Natural Disaster

I DON’T CARE MUCH FOR NATURE. Bugs frighten me. Fresh air makes me nauseous. Trees? They’re OK, I guess, as long as I don’t have to touch them.

When I was a child, we used to go camping in the Rocky Mountains and I’d think to myself, Really? This is how we’re going to spend our summer vacation? Walking around in circles and sleeping in the mud?

My wife, Michelle, on the other hand, loves nature. She loves bugs and air and trees and flowers. Sometimes we’ll be walking along outside and she’ll stop to examine an interesting patch of dirt. Dirt! Concerned passersby will see her bent over staring at the ground and ask if anything’s wrong. That’s when I have to explain, “No, it’s fine. My wife is just looking at dirt.”

We’ve been married two years now. As you can imagine, when we started planning the wedding we weren’t exactly on the same page. I wanted to have the ceremony at a bar, and she wanted to get married with the forest people. We went back and forth on it for a while, but in the end, our bank accounts decided for us. There was no way we could afford to rent out a bar and then pay for the damages our inebriated friends would certainly inflict upon it. And nature is free.

Michelle spent two months driving to every park in Central Texas trying to find the one that best expressed matrimonial union. In the end, she decided on southeast Austin’s McKinney Falls State Park. It’s a beautiful piece of wilderness, if you like that sort of thing. There’s a butt-load of fresh air over there. You like flowers? McKinney is lousy with them. There’s also a river that cuts through a giant hunk of smooth limestone and then drops into a deep watering hole. Above the waterfall, there are a bunch of little pits carved out of the limestone like someone went at it with an ice cream scoop.

McKinney Falls State Park … is a beautiful piece of wilderness, if you like that sort of thing.

After the ceremony, everyone decided they wanted to take a dip (or at least wade) in one of those scoops. What we didn’t know was that the water had been sitting in those limestone pits so long a slick layer of green algae had formed on the bottom.

My wife has many wonderful talents — she’s an amazing artist, for instance, and she will own you at Elder Scrolls Online — but she isn’t exactly what you’d call a graceful woman. She can injure herself anywhere. It’s uncanny. I once saw her walk across a room that was completely empty except for a single chair. And I’ll be damned if she didn’t just about break her neck tripping over that chair.

Michelle took one step into that algae-infested water, and her feet flew out from under her. She put out her hands to break her fall, and all her weight landed on her right wrist. I knew immediately it was broken. Not because I have a medical degree but because that’s exactly the type of thing that would happen to my wife: breaking her arm on her wedding day. The woman is simply the unluckiest person on the planet.

Turns out the bone wasn’t just broken; it was shattered. A surgeon had to cut her arm open and put the pieces back together like a jigsaw puzzle. They installed a metal plate in her wrist to hold it all together. She’s part machine now, my wife. When the robot uprising occurs, I expect her to defend me.

The outdoors certainly didn’t win me over on our wedding day. I still avoid nature and Michelle still loves it, but now we’re both pretty pissed off at limestone — and algae. So there’s that. With marriage, it’s the little things.

Dale Bridges is an Austin-based fiction writer, essayist and journalist; he is also the author of a short story collection, “Justice, Inc.” Illustration by Zachary Nash.

 

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