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FAMILIAR WEATHER / Robb Forman Dew The following excerpt is from Robb Forman Dew's personal account of learning for the first time that her college-age son is gay and how this close-knit family is affected by the news. Dew is a National Book Award-winning novelist and a former William Peden Prize winner. The Family Heart, her first non-fiction book, will appear soon from Addison-Wesley. ALMOST TWENTY YEARS AGO on an early spring day in Missouri, I was outside with the chUdren, wrestUng Jack into his infant carrier in the front seat of the car whUe Stephen waited to climb into the back. Suddenly the three of us startled—the way I've seen deer freeze in place when they are grazing in the meadow behind our house if our dogs begin to bark. I stopped still in the midst of settling Jack comfortably in his padded carrier. Stephen went rigid against the car, and even Jack, not yet two years old, was round-eyed and quiet with attention. I remember quite clearly the feeUng I had of unspecified alarm. Until that moment I had never taken into account the continual movement of the air, the gentle drifts, smaU eddies and fluid currents of motion generally so subtle that they aren't noted. But aU at once to be inhabiting a space in which the air goes stiU, as it did momentarUy that afternoon, is a jolt to the nervous system. The hair on my arms prickled, and the light filtering through the row of soft maples that bordered our lawn had an odd quaUty of weight, as though it had taken on mass, and it was shot through with an edgy yeUow green. It seemed that every natural motion had come to a halt, and then a great turbulence of sand and loose gravel rose from the area of a dredging operation a mUe or so away on the banks of the Missouri River. I remember looking at the whirUng debris with puzzlement, not realizing that utter quiet had faUen until the next moment when we were astounded by noise—not Uke the rumble of an oncoming train, but the grainy friction of a miUion tiny things, Uke the grinding of the earth's teeth. Beneath that overriding uproar were other small explosions of sound—the relatively quiet hiss and jangle of glass breaking and whirUng into the air, which later proved to have been aU the windows of our house exploding outward. After a moment the great rush of noise became particular: I could hear the separate sounds of the wind blowing, branches splintering, The Missouri Review · 75 the slap of leaves, Jack's astonished shriek, and Charles calUng from inside the house, all of which were comfortingly famiUar after those few moments of existing within a phenomenon of huge sound without apparent origin. The air rushed everywhere at once, and I left the car door hanging open against the force of the wind. The chUdren and I got into the house and the wind buffeted the building, rattling the shard-studded frames of the shattered windows, bUlowing the curtains, and blowing rain and leaves into the rooms. And then it was gone, as if that rushing air had been corporeal, racing along the river and leaving disarray everywhere in its wake. AU at once the rain no longer surged, but feU reasonably to earth in a spring shower. Outside, along the two main streets of Rocheport, a vülage of three hundred people, parts of roofs were gone, peeled back in a curl if they were tin, and Ufted right from the beams if they were asphalt shingles. Many flowering trees, or those in new leaf, were stripped bare whUe others remained untouched, and everywhere there was a gritty, glassy film of sand the wind had left behind. I don't know what it was; officiaUy this weather was not classified as a tornado. The farmers in town caUed it a wind burst, and that sounds right to me. It was a perfectly natural but unprecedented, unexpected, meteorological outburst which was over in minutes, but which left us in its aftermath standing stunned...


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