I went out, early, for a four-mile walk because it was supposed to rain through much of the late morning and afternoon. If there’s one thing I dislike more than snow, it’s a 30-something-degree rainfall.
Of course, getting out early meant it would actually be colder, though certainly not as wet. But getting it over and done with would free up time to do things like prep taxes for Rooster Republic, which is a real blast, lemme tell you. And it’d free up time to work on edits and notes for manuscripts (not mine), not to mention afford me the moments necessary to draft this fine post you’re reading now. This is to say nothing of the sliver of a chance to work on my own material. I’d like to finish, perhaps, one or two more stories before I’m buried in the ground. Lofty goals, to be sure.
But what I kept coming back to in my mind was the weather. Winter, really, in general. Skies like scratched concrete, snow across the mountaintops, and the insane amount of my monthly heating bill. Winter is like living inside a skeleton whose only color comes from the memories you drape over everything. I have associated winter with horror for a long, long time.
I remember my father reading Haunted Heartland to me. The book was a compendium of ghost stories out of the American Midwest. The catch being that each entry was based on a true account. Supposedly. Nightmare fuel to a little kid, nonetheless.
When I was six, I carried two books with me the way other kids might carry stuffed animals or favorite toys: Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story and Stephen King’s Cycle of the Werewolf. I do not remember which one I read first.
I have other memories of being read to, though I cannot recall what the stories were. I remember more the atmosphere than words, the way the room felt. Lots of memories tied to winter. If you pick up my short story collection, Now That We’re Alone, you’ll see that winter takes up quite a bit of mental real estate. That’s less a sales pitch than a simple matter of fact.
And being read to is something I definitely associate with nighttime. It was, as it is for a lot of kids, the last activity before you fall asleep. I find that I remember the moments afterwards more vividly than the act of reading, or having been read to.
The granite windowsill in my old bedroom got cold as ice in the winter. Condensation would sometimes gather toward the bottom of the glass. If it was cold enough, then condensation became frost. High humidity was inescapable in Southern Illinois, even in the coldest months.
In the distance between the houses across from ours, I could see the electric cross of a faraway church. It shone bright red and was on every night. There was something absolutely demonic about it in that darkness, especially during heavy snowfall.
These memories are, I suppose, the primordial soup of what would become my own written work.
Maybe writing is a way for me to craft skin for all these skeletons surrounding me.