If Mother Nature and Father Time went head to head…

I wasn’t planning on writing a blog post this week because, well, I am a horrible master of time. There, I said it. Time management and I do not mix. It’s taken me more decades than I care to admit to acknowledge it, but there it is.

But I did want to make sure and share the wonderful stories from Charli Mills’ weekly challenge, even if I couldn’t participate this week. So I moseyed on over to her Carrot Ranch blog (probably the only time I will ever mosey in my life) only to discover that the master wrangler herself is dealing with Mother Nature issues, and we all know how those go.

I may not be able to manage time, but it pays to have a healthy respect for the power that is Mother Nature, so I decided to write a 99-word story for this week’s theme: a place of comfort that is a refuge.

It’s ironic, actually, that Mother Nature is so prominent right now because I have a story percolating that relies heavily on the perceived power of storms. The big M.N. wields her power effectively and has been known to use it to trap us, both literally and figuratively, in fierce storms that can involve snow, ice, wind, rain, or any combination of these (not to mention tornadoes, hurricanes, typhoons, and blizzards). The story, which I think is almost ready to get down in paper, is a tête-à-tête between a mortal woman (and all her weaknesses) and Mother Nature. I used Charli’s prompt this week to explore this character a little more and discovered that she’s got a nasty side to her as well (who’s surprised by that? Anyone?), although it’s quite subtle in this 99-word snippet.

Refuge from the Storm

The cows huddled near leafless trees, trying to protect themselves from the thick snowflakes globbing onto their hides as the gray-blue sky pressed down further. Alice ignored the cows and focused on her stove, inhaling the warm cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger steam as she poured the chai into her oversized mug. Recognizing weather—gray-blue tint for snow, green tint for tornadoes, hazy tint for help-me-I’m-melting humidity—was a deplorable necessity of country life. But she had learned. She was now as smart as a cow. She cupped her mug and smiled. Smarter, perhaps. The snowflakes weren’t sticking to her.

Can you see the cows?

Can you see the cows? They’re there…

***

Shirley JacksonThe last week, I have been reading The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, which puts me in a marvelously spooky mood for everything, from the soybean beetles trying to move in from the fields to the squirrel watching me through the large picture window. This became particularly evident while I was out looking for the dog this evening:

It’s that weird part of the evening when the sun (if there still even is a sun, it’s been so long since I’ve seen it) has set but a few errant light beams have yet to make it to the horizon. The world outside during this interlude is a mix of iridescent yellows and deep shadows closing in. It reminds me of reel-to-reel films we’d watch in elementary school, when the first frames would proudly announce they’d been filmed in Technicolor, but then we’d have to squint and strain to make anything out in subsequent frames because the film was decades old and had been stored behind the PE equipment in the janitor’s closet. Outside, as the sky darkens, colors in the grasses become muted, but still visible, giving them an otherworldly feel. And blink too many times, trying to see into that deep, dark cavern of shadows protected by the leafless trees, and you can see hushed movement, as if something is waiting for those last flickers of light to flame out. It is a time of evening that I find fascinatingly beautiful when I am ensconced safely away in the four man-made walls protecting me.

But tonight, tonight I ventured out, looking for an errant pup. I noticed him almost immediately as a shadow a few shades lighter than those around him in the field. He saw me too, turning his eyes toward me so I could see their eerie reflection. He took off through the field, so I headed northwest, trying to catch up with him on the other side. I trudged along, admiring the wind gusting through the treetops, rocking forty-foot tall trees in unnatural directions, causing bare branch to rub against bare branch to create a preternatural sound that sent shivers up my spine. Even more disconcerting, the wind was practically non-existent on the ground. Deafening, absolutely, but barely a tickle on my cheek.

I moved around the old barn, refusing to look into its gaping doorway maw where the giant spiders liked to weave their webs, and instead shone the flashlight in the trees. It was stupid, really, carrying a flashlight. I couldn’t even tell if it was on. The world was muted in greys and faded mustard yellows against a backdrop of pitch black trees that made the Haunted Forest in the Wizard of Oz look like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory (before they got on that boat). I called for the dog, but all I could hear was gale-force winds threatening to tear the trees out from the roots.

The wind stopped suddenly, and I realized I preferred the deafening winds to the spooky silence. I thought I saw a ghostly canine shadow watching me from the field. I called to him, then heard the rush of something tearing through the grass in front of me. It bore down on me with the power of a thousand cows stampeding for their lives, and I whipped the flashlight around, looking everywhere and nowhere, trying to figure out from where this whirlwind of destruction was coming. Too late, it was upon me, but the light was gone now and I could not see it, just hear the pounding of its hooves, the whoosh-whoosh-wheeze of its breathing, the panic in its fear. Someone would not survive this encounter, and I was convinced it was me.

And then the bunny screamed in fear—almost as loudly as I did—and turned thirty degrees to the north to avoid a head-on collision. Yes, a bunny. But our screaming startled a pheasant from the trees, who flew close enough that I had to duck. When I stood up again, the Great Horned Owl was taking flight, letting me know he was not at all happy to have been disturbed. I heard rustling in the trees behind me, but didn’t wait to see what else might appear. Just as I turned to race back to the house, the dog burst from the field to ask where his rabbit friend had gone. It took all my self-control not to flip him off.

I might need to lay off the scary stories for a bit…oh but wait! I finally got a library card (and scared the extremely nice librarian Tami with my excitement), so now I can’t wait to share the goodies I am reading. Next week. 😉

 

Comments

  • Ha, ha! The terror of the town library! You keep them on their toes! Great flash and nice shadowing of Alice and her careless regard of her cold cows.

    Charli MillsNovember 19, 2015
    • Alice’s story has been mulling my head for a year now, and I am really hoping she’s ready to make her grand entrance soon 😉

      C. JaiNovember 19, 2015

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