And yes this is normally a writing blog. But there’s little normalcy to enjoy in these times. Hunker down. Adapt. Most of all, live.
It feels an anachronism to experience a massive outbreak of disease; like a story your grandparents would tell about their parents and grandparents was suddenly projected onto a big screen, full color and sound. And what chance a horror picture would spawn from those cognitively distant recollections? Some auto-stimulated response triggered in the deep recesses of our primal brains, reminding us that we aren’t too separated from those long-ago pressures and fears. Not as much as we wished we were.
Now it’s our turn to surmount this obstacle to civilization. For many of us this mainly amounts to staying out of public places and limiting contact with other people. Admittingly not the most heroic or daring of endeavors. But if something as simple as a thorough hand washing can have a tremendous impact, then there’s nothing to sneer at in staying put.
Indeed, I had a mind to complain at length about the current climate with this platform but then I stumbled upon a video from wrestler Matt Hardy (of all people) asking for positivity in this dire time and hearing his straight speech, I couldn’t rebuff him.
In that spirit, I’m offering a bit of escapism to break-up the monotony of staying at home for such an extensive period of time. I’d written this story several months ago but these circumstances seem fitting for its heart.
I hope you enjoy. Stay healthy everyone.
Nighttime Version 1
The icy rain struck the island for six days and seemed like it wouldn’t return the routine peace until everything under its shroud was destroyed.
It’d swept beneath the blind radar dishes and hit me in the middle of washing my truck. So cold and so fast it was, I sprinted away from the nerve pinching beads and into the house. I’d gone less than fifty feet, only a few seconds under that dripping maw. Yet, when I turned on the faucet for some hot water, the mirror revealed my skin was bluing in scattered dots seeping over my face. Immediately I crashed into the shower and punished my flesh with direct contact from the showerhead spraying the hottest water it could pump out.
Throwing my damp clothes out the shower, I felt the chill recede; my heart at a racehorse gallop. Strewn on the mat my damp clothes emanated a gray steam, denser than the one caused by the hot shower.
Weary of them, I inched across the bathroom bent halfway over the sink to avoid even my toes coming in contact. With a towel round me providing all the warmth I could ask for in the moment, I stepped out to the bedroom where my wife read her book above the covers across both sides of the bed, too engrossed to notice my entrance and commotion.
My voice trembled as we met eyes. “Don’t go outside.”
For six days the icy rain beat the island. I didn’t know such a thing could happen on Maui. I’d certainly never seen such a thing after twelve years living here. Rain itself was a commonality shared with sunrises and waves breaking on the beach. But the chill of it was a mystery.
Every thermometer whether mercury, electronic, or sourced from the weather service gave near the same read at ninety-one degrees. A common midday high for this time of Fall. I ventured outside once with an umbrella over my head and a plastic tarp covering every bit of flesh. I got as far as my truck but it wouldn’t start. Touching the frame it was obvious, the engine was too cold to get going without a fire underneath like a tank in the Russian Winter.
In my initial sporadic, fearful, yet utterly amazed investigation, I called my friend Joe who was hunkered down halfway across the island. He had much more of a knack for weirdness than I and “tied” himself “between generations of all manner of things” as he self-indulgently described it. I always thought it was just worthless jabber till he gave a thorough debriefing.
“Landlines are toast,” he began earnestly. “It’s cells and satellite for as long as this lasts. The water pipes and electrical lines are too deep in the ground for this damn rain but it may be a matter of time before the ground succumbs to the same fate. Lay plastic tarp over the roof and clear the gutters if you can manage. My shed had a leak and the boards are frozen stiff as was the mourning dove I found on them. I’ve had it on my kitchen counter for two hours and the steaming thing’s still a damn rock. Do an inventory, juice up your generators; it may be one of those times… Anyway, I’ve got Jessi doing her sketches in bed and, well… we’ve got little to really bother us. You know, no other obligations and nothing that’s gonna interrupt.”
His girl’s pet peeve was him talking about their relationship with other’s on such a level as what he alluded to and what he would have kept joyously alluding to for ten or fifteen extra minutes had I not cut him off for the goodbye at that point in the call.
After a day’s preparation and a night on the couch – too out of my wits to make it to bed, where the blinding reading light would be on for another hour – I set up a station to wait out the rain. On my roofed and tarped porch I dropped a small round table next to the cushioned wicker chairs and laid my favorite accompaniments: a rocks glass and a bottle of Glenfiddich 12 with fat cubes, my Bluetooth speaker for my phone’s numerous playlists, and a bowl of dry, broken up instant shrimp ramen tossed with the full seasoning packet.
That spot on my porch was like a womb under all that icy rain; the perfect viewing platform for this nightmare device of nature. No breaks, no levity. A punishment made all the worse by its eerie consistency. Not to dissimilar from actual water torture.
It wasn’t a devastating amount of rain. It didn’t even pool up anywhere in my yard more than a few inches across. If I were a kid and the rain wasn’t an ongoing disaster, I’d entertain myself for an entire afternoon splashing around those few pools with reckless abandon for a cold.
But the rain wasn’t kind, and maybe enough in time would soak the soil as to leave the new droplets nowhere to collect but up above ground. Then up above my porch. Then…
I chased the thought away with a triple swig and loud, brainless Hair Metal. A minute inside to crush another packet of shrimp ramen turned away all lingering concerns. But due to some pull I found back on the porch observing the entire spectacle.
It chased away everything within earshot. No kids were jumping into pools certainly. But also there were no engines of any kind. No bird calls, no footsteps from any animal. The only prevalent noise, or maybe just recognizable above the din, was that of the distant waves.
Maybe all the animals had gotten out (I certainly liked to think that was the case). Perhaps the burrowing critters had instinctively dug canals in the sides of their mounds of earth. There are certainly enough thick topped trees on the island to guard birds and scaling lizards in regular rains. It’s possible a great number of all them could hide in the mouths of small caves staring out bewildered at the icy rain the same as I under my porch.
But the inky black spider casted a weary shadow on my hopes there. It was nestled comfortably on the high corner of my porch next to the light. A number of moths and flies and smaller insects dotted its hammock-like web, which was normal given the vibrant insect population of the island. However, amongst the entwined prey dangled seven drained husks of smaller spiders, near translucent in their wind chime formation. A warning to other spiders to follow the primitive fear telling them who’s territory it really was. What might all the other creatures do with the calling of primitive nature if the rains didn’t let up before empty bellies’ wails drove frenzies of…
I took another triple swig and shook my head trying to drive away it all but six days of the constant icy rain caused an auditory paralysis that shrunk me between the fibers of my chair. No sense remained in my thoughts anymore.
On the seventh day it cascaded to a deafening roar. The seventh day.
I wanted to jump into the thick of it and shout at the clouds for them stop or let up a bit or even rain heavier for a while. Just a change; that’s all I wanted.
Then a loud crash rang out beside me. I feared a part of the porch roof had caved in and I might be soaked up to the gut in a torrent of deathly, icy water. But the crash was actually my wife sitting down in a frustrated huff.
Her feet were in a rapid tapping—completely out of synch to the song on. She might have shaken the whole house down from how badly she vibrated in her chair.
“What’s wrong?” I sputtered reflexively.
The wicker shrieked as she curled herself into a ball and shifted towards me. “I’ve no more books,” she mourned.
Oh how she loved reading. It was her true source of entertainment. The only other entertainment I had ever seen her enjoy was when we were dating and I convinced her to watch movies based on books she’d read. We always had a kick debating which medium was better and ever the zealot for her books she’d talk circles around me. Veracious, constant as the rain before us on the porch.
She liked to read outside in her chair when the weather was good and it matched the atmosphere of whatever story she was blasting through.
My words came on slow; each singly with forceful effort. “Is there… magazines or, something else to read?”
“Read it all. Bored.”
“Well, did you at least have fun reading?”
She uncurled herself spread over the chair arms staring at the bottom of the porch overhang.
“Yeah, was a thrill.”
“A thriller? Or just a thrill… Or a thrilling thriller that–”
She cut me off with a smirk and snatched up my bottle of Glenfiddich as the last bit of reading material in the house. “We don’t have much of this left.”
I passed her my half full glass and asked, “How was the book? The last one you read.”
Instead she elaborated on seven books including Virginia Wolfe “A prude prune” and Hunter S. Thompson “Wild but woefully directionless” and Ozzy Osborne’s autobiography “A funny, tragic motherfucker.”
Having never read any of those, I took her at her versed word.
I told her she should take a shot at writing something (then remembered saying something similar a long time ago) but she rebuffed explaining how she had more fun reiterating the stories with their strengths and faults. She worked herself up to go on about how faults could be strengths and lost me to her own delight as I filled up the glass and we passed it between us. Somewhere in there we cracked open a soy sauce ramen (the only one she’d eat) with a conservative dusting of the seasoning packet.
She convinced me to let her sync her phone to the speaker and she hit this long playlist of instrumental tracks. I caught a peek at the first track in the shuffle which was something called Mellon Collie and the Infinite S… (The end of it stretched off the screen.) It was kind of spacey and mellow and had me sink weightless in my chair.
“I didn’t know you listened to music like this.”
“There’s a lot you never asked about what kind of music I like,” she mused spilling a bit of scotch down the corner of her grin. If I wasn’t so relaxed I’d have drunk it off her skin, no matter how much she giggled and pushed me away.
In time we drained the bottle to wash away the ramen salt and could only communicate through laughter at one another’s inability to form sentences against our numbing cheer.
Then the edge of the buzz wore off—the icy rain had stopped.
The frantic birds chirped all at once and with dumb gazes we questioned one another. With wordless smiles we agreed to walk into town and buy some more scotch and books for the both of us.