Each week, we pick a short fiction piece from our Fairlight Shorts archives to feature as our story of the week. This week, we’ve chosen a story about labour by Jason Caudle.
Jason Caudle is an aspiring new writer from the southern United States. He is pursuing his bachelor’s degree in English from the University of South Carolina, and hopes to pursue a career in creative writing.
Jason has written sporadically and infrequently throughout most of his life, but has only recently gotten the courage to share any of his writing with others. Death Valley is the first story he has ever submitted for publication.
‘Death Valley’ follows two men as they perform difficult and dangerous work.
Six minutes and thirty-three seconds. That was the amount of time it took a spark to wind its way down and around the forty-inch fuses attached to the nine cherry-red two-stick dynamite charges that Frank Rasmussen was carrying in his dusty leather satchel. Frank had been excavating mines long enough to develop a keen sense for the timing, and a persistent case of tinnitus.
His current project had brought him to the – in his mind, rightly named – Death Valley, California. Death Valley was a fine name for it. The heat was oppressive even before he descended into the mine. It weighed on him something fierce, beating down on him, wringing him out for sweat. Up on the surface, he wondered if he might had done something to get on the sun’s bad side. Down in the dark, condensation-slick tunnels, he was sure he had.
And so, he sweated a lot and toiled a little. It weren’t bad work, especially for a man his age. He didn’t have to swing a pickaxe much, didn’t have to shovel dirt much. There was hazard pay, and he reckoned he deserved it, lugging around the ol’ rock chewers as he was. But truthfully, he didn’t feel there was no real cause for concern in the work, long as the proper pre-cautions were took.
Course, mines were fraught with peril, as most miners who had taken up the profession by choice and not by necessity knew. There weren’t no shortage in the ways an unsavvy cave crawler could meet their maker. There was your cave-ins, your frayin’ descent ropes and rickety buckets, and that constant threat of the invisible, deadly gas that was as likely to strangle you quietly down in the bowels of the Earth as it were to light you up and blow you back out the way you came.