Backstroking across a green screen, the weatherman warns of falling skies and downed power lines. Spleen-shaped hailstones shatter windshields and aviaries. Neighbors find miracles in the wrecking ice: the Virgin Mary knocking a side mirror, Antony of Padua flipping the mailbox flag to empty. It is the first we’ve heard of the once-in-a-lifetime storm, so we fill our cellars with root vegetables and the dank smell of animal fear. The sharp stink of excitement too, catastrophe fermented. When it is done, we emerge blinking into the bloodless sunlight and embrace.
Later he says it again: here comes the once-in-a-lifetime storm. This time we have already lost homes to a kindling summer, dry lightning that set the golden hills ablaze and choked centenarian sycamores from root to bud. Our children cough en-route to school, round faces sectioned by shiny respirators, smoke-haloed heads bobbing. This time we are ready. Yes, we have held hands with this grief, mourned gentle seasons mutated into ravenous beasts. Beloved toys turned monstrous in the land of nightmares. We turn on the generator’s choke and listen to radio static Christmas carols. Stir chocolate powder into warm water and imagine frothing milk.
The weatherman makes his prediction season upon season, conviction a fraying thread. Our children outgrow their coats and leave us behind for the pulsing heartbeat of a faraway city. We listen to a broadcast that never changes, to the same warning in duplicate. We close our blinds to the desiccated landscape and place basins underneath the holes in the roof. The blue-eyed sky winks down. On TV, the camera zooms and focuses on the weatherman’s face, a plaster cast of false hope. The storm gathers and keens as we demand of his flickering image: whose lifetime?
Is it my lifetime, or yours, or that of the child freewheeling down the street on her yellow bike? Is it the white-crowned sparrow’s lifetime, a bird half-sleeping, half-waking in flight? Or is the lifetime suspended between this day and the next, a full mortal cycle unfurled in dream, in the space between breaths, in this abbreviated thought—
Teresa Pham-Carsillo (she/her) is a Vietnamese American writer from the San Francisco Bay Area. After graduating with a BA in Creative Writing from the University of California, Davis, she became an office-bound marketer, stealing time in the early and late hours of the day to write short stories and poems. Teresa's fiction and poetry has been featured in numerous publications, including: POETRY Magazine, The Southern Review, Black Warrior Review, Salt Hill Journal, The Minnesota Review, Smartish Pace, and Passengers Journal. She was a finalist for the 2022 Adina Talve-Goodman Fellowship. Teresa can be found online at www.teresaphamcarsillo.com.
Other stars in the Conch asterism:
The Blob (1947-Pres)
Samuel Rafael Barber
The blob made its way into downtown Arlington, Virginia fixing power lines and removing graffiti all the while. Such decrepitude in infrastructure was not conducive to a good business environment.
Once Upon a Time in Hawaii
Melissa Llanes Brownlee
We glide to the boats on silent waves. Our paddles slicing through the waters. Our war canoes hidden in the darkness of a new moon.
Jose Hernandez Diaz
I fell into a pile of old wrinkled love poems I had written in youth to a young lady I had a crush on back in undergrad.
[most of us saw what we were looking for]
most of us saw what we were looking for, rather than what we found. i take my grape-nuts with instant coffee. now the river is an empty bed of sand.