I grew up in South Dakota, where the horizon rolls indefinitely in all directions. Hot summer days bred lightning storms and tornado warnings, whose zap and buzz and chartreuse cast I could see from miles away. Despite my Midwestern roots, however, I’m most content at the seashore or—better still–atop a mountain, drinking the view like water for my soul. My first hikes were before I was born, and I’ve sought them ever after–laughing, sweating, berrying, eating warm grapes and half-smashed sandwiches, uttering marriage vows, and spreading a few of my father’s ashes before God and Shawnee Peak.
How was it that life could bear to continue after the world had ended?
And yet, in the face of great tragedy, the question remained: “What’s for dinner?”
Equal parts numb and raw, Elaine meandered the aisles, staring at beans and milk and leeks and lettuce; seeing nothing.
A friendly clerk eyed her, asking, “And how are you today?”
“I’m—“ she began, but nothing more emerged. There was a reddening, a sudden wetness around the eyes.
“We are how we are on days like these,” he said–not unkindly–and he made his way back toward check stand five.
Turn off the TV.
After crying uncontrollably for an unspecified amount of time, sit down and talk with your kids about why we have three branches of government.
Pick something small that is annoying—like mismatched Tupperware, or a lost retainer–and throw all of your ire and frustration and hopelessness and devastation in that direction for a while, so you don’t have to think about the greater tragedy at hand.
Hug everyone you can find.
Have a glass of water and a sedative.
Contemplate the stars. Think of things that are true and good and will outlast this calamity.
(**Special thanks to Andi P.**)
Marianne stumbled on a root protruding from the sweltering sidewalk, nearly losing a scoop of orange sherbet in the process. Relieved, she paused to lick creamy rivulets from the sides of her softening cone. It tasted like summer, like granny wasn’t sick, like no one would call her names on Monday.
She imagined Maxwell Detweiler looming and poking at her–as he had three days in a row–and how it would feel to shove her sticky treat into his stupid face. But no, that wasn’t right. She’d spent two dollars and seventy-nine cents, which was more than he deserved.
- Be ready for anything. Best case scenario: you are well-rested and patient, have a sense of humor and a full tank of gas, plenty of cash and Kleenex on hand, complete flexibility with your time, musical preferences, and volume tolerance, endless appetite for YouTube videos and Instagram feeds, a copy of Twilight, a portable charger, tasty, plentiful snacks, a working knowledge of 8th grade common core math concepts, endless sympathy and advice for tricky social and academic situations, and you don’t mind being completely ignored if none of the above is needed. Worst case scenario: you have a flask.
I remember it all like it was yesterday.
Acne, drama, self-doubt. Excessive mooning about. A variety of binges and very bad decisions.
I behaved irrationally, irresponsibly, disrespectfully, and the one I treated the worst was me.
Yet having a teenager may be even more terrifying.
Still plagued by acne and self-doubt, my lingering woes are compounded by close proximity to this raw lump of developing human–one who wears her disdain, depression, euphoria, and ill-founded bravado at the very surface. Nothing I can say or do will serve as salve. It is what it is–a tough row to hoe.
Detective Maria Cortez and Officer Sean Wilkins arrived on the scene at 8:30 sharp—seventeen minutes after the call had come in—and were immediately overwhelmed by the foul smell.
Wilkins’s face fell.
“Is this what it’s like?” He fingered his shiny new badge and gave his ill-fitting pants a quick hike.
As they neared the body, Cortez let expletives drop, and Wilkins regretted becoming a cop. One hand swatted flies; one covered his nose.
Only somewhat hardened by experience, Cortez knelt to survey the desecrated corpse, blanched, and rose.
Wilkins vomited, then spit; at 8:33, tossed his badge, said, “I quit.”