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· Under the Weather ·

I was under the weather, as the cliché has it, this last weekend, wheezing my way through the Veterans' Day holiday, but thankful I wasn't more literally than figuratively under the weather down South. Bad tornadoes there. But, alas, this morning I chanced to awaken to some winds of our own, gale winds howling and blowing in from the Pacific as they do in November, across a well-named Gale Street fronting my house — one built two years after the big Columbus Day storm of 1962. When I'd bought the place in 1986, I'd asked the seller about the rafters: "Oh," he replied, "they're doubly strong; just look." This morning, I'm afraid, I heard them creak.

In any event, I hope you're not feeling either figuratively or literally "under the weather" today, and here to express my hopes — summer-style, on the bright side of dark — I thought to excerpt a famous passage from Mark Twain. Though its plot-significance in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is tragically sad, at least for anyone who can ignore the unfolding story, the style is also in some ways descriptively pleasing, even comically so. Tragi-comic, let's call it, weather-style.*

Pretty soon it darkened up, and begun to thunder and lighten [Huck writes in Chapter IX]; so the birds was right about it. Directly it begun to rain, and it rained like all fury, too, and I never see the wind blow so. It was one of these regular summer storms. It would get so dark that it looked all blue-black outside, and lovely; and the rain would thrash along by so thick that the trees off a little ways looked dim and spider-webby; and here would come a blast of wind that would bend the trees down and turn up the pale underside of the leaves; and then a perfect ripper of a gust would follow along and set the branches to tossing their arms as if they was just wild; and next, when it was just about the bluest and blackest — FST! it was as bright as glory, and you'd have a little glimpse of tree-tops a-plunging about away off yonder in the storm, hundreds of yards further than you could see before; dark as sin again in a second, and now you'd hear the thunder let go with an awful crash, and then go rumbling, grumbling, tumbling, down the sky towards the under side of the world, like rolling empty barrels down stairs — where it's long stairs and they bounce a good deal, you know.

*N. B. In quoting Huck in · You Got Style · know that I'm not fully satisfied with anybody's glib word about rafters. You never know when, "down the sky toward the under side of the world," a storm might turn your holiday into a Columbus Day or a Veterans' Day whether you like it or not.


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