In response to the latest #writephoto’s prompt, I’ve adapted a short extract from my current WIP, a humorous fantasy novel involving a character I’ve written about before, Pearl Barley in The Surge Of The Spirits. In this section, we meet Rebecca, a weather engineer, as she tries to sort out a problem for Celia Pilates, the wife of The Reverend Pontius Pilates, something of a nemesis for Pearl
The Vicarage sat back from the main road, at the end of a long drive along which a battered dirty white van drove past and up the drive. The sign on the side had a dark cloud with a fork of lightening through it and ‘We Make Beautiful Weather!’ underneath.
A woman in red and orange striped dungarees climbed out of the driver’s side and headed for the front door.
The intercom crackled. “Hello?”
“Mrs. Pilates? It’s Rebecca from We Make Beautiful Weather!”
The voice crackled over the intercom. “About time. Come round the back and I can explain. Take the track to the right of the house.”
Rebecca pushed her tangled mass of hair out of her eyes and returned to the van. She turned the key and squeezed her eyes shut, as if she was praying. After a total silence everything shook and the engine sort of apologised into life. She let go a breath and engaged the gear.
Somehow she knew this was going to be difficult. Rebecca was a weather engineer, managing aspects. Her speciality covered skies of all kinds, plus views, general selected weather systems and personalised microclimates. Usually these were only for events because the energy for a longer term climatic solution would cost a fortune. As their marketing had it, ‘We ensure your outdoor function goes with the bang you want rather than the one that has been randomly selected by the vagaries of Mother Nature’. A bit wordy and worthy but it seemed to work.
Today though she was on a rescue mission. Miss Pleasant Pilates was to be married and a spectacular aspect had been commissioned from The Sky’s The Limit but as Rebecca knew from past experience they were a bunch of amateurs and had left the Pilates garden the subject of a persistent downpour that they’d shrugged and said they couldn’t shift.
She looked at the clouds looming over the house and sighed. Here we go, she thought.
Curving round a corner, Rebecca could see the full extent of the marquee and the downpour. The tent was surrounded by mud and small ponds. While Rebecca manoeuvred the van as close as she could to the marquee without sinking into the mud, a short terse looking woman holding a large golf umbrella and wearing over large green rubber boots sploshed her way towards her.
Up close the persistent stair-rodding rain was plain to see. Even though Mrs. Pilates stood no more than ten foot from the van, she was in the rain, the water fountaining off the canopy of her brolly, while the van stood in the dry. A reddish glow from the lowering sun reflected off the front of the clouds, the cause of the deluge.
A movement to her left drew Rebecca’s attention. A small black cloud, like a child’s version of a cumulus nimbus buzzed in a circle above various tables, apparently pulsing rain at each one.
Rebecca pulled on her waders, grabbed her own brolly and joined the client. As she sploshed across to her, Mrs Pilates said, “Well? Can you help?”
Rebecca raised her own umbrella and pulled a clipboard from under her coat. “I’m sure we can do something to make you visually credible. At least I can stop that nonsense,” she pointed at the small table-bombing rain terrorist, “but to sort out something for your event and get the main clouds to behave will take until a few days. The earliest we can start – we’ll need to survey them properly – would be tomorrow afternoon. The wedding is at the weekend, yes?”
Mrs. Pilates nodded, a glimmer of hope trying to push its way into her expression, but still smothered by all the hours spent anticipating disaster.
“You’ve got yourself a bit of a nightmare, haven’t you?”
Mrs Pilates constipated expression suggested she wasn’t helped by Rebecca’s unrelentingly cheery tone.
Rebecca continued. “If it’s a fault in the strato calibration, which it almost certainly is, I can have the boys around at, say, two on Thursday. They’d aim to conjure up a south-westerly which will help get rid of all that nonsense,” she pointed straight up without looking, “and you should be pretty dry out here by ten on the Friday. It’ll be very noisy. How are your neighbours?”
“They’ll be fine. I’ll let them run the tombola at the village fete. Shall we sit and discuss this?” Mrs Pilates took Rebecca’s proffered arm as they headed back towards the house where the rain hadn’t intruded.
Rebecca chatted as they went. “We will need to bring in generators. Maybe two.” They sat and stared at the erratic black cloud, which appeared to have landed and attached itself to a hosepipe. “Did they leave the controls?”
Mr Pilates pointed at a plastic box that sat under a table to the right. The table, unlike everything else on the terrace was saturated.
Rebecca nodded. “It’s trying to short the remote. Cheeky scamp. Cheap piece of crap, really. Just a mo.” She strode across and picked up the box, shook off the surface moisture, retrieved a remote and prised off the back casing. She grinned. “This will be fun.”
Mrs Pilates’ face suggested fun had gone out of fashion with stay-press and corduroy spats.
As Rebecca pressed a couple of wires the cloud leapt free of the hose, shot in the air and headed their way. Rebecca smiled and under her breath muttered, “Come on, come to mummy.” As the cloud slowed and began to gain height, swelling as it did so, Rebecca dropped her gaze, focusing on the controls in her hand. Speaking out of the corner of her mouth to Mrs Pilates, she said, “Tell me when it stops climbing and starts coming at me will you?”
Mrs Pilates nodded. It took maybe a minute and then the cloud, now three times the size it had been, stalled and pointed down. It seemed to pause. “It’s stopped. It’s still stopped. It’s… here it comes!”
The grin on Rebecca’s face almost split it as she spun and pointed the controls at the cloud. She held a second handset out of which a red laser-like beam shot, piercing the cloud. One moment the cloud was hurtling at Rebecca, the next a short fizz of lightening exploded from its side and what was once a cloud turned into an orb of water. It drenched a corner of the marquee and the flower beds to that side and flopped onto the lawn, like a punctured paddling pool.
Mrs Pilates watched with her arms wrapped around her head as trying to shrink into their cover. She sighed. “Can you dry that out too?”
Rebecca nodded. “Indeed. Once it’s dry, I’ll have a team get up and reel in the clouds. We can give them a good shake, get rid of all the rumples and wrinkles. We’ll make sure they’re tucked in properly this time. It’ll even out the colouration too, less Armageddon, more Amalfi. Shall I go and take some measurements and then give you a quote?”
The older woman stood uncertainly. “Please. I think I’ll go inside and fold some napkins.”