Tornadoes!

overshare, writing

This is part of an assignment I wrote for Gemma Files’ Litreactor course, also known as Installment 3 of “Anne Picks Horror Writers Who Are Dedicated and Wildly Supportive Teachers and Also Wonderful Humans,” after Brad Carter and Stephen Graham Jones – two other professional writers I greatly admire who gave me some kickass guidance.

We were asked to really drill down into three to five moments in our lives in which we were genuinely afraid. This was the fear that I wound up working with for my story, which has since jumped right on over the reasonable word count of a short story and is barreling toward being a full-on novella. 

It’s been an odd couple of months in which I’ve spent most of my free time either working on the story or watching Youtube videos of ballet dancers and tornadoes (both for story purposes). I hope I’ll be able to point you toward that finished piece soon, and that I’m not jinxing it by sharing its seed.

Anyway, here’s the fear.

I spent a good chunk of elementary school convinced I would die in a tornado. It seemed impossible that those things could exist in the world and not destroy me, or at the very least my house. I also have a very specific memory of being confused by the closed captioning icon that would flash in the upper right corner of the TV screen when a show came back from commercial, which I’d somehow convinced myself was a symbol for “tornado watch.” 

This wasn’t exactly a rational fear – the climate I grew up in did occasionally produce tornadoes, but I was in a mountain town tucked up in the Ozarks (in a house with a perfectly sound finished basement, no less), not a farmhouse out in the middle of the Kansas or Oklahoma prairie. We did get lots of thunderstorms, though, and when the Weather Channel told me to watch for tornadoes, I was on. the. case.  

I remember Mom packing us all downstairs – my brother and sister, the dog, and whatever cats we could round up. I also remember the sirens going off once or twice. That sound and the feeling it gave me are what jumped into my mind at the third blast of the Night’s Watch horn in A Song of Ice and Fire – the thing I always knew was lurking out there had finally arrived, and this was not a drill. 

A few years ago, I saw the aftermath of the 2014 Vilonia tornado in central Arkansas where it had crossed I-40. It looked like a giant monster had stomped through the area. Crazy angles in the metal guiderails, trees stripped, crumpled like toothpicks, thrown all around the place, billboards and heaps of sheet metal lying around liked used Kleenexes. But the thing that was somehow even more upsetting about it was that it was such a short diameter of destruction. Maybe a half mile or so. Its path was so incredibly well-defined – a strip of the world torn off revealing absolute chaos underneath.  

When my reptile brain tries to conceive of something touching the cloud-level sky and the ground at the same time, it feels like grabbing some kind of mental third rail. It’s just so cosmically awful. Lightning bolts trip that wire too, but at least lightning is brief. Tornadoes hang out and move around, in unpredictable directions. And they’re not really made of anything except motion. They’re such a perfect kinetic symbol of how completely out-of-control the world is, and how little bargaining power we have with our own fates.   

I don’t panic about tornadoes anymore, but it doesn’t take much climate change science reading at all to make me sick to my stomach.  

Here’s my favorite Youtube tornado (no one gets hurt). 

RHC 2018: Nick Cave: Mercy on Me by Reinhart Kleist

overshare, Read Harder Challenge 2018

This post is part of a series in which I describe the twenty-four books I read in 2018 for Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge

Task: A comic that isn’t published by Marvel, DC, or Image.

Alternate: A comic written and drawn by the same person.

This post got a little out of control in terms of length and amount of navel gazing. It also has very little do to do with the comic. So buckle up.

Reinhart Kleist’s graphic biography Nick Cave: Mercy on Me was the comics equivalent of a pint of Cherry Garcia for me. And I enjoyed a large portion of it during my daughter’s nap with a literal pint of Cherry Garcia (it was a wonderful afternoon).

This is a treat if, and possibly only if, you’re enough of a Nick Cave fan to immediately recognize his lyrics after being translated into German and then back again into English, grin every time Kleist’s art perfectly renders Cave’s constant vampire pout, or enjoy seeing characters from his songs loose and mouthy on the page (though I was disappointed that Kylie Minogue’s blandly virginal Wild Rose made an appearance instead of PJ Harvey’s infinitely more interesting murderess).

I am this target audience.

How I ‘Became a Writer,’ or alternatively, Buckets of Unicorns

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I decided to be a professional writer in kindergarten. Inspired by the Whisper the Winged Unicorn series, my best buddy and I made a pact to produce books of interest to both kids and adults. I would be responsible for the words and she for the illustrations. At the time, the pictures were the much more salient portion, and I remember feeling grumpy about being stuck on serif duty. But you couldn’t have a book without words, and she was the better artist, so I went along with it.

Whisper the Winged Unicorn combined the two most desirable traits of my My Little Ponies (favorites here and here and here and here). Who knew what other worlds could be imagined in a universe of such infinite possibility?

So, yeah, writer, speculative fiction, early on. Settled.

So you’ve decided to stop breastfeeding earlier than you meant to.

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I had blithely assumed I’d breastfeed for at least a year, and probably longer. It was a struggle at first, but I had great support, loads of information, and I finally made it to a point where I was able to thoroughly enjoy the sleepy, snuggly, hormone-drenched lovefest it became around eight weeks or so.

But. 

Hands

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I look at my daughter’s hands while she’s nursing. Her palmar grasp reflex is mostly gone now, but she’ll still make a conscious decision to wrap her pudgy little fingers around my index finger every once in a while. Sometimes she’ll push my finger away instead, or pet it like a cat. Her fingers are getting chubby, and they’re getting much better at doing what she asks them to do.  She folds and unfolds them like an adorable miniature silent movie villain and then presses the back of one hand to her brow like the same film’s damsel in distress. She can wrap her hands around things, wave them around, bang them on surfaces, and stick them in her mouth (my mouth, the dog’s mouth…).

She likes to reach out and grab my face, snatching at my cheeks and lips. Ripping off my glasses is a new favorite game. Sometimes it kind of hurts – her nails are razor sharp and grow faster than I can cut them. I hate cutting her nails. I slipped once early in her life. There was blood. She cried in pain, and out of the thousands of times I’ve heard my daughter cry, that was the one that was truly intolerable. It spooked me, and now I put off her manicures until tiny little scratches start appearing on her cheeks. It’s getting easier now that her fingers are bigger.

Ipso

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My cat died yesterday.

More specifically, I had my cat’s life ended for her yesterday. I slept in the guest room the night before last where I’d been camped out for baby duty, and a thump woke me up at 2:00 am. My little orange cat Ipso had tried to jump up on the bed and had missed. Then I watched her try to walk to her litter box and she fell over. This checked a box in the worst decision making tree I’ve ever had to design.

Ipso was diagnosed with kidney failure three and a half years ago. At the time, we were told she had weeks to months. That turned out to be years – three good years, where she felt fine and acted like herself. But she had been fading for the past few weeks, and I’d been trying hard to pretend like it wasn’t happening.

I picked her up and brought her into bed with me. She stretched her chin out over my wrist and started purring while I scratched her head. We talked about it. I made the decision. She curled up next to me and I stayed up with her for the rest of the night.

I woke Chris up and told him I thought we needed to let Ipso go. He called a local mobile vet, who wouldn’t be able to get to our house until noon or so. Ipso hated going to the stationary vet’s office and I couldn’t stand the thought of her last moments being in a place that caused her so much fear and stress. So we waited.