Looking at the Weather Channel now I can’t believe how drastically things have changed! Just last week we were having a triple digit heat wave that lasted for forever (Okay, maybe just a few months). I’m sure it was God’s way of proving that our country was going to hell in a hand basket, therefore showing us what to expect when the hand basket finally landed in ….. that very hot place, I can’t say that word twice.
The Weather Channel, and so apparently was I, was following a string of colorful storms sweeping across the state, storms that carried hail, high winds and tornados. We had gone from one extreme to the other. We were either in danger of random fire outbreaks from dried out grass being ignited by a careless barbecue or cigarette butt, or having our homes carried to another state, or to the other side of the rainbow by twirling tunnels of angry 100 to 200 per mile winds. On the bright side, the rains were helping extinguish large areas of grass fires. On the bad side, lightening was starting more tree and house fires.
Watching the parade of storms I was in a state of hypnosis that was preventing me from continuing my house wide search for donate-able items for our church garage sale that was to benefit the needy, those that had lost homes from the recent fires. So far I had a neat pile of surplus blankets, cookware, clothes, towels and knick knacks.
My hypnotic trance was broken by my cell phone. It was my daughter Cindy who I had dropped off at a friend’s skating party earlier this morning. If I was to make and educated guess I’d say the party was breaking up due to bizarre and dangerous weather conditions. And I was right. Cindy was requesting permission to go home with a friend, a sixteen year old who had just gotten her driver’s license. And of course she didn’t know what my response would be, since I’d only told her a hundred times, I think it’s a scientific fact that unwanted information doesn’t reach the teen age brain in that low a frequency. There will be no riding with her girlfriends till they are all thirty years old and have a spotless driving history, then she has to get permission from her husband. Yes, I was serious about that! I might even include they must be parents themselves with children on board to worry about, making them even more cautious drivers.
I grabbed my car keys while instructing, in very clear, concise and clipped tones, for Cindy to stay put until I got there. Once I opened the front door I motioned for my best friend Scruffy to join me on my trip. Scruffy, a very cowardly little terrier that hated rain because it was dangerously close to bathing looked past me into the street where large amounts of fluid was pouring down from heaven. Turning his nose into the air he hopped on to the sofa and buried himself into the pillows. He wasn’t going anywhere….until a crack of thunder erupted and the lights went out, suddenly the thought of being in an empty unairconditioned, dark house had less allure. Scruffy was out of the door in Nano seconds before I could shut it and lock him in. I’ll deal with the power outage later; my first concern right now was Cindy.
Scruffy, in the back seat, had hit the power window button and starting barking erratically into the rain filled air. “Look, either you stay or you come with me, but leave the windows up!” I ordered with mild irritation.
Hearing a very loud crack of thunder I hit the gas pedal and took off. Had the County really been praying for rain just yesterday? All the evaporated pools and lakes were returning indiscriminately of where they had originated from, and with a vengeance. We all know what goes up, must come down. I glanced out the rear view mirror for what might be the last look of my house while Scruffy assumed his normal watch dog position; he was squeezed under the passenger seat where I could hear his relaxed breathing, it actually sounded twice as loud.
Along the way cars were pulling off the road or hiding under bridges. Not a great idea as bridges can collapse or become dangerous wind tunnels. Other people were seeking shelter in buildings or ditches, yet I fearlessly still had my foot to the gas pedal. Fools go where angels dare to dread. Up ahead where the water was door handle deep on the road was a line of cars, backed up and turning around. Cars further up were floating around, some still occupied. The sky was dark and treacherous looking.
A car with a big black man struggling out of his window came to rest next to me where the ditch had become a turbulent river. Our eyes met. Oh hell, I mean darn, I had to stop to render aide. What else can you do when eye contact is made? Note to self: never look people in the eye when the world is disintegrating around you.
With some effort while the car bobbed about as it was wedged between some bushes I managed to help the stranger disembark and get to dry ground, I mean get to the wet rain splashed pseudo safety of the slightly more elevated road. Lightning struck, thunder cracked and his car freed itself and floated a few more feet before sinking deeper in to the trench. Water washed over the hood then rose higher.
I was energetically thanked with extreme handshaking as the stranger explained he was trying to get to his baby boy who was home alone and petrified of thunderstorms, the concern he had for his son made him make a few miscalculations on the safety of trying to cross the newly forming river.
As he was thanking me profusely I noticed something no one wants to see. A whirling tunnel was descending from the dark sky behind him. Sirens started to blare, people started to scream and run for meager cover, others started to video the funnel with their cell phones. Idiots! I jumped into my car followed by the dark stranger. Who invited him in?
“God help us!” I wailed. There was nowhere to go. Ahead was blocked with jammed traffic (and the dark ugly funnel), behind was blocked with more cars, and sideways was flooded. I was doomed. This was it, the final page of my life. “Dear God, forgive me!” I cried earnestly hoping to be freed from any sin I might have committed unknowingly. Meanwhile Scruffy who had found his mettle had jumped up into Stranger’s lap and was licking his face and wagging his tail vivaciously. Dumb dog, he doesn’t know we’re goners, well what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him…much.
The funnel approached at 200 miles per hour, wind howled while debris and hail smacked the car. Well, at least this time I won’t have to make out an insurance claim; there is a bright side to dying, I won’t be the one in charge of paperwork. Up we went, spinning and flying, the tornado bringing us closer to heaven. I could almost see Jesus now, in the clouds he promised he’d return in! I was amazed I saw anything at all since my eyes were squeezed closed and my hands were gripping the steering wheel as though I could control our destination, hope lives on. I could hear Scruffy barking joyfully. What a weird little dog, terrified of being in an empty house but enjoying the heck out of our ride to death… er..eternal life. Something furry ran across my lap onto my shoulder and leaped towards Stranger and Scruffy, not wanting to know what it was but presuming it was angels’ wings I kept my eyes closed.
There was a sudden jolt, then silence (would you experience a jolt landing on a heavenly cloud?) My eyes were still closed; hands were still gripping the steering wheel. Wasn’t there supposed to be music? A bright light? The sound of Munchkins singing “The Wicked Witch is Dead”?
But instead I heard, “Is this a squirrel?” What a mood breaker. Never mind thanking God we were still alive Stranger was more impressed with the unexpected presence of a squirrel.
Slowly opening my eyes I discovered we were still on terra firma, not celestial clouds, and Stranger was enjoying the tongue licking of Scruffy and Rocky.(Sorry, you must read the story “How Squirrelly” to learn how Rocky and Scruffy met!) How did he get here? Oh my gosh, that is why Scruffy opened the window, he let Rocky in the car when we left home, and now both naturally timid and suspicious natured animals were frolicking all over Stranger like lost friends reunited!
“That’s Scruffy’s pet,” I responded which caused Rocky to chatter loudly. “I’m sorry, I mean he’s Scruffy’s friend.” I amended apologetically, gently shaking my head and testing my arms and legs while wondering if I was in shock since I was making polite introductions after being transported by a tornado. If I wasn’t in shock, I should be. Rocky was so sensitive, Scruffy knew he was a pet and it didn’t bother him at all, he still treated the rest of us mere mortals like his equals.
The next thing I noticed was we were in a field miles from where we had started this road…air…trip and I didn’t recognize anything, not one wind modified weed, tree, bush, or the bull staring at us while continuing to chew on his hay, (he must be used to cars landing in his field), but Stranger did appreciate our location. ”Hey, this is close to my home, thanks for the ride.” He said just as my cell phone broke the minimally shared captivation of the near death experience.
It was my daughter, Cindy, informing me she was hitching a ride with some guy to his house right before the call was dropped therefore she didn’t hear me yell to not get in any car with a strange boy. The call may have gone dead but she was still able to text an address. I was unable after several attempts to renew contact with her by phone.
“Hey, your daughter will be alright, and so will my baby boy” Stranger assured me placing a black hand on my white one.
I started the engine and headed out of the field to the road listening to Stranger’s directions to his house that was situated in a dubious neighborhood while inwardly fuming with my daughter’s possible lethal decision.
I let Stranger out in his motorcycle occupied driveway after prying Scruffy and Rocky off him (it sure was odd how they had taken to him). Then I backed out onto the street and inserted the address Cindy texted me into my GPS which immediately began messing up. It has always been unreliable and it was staying true to form. It kept saying, “Your destination is on your right.” I cruised the car a few shabby houses up to the corner street signs and strangely enough, my GPS was right! Looking backwards I saw Stranger’s front door open and he came running out, waving me down. You’ve got to be kidding; my daughter must be in his house! And to proof it Stranger’s baby boy, all six feet four and 250 pounds of him came out on the porch next followed by my diminutive light weight female offspring. Talk about coincidences. This was so surreal.
Finally rejoined with Cindy in the weather damaged car and heading home through various and odd streets I was able to light into my disobedient daughter, how many times had I told her not to get into cars with strangers. She started to explain how everyone had evacuated the skating rink when the news reached them of an approaching tornado and with bravado explained how she had not gotten into anyone’s car, Baby Boy had a motorcycle. Oh, I agreed that was different: NOT! Then I was put on the witness stand by the junior prosecuting attorney in training about Stranger in my car. No need to explain the difference there, it was obviously because I was THE MOM, only I could break the rules I made.
We were now on the same road as the skating rink, only I didn’t see any building. I looked harder by squinting, (how does narrowing one’s eyes makes things larger?). Nope, still no building. I pulled into the parking space of an empty lot. The building that had been there this morning had vanished; nothing was left but the foundation. Cindy and I exchanged horrified looks. If Cindy had stayed, on my orders, she would be …..Oh, dreadful thought. Once again the silence was broken by a cell phone; Cindy’s. It was lying on the ground where she had gotten onto Baby Boy’s cycle and dropped it when he took off, seconds ahead of destruction, no wonder she didn't answer when I kept calling back.Seriously? A whole concrete building had been swept away but Cindy's cell phone had remained where it had fallen; go figure.
The caller was Cindy's dad, my husband, checking on our safety since he'd been hearing the weather reports in his motel room where he was at on business. We assured him all was fine, no need to give him all the gory details just yet, like the fact we were both nearly killed, or more precisely, miraculously saved. Or that we would need to be talking to the car insurance people again after all. Paper work, yuk.
Back at home I saw the result of the crack of thunder that had bid us farewell hours earlier. Rocky's tree was lying across the back yard. It was now our prospective fire wood for the winter. Rocky exited the car and solemnly approached his home. If a squirrel could cry I'm sure that's what he was doing as he surveyed the damage. Scruffy placed a consoling paw on Rocky's shoulder, then he ran into the house and retrieved his old doggy bed from the church donation pile and laid it at Rocky's disposal, he even nudged Rocky into it to test it out. The thought suddenly occurred to me that Scruffy might have saved Rocky's life by inviting him on our excursion. What would our world be like without Rocky? I carried the doggy bed into the kitchen, Rocky could consider our home his, why not, he spent most of his time here anyway, chasing Scruffy in an out of the doggy door. Rocky looked up at me with eyes brimming with emotion and snuggled up with Scruffy, and yes, I still consider this an bizarre friendship.
Exhausted from our quiet uneventfull day together Cindy and I called it a night. The electricity had been restored while we were gone so I fell asleep watching a DVD, and old classic called the Wizard of Oz, what a fitting choice! Forget the news; I didn’t want to know any more about the weather
The next morning I wandered into the kitchen for some good hot Java and Rocky met me at the table, I mean on the table, with an “I’m hungry, what’s for breakfast?” expression.
“Oh no little guy, I only promised you a roof over your head; you do your own grocery shopping.” I announced scooping him up and hugging him before tossing his furry squealing butt gingerly outdoors. I’m pretty sure the little hoarder had nuts all over the back yard.
A rumpled Cindy came down and turned on the TV before pouring herself some orange juice. The news broadcast was about a poverty stricken neighborhood that had been visited by a tornado last night. Stranger’s and Baby Boy’s neighborhood.
“Oh, mom, how sad, but they didn’t have much anyway. Their house was practically empty.” Cindy commented.
I frowned, sadly. “Hey, I have an idea…”
Not too long after my idea hit me we were in the car and on our way back to Stranger’s district. Thank heavens I had their address on my GPS.
As I passed the area where I met Stranger struggling in his car I narrated the story to Cindy.
“Shouldn’t his car still be here?” Cindy queried, scanning the spot I pointed out.
Hmmm. “Maybe they already came and got it,” I postulated, doubtful though, other cars that were more easily accessible now that the waters had receded were still trapped in their resting places.
In Stranger’s territory chaos reigned. Rubble was everywhere. Intact families (thank heavens I heard there had been no casualties) were staggering through the streets searching for salvageables. The Red Cross already had a station set up to care for newly dispossessed home owners and was providing food, medical attention and comfort. Police and utility companies were on hand to prevent looting and manmade disasters. Extended family and friends were showing up to offer support and relocate people to a safer location.
I got as close to Stranger’s house as possible and advisable only…there was no house. Oh no! I ejected myself from the car and scanned the vacant lot. There was even no foundation left …or ….no driveway?
Somebody walked by and I asked them about Stranger and his son.
“Lady, there was never a house there,” came the disheartened replied from a man who believed his immediate problems were bigger than my serious delusions.
I turned to face the caravan behind me, my church buddies and their donations of supplies and money. I felt ….crazy, which wasn’t hard to substantiate …but Cindy was my evidence. She could corroborate my story….or not. As it turned out every one had disembarked from their cars and were already rendering assistance and comfort. No need for me to make any explanations, I had described to them an opportunity to aid in an emergency and they had responded.
Meanwhile sitting weightlessly on top of the Red Cross’ temporary tent station sat several dozen battle weary denizens of heaven munching on donuts and drinking punch, and sharing war stores. They’d had a busy twenty four hours protecting their earthy assignments. Among the heavenly soldiers were Stranger and Baby Boy, in their true forms, the two guardian angels assigned to Cindy and her mom and who were fast and solid friends of Scruffy and Rocky. No wonder Scruffy’s and Rocky’s courage had come alive when stranger entered the car, they didn’t have to rely on faith, sight unseen like mere mortals do, they had known full well the car had just picked up a sure thing!
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