Saturday morning and a lovely night’s sleep was had last evening; today is, I think, going to be a lazy day. We’re in a heat advisory, and I do want to go to the gym this morning, but after that I might have to just stay inside the rest of the day. The heat can be so oppressive; I worry about just how high my power bill is going to be, and it feels like my car never completely cools down when I’m driving here or there, hither and yon. New Orleans summers are quite brutal; it’s hot and above all else, damp. Hydration is vital because you lose a lot of body fluids through sweating. Just walked to the car from the Lost Apartment, my socks get damp and so do my underarms and forehead. The wetness of the air is, naturally, wonderful for wild plant life; part of the reason New Orleans is so lush with vegetation is nature’s determination to return the city to what it was originally: a swamp. The sidewalk alongside the house is covered in pink crepe myrtle blossoms, like it snowed pink overnight.
I really don’t want to go outside.
But I will always prefer heat to cold. That will never change. I don’t, after all, have to scrape humidity off my car or shovel it off my sidewalk. And really, the anticipation of dealing with the heat is always worse than it ever turns out to be.
The kitchen is a mess this morning, so I definitely need to unload the dishwasher and do another load of dishes this morning. I’ll probably do the floors as well; in for a penny and all that. I may just wind up spending the day reading Lou Berney’s brilliant November Road. My reading has slowed down a bit; I’m not sure why that is, and I also need to read some more short stories this morning, as I only have two that I’ve read left to blog about; but the lovely thing about short stories is they are short, and don’t take a long time to read. I can read three or four in less than an hour, and I’ve got all kinds of anthologies and single-author collections piled up all around the house and in my iPad.
Or…I could just blow everything off and deal with it tomorrow. I’m going to have to make a grocery run anyway.
Next up in the Short Story Project is “The River Styx Runs Upstream” by Dan Simmons, from his collection Prayers to Broken Stones and other Stories:
I loved my mother very much. After her funeral, after her coffin was lowered, the family went home and waited for her return.
I was only eight at the time. Of the required ceremony I remember little. I recall that the collar of the previous year’s shirt was far too tight and that the unaccustomed tie was like a noose around my neck. I remember that the June day was too beautiful for such a solemn gathering. I remember Uncle Will’s heavy drinking that morning and the bottle of Jack Daniels he pulled out as we drove home from the funeral. I remember my father’s face.
The afternoon was too long. I had no role to play in the family’s gathering that day, and the adults ignored me. I found myself wandering from room to room with a warm glass of Kool-Aid, until finally I escaped to the backyard. Even that familiar landscape of play and seclusion was ruined by the glimpse of pale, fat faces staring out from the neighbor’s windows. They were waiting. Hoping for a glimpse. I felt like shouting, throwing rocks at them. Very deliberately I poured the red Kool-Aid into the sand and watched the spreading stain digging a small pit.
They’re digging her up now.
Dan Simmons is a terrific writer. The first of his I read was Carrion Comfort, which I remember fondly, before moving on to (among others) Song of Kali, Summer of Night, and Children of the Night. There was also a really terrific one set in Hawaii whose name I cannot recall right now; but it was about volcanoes and Pele, and I also really enjoyed it. The television adaptation of his The Terror was simply phenomenal television, and while I disagree strongly with his politics–I try as hard as I can to separate the artist from the work.
This story is absolutely fantastic, and chilling, and creepy. Humanity has developed the technology to revive the dead, but rather than going into any explanations of how that works or why you would do such a thing, Simmons focuses on the point of view of a child whose mother has died and is being brought back…and how other people react to such a thing. This could easily make a terrific novel; and the themes of isolation, being viewed as outsiders and being ostracized by your community, is handled beautifully and can be extrapolated into symbolism about any outsiders. It’s really quite terrific.
And now on to the spice mines.