Flash Fiction: “The Pride of the American Moon Territories Mining Company”

(This was written for a contest last October.  It didn’t win — or even place — but I rather like it, and I hope you do too.)

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Landbury knew if they didn’t reach harbor soon they would lose the Muenster from Mare Tranquilitatis, and it would cost him his captaincy.  They had to face the celestial typhoon.

“Storm’s a Scorpio,” Hillbrand said.  “She’ll sting ya, you’re not careful.”

Landbury thought of the rare Muenster again, and sighed.  Skirting the typhoon would take days he didn’t have.  “Tie down everything doesn’t breathe, and then besides.  Push her through.”

The masts of the S. S. Monticello squeaked as the wind buffeted the sails.  Landbury went below.

A captaincy with the American Moon Territories monopoly was a plum gig, one he would never get again should he lose it.  But that last trip to the Gouda shale fields was catastrophic, and his employers would find any excuse to be rid of him.

He prayed to God the masts would hold, for his and his family’s sakes.

To quiet his mind, Landbury went to the cold storage room again.  The remaining ice slid across the floor; boxes of freshly unearthed Muenster and Feta groaned with the rock of the ship.  He never sampled the merchandise, even in the Virgo Doldrums last summer.

Soon the crew finished abovedeck and filed down below.  Landbury donned his slicks and marched up to the wheel.

The ethereal gale buffeted him as he guided the Monticello through the typhoon.  He stood at the wheel he knew not how long, days to his reckoning.  Finally, the gale subsided.

Hillbrand helped him to his quarters, fetched the hot water, brewed a mug with the last beans.  Landbury was thankful.

The next evening they left the celestial sphere and returned to the Pacific.  They docked in San Francisco in a fortnight, the cargo unspoiled.  Landbury thanked God for this.

That evening they met the once proud captain Lowe, who lost his commission after his Mozzarella cargo was exposed to seawater.  “How can we deliver possibly deliver with such vessels?”

“Some are fashioned that are propelled by coal furnaces,” Hillbrand said.

“God in heaven,” said Lowe, nursing his drink.