“Drills” by Laura Citino – Story #5 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♥Q♥ Queen of Hearts – my second queen in a row!
The Selection: “Drills” from the Spring 2014 issue of “Midwestern Gothic” magazine (about a year and a half ago I attended an event at Bookmama’s Bookstore in Irvington (Indianapolis Eastside) that featured several local authors who had been featured in this magazine).

The Author: According to the “contributors” section of Midwestern Gothic, Laura Citino lives in Terre Haute, though based on her Twitter account, I think this may have changed(?). She is currently a fiction editor for Sundog Lit magazine. Some other writing of hers may be found on thebarking.com (Author picture above from midwesterngothic.com)

img_5408-1What is Deal Me “IN” 2016?  (For an explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/story roster see here. Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection”of some kind. )


**Spoilers follow**

I wondered what the title of this story, which I had chosen mainly because of the author’s Indiana Connection, could mean. Power tools? Nope. Multiple attempts to find water for a well? Nope. The author lets her first person narrator explain:

“When I was younger, my spring times were laced with constant fear of natural disasters. Grade school was one long series of drills. Every few days I’d have to crouch underneath lab tables, for thirty minutes crammed between boys who smelled like dogs until we were released back to language arts class. Not once do I remember a tornado actually taking place. Every piercing shriek of the alarm sent us under our desks, but none delivered on the promise of disaster.”

It’s an interesting idea to think about – that perhaps, just as being unprepared for a disaster, over-preparedness for one can be harmful in its own way. For example, every child learns the story of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” which was probably the first time I discovered that one can become desensitized to “exaggerated” danger. But I digress…
(Boy Who Cried Wolf image from https://aesopsfables.wordpress.com/the-boy-who-cried-wolf/ )


“Drills” is the story of “Di” (at first I thought the narrator was unnamed and had to look closely to find her referred to by name just once(?) when she visits her father in the hospital). Di is involved in an extra-marital affair with Steven, and we join the story during one of their trysts. Their dialogue is typical of how I would imagine such a situation: Steven’s wife is the metaphorical Elephant in the Room, as Di – maybe only subconsciously – seeks assurance that Steven favors her, and Steven denies that his romantic remarks have hidden meaning: “You don’t have to make is so obvious that you don’t love your wife,” she says. “That’s not what I meant.

Parallel to the story of Di and Steven, severe weather is in the forecast for the next two days (something that’s not unusual in the spring to us Midwesterners). It seems both literal and figurative storms are brewing… Another one is Di’s father’s impending health crisis. She visits him after the tryst, and we learn that “these days it seems he lives more at the hospital than at home” and describes his condition

“from diabetes to the first heart attack to my mother’s push for healthy habits to my father’s refusal and retreat into unfiltered cigarettes and double whiskeys with ginger ale…then the second heart attack, the weak lungs and weaker heart, it’s all been a limp rather than a leap into the abyss.”

It seems neither of Di’s parents have set a great example for her if she was hoping for a happy, well-adjusted life. Her mother, for example, is an avid drinker who matter-of-factly tells her that “there’s nothing wrong with drinking away the pain.” Nice job, Mom.

The climax of the story and the storm occur simultaneously, with Steven “trapped” at Di’s apartment when the worst hits. They debate about what to do and remember “the drills we had in school.” He receives text messages “of love and comfort” and seems not to know what to do (“trying to figure out where he should be, suspended by the fear that no matter what, it won’t be the right place“). Then story ends with a great thought of the narrator, laced with multiple meanings: “I wonder how long we have until it will all be over.

The kindle edition of the particular issue of Midwestern Gothic magazine that contains this story is currently available for just a dollar at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00JCSD45O/. Certainly a low risk investment if you’d like to explore this story – and others! – further.

Personal Notes: When I was in elementary school (at Indianapolis Public School #68), the Cold War was still going strong and I can distinctly remember having multiple “Security” Drills, which were quite different from the Fire Drills where we marched outside. Instead we marched to the basement and huddled against the walls holding our hands over our head. As I understood it then, security drills were also applicable to tornadoes, killing two birds with one stone.

So what about YOU? Do you remember endless drills from your school days? Does your office or workplace conduct drills (mine does, but not very often)? Do you subscribe or support any “lesser known” literary magazine or journals? If you don’t, why not? 🙂

Below: Susan Roll Leach Elementary – Indianapolis Public School #68. When I attended, the part of the school with multiple floors housed the higher grades while the “ground level” wing (that extends out from the left of this picture) was for Kindergarten thru 2nd grade – if memory serves.


  1. Dale said,

    February 1, 2016 at 10:21 am

    Steven seems to be between a rock and a hard place (“you don’t have to make it so obvious that you don’t love your wife”). This story kind of reminds me of Kate Chopin’s “The Storm”.


    • Jay said,

      February 1, 2016 at 2:08 pm

      I hadn’t thought about the Chopin story when writing this post, but it is neat that storms can almost be characters – or antagonists – in a story. I didn’t have a lot of sympathy for Steven, but I don’t think I’m necessarily supposed to… 🙂


  2. February 1, 2016 at 12:04 pm

    I don’t remember having any storm drills in school, only the occasional weather warning that was taken seriously enough to have us huddle in the back part of the church basement. (I went to a small Lutheran school K-6.) High school was storm free. 😉

    I encouraged my sister to submit some of her photographs to “Midwestern Gothic,” back when they were taking submissions, but I don’t think she ever did.


    • Jay said,

      February 1, 2016 at 2:11 pm

      The visit of the Midwestern Gothic folks to the bookstore was one of the better ‘book events’ I’ve been to. They – unlike many, sadly – really had their act together and the authors that participated were well-spoken.

      I also think that magazine has a great ‘look’ to it. The covers I’ve seen have been great. I also just bought the kindle version of their latest issue and hopefully will find some stories there for future DMIs…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Alex said,

    February 2, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    I never had a drills in school in my life. And even at work just a couple of them (ups?).

    Jay, you have more experience in short-story that I do, so do you think it was just a coincidence that many of the contemporary stories I read in the Deal Me In 2015 dealt with affairs? It was really a recurrent topic, but maybe it was just a coincidence.


    • Jay said,

      February 3, 2016 at 11:27 am

      Interesting question. I’d say contemporary stories are much more often about ‘relationships’ than those of the classic era, but not necessarily just “affairs.” I may have to start a database now… 🙂


  4. asthaguptaa said,

    February 3, 2016 at 2:33 am

    I was looking for a some stories and found your blog – and am I glad! A great collection for book lovers 🙂


    • Jay said,

      February 3, 2016 at 11:25 am

      This comment made me happy. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by. I’m glad you found us and hope you visit often. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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