Flash Fiction: Gold and Grime

                Ilea let her feet swing over the edge of the roof. No one would notice her unless they wandered out of the bar, into the alley and looked up. That was unlikely considering the bar rarely got more than ten patrons a night.

The city she lived in was beautiful exactly two times each day.  She never missed either. The mornings were hardest to get too, blinking sleep from her eyes and ignoring the roar of the early commuters. But they were clear. The grey smog that always smothered the coastal metropolis like a sticky quilt was pushed aside ever so briefly by ocean winds. In the clean light Old Angeles felt new.

                Now, in the evening, the horizon was not the bright pastels of sunrise, but the dark crimson pinks and violent oranges that turned the entire place gold. The buildings, the twinkling lines of cars stuck on the freeways, even the distant ocean, all were brilliant sparkling gold. The city embraced the pollution painting the sky with it and letting the cloying smell of gasoline and refineries bloom. It was warm but the night air kept away the oppressive heat that characterized the days.

                “I hate this city.” Henry’s voice said behind her. “I hear there are open transfers out East. We could apply.” He said, and wiped the grime and sweat from his face on his t-shirt.

                She didn’t turn around. There was truly only about a half an hour she got to see everything in gold. “I doubt they’d approve it. Only people with something to offer get considered. No unskilled labor.” Henry was a doorman on Market Street and she was a waitress by day and a bartender after the sun set. Ilea didn’t want to leave; this was her home after all.

                He sighed, sitting next to her. “It’s too damn hot all the time. And you can taste the smog when you breathe. Our apartment’s conditioning accounts for half our rent.” Henry scrubbed his hands together.

                Ilea wished he would stop complaining. She had a shift starting below at the bar in fifteen minutes and he had taken the day off. She enjoyed visits but while stuffed inside the cave-like bar negativity had a way of dragging you down. There were worst Corporations to live under and Henry knew it. Aurelio had better living conditions than most and they got to be near an ocean. People stuck in the agricultural Corp out East could live their entire lives without seeing anything bigger than a river.

                The gold haze was cooling into the darker blues and greys of the evening. Ilea pushed herself to her feet and looked down at her boyfriend.  “You coming?”

                He nodded and followed her down the maintenance ladder. When his feet hit the ground he reached up and helped her short jump from the ladder. “I think I am gonna apply for the transfer.” He told her when they emerged from the alley.

                Ilea looked at him. He wanted her to say she’d apply too. “You should.” Ilea answered and walked past him.



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