Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Story Snippets: Commencement

Image by mrbudgetphotography from Pixabay 

May and June are a time for graduations. This is a piece of flash fiction I wrote in a near future world not too different from our own. Noah has made an unconventional career choice, and one has to ask, has Noah saved his future or sabotaged it?


Noah swung his leg over the seat of his retrocycle. “Thanks for fixing it. Guess I don’t have to worry about getting caught.”
Honors students weren’t allowed in the vocational hall. Once Liv announced she was training to be a bike mechanic, she was pulled from her academic classes.

Liv put away her tools and wiped the last of the black grime from her hands. “Are you sure about your decision? Headmaster Greid pulled my salutatorian speech. Don’t think he won’t do the same to you.”

Noah rumpled his blue-tipped blond hair. “Tomorrow’s our last day. Nothing to lose.”

“Except your speech. And your future.”

Liv mounted her own retrocycle, and Noah followed her outside. They dodged potholes as vehicles hovered above. Only the poor braved the crumbling roads and sidewalks. Noah glanced over his shoulder at Stream Tech Preparatory Academy. Workers sprayed fresh holopaint over the pockmarked stone facade. Others nailed boards over the front steps. The alternative was razing the historic structure. These crews were filled with the dregs of the global society. Skilled tradesmen capable of making the needed repairs were a dying breed.

Noah and Liv parked their retros in the worker lot of their neighborhood and walked to his house. They avoided Liv’s home. Her career choice was as unwelcome as abandoning purple hair for her natural brown. Noah liked the color. Her image-conscious mother did not.

They passed through the mansion’s gates and detoured through the garage to retrieve his toolbox. Few knew of the private sale that turned his family from owners to tenants. Noah did his part to save them from bankruptcy. Some might even call it a sacrifice.

Noah slipped a hammer through his beltloop and stuffed nails in his pockets. “Liv, hold the ladder.”

He didn’t bother checking for nosy neighbors before climbing up. They would have to get used to a banker’s son swinging a hammer.

Hot and sweaty from an afternoon of making repairs, Noah gulped from the garden hose, and then held it up for Liv who guzzled from the stream.

She wiped the back of her mouth. “Despite Mom’s warning, I still haven’t caught worms doing this.” Liv kissed his cheek. “Meet you at the gate tomorrow. Our last ride before graduation.”


Had Noah saved his future or sabotaged it? If only he were as confident about his decision as Liv.


Fresh holopaint and metal sheets disguised the rickety stage of Stream Tech Preparatory Academy. Illuminated carpet runners covered the cracked concrete floor. Noah stumbled when his shoe heel caught the edge of a hidden hole. This misstep confirmed his career choice.

Headmaster Greid tugged on Noah’s graduation gown. “When you chose trade school you lost the privilege of giving the valedictory address.”

“I earned that honor.” Noah lifted his valedictorian medal. “Are you confiscating this?”

Mr. Greid mumbled, “if I could.” His voice returned to its normal volume. “As a student leader, you're negatively influencing the student body. Frankly, I’m disappointed in you.”

“You shouldn’t be.” Noah lifted his chin and mounted the stage steps avoiding one with missing tread.

Headmaster Greid took the podium and droned on about Stream Tech Preparatory. As promised, he bypassed Noah and Liv and introduced the student body president.

The headmaster strode toward his seat at the back of the stage. Crack. He stepped through a rotten board and fell face first. In the commotion, Noah took the podium.

“I am the valedictorian but my speech was blocked because I’m a disgrace. Why?” Noah gestured around the auditorium. “Shiny high-tech fabrics and performance paint cover the truth. Our country is crumbling because we don’t have skilled workers. Where are they? Shamed and shoved into a college education. Instead of racking up debt I turned down an education at a prestigious university to apprentice as a carpenter. Some might argue otherwise, but I’m no less valuable to society. Who knows, I may prevent a principal from falling through the floor of his own stage.”

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