Rendered Fat Content


Eugène-Louis Boudin: Approaching Storm (1864)

" … the last taste of unremarkable normalcy …"

I write this story for another time, for the time when it will be necessary. Today is not that time, for all seems relatively healthy and humming this morning. One day, though—not today and probably not tomorrow— such a story will be necessary, and the need will be evident to everybody. It seems as though days follow head to toe in an unchanging succession, but sometimes something disrupts that rhythm, transforming the familiar into alien form. Nobody knows how to respond. We lose our minds then or find it impossible to find them. We have no pattern from which to draw. We only notice something missing. I write this story for that morning, for the time I know for certain is coming without knowing anything about when it might appear. When that eventually occurs, may I happen upon this story buried in my archives and find solace and reassurance. I do not know precisely what I might need then, but I can pretend this story might satisfy what I cannot foresee. Let this one serve as my ContingencyStory.

I direct myself to remember when, to look back to the morning when I created this story, back before the previously unthinkable happened.
It was late July, and the temperature hadn't fallen lower than seventy-five overnight, so I woke to a hot, damp pillow since we'd slept with the windows wide open. It seemed as though the night shortchanged us, refusing to give us temps in the sixties. It should be cool enough to slightly chill when leaving the bed, for that resets the systems to face another hundred-degree afternoon and the following ninety-degree evening. We gratefully don't see all that many seventy-five-degree overnights. They seem like an oversight. I woke feeling short-changed, like I'd missed my full measure of something necessary. I began my morning running a deficit. I might spend time in the basement today, attempting to balance it. It's a constant fifty-seven down there, regardless of the season.

I think it necessary—but what do I know?—that I acknowledge those times when I wrote almost like a machine. A fresh story every morning with no slacking and never a regret. I hadn't yet learned to second-guess myself and head myself off with clever critiques. I could still propose a direction and, for some reason, amble off on that heading without really knowing where I was going or why. Why could still be an emergent property. The substance seemed a matter of course, a given. The meaning came later, along with the purpose. This morning, this morning in that unknowable future, this morning in that unknowable future where this ContingentStory might finally have meaning, remember all you never knew for sure, and note that you might be a master at not quite knowing yet. Do not forget all you never knew, for that knowledge carried you through far more than you ever appreciated at the time.

Someone will emerge in the very near future, someone you knew or a stranger who will bring you solace. They will not take anything away but bring something you had not noticed had been missing for as long as you had not been noticing; a very, very long time. This world will continue under different rules, under alien auspices, and under previously unimaginable terms and conditions. You will accept them just as if you had a say in the matter, and you will feel grateful for the offer, which you will understand you had no right to either expect or refuse. You will choose the inevitable, and you will feel uncommonly blessed with it. The past, like September 10th, 2001, will remain tacitly infamous, overshadowed by subsequent events yet still very subtly significant, for that day will have been the last taste of unremarkable normalcy before this ContingencyStory became a necessity.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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