“What’s your name,’ Coraline asked the cat. ‘Look, I’m Coraline. Okay?’
‘Cats don’t have names,’ it said.
‘No?’ said Coraline.
‘No,’ said the cat. ‘Now you people have names. That’s because you don’t know who you are. We know who we are, so we don’t need names.”
― Neil Gaiman, Coraline
From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Wednesday, October 07, 1998
I started out for work in the morning just a little bit late, having to rush. Candy, watching the morning news, warned me of impending weather. I glanced at the television as I walked out the door and saw that familiar ominous radar image of the metroplex with an irregular diagonal orange line of thunderstorms slashed across it.
I hadn’t driven very far before fat blobs of rain started slamming into my car. It didn’t look that threatening – no large dark caterwauling thunderheads or blasting cold wind of an advancing squall line. Only the usual gray skies with a few darker patches. There was an occasional rumble or crash of thunder and a bright laser flash, thin crooked line of lightning, however, to indicate more powerful forces at work.
The plop sound of the big soft drops soon took on a strange clicking noise as they struck the steel skin of the Taurus. The water quickly turned to ice. I was caught in an unusual early March, early morning, dawn really, hail storm.
It’s a helpless feeling to sit there, stuck in traffic, as chunks of ice scream across the sky to slam into your vehicle and the cars all around. I looked for a place to pull over and get some shelter from the storm; unfortunately with morning rush hour all available overhangs were quickly snatched up by aggressive drivers in expensive new Sports Utility Vehicles or Dual-Axle Pickups. The gas stations, fast food emporiums or any other structure with a modicum of cover were full before I could even move forward an inch in the backed-up street.
So there was nothing to do except wait in the backup of cars on the road behind the spot where a crew was digging out some potholes and using orange cones to narrow the way from three lanes to two. That caused the slow backup in the left two lanes of good citizens like me, patiently waiting our turns while obnoxious morons in the right hand lane zipped by to asshole their way back into the queue at the very cones themselves, thereby holding everybody up.
Nothing except sit there and hope the ice didn’t get big enough, the wind strong enough, to put unsightly dents in my car. Which it didn’t. It only lasted a minute or two. Although the hail did look fairly large it was soft and misshapen, fluffy; not a very effective weapon. As the spring goes on into summer I’m sure the tornadic thunderheads roaring in out of the great plains will get better at it and have some good damaging hail.
It must have been bad somewhere, though, because, hours later, on the way home from work in the parking lot of the abandoned movie theater near my house (eleven screens, all of them within a couple miles of my house, closed when the new stadium seating 30 theater multiplex emporium opened a few miles south in the long vacant field that for a decade held a single real estate sign “ZONED COMMERCIAL,” off of the interstate loop) had appeared a large white tent open at each end. Cones were set out to direct cars through the open maw of the tent. Next to it was a large recreational vehicle painted a bright blue and white and bearing the brazen logo ALLSTATE – Catastrophe Emergency Response Unit.
So the insurance companies were all ready to start taking hail damage claims. The storm may have been worse in areas near here but it couldn’t have been too bad because I didn’t see anyone queued up for their estimates.
Across the street, in the parking lot of another abandoned theater was a small carnival. Only a few steel rides and a smattering of booths; the bright lights were coming on as the sun set. One attraction was a huge slide, an inflatable structure that looked like a giant cruise ship, listing forward at an acute angle. At the stern, pointing high in the air were two inflatable propellers and, of course, the legend TITANIC.
I turned right, into the neighborhood, putting my back to these omens of disaster and drove on home.
And now, a piece of flash fiction for today: