Tiny Stories, Tiny Tales

shock at 6:30 AM

Shock and a dim sense of foreboding is when you wake up in the morning, use the toilet and then go to wash your hands…and no water comes out of the faucet. It was 6:30 and so I crawled back into bed, contemplating what to tell Jeff. One part of my head just wanted to doze till 6:45, another part was Freaked Out. Somehow Jeff was partly awake and turned to look at me.
“What is it?” he mumbled.
“The faucet isn't working,” was my sleepy numbed reply.

No and the faucet isn't going to work anytime soon. We stumbled down two flight of steps and landed in a watery basement. Oh, it wasn't so bad. The sub-pump was doing its part and chugging it all out. But there was a hole in the wall, about the size of two quarters and water was just gushing out. It was quite fascinating and the more I watched it, the more fascinating it got. There was a very serene sort of sound to it. Quite like those fountains or waterfalls people rig up in their yards. The soothing sound of water, you know. It was very soothing down there- in between times when the sub-pump switched on and off.
We hustled around and got our boxes off of the ground- we don't think anything was hurt, really. One box that we got down to the bottom, hadn't even got wet through the cardboard. Good old moving boxes. So everything is perched on high, or in the section that must be a bit higher than the rest- a sort of peaceable land, where wet and damp does not prevail.

The story is, our water is turned off. The City of Batavia obligingly arrived at about 7 (they don't fuck around) and used their strength and sinew to turn the water valve off. Apparently, when someone laid the concrete sidewalk, they knocked over the box underneath that controls the valve that turns our water on and off. So…the City did not look pleased (the city took the form of two brawny men. The young one looked pissed as hell and the older had great manners and a rather sad look). The pipe has two breaks in, they told Jeff later as I had already left for work. One is for the City to repair and involves ripping out the sidewalk and the other is for the owner to repair. It will require a backhoe and cooperation between the City and the plumber.

Hmmmmm…so to make a huge long story shorter, the owner was Finally reached through a very sick relator and got the plumber. The plumber arrived and turned sick as well because he realized the pipe Had busted in the ground and that required calling JULIE. For those who don't know, JULIE is an Illinois mandate. And a real bitch. It's required by our state that we call JULIE whenever we intend to make any sort of hole in the ground. Garden, backhoe, putting in shrubs, trees, whatever. And JULIE calls everyone- the electricity company, the cable guy, the gas guy, the water guy and la-di-da. These people from various companies come out, use their little machines and figure out where electric lines are underground, cable, water mains, etc. This is, of course, for everyone's protection from hitting dangerous things in the ground. However, JULIE is notoriously slow and rather slack. And they give you a date when you can start digging your holes. For us, this time, it's Wednesday. Wednesday without water. And who knows? Given JULIE's ineptness (and the companies we pay bills to), it might take longer than that.
The owner's wife was very sweet and they offered to pay to put us up at a hotel. That's tempting but grim. I hate hotels (they're so bland and so utterly depressing and boring!) and while running water and toilets ROCK, we just thought we'd wing it. Gallons of water, refilling the gallons at neighbors (to make the toilet flush) and running over the Library to use their facilities, will the be the name of the game these next few days. Wish us luck (and sanity).

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How to Get Through a Big Book

How to get through a Big Book and have a little fun too.

  1. Make and eat food mentioned in the book (big books always include food, usually in meticulous detail).
  2. Read a little bit each day.
  3. Make a soundtrack.
  4. Dress like a character from the book for a day. Or a week. Or a month if it really grabs you.
  5. Ten minutes to kill? Daydream about the landscape or what the characters are seeing as they move through their day.
  6. Read passages you enjoy out loud. If you’re in the right mood, record yourself reading passages and share it (Instagram is great for this). Include illustrations if you like (thank you, Shirin).
  7. Whip out a highlighter or some sticky tabs for those great parts.
  8. Pace yourself and remember, reading gigantic books isn’t a race. It’s about the journey. Might as well bring along snacks, good drinks, great lighting, and enjoy the ride.

How to Search for Story Settings

A big city not far from mine has a casino. I’ve heard a few stories from friends that have worked there. Most center on being treated badly by a customer and revenging themselves by throwing the customer’s car keys into the Fox River. Karma is enacted on a regular basis at the casino.

There’s something about that river, flowing by, murky green during the day and black at night, a bottomless pit for car keys.

The river divides the city in half, east to west. The Fox flows along the old warehouses, limestone and brick, built back when the city had manufacturing plants and industry. Now the warehouses sit sturdy and silent, crumbling ever so slowly. Their roofs are flat and give the illusion of brick walls running straight into the sky. Some were built like prosaic wedding cakes, higher and higher, until the final topping is small square with tiny windows. Industry has never been about aesthetic needs and wants.  And yet by some miracle, these old turn of the century warehouses have achieved it just the same.

I observed the warehouses from the back deck of the riverside café, clutching my cup of earl grey and wishing I had put sunscreen on. It was the first time I had ever been to this café and I came because I needed a new setting for a fiction story I was working on. None of the cafes I remembered from the past were working for me. I needed this kind of café, one that hung out in an old manufacturing city where there wasn’t much industry left. There was, at least, a casino and many local businesses and this café hung on, here at the water’s edge.

A little further up was the casino where my friends had thrown those keys into the water. From my point on the deck, I could see the grimy metallic white heel of the building jutting out. Another friend told me that he goes there regularly to play black jack. It relieves stress and earns a little extra cash for his family.

The wind picks up a little and despite the sun, it’s chilly. Spring plays these tricks on us.

There is no sign of life in the warehouses all around me. We’re all boxed in together and the light plays off their empty windows, open and blank to the sun. I sip some tea and play “Over the Hills and Far Away” by Led Zeppelin just to see if this café will work for my story. It only takes a few bars of listening to the song and I know that this place is perfect. This spot on the river is perfect for many stories. It’s  been perfect for all the stories I know nothing about and the ones that I’ve caught the smallest glimpses of.

A mallard suns himself in the weeds that line the water’s edge. The river moves fast and sure and I turn off the music. No need to for further noise. The song is already there.