Monday, January 13, 2014

Whether to Weather the Weather or Not

Sometimes, a writer just has to flaunt the rules, indulge himself, and commit no-nos like starting with a description of weather. But it's not irrelevant. Weather can turn a protagonist suicidal as a stand-up comic flopping live on the Tonight Show. It can give a man reason to live again. Most of all, weather is rarely as boring as indoors. Why do you think movie cams keep moving in indoor scenes? They get bored too.

Anyway, I just might start a story with the following passage. In fact, I'm sure of it. It is, among other things, a refutation of what literary types call the Pathetic Fallacy :

Winter, where Raleigh lived, could be pointlessly cruel. Not in the brutal exhilaration of snow and single-digit temperatures but by day after day inflicting the same, sad, saggy gray clouds.

For four weeks the world looked like an old Technicolor movie trapped in a b&w TV. Winter kept the sky locked up in relentlessly dull cloud cover, except for one day when pinpoint silver linings exposed brief soft spots in an otherwise grim afternoon.

Days were dim but nights were too light: streetlight curdled the midnight sky into the pinkish gray color and texture of boiled blood. Low-flying aircraft glowed like Wise Men from the East, and the rare glimpse of starlight was like a message in a bottle from outer space.

That this happened during the worst possible time in Raleigh's 31-year old life felt ominously unbearable but the sun came out on the 29th 
afternoon of its sentence, possibly let out for good behavior. Exhilarated beyond belief, the sky whooped it up. Clouds performed circus acts; the flying trapeze of high cirrus wisps caught small scudding cumulus puffs and swung them across the horizon; low scudding clouds somersaulted each other like circus clowns. There were the usual impersonations -- camels, battleships, dragons -- and disappearing tricks: one cloud, just joking around,  blocked the sun for a moment then broke apart and instantly evaporated.

People walked looking up heedless of traffic across busy streets. Jubilant squirrels ran acorn games. Tweety birds did the wave on power lines bouncing in the heady wind. Jitterbug flocks of sparrows turned bushes into quivering animations, sunlight splashing like water off their feathers.

A few glorious hours later, the sun set, winking better things to come as it faded behind the Cascade mountains. The moon rose like an encore, stars quivered like jewels in jello, and the night flowed like a river through time.

But that was it. Next morning, the east horizon briefly opened a small dungeon window, chucked prisoner rations of sunshine on the valley floor, then slammed it shut. The last puddles of sunlight seeped underground as the overcast settled in, but this time it wasn't featureless and void. If there was no hope on the horizon there was at least a glint of brightness in the sky and some variety in its shades of gray swarming restlessly like a brewing prison riot.

Walking down a windy street downtown, Raleigh cheered briefly at the sound of a styrofoam coffee cup tumbling down the street.

'Like a tap-dancing butterfly,' he thought, but he was too broke to buy a cup of coffee.

Copyright © 2014 by Robin Morrison

From a story with the working title: Raleigh & the Little People

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