The Carding Chronicles are short stories and sketches about the little town no one’s ever been able to find on a map. If you hit the subscribe button to the right, the Carding Chronicles will be delivered right to your inbox.
The people of Carding, Vermont like to know that one day will be like the next, that it will snow in winter, that the sun will rise over Mount Merino, and that the smells of coffee and morning glory muffins will waft from the Crow Town Bakery.
But it is an indisputable fact that control of the future is an illusion that can be upset by the smallest misstep—the car that doesn’t start, the bathroom sink that gets clogged, the slippery ice in the driveway. That’s all it takes.
This particular shattered day started when Hillary Talbot stopped in front of the calendar in the Crow Town Bakery’s kitchen on her way to the walk-in cooler. “Uh oh, did you see what’s on the calendar for tomorrow?” she asked her boss, Diana Bennett.
“Wednesday?” Diana asked.
Hillary nodded. “Yeah, that and Mercury’s going retrograde until the ninth.”
Diana frowned. “Um, okay. What does that mean?”
“Delays and frustrations!” Hillary said. Then she shrugged. “It’s just smaller stuff that doesn’t go right. You know, like Alice in Wonderland.”
“And how long does this Mercury retrograde last?”
“Oh, just seventeen days,” Hillary said cheerfully. “It’ll be over before you know it.”
Now, Diana Bennet does not count herself as a believer in astrology but she’d learned there was sometimes a price to be paid when she ignored Hillary’s pronouncements. So that night, she checked to make sure her alarm clock—timed to go off with the weather report on Dirt Road Radio—was set. Then she glanced at the knobs on her stove to make sure they were all in the “off” position, and that there was milk for breakfast in the fridge.
Satisfied, she snuggled in beside her husband Stephen to pass a quiet night.
But while Diana slept the sleep of someone who thought she’d beaten Mercury at his retrograde game, tiny technology glitches collaborated to knock Dirt Road Radio off the air. No radio, no alarm.
That’s all it took.
A finger of sun poked through a gap in her bedroom curtains, waking Diana with a start. Still half asleep, she rousted her husband, rumbled up their kids, lost the keys then found the keys to the bakery, forgot the code for the alarm on the back door, fed the policeman who arrived when the alarm went off, and then realized her left heel was gaping out of a huge hole in her socks.
With a deep, steadying sigh, she retrieved a spare pair of Hillary’s socks from the back room then started juggling eggs and bagels out of the second refrigerator before she realized that someone had forgotten to plug it back in after defrosting.
Turning quick, she tripped over a mop handle, splayed the eggs all over the floor, and had just performed an accidental set of splits when Hillary walked in the back door.
“Diana, why are the police here?” she started to ask when she realized her boss was sitting in the middle of an egg puddle with strips of bacon plastered across her forehead.
Diana sighed as she peeled bacon off her hair. Then she looked down at the sodden tubes of lime green socks puddling around her ankles. “Wonderland,” she said. “Some days, you just wake up in Wonderland.”