Tuesday, November 16, 2010

GUEST: Bronwyn Storm

Why Am I a Writer? Because It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time – Bronwyn Storm

People always ask me why I decided to be a writer. I usually tell them it’s because I love stories and take pleasure in words. While this is all true (and sounds so lovely and artsy), there is a reason that stands above all others: I shouldn’t be allowed out of my house.

It’s true.

Strange things happen to me when I’m in public, and the most innocent errand becomes the stuff of legend (or more precisely, the punch line in any story my friends/family tell). Like the time I went to the store to pick up paper and almost broke into the wrong car (I forgot where I parked and mistook someone else’s car for my own…eek…no wonder my key wouldn’t work). Then there was the time I went to the sub store and ordered a turkey club (forgetting I’m allergic to the stuff).

I know what you’re thinking (well, other than, “How do you forget you’re allergic to turkey and try to break into a car?”): “Bronwyn, this is your own fault for being forgetful.”

Yes, but not always…the truth is, these things seem to start with me and an idea that “seemed like a good idea at the time”…like the time I went out for lunch with a bunch of friends, didn’t realize the buttons on my shirt had popped, and ended up flashing everyone in creation…or the time I met a friend for dinner and had a police chase and arrest happen at the table next to us…

Let’s be honest. When it comes to me, it’s just safer—for everyone—when I stay at home.

To prove this, I submit for your approval, a journey into the Bronwyn Zone.

Location: Edmonton, Alberta
Time: winter

So, there my husband and I are, heading home after a walk with our dogs. I, of course, use the term "walk" in its loosest possible definition. Let's remember, people, I am talking about my dogs and winter-ridden Edmonton.

Yesterday was a balmy -745 degree Celsius, with a wind chill of -8757.

I exaggerate, of course.

It was more like -687.

After bundling up in long johns, snow pants, down jacket, ear muffs, mittens, and scarf, I was ready—well, actually, after bundling up, I realized I had to use the bathroom. So, an hour of undressing, a quick visit to the bathroom, another two hours to get dressed (the kittens had to help). Once I had assured myself that the apparel (all in various shades of purple) did, in fact, make me look like the love child of the Michelin man and a grape, we headed out to the off-leash area.

This doesn't mean that we walked. Of course not.

Next came twenty minutes of negotiations with the dogs. After a firm promise to give them copious amounts of treats, let them have the majority of bed space, and my cup of chai, they got out of the truck. The walk was brisk...ish. Still, they did their business and made some friends, while I managed not to freeze into a lavender fudge-sicle.

So, now we're heading home. We're in various stages of defrosting and some of us (yes, once again) have to pee. Three blocks from the house, I see a little dog jauntily heading down the sidewalk. I look left. I look right. No owner.

“Honey, I think that dog is lost.” Translation: STOP THE CAR.

“Really?” asks my husband in that, I-Kind-Of-Hear-You-But-I'm-Really-Not-Paying-Attention kind of way.

So I try again. “It's awfully cold for a little dog to be out.” Translation: STOP THE CAR!!!!

“Yeah, it is.”

I sigh. I wonder why it is that men are so hard of hearing—any woman could have translated my words. Since I'm in a pinch, I opt to talk Man Language.

“Stop the car. We need to go back and get him.” Y’know, because it seems like a good idea…

He frowns at me, in a “Did I hear you right?” way and says, “I'm sure someone will stop for him.”

I retort with the withering, “Oh. Right. Someone. Let's go and bury the dog right now.” look, which, since I'm giving it, looks less withering and more like “Please, please, don't ask me to leave this dog” pleading.

And my husband, God bless him, who goes along with all my hair-brained schemes and rolls with my “Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time” ideas, smiles, capitulates and turns the truck around.

Now, I want you to imagine this. We are on a busy road. It's rush hour and now, NOW, my darling husband decides to give me directions—me, who can get lost in her own basement.

He says, “I'll drive around.”

I, of course, have no flippin clue what he's talking about, but I nod like “sure, no prob,” namely because I don't want any vehicles to smuck into us. So he pulls away, and I head down the side path, bag of dog treats in hand, looking for this dog.

I find him and he seems friendly, if a little wary. I'm not sure if he's a food-whore like my animals, so I go with the soft-voice, shake the bag of treats, and approach slowly.

The dog backpedals, his eyes wide, and I'm sure he's thinking, “Why is this crazy, over-stuffed grape shaking a bag at me!?”

Since I'm not a total idiot, I stop shaking the bag. I keep up with the slow-movement and blither like an idiot plan of action, which seems to work. He must have decided that anyone who's nutty enough to make kissy noises and coo at him, saying, “Oh, why's the little baby-waby out in the coldy-woldy” must be harmless. It's a proven fact, and I'm sure all living creatures know this, that anyone who rhymes in baby-talk isn't really a danger to anyone but themselves (as in, when those who are forced to listen to them, finally snap and suffocate them with the nearest available pillow).

I walk, he backs away to mark a step or bush, then stops and waits for me. He lets me come near, but just as I reach down, he bolts. And he doesn't just bolt.

He. Bloody. Runs.

So, now I'm chasing a stray dog (say it with me: "It seemed like a good idea at the time") and trying to corral him before he runs out into the road. And all I can say is thank God he couldn't deny his doggy nature. A passing bush was just too tempting and he had to leave his scent. And I, having learned that slow and steady is for turtles, channel the rabbit and grab him.

Now, I have the dog, but no truck. And I have to figure out what the who-ha "go around and I'll meet you" means. Having been lost numerous times in my life, I figure I can't go wrong with the “stay as close as possible to the original location where you got lost.” So I do. I head down the sidewalk, guessing that my husband meant that he would be around the side of the road.

As I'm walking, I'm realizing that this dog may have felt light, but walking with him in the freezing cold, weighed down by enough goose-down to make my own flock, he's not so light anymore. I'm also supremely conscious of the fact that I'm holding on to a dog that isn't mine and all I can do is pray that if his owners happen along, they're not going to arrest me for dog-napping.

I get to the end of the road.

Dog feels more like twenty-pounds than ten.

No husband.

Hang a right and walk an extra block.

Dog now feeling like thirty pounds.

Still no husband.

Walk back to corner of road, holding fifty-pound dog and hoping husband will drive by.

No husband.

The brittle cold that is numbing my ears (ahhh, frostbite, my old friend—why didn't I put up my hood? Oh, right, because I thought this would be a quick, easy rescue. Meanwhile, I'm so afraid of this dog bolting, I don't DARE put him down) is not cold enough to numb the sharp thoughts of hindsight.

Thoughts like: Why do I pick the worst times to forget my cell-phone? Man, I have to pee; where is my husband? Why does he give me directions when he knows I'm incapable of following them? My God, I think this dog is gaining weight with every breath I take.

However, there is a brief, shining, piercing moment of clarity when I realize that my husband must have meant for me to walk to the edge of the pathway, and that's where he'd find me.

So I trudge the three blocks back to the path. Dog now a furry, hundred pound albatross in my arms.

We head down the path, and just where it veers left, I see my husband. Of course (of course) I'm too bloody far away from him to yell and have him hear me, too far away to run and catch up. So all I can do is speed-walk after him, my breath coming in painful, burning gasps and pray, “please, please for the love of my biceps, turn around and look back.”

Does he?


By the time I get to the edge of the path, he's long gone. And I'm so tired, cold and exhausted, all I can do is flop down on some stranger's lawn and catch my breath. I have no idea what to do. And all I can do is what I’ve always done when lost: go back to the last place I saw the loved one and wait.

So, now I'm limping, half-crying-just-want-to-see-my-husband because I'm freezing and my ear is burning. And I'm hanging on to this dog, though, because it's cold and dark and I'd rather lose an ear than let him be hurt, afraid, or alone. He's shivering because he's cold and unsure of why this crazy brown girl is carting him around, and all I can do is mutter that he'll be home soon.

We almost to the corner of the road and I see my husband pull up to the 4-way stop. And because I'm almost crawling now, all I can do is this limp hand flap and whisper in a hoarse-I-think-I'm-going-to-die way, “I'm over here!”

He turns away from me, but I don't care. I know he's looping a route, and all I have to do is stand still at that corner and he'll get to me. My hero, my savior, he whom I will love beyond death and time, is looking for me.

He does a U-turn, and I go from thrilled to elated. HE SAW ME!! HE WAS JUST TURNING AROUND!!!

As soon as he's close enough for me to see his face, I can also see his expression and it's a cross between, “Thank God I found you” and “I'm going to throttle you, I've been so scared.” And I know this look because I know it's the same expression on my face.

He opens the door for me and the first thing he says is, “DON'T EVER DO THAT AGAIN! I WAS SO SCARED!”

And I say, “You know I have no sense of direction and I can't find my way out of a plastic bag. Why did you leave?”

And he laughs because he knows it's true and because he loves me despite myself, and he says, “Still. You scared me to death. I had visions of this dog being part of a serial-killer's plans, that you'd been hit on the head and were being carted away to some torture chamber.”

To which I reply, “You should be a writer.”

In the end, it all worked out…the dog was returned to his owner, safe and sound (which was worth all the frostbite in the world).

But this crazy episode is one of the many, many reasons why I’m a writer. Because when I’m in my study and writing, and thinking “hmm, this seems like a good idea” nothing can really go wrong…except in my head…

There was only one thing Bronwyn wanted to be when she grew up: a superhero. Sadly, this goal was made moot when she realized that being a klutz was not, in fact, a super power, and her super-weakness for anything bright and shiny meant that a magpie with self-control could easily defeat her in a battle of wills. So, she turned to writing as a way to unleash her inner superhero. She doesn’t get to live on a secret space station orbiting the earth (and thank goodness because she gets motion sick on a merry-go-round), but she still get to wear leotards, a cape and say things like, “STAND ASIDE! THIS IS A JOB FOR WRITING-GIRL!”

Bronwyn’s latest book is Ethan’s Chase.
You can visit her website at http://www.bronwynstorm.com/

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