Required Storyboard reading has been light on humor of late, but there’s some wryness mixed in with the sorrow in Justin Heckert’s look at what nature did to Vaughn, Ga. And a vignette about an “atomic banana” adds range to an tale from 9/11. The rest of today’s choices tackle equally hefty subjects: a survivor forgiving the man who tried to kill him, a wildfire searing the landscape and lives of Boulder-area residents, and a family struggling to reclaim a daughter and their lives in the wake of a gang rape.
“The Town that Blew Away” by Justin Heckert for Atlanta magazine.
Five seconds, ten seconds, a minute, forever—no one could quite remember just how long it lasted. Across the street from the Porters, in the corner of another bedroom, a screen door rattled open, nearly broke off its hinges. The breeze had been born anew into a god-awful howl.
John English, sixty-six—nicknamed “The Mayor” by his neighbors because he was always checking on them, and always outside in the yard, by the lemon tree, in his T-shirt and straw hat, mowing—stood by one of the wooden posts at the edge of his bed and traded shouts with his wife.
“We’re going to die!” she called out, unable to see him in the dark.
She was sure she could feel the house beginning to wobble on its foundation.
“Naw, we ain’t!” he shouted back, standing beside the screen door. He had never been in a tornado; neither of them had, and thus the conflicting views on whether they were in one now.
“Remains of the Day” Myron Farber and Mary Marshall Clark interview Mary Lee Hannell , an excerpt published in Guernica.
(S)ome people come at me with questions, like, “Ooh, you were in the World Trade Center? Wow! Can you tell me about it?” And the answer’s always, “No.” Because there’s nothing glamorous about it. I keep saying to people, there aren’t words big enough, or deep enough, or sad enough to really express to you what it was like. You don’t want me to be able to give that to you. You don’t want me to be able to kind of put that burden on you. And it is a burden.
“Could You Forgive the Man Who Shot You in the Face?” by Michael Mooney for D Magazine.
The first thing 27-year-old Rais Bhuiyan (pronounced Boo-yon) did when he got to the Texaco station every day was read the headlines in the Dallas Morning News. On September 17, 2001, he read something terrifying: a convenience store clerk had been shot and killed a few blocks away. Bhuiyan begged his boss, the owner of the station, to reinstall the security cameras—he’d already received a few tense glares in the days after 9/11—but money was tight. Bhuiyan had dreams in which customers suddenly pulled out guns and started shooting at him.
“The Fire Next Door” by Robert Sanchez for 5280 magazine.
Dennis couldn’t leave. One of his greatest childhood memories was watching his father put out fires in the old dump off Logan Mill, clomping around ankle-high flames in a pair of cowboy boots. With those fires came familiarity, and with that familiarity came the sense that Dennis could fight this thing.
He filled his sink with water. The power was sure to go out and the pump down by the creek wouldn’t work. He took ice from the freezer and filled a cooler, then pulled salmon fillets from the refrigerator. He’d caught the fish on a trip to Alaska the previous week. He went back outside, got in his pickup truck and pulled onto the dirt road. He parked the truck—now a getaway vehicle—in a flat area just off Fourmile Canyon Drive.
He called Margaret. “I’m staying here. Tell Danice that I’ll be OK.” Dennis grabbed a shovel and went back up his driveway. He stopped when he reached the top. He was all alone now.
“The Girl from Trails End” by Kathy Dobie for GQ.
A chicken scratches in the dusty yard of the house in Trails End where Regina grew up with her mother and father, Maria and Juan; her sisters, 16-year-old Elisa and 15-year-old Anna; and their 8-year-old brother, Thomas. It’s early April. An empty container of Cup Noodles sits on the windowsill of the now abandoned home, left there by Anna, who points triumphantly every time the house is shown on the news—“My noodles!”—as if some part of this story still belongs to them.