It was another brewery tour for Jared and me. The fifth since we’d been married. Or was it sixth? I can’t remember. We were at the part where the guide finally lets you smell the hops. I brought a handful to my face, sniffed, and immediately forgot where I was. Had we come to Austin or Asheville? Portland, Oregon; or Portland, Maine? Or does geography matter in the age of American microbreweries?
Jared sniffed the hops in his palm and said “Oh, nice.”
Just then everyone’s phones screeched at once and people dug in their pockets. Severe weather was fast approaching and we hadn’t even begun the tasting. So the guide skipped the barley segment and took us directly to the bar, but not before I dropped a few hops into my clutch.
Jared, ever the lightweight, pretended to evaluate the first of his unfiltered ales. But by his third, he’d changed the subject to babies.
“I know it’s your body,” he said. “And I respect that.”
Thankfully the phones screeched again and I pulled mine out.
“What’s it say?” he asked.
“It says thunder and lightning. It says rain. It says tornadoes and flashfloods. It says earthquakes and hurricanes.”
Jared took another sip of beer and said “I guess we should head for the giftshop.” We collected tall beer glasses and liked them more than the beer itself. We had a cabinet full of them at home. All smooth and curvy, with the names of different cities printed on them.
I asked Jared if he thought we should leave, if we should take shelter somewhere else, but he just shrugged. He said it would blow over. Just a summer storm. He said people make too much of it, that’s why no one comes this time of year. Jared and I were opportunists, always going places in the offseason.
In the giftshop, I could hear the wind blowing outside and wondered about the rental car in the parking lot. Did we buy insurance? I thought to ask Jared but he was rotating a glass in his hand, holding it to the light, testing the balance on a flat surface. But when we heard little pops on the building’s tin roof, Jared turned and looked at me.
“Did we buy insurance?” he asked.
“Sounds like hail,” I said. “I’m going to check.”
The light outside was unlike any I’d ever seen. Everything appeared a yellowed sepia. The water in the canal was choppy and little balls of hail shattered on the asphalt. I found it all quite beautiful and wished I could remember where we were, which city this was. I thought I’d like to come back one day.
All the cars in the parking lot were white or silver and I was pressing the lock button on the keys, listening for the honk, when I saw the little girl. She was standing between vehicles with no adult in sight. Everyone had taken shelter. “Are you okay?” I asked. Suddenly the rain came down hard and I couldn’t hear what she said. She ran up to me and grabbed my hand. I pressed the lock button again and the car directly behind us chirped and blinked its lights.
Inside the car we had to yell to hear one another. “Are you okay?” I yelled.
“The car is probably not the safest place to seek shelter,” the girl responded loudly.
“Yes, I know. But it’s a rental. I couldn’t remember if we bought insurance. I thought maybe we should move the car beneath an awning of some sort. I mean with the hail and all. Where are your parents?”
“Ah! You’re a tourist!” yelled the little girl. “Have you tried the microbrewery yet?”
When she said this the wind picked up and I wondered if tornados ever hit cities or if they only happened in rural places. But I stopped thinking about the wind when I noticed the water seeping into the floorboards. The little girl noticed it too. She looked at me and said, “I’m scared.”
“I am too,” I said.
“Do something,” she said.
I reached into my clutch and pulled out some hops from the brewery. “Here, smell this.”
The little girl leaned over the console and sniffed. “What is it?”
“They’re hops. They’re from…”
“I have to go,” said the little girl. She turned, flung the door open, and bolted into the parking lot. I wanted to yell after her but knew not what to call her.
I didn’t notice the rain had stopped until Jared tapped on the window. He was bone dry and carrying a bag from the gift shop. “Jesus,” he said. “Were you out here for all that?”
Months later we’re at home. I open a cabinet and one of the many tall, curvy glasses leaps to the floor. I sweep most of the pieces into the dustpan, but, on my hands and knees, I find some large shards under the counters. I grab one with my fingertips and flip it over. On it, small red letters spell Nashville, Tennessee. And, for a long while, I sit on the floor trying hard to remember anything at all about Nashville, Tennessee.
J.D. Hosemann lives in Jackson, Mississippi and teaches English at Tougaloo College. His stories have appeared in The Kenyon Review Online, New World Writing, Gone Lawn, The Hong Kong Review, and Night Picnic Press.