Theodore Jerome Cohen is the Readers’ Choice in this week’s Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Challenge. The winning entry is decided by the popular vote and rewarded with a special feature here today. (In the case of a tie, the writer who submitted an entry first is the winner per our rules.) Without further ado, here’s the winning story:
by Theodore Jerome Cohen
“Hard to believe,” lamented the old man. “There was a time when this entire area was a lake–the Salton Sea–one of the most beautiful areas in the Imperial and Coachella Valleys.”
He took off his hat and wiped his brow with the back of his sleeve. “You shoulda seen this place back in the early ’70s . . . small resort towns, marinas, the works! People loved to come here to swim, dine, enjoy life. It was the place to be! And the wildlife? Wowie! The variety of migratory birds was just unbelievable. I’m talkin’ thousands upon thousands of blue herons, eared grebes, and ruddy ducks, just to name a few. If you were a birder—and believe me, they came from all over the country—you simply had to be here during the migrations.”
“So, what happened?” I asked, trying to keep the area’s dirt and toxic dust from getting into my eyes and nose.
“What happened? WHAT HAPPENED? First, the water level started to rise, and most buildings along the shoreline were abandoned. Them, them damn fools—I’m talkin’ the government here—reduced the flow of water into the lake and things went downhill from there. They promised to fix the problem, but their word ain’t worth a tinker’s dam! Now you got people sick, businesses shuttered, the environment in jeopardy.”
All I could do is shake my head in disbelief.
“I’ve almost given up hope,” he added, a tear in his eye.