I’m sitting at the edge of the garage with my grandpa. We’re in lawn chairs, the ugly pastel woven kind that leave checkerboard welts on the backs of my thighs, and rain is beating the driveway. He eats his bologna and Tabasco on potato bread. It’s June—July, maybe—and steam rises from the blacktop. The rain has breathed a ferny freshness to the garage, musty with decades’ worth of rust and gasoline and little dead things. A flaccid worm the color of liver writhes on the pavement, and I return him to the dirt. My grandpa folds his hands in his lap. He asks me to go in the house and get my sister, ask her to join us, but I don’t. I don’t want to.
Sometimes I think that tornado warnings must be my favorite thing in the world. Tornado watches are the prelude, but you can never really get your hopes up until you see those violent pixelated masses of color advancing across the television screen, always stopping short. It’s the storm sirens, wailing their distant bovine distress, that always seal the deal. Years ago, I would have been clustered in the basement with my family, thinking about Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz, thinking about what would happen if we were stranded underground forever. Almost praying for disaster. The lonely cans of clearance soup and baby food—remnants of Y2K panic—always looked unpromising, but the idea of disaster was exciting nonetheless. Tonight, the air is thick and unsettling, and the sky is that soupy non-color you get when you mash all the Play-Doh together. I’m in bed, in my nest of clean summer sheets and mild unease, when the sirens sound. I don’t bother to get up and close my windows. Like, take me now.
Water trickles down the subway steps. The first real summer rain has brought with it a fog of sleepy humidity, frizzing my hair and lacquering the sewer grates and turning Union Square a bacterial green. The uptown train is a sea of warm, wet humanity, armed with generic black umbrellas and seasonally dissonant Hunter boots, and the weather has added a mossy top note to the MTA’s signature scent of fermenting piss. I inhale, not wanting to forget. My dress clings to my skin, clammy in the air conditioning; my bare thighs are already glued to the orange plastic seats. I think ’60s, I think ’70s, I think glossy wet Eames. I get a whiff of sheep and realize that it’s me.
My name is Claire Christoff, and I live in Indianapolis, Indiana. Some of my previous work has appeared in The Hairpin and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.