Edited by Tyee Bridge
Nonvella’s first anthology gathers five of North America’s finest essayists, nature writers and literary journalists— who all find themselves, in one way or another, out of their comfort zone.
James MacKinnon takes a booze-fueled, satiric road trip to Reno; Susan Olding coaches a high-school cheerleading squad; Deborah Campbell seeks the rare white Kermode bear; Jake MacDonald goes duck-hunting with his father; and Scott Russell Sanders and his dinner guests eat lentil soup in the middle of a tornado.
Selected by Nonvella editor Tyee Bridge, these delightful pieces are alternately hilarious and troubling, nostalgic and provocative.
Read an excerpt from Scott Russell Sanders’ “Settling Down” below.
Print length: 60 pages
TWO FRIENDS ARRIVED AT OUR house for supper one May evening along with the first rumblings of thunder. As Ruth and I sat talking with them on our front porch, we had to keep raising our voices a notch to make ourselves heard above the gathering storm. The birds, more discreet, had already hushed. The huge elm beside our door began to sway, limbs creaking, leaves hissing. Black sponges of clouds blotted up the light, fooling the street lamps into coming on early. Above the trees and rooftops, the murky southern sky crackled with lightning. Now and again we heard the pop of a transformer as a bolt struck the power lines in our neighborhood. The pulses of thunder came faster and faster, until they merged into a continuous roar.
We gave up on talking. The four of us, all Midwesterners teethed on thunderstorms, sat down there on the porch to our meal of lentil soup, cheddar cheese, bread warm from the oven, sliced apples and strawberries. We were lifting the first spoonfuls to our mouths when a stroke of lightning burst so nearby that it seemed to suck away the air, and the lights flickered out, plunging the whole street into darkness.
After we had caught our breath, we laughed—respectfully, as one might laugh at the joke of a giant. The sharp smell of ozone and the musty smell of damp earth mingled with the aroma of bread. A chill of pleasure ran up my spine. I lit a pair of candles on the table, and the flames rocked in the gusts of wind.
In the time it took for butter to melt on a slice of bread, the wind fell away, the elm stopped thrashing, the lightning let up, and the thunder ceased. The sudden stillness was more exciting than the earlier racket. A smoldering yellow light came into the sky, as though the humid air had caught fire. We gazed at one another over the steady candle flames and knew without exchanging a word what this eerie lull could mean.
“Maybe we should go into the basement,” Ruth suggested.
“And leave this good meal?” one of our friends replied.
The wail of a siren broke the stillness—not the lesser cry of ambulance or fire engine or squad car, but the banshee howl of the civil defense siren at the park a few blocks away.
“They must have sighted one,” I said.
“We could take the food down with us on a tray,” Ruth told our guests.
“It’s up to you,” I told them. “We can go to the basement like sensible people, or we can sit here like fools and risk our necks.”
“What do you want to do?” one of them asked me.
“You’re the guests.”
“You’re the hosts.”
“I’d like to stay here and see what comes,” I told them.