The Iron Dark of the World

“By early evening all the sky to the north had darkened and the spare terrain they trod had turned a neuter gray as far as the eye could see. They grouped in the road at the top of a rise and looked back. The storm front towered above them and the wind was cool on their sweating faces. They slumped bleary-eyed in their saddles and looked at one another. Shrouded in the black thunderheads the distant lightning glowed mutely like welding seen through foundry smoke. As if repairs were under way at some flawed place in the iron dark of the world.”
Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses

There was a bit of a breeze today. This scene was repeated all over some parts of the city.

tree_house

Here’s the same house, before the storm, from Google Street View. Look how tall that tree is.

My son Nick was at our house today and asked me to drive him home as quickly as possible so he could make it to an afternoon baseball game. The sun was shining when we left my house but when I dropped him off some big, fat raindrops were falling. As I drove north through East Dallas the rain began to thicken and then the wind started to blow. I watched the thermometer in my car drop twenty degrees in a couple minutes. This is not a good sign, especially when driving in the big city, especially in my tiny car. I began to look for shelter and pulled into a parking lot. The wind was from the North so I parked on the South side of a sturdy building. Then all hell broke loose.

I was watching the trees across the street tossing in the wind and then the rain (and a little hail) thickened until I couldn’t see past my hood. The wind had to be blowing seventy miles per hour and my car was rocked even though I was in a sheltered position. It took almost an hour before I felt I could drive home. Looking at the traffic maps on my phone, every road was red.

It took me an hour and a half to go the ten miles home. Trees were down across the road as were power lines. None of the traffic lights were functional and every intersection was a long wait and then a game of automotive chicken as everyone jockeyed to be the next one to cross. I had to get home, change, and then go out to work – we had a good bit of storm damage there.

If you don’t live in the central part of the country you can’t imagine the sudden onslaught and terrifying power of a spring thunderstorm. What’s crazy is an hour later the sun was shining without a cloud in the sky… the air cool and clean, scrubbed by the violent passage of water and wind.

 

This tragedy struck not too far from where I waited out the storm.

 

 

 

Short Story of the Day, “Sea Change” by Nancy M. Michael

But those in the mix know what blood tastes like.

—-Nancy M. Michael, Sea Change

Approaching Storm, Dallas, Texas

I used to take a month each year to comment on and link to short stories published online.

Short Story Months:

Day One 2013

Day One 2015

Day One 2017

I haven’t done that for a while, but have been thinking about it. That doesn’t keep me from reviewing them one at a time. Last year, I wrote about Driven Snow by Nancy M. Mitchel. The author commented on my blog entry (with the surprising revelation that the story was true and the woman survived). She mentioned that she had another story on the Akashic book website, Sea Change.

Go read it – a short, pithy read. Then you can come back and read the rest of what I wrote.

It’s of an interesting construction in that the protagonist isn’t directly involved in the action. Stories like that are cool because there are two stories – the main, observed action… and the reaction of the observer. It’s quite a feat to accomplish this in so few words.

 

The Great Floodgates Of the Wonder-World

“…the great floodgates of the wonder-world swung open…”
― Herman Melville, Moby-Dick or, The Whale

The ponds at the end of my block, Richardson, Texas

All my life I have wanted to live on a creek lot. I remember living in East Dallas and riding my bike along the hilly lanes east of White Rock Lake (back then I was young and thin and fit and I welcomed hills – now I’m afraid of them) and spotted homes along streams – some with little patios down among the trees perched out over the water. They would have a grill, some seats, and I imagined knots of people at sunset enjoying the setting – always wanted that sort of thing.

My wish finally came true, sort of, when we bought our house in Richardson. Technically it is a creek lot – but the creek (which emerges from the flood control ponds in Huffhines Park at the end of our block and runs a short distance beyond where I live to join with Duck Creek) has been manmade wrestled into an arrow-straight path. It’s really more of a ditch lot.

On most days it’s barely an algae and trash encrusted trickle. There are a lot of ducks and turtles (both the friendly box and the prehistoric snappers) with a nighttime cohort of opossums, bobcats, coyotes and an occasional beaver. There are a few trees – but the number is limited by the Corps of Engineers to insure proper flow. They only allow new plantings when an old tree dies. It’s a sleepy stretch, mostly useful to the local kids and cats, feeding and stalking, respectively, the ducks.

They don’t call it Duck Creek for nothing.

That changes with frightening rapidity when a big Texas thunderstorm strikes. The water rises and moves in a symphony of wet muscular gravity.

Last night one hit, hit hard. The ground was already saturated, the flood control ponds already overflowing when the sky dropped six inches of water in a couple hours.

I opened the garage door and looked out through a forest of honey globs of water caterwauling off the roof into the dark. Illuminated only by staccato bolts of lightning like a galvanic Gene Krupa, the bellowing water stilled by the strobing arcs into impossible waves rising above the creek banks and beyond. The usual quiet night lit up by blue thunder. The gleaming fury as millions of gallons of deafening water scream by is frightening and intoxicating. I watched from my house – afraid to get any closer.

This morning I walked around the strip of creek, grass, and trees. The highest water level was marked by a line of twigs and plastic water bottles. In several places the delimitation moved up over the bike trail and almost kissed the alley that runs behind the houses. By then the creek was down to its usual level, having dropped as fast as it rose, with only a little more water flowing by than usual.

The flow was a dozen feet below the level of the detritus line – which was in turn only a couple feet below the level of the houses (though it would take a lot – a lot – more water to raise the flood up that last bit).

I hope.

I did think of those little patios perched in the winding creek lots of East Dallas. I always liked them – but I’m sure they are all gone now.

A Month of Short Stories 2017, Day 22 – before the storm By Alex Sheal

Have a drink.

Over several years, for the month of June, I wrote about a short story that was available online each day of the month…. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year – In September this time… because it is September.

Today’s story, for day 22 – before the storm by Alex Sheal
Read it online here:
before the storm by Alex Sheal

Then we slept, our storm-scattered raft adrift in the afternoon sun, mouths parched, detritus trailing us across the lifeless ocean. Or did fish school beneath us, flashing like bonfire sparks in a bottomless night?

—-Alex Sheal, before the storm

There is this comedian, Larry Miller (he’s the obsequious clothing salesman in Pretty Woman) that does this comedy routine about drinking in bars – it’s called “5 Levels of Drinking.”

He says:

You crawl outside for air, and then you hit the worst part of level five ~~ the sun. You weren’t expecting that were you? You never do. You walk out of a bar in daylight, and you see people on their way to work, or jogging. And they look at you, and they know. And they say, “Who’s Ruby?”

Let’s be honest, if you’re 19 and you stay up all night, it’s like a victory like you’ve beat the night, but if you’re over 30, then that sun is like God’s flashlight. We all say the same prayer then, “I swear, I will never do this again (how long?) as long as I live!” And some of us have that little addition, “……and this time, I mean it!

Truer words have never been spoken.

Today’s story reminds me of that bit, somehow.

This woman, a bartender at the NYLO Southside, asked Candy, “Is your husband a professional photographer?”
Candy answered, “He thinks he is.”

The Storm is 400 Miles Away

“People seemed to believe that technology had stripped hurricanes of their power to kill. No hurricane expert endorsed this view.”
― Erik Larson, Isaac’s Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History

While 400 miles to the south, Hurricane Harvey brings terror, destruction, and death – here all it has done so far is brushed the sky with its outermost bands and made for a beautiful sunset.

The ponds at the end of my block, Richardson, Texas

The ponds at the end of my block, Richardson, Texas