Storm Walker

How I met your mother? Are you ready for the story?

It was summer, a hot, dry day. The air tasted of dust and rhubarb crumble – your Grandma’s crumble, with the butter crust. Grandma had left it on the counter to cool, and she and Grandpa had gone off to Warwick, for the market. The storm missed them by miles.

I was just sixteen that summer. Grandpa’s old Ford was mine for the fixing, and I was under its hood, grimy with old oil and happy as a shrimp. When I looked up, the dark twist of the tornado was already over the barley field, moving toward me like a feral cat. I made it to the potato cellar in the kitchen just in time.

There is nothing in the world as loud as a tornado. It draws out the sound from silent things: bales of hay, sacks of flour. Barn roofs. It was terrifying. And then, all at once, there was silence.

I opened the trapdoor. All the sound had been sucked from the world. The house was still standing, eerie in that empty, yellow light. That moment stretches in my memory, like time had stopped.

Then: a tiny ting! of a fork on a porcelain plate. The infinitesimal crunch! of butter crust. I turned around.

A girl was eating your Grandma’s rhubarb crumble. She was the strangest girl: calm but somehow charged, like the eye of the storm above us. Her clothes had been stolen from a hundred washing lines.

She stared back at me. Her eyes softened, smiled. Dark hair danced around her eyes – you know how Mom’s hair moves even when there’s not the smallest breeze?

She took my hand. Outside, the storm dissolved into a thousand dust devils, hovering just out of sight.

8 thoughts on “Storm Walker”

  1. Hooray! I was hoping someone would do the storm version of “eye”, and this is lovely. The storm is both terrifying and wonderful, and the switch between grandiose weather and tiny rural detail is incredibly effective. The girl is fey and strange and lovely, and it’s somehow perfect that she’s eating rhubarb tart. Her clothes “from a hundred washing lines” is also an enormously telling detail. And I loved “happy as a shrimp”.

    I have to ask, though: what’s it with you and these weird, fated romance stories between deeply unlikely protagonists…? ;>.

    Also, to be horribly nitpicky, I think it’s only a cyclone which officially has an eye. Tornadoes are surely too small? or are you doing that deliberately, and assuming that she’s re-shaping the tornado?

  2. I’m glad you liked it. This was a plotted story, by the way, not one made up one sentence at a time – I don’t know if there is any difference in final product, but these are harder work!

    I propose “fated romance stories between deeply unlikely protagonists” is added to my “themes” for the next volume :). I do seem to have a fascination.

    I had no idea about eyes, storms, etc, but I have checked on wikipedia and there seems to be mounting evidence that tornadoes do have eyes, so I won’t have to change it. :) But I did no research beforehand…

  3. Great idea – really enjoyed my first read through.

    Loved the description of the storm and the surreal experience of the aftermath. Colour and flavour is great both word-wise (‘happy as a shrimp’) and conceptually (draw out the sound from silent things…).

    Enjoyed the focus on the sounds in the ensuing silence (but I found the mid-sentence exclamation marks after the sharp sounds very disturbing) ad the description of the girl.

    Thought you got the magical realism just right – enough to be clear in your intend but nothing explicit- the way I like it most: full of mystery.

    I found the confusion between a hurricanes eye (hour(s) long spell of clear skies and stillish air when you’re at the center of country sized storm) and the calm after the Tornado (a very fast moving very local disturbance with a very focussed dangerous eye) disorientating but it isn’t central to the ideas of the story and I got past it.

    Cool idea – difference and fey strangeness is at the central of romantic attraction – seems to me your ‘unlikely partners’ thematic is the central romantic theme.

    1. Ah, thank you for the kind words!

      I really really should have done some actual research about storm, eye, for the purpose of. I don’t quite know how to change it to fit (except for Doc’s suggestion to make the eye part of the mysticism of the girl), but will think on it!

      .

  4. I found this beautiful, eerie and magical. I love how you describe the storm and its electrifying qualities but say nothing about the feeling of meeting a new love – one description is subsumed in the other, which is lovely and poetic.

    You create the country scene beautifully with bits like “The air tasted of dust and rhubarb crumble”. I also really liked “moving toward me like a feral cat”, “There is nothing in the world as loud as a tornado. It draws out the sound from silent things” and “Outside, the storm dissolved into a thousand dust devils, hovering just out of sight.”

    The story has an epic quality. Thanks.

  5. This is a “how I met your mother” story, in which Our Hero hides from a tornado. When he comes out of the cellar he discovers the person who would become the mother in the kitchen, wearing gathered up clothes and eating food that had been left in the kitchen. The conclusion I reach is that she rode along on the tornado, and was deposited at the house.

    Great piece! I enjoyed it a lot. My favourite bits: everything is understated, and then the storm hits with this great line:
    > It draws out the sound from silent things:
    The fearsomeness of the storm is well described and controlled. Ditto with the return to (relative) normality when the storm leaves.

    My one concern isn’t a writing concern: it’s the eye of the storm thing. But it’s already been mentioned by others.

    Good piece.

    1. It is again really interesting how you get a slightly different, but still valid, spin on the story – my intention was that she was a “storm walker” of some sort, that she walked/moved with the storm, at its centre, all her life – until she met her love….

      thanks for the alternative viewpoint, always appreciated!

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