Monday, October 31, 2011

Essay ~ Part 2 "Night Fears"

"Night Fears"
(Marta Weller December 4, 2009)

Part 2

We all have our own personal horror stories.
Our nighttime driving or country road horror stories.
Myself included. 
But mine aren't nearly so graphic
nor so full of true horror as my father-in-law's.
I have had my brush with deer,
but each time that experience has been progressively less sinister
though no less eerie.

Imagine driving home from work, having to drive quite a distance. Driving along a country road that isn't terribly familiar but yet a road that is nice and broad and well-maintained. There seemed to be no other cars on the road that fall evening although it was not all that late. The moon was shining but not full and was at times obscured by clouds.

It was just very dark and lonely.
 
My car crested a small rise in the road 
and as my headlights arced back down
to once again find the road -
there they were.
Two deer standing in my lane.

I slammed on my brakes and veered to the right of one, missing it entirely.
But in those elongated seconds, the other deer unfroze enough to try to get away. It turned back to the right side of the road -the way it had come- and as the one deer moved away from the other, I tried desperately to steer between them. But my little Jetta couldn't quite squeeze through the gap. 

Although I missed the one on the left, the one still frozen, 
I hit the moving one.                             
I heard the sickening thud and bump.
But my car kept going.
Nothing seemed to impede it.

My mind had now frozen like the deer's.
I was many miles yet from home. 
There was no such thing as a cell phone. 
I couldn't imagine leaving a deer in the middle of the road 
for some other unsuspecting motorist to hit. 
I drove slowly, 
heart pounding, 
hands shaking but with a death grip on the steering wheel, 
along the country road - 
desperately looking for a house with lights on.
Any house.
Any stranger.
All my frozen mind could think of was
how to find a phone and
to find out what had happened to the deer.

After what felt like a mile but was probably only a few tenths of one, I found a house with a light in the window.

Did I pause to think of the other horror story? 
The story of a woman alone, at night, with a broken-down car and the horrible things done to her by the strange man who stops to 'help'?
No, my mind was frozen.
My mind was fixated on finding someone to help.

I pulled into that stranger's driveway. I got out of my car and walked along that dark sidewalk to the door of that strange house. The house with no porch light but with a light on inside. I knocked on the door. And waited with a pounding heart.

No porch light came on, but a man opened the door.
I looked up into that strange man's face, dimly lit from behind and I told him,
"I hit a deer, just down the road a ways. I'm okay, I think my car is okay, but I want to make sure the deer isn't a hazard. Can you help me?"

The stranger walked with me to my car and checked it for damage. He agreed that it was okay. The right sideview mirror was dangling and a streak of blood trailed along the door. The front grill was kicked in but the right headlight seemed okay.

My horror story should end here, 
but I was probably in shock 
and probably did next, 
exactly what no woman should do.

I was still worried about the deer. What if it was lying on the road?
What if it was wandering - dazed and injured - still on the road?
Someone else might hit it and not be so lucky.

The stranger said he would call the authorities and report the deer for me, but I wasn't satisfied. I wanted to go back and look for it. The stranger offered to drive down the road to look for it although he didn't really know where it had happened. I said I could show him. His pickup was parked in the driveway near my car. We got into his truck and we drove back down the highway, 
the dark country road.
Together.
This strange man and I.

We crested the hill and I said, "This was where it had happened." 
We turned around on the lonely highway
in the dark, dark night
and we slowly crept along the road watching for a deer.
There was no deer.

The stranger shrugged and said, "It happens. It may run off and be all right. Or it may run off and die under a bush."
Either way, there was no deer on the road.
Not any more.

This stranger, this man not much older than I,
this kind man, took me back to his house.
Back to my car in his driveway 
and once again assured me he would call the authorities. 
He watched me get into my car and back out of his driveway. 
He watched me pull out onto that lonely, dark country highway 
to continue on my interrupted way home. 
Home to the safety of my house, 
my dog, 
and my husband.

Even now when I think back on that night, the eeriness of the events unnerve me. I was acting as though I were a zombie or a puppet. I didn't know what I was doing.
The darkness and the loneliness fit the horror movie atmosphere completely. The results were just much happier.

To be continued...

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Essay ~ "Night Fears"

Night Fears
(by Marta Weller, December 4, 2009)

Part 1

Once again I am driving home alone,
alone except for the moon traveling ahead of me.
Alone with my thoughts in the dark, dark night
and the moon shining among the clouds.
The moonlight on the trees along the country road,
gleams and glows in the almost surreal landscape.
The headlights of my car illuminate the double yellow lines
as they slide along before me.
The black macadam ribbon bends and twirls along with my thoughts
and the yellow lines become a magnet for my eyes.
Like a hypnotist's or an analyst's watch -
mesmerizing me.
That's when the fear begins to rise.

I really don't mind driving at night so much. But I know several people who really and truly fear it. I know others who don't drive at night due to a physical problem with seeing in the darkness. My own fear stems from being alone in the car with a rampant imagination and a mind full of horrible images.

Driving home alone in the dark on a country road always brings to mind stories told by my father-in-law, an over-the-road truck driver. Horror stories that left unpleasant, indelible images in my mind. Images that run through my mind like a ribbon of film. 
A horror film.

I have never liked horror movies. I have always too easily put myself in the place of the victim. His stories have done the same. They are still there, ready to surface during these nighttime drives.

One story especially always replays in my mind...

My father-in-law drove truck -solo- over routes through the eastern mountain ranges. He did a lot of nighttime driving over lonely mountain roads. His nightmare tale begins on a black night on one of those mountain roads. 

He told of how his truck slowly came up behind a family in a station wagon - easily seen by his headlight beams. As the two vehicles traveled the dark mountain road, one after the other - suddenly the incredible happened.  A buck leapt from the hillside beside the road.

The buck crashed through the passenger window of the car, 
killing the young mother in the seat beside her husband.

Unbelievably true.
A horror story burned into my mind forever.
An image that resurfaces on my drives along dark country roads.

To be continued...

Friday, October 28, 2011

Fall Brings Us the Little Death...

After a long interval while my busy life has intruded upon my creative life, I am back and with a story to tell - or at least an essay I wrote a while ago that I would like to share.

To begin, let me introduce this short story or essay by saying that this October has been a month full of death in various forms. Sad deaths or endings, and deaths that are just a precursor to a new beginning. Fall in itself is the beginning of that little death that is winter. Fall is filled with dying leaves and, here and there, bared tree limbs looking like skeletal bones being lifted up to the skies. But we all know that fall comes before the beginning of a new year and life beginning again in the spring. This year fall has included the ending of a job for one of my co-workers (a feeling akin to mourning pervades my workplace when we talk about our friend who no longer works with us). But her job ending may be the first step along the road to a new beginning. Then just over a week ago a wonderful, warm, caring woman lost her fight with the Big C. She was a pillar of support for our church and a great friend to me. She was a giving and loving woman who will be missed by a big family and many, many friends.

And then nearly every day as I drive to work through the colorful falling leaves, I see at least one new animal lying dead alongside the road. I'd venture to say that almost half of these children of Nature that have met their end through a deadly meeting with a vehicle are deer.

It is both sad and scary to see these graceful creatures lying lifeless alongside the road. Each time I see any animal in such a circumstance, I grieve. But when I see these large animals in ever increasing numbers littering the roadsides I not only think about their poor dead souls - I also wonder and worry about the human who drove the vehicle that hit them. And then my animal alert system goes into overdrive and I grip the steering wheel a little harder as I continue on my way. My brain brings forth the fact that fall is the season deer become more active, appearing suddenly from the underbrush or leaping over fences and down hillsides, dashing across roads. And as I drive along those roads littered with deer carcasses, my tension ratchets up several notches.

A couple years ago, I wrote an essay or short story about all my own deer encounters. I will present it here in my blog - serialized - over the next few days, the last days of October, as we come to Halloween.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Valuable By-product - PaLA Conference 2011

These past four days have been filled to the brim with ideas & activities, friends & acquaintances (new & old), work & fun. Having attended a conference for librarians and library support staff in the place of our Children's Librarian, I felt it behooved me to attend seminars she might have done. A fun task.

This year fully a third of the conference sessions seemed to focus on Young Adults and / or Poetry. Since I am interested in both... since I was in a sense the proxy for the Children's Librarian... and since I write poetry ...I reaped a harvest of wonderful YA program ideas and produced several poems during poetry sessions. 

The program ideas will be written about and given to Miss Laura (our Children's Librarian) within the next few days.

The poetry - I will reproduce here. I hope you enjoy these "quickie poems", these workshop products.

The first poem was based on an "ice breaker" opening for a creative writing workshop. Describe something you like and something you dislike. Luckily I was not called upon to contribute because I only came up with something I like. We were supposed to use a description that would explain the like or dislike. 

Here is my "like" - 

Waking
 
I like waking up to a waking morning.
The sun slowly opening its eye, waking the sky;
The birds waking in the predawn dimness.
I lie in bed, eyes closed, listening to the birds -
to their chittering and peeping in near darkness.
And as the sky grows lighter in the waking morn,
these feathered friends on tree limb and power line
raise their voices, intensifying, as the sun rises.