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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Hotel/Motel (09/12/05)

TITLE: Close Call
By Beth Muehlhausen
09/16/05


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Close Call

I am a possibility right now: a devil of a storm just waiting to happen.

Four teenagers emerge from church after their weekly youth meeting on April 11, 1965 – Palm Sunday. The sky seems strangely still and blanketed in pale yellow as they waltz out the door, laughing and joking.

“Hey, look at that sky, would ya! If I didn’t know better, I’d say…isn’t the sky usually yellow before a tornado?”

“Aw, c’mon, tornados aren’t in the forecast. I heard the weather report this afternoon.”

“Yeah, let’s grab a burger on the way to Christy’s house.”

“Ok, last one in the car’s a rotten egg!”

You can’t see me – you can’t know. But I am here, waiting for the right moment to pounce…to unleash my deadly power.

With the radio blaring, they head south toward a drive-up diner.

A cute curbside waitress with a stiff paper hat brings them cheeseburgers wrapped in wax paper and root beer in frosty, eight-ounce glass mugs. She hooks the heavy tray full of food to the driver’s half-open windshield.

Kevin gives her a wink: “Hey, thanks!”

“Have you guys noticed the sky?” she replies, gazing up beyond the trees.

“Yeah, it’s weird, huh?”

“Sorta spooky.”

She jangles the coins in the pocket of her apron, makes change for Kevin, and retreats inside the diner.

Are you afraid of my evil glow? Ha! Can you guess what’s coming?

They inhale their food and Kevin starts up the engine. As he pulls out onto the highway, John directs their attention to the sky again.

“You guys, it really is starting to look creepy. Can’t you see, this isn’t even a little bit normal.”

“Just get to my house, “Christy responds, “and we’ll check with my parents.”

They head down the four-lane highway lined with restaurants and motels. “Look! The Holiday Inn sign says there is a live concert next Friday night! Wonder who’s playing?”

Tension is mounting…I’m on my way…you won’t recognize this place in just a matter of minutes.

The sky darkens quickly into an ominous blank wall and Kevin strains to steer against the mounting wind. As they approach Christy’s driveway, a gust whips her mother’s housedress as she runs out of the house to warn them. “Get inside, all of you, right now! A tornado is coming! HURRY!” She waves her arms frantically, motioning them inside.

You are powerless to stop me. Roooooooaaaaaaarrrrrrr.

The four teens hurry into the house, bent against the wind. Once inside, they line up along the picture window facing east. There it is – a huge, snaky black funnel chewing up everything in its path. As it wiggles across the croplands in front of them, spitting up fields and farmhouses, they fall back from the window and take refuge in the coat closet.

I’m not finished yet. Grrrrrrrooooooowwwwwwwlllllll.

The sound of fury becomes deafening; they crouch amidst boxes and hanging coats, flattened by the fear of impending doom. The house shakes and clatters. Their screams are stifled by the wind’s deep moan.

Finally the funnel cloud recedes, and a band of nervous and shaking spectators emerge from hiding. “WOOOOOO! A real tornado! Scared the jeebies outa me, for sure! I’m shaking like a leaf! Are you okay? Can you BELIEVE this?”

Christy and her mother hug each other and dance around the kitchen. “We’re okay! It missed us! HOOOOOORAY!”

I left my mark. You will soon see. I wasn’t kidding.

The three teens return to Kevin's car and head for home. No doubt their parents are worried; there is no way to call them since phone lines are down. Overturned vehicles line the road like toy matchbox cars. Red flashing emergency vehicles limp here and there, dodging chunks of buildings and stunned pedestrians.

“Look at THAT!” Betsy gasps as they creep toward the Holiday Inn marquis. The huge sign featuring the upcoming concert is now inverted, upside down, so that the pole forms a horseshoe.

“The motel – it’s been cut in half!” John blurts out. “Look…it’s like the rooms are sliced in two. One half is gone…but oh my gosh…there are the beds, tables, chairs…even TV’s. The building is opened up; I can see inside the motel rooms! Freaky!!”

Gripping the steering wheel with white knuckles, Kevin whispers, “Thank God we ate our burgers in a hurry and got to Christy’s ahead of all of this.”

My fury victimizes all who fall in my path. I guess God had other plans for you.

____________________________________


Author’s note: I was one of these teens! In only a few minutes, five hundred-mile-an-hour winds unexpectedly flattened Indiana’s Howard County. In its wake, homes were pulverized, schools and churches smashed, and multi-story apartment buildings, office buildings, and motels severed in half. This storm was one of ten in the state that day – part of a network of fifty-one separate tornadoes that raked the Midwest from Iowa to Ohio.


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This article has been read 1083 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Anita Neuman09/19/05
Amazing account. The tornado's "thoughts" added great dimension. Well one!
Val Clark09/20/05
Yes, personifying the tornado worked well. You could have made this a much more powerful story by choosing one of the kids to be your POV character and connecting with their emotions throughout. Yeggy
Phyllis Inniss 09/21/05
You created tension in your writing. With bated breath I read on eagerly to see what would happen. It was a "Close Call" for you all.
Jan Ackerson 09/21/05
The personification of the tornado was wonderful, extremely effective. I think that since it is dated in the past, that past tense would be more effective for this story. Also: marquis=nobleman, marquee=front of a hotel. Very exciting story, I love the way you switched from the teens to the storm. Good job!
Debra Brand09/22/05
Good flow and dialogue
Alexandra Wilkin09/23/05
Personifing the tornado was an excellent idea. You have a very strong voice and this was very good. God bless.
Lynda Lee Schab 09/23/05
Well done! I was engrossed in this tale from the first mention of the eerie sky(tornadoes fascinate me but I wouldn't want to be caught in one!). At first I thought you were just tossing in (no pun intended) the Holiday Inn because of the topic but when I saw it was a true story, wow! God certainly did (and does) have other plans for you!
Excellent writing - loved the tornadoe's "voice".
Blessings, Lynda
Shari Armstrong 09/23/05
I wasn't around when those tornadoes tore through Ohio, but they are still talked about. An amazing story -well done!
Jan Warrick09/24/05
The tornado reminds me of an animal stalking its prey! Great job!
Deborah Porter 09/27/05
Beth, this was an excellent piece of writing. I was with you from start to finish. You rated very well with the judges, but were let down by the fact that its connection with the topic wasn't quite as strong as some others. But boy - it was a terrific piece of writing! Love, Deb (Challenge Coordinator)
B Brenton10/13/05
Wow. This was an exciting story you talented lady! Goosebumps, totally. Never having seen a tornado you made me really imagine it. Freaky!