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  • Sixteen Forecasts
  • Denise Duhamel (bio) and Julie Marie Wade (bio)

Mostly cloudy, with chance of sunbreaks by midafternoon

My autobiography in a single phrase: coming of age in the deep pine green of the Northwest shade, with mist more reliable than light. You can set your poncho to it like a wristwatch, rouge your pale cheeks, streak your hair orange and purple as Pisaster, or buy a sun lamp to help you face the SAD. Except I didn’t mind it: not the cloud cover or the dim, sagging skies, not the ceaseless trickle like a faucet turned loose. I never raged against the dying of the light because I learned early on that only the dim survive.

“Vampire country,” they call it now, though I trekked the peninsula long before Edward and Bella arrived. I knew the blue chanterelle mushrooms, the golden moss, the sea gulls buffeted by wind and rain. Except there wasn’t much of it, not really: always “the threat of,” storms gathering in perpetuity on the far-away horizon.

The story goes that I was the sunbreak in my parents’ gray days, but I beg to differ—the way I once, long ago, begged to be different, yearned to change. I know now I was the storm gathering, just out of sight, deepening my noctilucent powers.

Blizzard conditions, zero visibility

Widespread power outages. A dark sky with a muted new moon, stars still up there somewhere, we guessed. Outside the living room window a crystallized snowdrift, Robert Rauschenberg’s White Painting. Or maybe the accumulation was really that deep.

My mother didn’t have to work at the hospital. The bakery where my father worked was closed. My sister and I played cards during the day, made spooky faces with the flashlights at night. We put wood in the potbelly stove [End Page 17] we’d bought for such storms. For a while, it was toasty, then suddenly cold, then toasty again. We wore our mittens as we ate cereal for dinner. My mother worried about the milk turning bad, so my father opened the garage door a foot and slid the milk outside.

We listened to a radio, dancing in the living room. My mother was twisting when we heard the clanking of what turned out to be a plow. My mother recognized Sammy’s voice from the rescue. It took about six more songs for the men to shovel their way to our front door. My mother climbed onto a snowmobile to go to an emergency room full of people whose roofs had caved in.

Overnight snowfall, with significant accumulation by morning

In storybooks, I always admired the snow, which I had never seen on city streets or piled high outside my bedroom window. Who were these protagonists with sleds and inner tubes reclined in the family garage? Who was my pen pal in Wisconsin who owned snowshoes and a coat lined with eiderdown?

Then a real snow came, and with it, a real snow day, the kind distant cousins raved about. How resourceful we became, turning garbage can lids into saucers, coasting and spinning over the lacy hills.

Later, everyone was going into Alicia’s house for hot chocolate and cinnamon buns. She hit the button on the garage door, and the other girls slipped quickly inside. I was dawdling, though: my foot in the thick moon boot caught, then bolted down to the ground.

I knew it was supposed to hurt, that heavy door compressing the tiny bones of my feet. I knew I should be bothered that no one came looking for me. But soon it was snowing again, and I tipped back my head so the snowflakes could land on my tongue. I stood there for at least an hour, smiling—protagonist of my own story at last.


On our first date, we went to Chan’s, the only Chinese restaurant in Woonsocket. My friend who waitressed there on weekends told me she’d seen roaches afloat in the red sauce marinating the spareribs, but otherwise the food was OK. Besides, she said, if a nice guy asked you to dinner, you said [End Page 18] yes and...


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pp. 17-25
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