “Ice, Len. We need ice. A margarita without crushed ice is totally uncivilized.” The sun had set completely. “Without ice we could only last forty, maybe fifty years. Give us ice and we'll last forever.”

So it was that through Len's wish to see Disney World, Key West was able to go on as it always had, with slightly unfocused eyes and swaying to a Jimmy Buffet beat. And now the sunsets were even better.

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