Pardon my pessimism: a solstice story

Tomorrow is the shortest day of the year. But winter has just arrived. Winter has put on its boots and is getting ready to walk all over us. Winter has found the restaurant with outdoor heaters and plastic bubbles and is ready to post up for a while. Winter arrived at the restaurant two minutes before closing time with ten of Winter’s closest friends and thank god they got there just in time, they’re starving, what’s tonight’s special? 

Tomorrow is the shortest day of the year, but things won’t get immediately better from there. The cold is just settling in. The northern hemisphere will take awhile to remember the sun. 

Last week was DC’s first “big winter storm” of the season. My local weathertweeters (Capital Weather Gang) posted approximately a million forecasts ahead of time. They posted updates about forthcoming updates. Then the forecasts kept going down. Sixteen inches. Fourteen inches. Ten inches. Potentially zero inches — BUT POTENTIALLY SIXTEEN AGAIN! It was too warm for the great big storm. It was warm enough for the shitty mixed-weather storm. There would be a flood watch. There would be an ice watch. There would be a watch for the flood watch and a watch for the ice watch. My watch has indiglo. This feels important. 

On Wednesday morning, the snow started coming down in thick white dabs. We opened our windows for a better look. The brick alleyway behind our house was coated in an inch. Brick alleyways, brick walls, these things are meant for snow. Then, sure enough, after we had enough snow for a good tease, it started raining, and it didn’t stop, and the wind picked up. 

When you’re stuck at home all day every day forever, you become a creature of habit. I like to run or do yoga in the morning, and walk around town in the evening. I was not about to cancel my evening walk for a little slush-snow-shittiness. I put on thick socks and rain boots. I grabbed a leopard-print umbrella. As soon as I started walking, I realized there was a tiny hole in my right boot. A little dampness seeped in. I was not about to cancel my evening walk for a little dampness. I kept walking; the dampness enveloped my whole foot. The wind turned out my umbrella five times. I was not about to cancel my evening walk for a broken umbrella. Nothing climactic happened here. I finished the walk a little wet and quite cold. The next morning, I went on my morning run. Much of the rain had slicked to ice overnight, but I was not about to cancel my morning run for a little ice. I jogged carefully, very slowly, taking great care to avoid the black spots. Ten minutes in, though, there was a huge giant patch of ice that looked so much like water I decided to go through it. There was no stopping the fall. My left foot went to the right, my right foot followed, my body fell left, I brought out my arms to stop me. I fell on my forearms. Five or so years ago, I slipped on ice during a run and fell straight on my chin, requiring me to get stitches for the first and last time. That didn’t happen this time. I was fine. Not even a bruise. I got up and kept running. I ran weirdly and awkwardly to avoid the ice, perhaps a little twistedly. Near the end, my knee felt a tweak from all the twisting pivots. At this point I gave in. I was not about to injure my knee for an unnecessary morning habit. I walked the rest of the way home. 

Things will get worse before they get better. Actions have consequences. Covid-19 is at its worst looking backward but not looking forward. The earth’s memories of the darkest night will continue to bring cold and shitty storms. 

But the days will get lighter, as will our minds, and soon, we will open our newly vaccinated arms to a nine o’clock sunset, and until then, we will look forward to it. 

-Denise

PS: I have two pieces of good news this week. An old story of mine called “Mount P.” was just reprinted in a cool and creepy anthology called Vastarien, named after a story written by horror writer Thomas Ligotti. Two summers ago, this story was accepted by three different publications almost simultaneously, and I kinda thought this third publication forgot about me until this week. The story is pretty short and kinda weird, which are two things I guess “the market” likes. So if you’d like to purchase the anthology to see other creepy stories and beautiful original artwork, click here. Or, you could read Mount P. where it was previously published here

The other good news is that a story I wrote over the summer was just accepted for publication. I wrote it when I was mad at my mom’s former boss. It’s about climate change at a nursing home, and it’ll be published in The Forge literary magazine in May 2021. It’s called “One Day Closer.” 

I’m particularly happy about these developments because both publications pay! I’ve been in a bit of an acceptance slump lately, ever since I started limiting where I submit to journals that either pay something decent-ish or are prestigious in some way. So this is a nice milestone that I crossed twice in one week. (Actually, twice in one day – I learned about both on Monday.) I’m going to use some of the earnings to buy new rain/snow boots so I can stomp around with dry feet. I’m dreaming of yellow Sperrys. 

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