Blinding white fog with hovering hoarfrost settled over Elmira for three days. With temperatures warm enough to vaporize snow on the valley floor, the rising white mists met colder air. At a certain height, vapor crystallized into shards of ice that melted before striking ground and adding once again to the moisture cycle. The metal roof of my wood barn clattered with ice I could not see or feel. Yet, I could hear it. So, I called it a monster, my default protection from unexplained phenomenon, and you can read about it and even hear the crystalline clatter (and my chatter) over at Elmira Pond Spotter.
The ground was white, the sky was low and white and the air was misty white. It was disorienting. Upon my retreat to the house, I developed vertigo and staggered to my kitchen table like a sea captain unused to land. As I pondered how fog could lead to my dizziness, I remembered a walk several years ago among the organic fields of the largest and oldest organic farm in the Upper Midwest: Gardens of Eagan.
This farm was close to my former suburban home and as one who was in charge of media and communications, I had a ready-made excuse to walk the rows — I photographed the farm annually for marketing collateral. More pleasure than business, this outing got me outside the suburbs, away from the office and off the pavement. I learned most of what I practice as an organic gardener from this farm.
To grow anything organically, first one must grow dirt. You have to have healthy soil to nourish healthy plants. Still, pests can attack. On one walk, I was puzzled to see reflective plastic, lining row after row of squash. I learned that this is silver mulch, and it is effective against insects that invade squash plants because it reflects the sky and the insects become befuddled as to which way is up.
Thus similar to the disorientation I experienced in the white fog; ground and sky were indiscernible. How easily the brain can become befuddled, insect or human.
Of course, this led me to think about how disorientation is a terrific way to build tension or expose a character’s character in a story. So many of the westerns I’ve read have page-turning scenes about the hero who faced the confusion of cattle stampedes, blizzards or dust-storms. Beyond natural occurrences, modern circumstances can create disorientation — traffic, changing technology and power outages. Even the mind can suffer fatigue or illness that leads to a feeling of losing one’s center.
Imagine the possibilities!
January 28, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about disorientation. A character could be lost in the maze of the mind or in a storm of unexpected traffic. What are the sounds? The sights? The smell? Explore the different ways confusion can be expressed and how it can create tension, provide relief or move a story forward.
Respond by February 3, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!
Ramona Makes a Deposit by Charli Mills
Morning light pressed through cracks in the old hay barn. Ramona stood on the front bumper of the stored 1967 Chevy truck to attach battery cables the way Vic used to. She could hear him muttering instructions to her although he’d been dead six months. The VA released widow’s benefits that she needed to deposit in Spokane. His muttering didn’t help her 78 miles away when she couldn’t decide if the circled arrow signed right or left. She turned the wrong way up a one-way and had to explain why she drove through the front lobby of the bank.
Ranch-keeping for Rough Writers: I’m going to leave the polls for collaboration open while I look into a few possible outlets for an anthology. Right now, interest is split between an anthology of 99-word stories and one of longer short stories based on 99-word flash fictions that are themed. I’ll post updates next week. Thanks!