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Not a Sharknado, but Still...!


Photograph by Lori Mehmen, https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/craziest-storm-chaser-photos-of-tornado-season/)


When I was in junior high in Lancaster, Texas, a tornado came through our town and destroyed dozens of houses. My classmates and I were huddled in front of lockers in "crash" positions (not the ones from Airplane, lol), as the sky outside turned green and rain blew sideways. It should have been scary, but to this dumb junior high kid, it was exciting. A teacher yelled at me for singing "And now, the end is near," doing my best Elvis Presley imitation of Frank Sinatra's big hit.


I'm thinking about this today because it's April, tornado time in Texas. In my novel, Dust to Dust, April is also Cara McConnelly's birthday, Cara is the late wife of my protagonist, William. He goes to the cemetery with his father-in-law Aidan to lay flowers on her grave and is confronted by a tornado. Here is the passage:


Will rose and stared at the sky. Dark clouds raced above, and a sudden fork of lightning traced a spiky path through the dark gray. Trees bent in the deserted cemetery as the wind’s strength grew. In the distance, the burgeoning screech of an air siren rose.

“God damn you,” Will whispered. The tempest ripped the words from his lips. “God damn you,” he repeated. In the distance, Aidan’s words stopped. The old man regarded him, watched as Will approached the mausoleum, stepped onto the outcropping of stones that bordered the door, and began to climb.

“Jesus, bye!” yelled Aidan. He was barely intelligible in the roar of the mushrooming wind. Sticks and leaves whipped past Will as he climbed the side of the mausoleum. A hand pressed his shoe just as he stepped out of Aidan’s reach, and then a stabbing pain as the fingernail on his right index finger caught on stone and ripped off. A trail of blood followed him up, up to the roof of the tomb.

Will stood tall, rain and blood dripping off the end of his fingers. The wind receded, then blew in a gust that threatened to toss him back down the ten feet to the cemetery lawn. He braced himself and held up his hands as if challenging God and nature. He screamed, “Why?” The question became a guttural roar of hatred that no longer held a word. His temples throbbed as the roar threatened to shred his vocal cords. He didn’t care. Pain and anger poured from his very being.

The howling blast dissipated and the torrential downpour slowed to a drizzle, as if Will’s anger had rebuffed the tempest.

Will’s scream died with the wind. The world hung in silence, waiting for God’s response. Nothing. Then a sound emerged from the silence, the distant roar of an oncoming train. Air horns blasted from somewhere nearby. Heaven opened, and a tornado descended blocks from the cemetery. Will blinked twice, and below him, Aidan said, “Jaysus, Mary, and Joseph.”

Will gawked at the tornado, a huge, twisting monster of destruction. It staggered toward him like a drunken giant: his answer, at last.

Maybe that's a rude place to stop, but I don't want to give away what happens next. Like the old Batman tv series I loved as a kid in the 70s, I'll just say, "Does Will defeat the tornado? Will he be sucked up into the sky like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz? Tune in on May 18th! Same Bat Time! Same Bat Channel!"