True Story, Issue #34

"Plume: An Investigation" by Mary Heather Noble

True Story, Issue #34

In True Story #34, “Plume,” a former environmental investigator applies her forensic skills to a family mystery. What happens to us when we are exposed to toxicity, both literally and figuratively? Can we change what we pass on to our kids? And at what cost?

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From "Plume: An Investigation" by Mary Heather Noble

I always thought of discovery as something noble and deliberate: the fruit of an exploration, or a treasure at the end of the road. I used to think of weary explorers cresting a ridge and stumbling upon some glorious natural wonder, prospectors encountering oil or flecks of gold. Or scientists deciphering the solution to a problem. Like discovering the cure.

But this is not the kind of discovery I’m talking about. I’m talking about when something finds you. When you uncover something that shouldn’t be there, something that might have been there all along.

The clues can be quick and unexpected—an oily smell to the water, a hint of diesel at the kitchen sink. An acute lightheadedness, a soured stomach. A heightened sensitivity. There’s a difference: something doesn’t fit, something isn’t right.

But usually, it’s quieter, snaking through the subsurface, troublesome signs easily explained away into a much more likely scenario: what you’re seeing is a fluke, a glitch. If there are any signs at all.