“Aw, man!” Jonathan yelled from the living room. “Not again!”
Tess smiled and turned off the stove. “What’s wrong, sweetie?”
“The weatherman cut in again.” At just seven, his pout was audible.
Tess chuckled and gave the mac and cheese a few more vigorous stirs.
Leaving the cramped kitchen, she caught a glimpse of the red spattered weather radar before the TV shut off, the lights blinked out, and the hum of the air conditioner faded.
Jonathan glanced at her, and then they both looked out of the sliding patio doors.
The afternoon was gray but not murky. Outside their tiny apartment the wind moved through the dense row of trees like an omen; branches dipping and swaying, rising and jostling, the leaves whispering wordless tidings. Tess and her young son watched, and the constant dull rumbling of it made her skin prickle.
A strong rain began to fall.
“Sweetie, come here,” Tess said. “What did the weatherman say?”
Jonathan moved quickly to her. “He said there were tornado warnings, for Berber County. Is that us?”
Her breaths shuddered, and she worked to keep them measured so she could speak with calm. “Yeah, that’s us, Jonny.” At his name, bits of hail began to descend. Tess placed her hands on his shoulders, said “Stay here,” and walked to the window.
The clouds tumbled in the angry wind, ushering in a line of blackness that was visible even through the trees. The hailstones rapped against the patio doors, gathering strength. First peas. Now marbles. Now pennies, quarters, golf balls, tennis balls; it was a staggering scene, and Tess’s heart pounded till it ached. “Not now,” she begged.
But the nightmare burst open. Her lone patio chair scraped across the concrete and then lifted into the air, colliding with the grasping branches. The neighbor’s trash can sailed by, releasing a torrent of debris that was instantly snatched up and out of sight. And then the noise, that through these awful trees summoned in a deafening, hellish roar—
“Mommy!” Jonathan screamed.
Tess whirled around to see her son covering his ears, his eyes squeezed shut. Where could they go? The apartment was on the ground floor and there was no basement. The hall closet was too small. The bathroom—they would go there.
“Come on,” Tess said, running to her son and guiding him into the bathroom. It was completely dark once she shut the door but that sound like a train could not be muted. “Come on, in the tub.” They fumbled with the shower curtain as they stepped in and crouched down; Tess pulled the curtain closed at both ends, knowing it was futile.
For her son, Tess choked back her panic. She was the only rock for him now in a world that was breaking up around them. Metal crashing into metal. Glass imploding. Wailing sirens. There’s nothing, Tess realized, nothing anyone can do. Like a child she needed a hand to hold, and in their loneliness amidst the ruin she could think of only one.
Tess had not said her prayers in months, but the groaning of the walls drew them out.
This must have been why the ancients found belief in God so natural and compelling. Their world was unceasing in its uncertainty and fear: plagues, pillagers, warships from the sea, cruel monarchs, the deaths of children. God was their only refuge. And what of the world now, lulled into false security by things and men who had no true power to shield or save? God moved in the relentless forces of nature and drove to their knees the people who had forgotten why they needed Him. Tess felt certain that if the tornado found them, she would see in its terrible might the face of God; in its ravenous winds she would hear Him call her name.
Jonathan curled up, fetal, against her torso, his chest heaving with terrified cries. Tess wrapped her arms tightly around his small frame and buried her face in his mop of hair. Beneath the howling wind came words only she and One other could hear.
“Jesus,” she whispered, “save us.”
“Until now you have not asked for anything in My name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” ~ John 16:24
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