Whatever world the characters in a story inhabit, there has to be some sort of atmosphere surrounding them. There has to be weather in the world where they live, and it has to be more than, “It was a dark, stormy night.” Although, I’m about to tell you about that very thing: a dark, stormy night.
Weather sometimes has the upper hand and controls what characters do and where they go. In the New York segment of my story, there is a blizzard on the way. It’s been on the news, so there is some forewarning. Jenna takes a quick inventory of her pantry and walks to the corner grocery store to get what she needs in case she can’t get out for the next few days.
Growing up in Minnesota, I remember this well. When the warnings come out, you get to the store and stock up: bread, eggs, and milk. For sure. There wasn’t the crazed frenzy about toilet paper that there is today, but I probably checked to make sure we had enough of that as well. I checked the candle supply, made sure the car was full of gas, and that I knew where the snow shovel was. I didn’t have a snow blower, so I knew I’d have to go out several times during the storm to keep the shoveling at a manageable amount. It’s much easier to shovel three inches at a time than a foot or more. Jenna won’t have to worry about that since she lives in an apartment, but the storm is going to clog up the streets and pretty much bring everything to a standstill.
Jenna picks up eggs, milk, butter, and a frozen pizza. She has other staples in the pantry, and she grabs another bag of kibble for Viggo, her cat. As she heads to the checkout, she tosses in a bag of Dove chocolates. Smart woman.
Now that she’s safe and well-provisioned in her apartment, I can let the storm loose. I thought about those years growing up in Minnesota and remembered a storm I thought would be good for Jenna to experience. Not all of the details apply, but the memory is vivid.
The announcement came over the intercom: Classes were canceled for the rest of the day because of the storm. Unfortunately, the buses were sent to the garages before students could get a ride home. My friend’s father ran a gas station near our high school and was also a First Responder. “Let’s go to my dad’s station,” she said. As we headed outside, I remember looking up at the sky. It was solid, heavy, and white. It felt like an oppressive blanket. And there was lightning and thunder. In a snowstorm! Crazy, right? If I hadn’t experienced it myself, I would never have believed it.
We made it to the gas station and waited there until my friend’s father received a rescue call in our part of town. He got me fairly close to home, and I remember walking the rest of the way in the tire tracks of the last car to pass through. The snowflakes were huge and heavy, and they fell fast. It wasn’t cold – mid-thirties (F), I would guess. (The below zero temperatures would arrive once the storm had passed.) It was dark when I finally made it down the alley and into the back door of our house.
I checked back to the year of that storm. Fourteen inches of snow fell that afternoon and overnight. My sister and I went out in regular shifts to keep the driveway clear so my dad could get in with the car.
Jenna is pulled from a sound sleep (and an amazing dream) by the sound of thunder. She goes to the window and watches the storm from her bedroom, fascinated by its power and grateful that the power hasn’t gone out. That happened to us – I wonder if it will happen to Jenna.
Until next time…