Movie Night in a pre-Netflix world

An empty wooden bowl stained a dark brown collects dust on the shelf amidst other useless trinkets and knick-knacks in the name of décor. I looked at the bowl without really seeing it for years when suddenly the bowl is overflowing with the colors and smells of a twenty year old memory.

The room is dark and warm with the summer air. The windows are open and dingy lace curtains gently billow with the night breeze.  It smells like fresh cut grass and gasoline and pollen and earthworms.  Three feet of rabbit ear antenna are connected to an old tv that flickers in hues of green and pink.

It is Movie Night in a pre-Netflix world. There is a stack of VHS boxes from which to choose the evening’s entertainment.  First up, Cujo.  Perhaps, not the best choice for two kids who are scared of the dark, loud noises, cauliflower and clowns.  Nonetheless, the tape gets pushed into the mouth of the VCR and starts rolling to a limited but captive audience.

We pass the same smooth wooden bowl filled with popcorn back and forth, each taking a handful. I let a piece dissolve and shrink on my tongue before taking on another for the disintegration process.  It’s a complicated and slow way to eat popcorn, for sure.

Baby Bird stops passing the bowl and instead holds it between his hands, entranced by the scene on the flickering screen. As a massive black dog lunges almost out of the set, Baby Bird screams.  He tips the bowl over his head and eyes, and like an ostrich with his head in the sand, he feels safe.  Popcorn rains down onto his shoulders and gathers around his little body, like the falling of dogwood flowers around their tree in Spring.  It is a beautiful mess.

The bowl is back on the shelf, a retired relic of the past. However, the memory is wily, not to be sterilized or neatly labeled and categorized.  Instead it disappears into the shadows of the mind with days of red popsicles, puppies, summer breaks, and Baby Bird who is thousands of miles away from his refuge under the bowl.

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Bells and Whistles

Instinct

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The man is tall, towering and mostly toothless. He wears blue sweats and a plain black t-shirt.  Like the man, the clothes are clean but worn out.  Grey stubble grows on his chin and head.  It is a low maintenance style that he picked up in the Big House and decided never to change.

He steps inside the office and looks quickly to his left and right. Under a broad forehead, his eyes are deep set with a slight bulge from an untreated health condition; they pick up who, what, and where of those present.

He is a mangy wolf sniffing out an easy dinner. There is an unnatural shine to his eyes as a small woman greets the visitor with a barely hidden disdain usually reserved for car and life insurance salesmen.  He is not scheduled to meet until later in the week.

Just Puney, the man accurately surmises. Excellent, he thinks as he shuts the door behind him; it closes with a definite click of the latch.

“Keep it open.”

He experiences a physical shock and takes a half-step back. Puney’s voice sounds different, clear and strong.  She stands back from the doorway, out of arm’s reach from the man.

“Oh, I thought you wanted it closed.” He laughs in a forced and creepy series of “Heh, hehs.”

“The door was open when you walked in. Why would you think that?”

Puney stares at the man, very hard. She looks him in the face, gathering information as quickly as he did seconds earlier.  Fine hairs on her neck prickle and stand at attention.  There is a physical connection to her animal ancestors, a leftover gift of evolution that is needed now as much as in the past.

“Open. The. Door.”

She speaks slowly to ensure that he understands. Her feet are firmly planted and her knees are slightly bent, ready to spring out of harm’s way.  In her hand, she holds a pen, no longer twirling it between her fingers.  Rather, it is repositioned in her palm, grasped by all fingers as a weapon, ready to stab and poke as needed.

Taking another step back, the man opens the door and a gust of fresh air gusts into the room. Puney exhales a sigh of relief, not realizing until that moment she was holding her breath.  In a cross between a smile and a snarl, she shows her teeth.

“Now, what can I do for you?” she asks and wonders with an internal sense of exhaustion, what can I do for me?

When everyone and everything is a potential threat, Puney startles at the drop of pin. Her instincts are shadowed by anxiety and exaggerated by the constant clanging of bells and whistles sounding their warning. It’s a hyper-vigilance that cannot be maintained. She knows something has got to give and sincerely hopes that it’s not her.

A light in the dark

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I am at the bottom of a deep hole, maybe an old well, trying to figure out what happened. The darkness is suffocating and heavy as I try to stand. Nothing is broken. I feel my arms to be sure a bone isn’t sticking out where it doesn’t belong. I’m just a little sore and confused. So that’s good, but it is dark and creepy. I am afraid of the dark, so this is bad.

Fear sets in spreading from my chest outwards, reaching my head and feet at the same moment.

Frantically I try to find my flashlight. It came down with me so it must be here. My fingers are my eyes now; they are both far and nearsighted as they adjust to their new role. I feel my way over the muck, decaying leaves and twigs, walnuts, trash and still no flashlight.

The rotting debris stinks and I am panicking. If I could still the thousand thoughts in my head, I might try to use the Litany of Fear. Reading all of those Dune books need not be in vain. Fear is the mind-killer…

That’s not happening because I’m gagging, the stench surrounds me and I’m covered in this muck. Bile rises in my throat. Mouth breathing makes it worse; the smell is so pungent I can taste it in the air.

Vomit will not improve my current environment, although I’m not sure if I have a choice as the bile continues on its path upwards.

Mind over matter, mind over matter, I tell myself and swallow hard. Briefly, I consider that the nausea could also be related to a possible concussion. Not knowing how long I was out from the fall, I am only certain that it is night and that the nausea is passing.

I dig for the flashlight. It won’t get me out of this pit if I do find it, but it will give me the comfort of light. Light is a reminder that I am human and therefore a conqueror of the dark.

Unfortunately, I am not the conqueror of anything, aside from the urge to vomit which may only be temporary. My only power is that of patience to wait for the first light of the day. I can be patient.

I feel hope for the new day.

Then something moves, squishing through the muck towards me.

Fear ties my stomach into knots and makes my heart pound. Needles of pain shoot out from my neck and scalp. I am deaf, dumb, and blind in this hole with patience as my only defense and acutely aware that I am not alone.

I was never alone.

All this and more

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They won. The fear mongers won.

Sunday was spent waiting for the epic storm that never arrived.

The mega-storm was predicted on Friday, with hype continuing to build through the weekend.  Ridiculously good looking weather forecasters excitedly projected the storm’s path, guessed at wind speeds, and called for large hail.  On all the stations, they agreed that the possibility for tornadoes was too great to ignore.  It was going to be bad for the Midwest, just how bad was yet to be seen.

“Stay inside and stay tuned,” they begged and pleaded to be taken seriously.

To prove their point of fear, the forecasters flashed images of entire communities destroyed by tornadoes in previous storms and panned down to the damage done to single homes.  They took live calls from the field, interviewed experts, and showed video footage from storm chasers.

“All this and more could be coming within hours,” they threatened with serious faces and perfect hair.

Meanwhile, I paced back and forth in front of the sliding glass door watching the wind blow the few remaining leaves from the trees.  I expected to see a massive funnel cloud reach down from the grey sky and rip into our apartment.  A few drops of rain fell and the sky looked heavy, promising more to come later.

I texted my friends and family to seek shelter and stay inside just like the fear mongers recommended.  Admittedly, I felt a bit of the thrill that the forecasters must experience in spreading the word of dangerous conditions.  It was empowering and also brought me dangerously close to becoming an amateur fear monger until my very calm husband said “Just relax” and patted a spot on the couch next to him.

Still, I wore my boots all day, anticipating the need to run for cover.  I assumed that I would soon be exposed to the elements when the apartment roof was lifted off of the building and the rain and hail started.  I kept an eye on the cat in case I needed to grab her in my frantic sprint for safety.

However, now it is nearly 10:00 pm and the forecasters have disappeared from the television without so much as an apology for terrifying the viewing public all day myself included.

The fear mongers may have gotten a day out of me, but it was not a day wasted; rather it was one well spent.  I got to do the things I wanted to at home without feeling the need to leave.  My husband and I snuggled on the couch and prepared for the worst, once I stopped pacing and stressing.

All this and more may not have been possible without the insistence of the fear mongering weather forecasters.  So thanks for keeping us in and keeping us safe, sort of.

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