“Your cousin Shelton called from Chicago the other day.”
“Oh really, so how is he?”
“He’s still playing at being a lawyer,” said Aunt Martha.
“Oh great. Thought he would have gotten tired of telling everybody that garbage up there. Looks like they could see through that southern gentleman crap. You know those clients ought to be able to tell he’s just a paralegal, but he can sure snow them,” I said.
“Someday he’s gonna grow up. He’s not half as bad as you and Tommy made him out to be. Just wait and see,” said Aunt Martha.
Another cartoon image flared up, but I quelled the desire. Lawyer jokes were overdone anyway.
“Guess who I saw the other day?” Martha asked.
“Who?” I responded.
“Wymon Lindly, remember him?”
“Oh my gosh, the preacher of the Christ In Us Church?” I said.
“That’s him. Rain into him down at the corner butcher shop. He was handing out pamphlets. I said, Wymon, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen you. He did manage to say hello, but all the time he was expounding on how true believers don’t celebrate Thanksgiving because they know what their place is gonna be after this world of suffering and sacrifice and that the road to heaven is narrow and growing more so.”
“Yes, it sounds like his standard martyr theme. I can still see him waving those hands and looking down his nose at others. Make yourself miserable because payback time will come when that flock gets to heaven.”
Cartoon examination. I could picture a preacher with long, bony fingers, and deep eyebrows. Maybe even run those eyebrows together. He would be a giant, pointing those fingers out over his flock. I wasn’t sure what the caption should read…
Russell whined and looked uncomfortable. I noticed there was an eerie stillness in the air as though a spider’s web had ensnared us all right here in the little gray world with no promise of sunlight. About that time the radio blared a tornado warning now in effect.
“A tornado has been spotted….all persons in the listening area should take cover immediately….”
“Listen to that, can it really be a tornado?” asked Aunt Martha.
“They didn’t say a word about tornado conditions this morning.”
“Well, I don’t see anything,” I replied.
Somewhere there was a cartoon, maybe something about not being at home anymore, maybe something about searching for a heart. Then we heard it. A noise like a freight train on top of us. Something big and dark had descended upon the house. The walls shook, glass was breaking. We thought the earth would move from underneath as we ran for the closet. We sat in the dark for endless minutes. Me, Aunt Martha, and Russell sitting there looking at one another a midst coat sleeves and Christmas wrapping paper.
“I’ve been meaning to clean out this closet,” said Aunt Martha rather calmly.
“Maybe now that I won’t have a job much longer, I can get to it,” she smiled.
I was surprised. She didn’t sound upset anymore. I looked at her and detected a faint trace of a tear on her cheek.
“It’s okay, dear. It happens, but I still have a long way to go. There’ll be other things to do,” she said.
“Well I’m glad. I agree with you,” I said.
Then a syrupy stillness enveloped us, it was so close that you could cut it with a butter knife. It seemed like an eternity as Aunt Martha asked, “I don’t hear anything, do you think we should step out and see if I have a house left?”
In the house, things weren’t too bad. Twister material, really. We spotted minor damage, mainly the few broken windows, shattered glass on the floor..
“Aunt Martha, I’d say you were lucky.”
“I agree. Never knew what one of those things could do, but I’ve heard about them,” she said.
The radio was sputtering back to life.
“We have a confirmed report…day of disaster as some places along…..Creek have flooded….twisters sporadically touched down….”
Outside, I thought of my jeep. We ran around to the side of the house and looked. There was a trail to the river and I followed it on out. There at the bottom of the river was the jeep turned on it’s side looking like a wounded animal. Metal entwined with metal.
“Doesn’t look like you were as lucky,” said Aunt Martha.
Another cartoon, but my humor was fading fast. Maybe a jeep with big eyes running from a snarling twister with the snake river winding below waiting to capture it.
“High insurance rates, what are the options?”
- “No, guess not,” I said as I looked at the river ebbing, flowing, climbing, rising and running around my jeep in the water.
“Russell and I will be walking for awhile,” I said.
“Oh no, take my car, doesn’t look like the garage was touched,” said Aunt Martha.
“No, I could use the walk home, I want to see what else the tornado has hit,” I said.
“In this weather?” she asked.
“Aunt Martha, the storm is over now, it’s okay.”
“Well, I guess you’re right, it already seems to be clearing up.”
“I need to get started, call me if you need to, I’ll be home,” I said.
“Better call the insurance company first thing,” she said.
Walking on the path homeward, the atmosphere felt as though a war had been fought. A few trees stood like broken soldiers in the battle that had engulfed us all. Russell was happy to finally get out and inspect things. I just wanted to check the river at my end and breathe enough air to stay calm in case any more surprises came my way. I noticed the horses were out in the pasture. They looked like a watercolor painting beneath the gloomy sky. There was no humor here, only the dark side of life and luck. I caught myself looking for Junior, then I felt that sick, lonely empty feeling as sadness enveloped me, and I remembered his plight.