This One Time, 59

This one time the rain was coming down in buckets and I couldn’t even see the street from my front door. It had been a while since the last soaking rain and it was about time for something to wash all the pollen off of everything — even though it meant it would be back worse than ever tomorrow. I’d risk drowning like a turkey in this downpour to get a good deep breath right about now.

I could imagine what things would be like when this let up — little chartreuse rivers going down the sides of the streets. Cars that you could once again tell apart by color. The ability to touch a door handle or a doorknob without having to dust off your hands and having to remember to wash them before I touched my face or eyes.

I wondered if the neighborhood squirrels were sitting this one out in my attic. It was something, watching the cat pace around down here, walking into furniture because she was looking up at the ceiling, trying to track their movements.

Meanwhile, I stood in my open doorway in sweats and a flannel shirt and watched the torrent come down. Rain hitting the stoop splashed my bare feet, deliciously cold. I could see a mist of tiny droplets clinging to the hair on my feet that made my old roommate refer to me as a hobbit.

I started to hear the wind whipping hard through the trees and I started to see little pellets of hail. That wasn’t uncommon in storms like this. If I tried hard enough, I could hear thunder as well, like the coachman driving the storm was using a little of his whip. The dogwoods out front were dancing around in the gusts, shedding leaves and those little red berries the blackbirds came through in droves to devour.

I noticed the siren that sounded when the weather service spotted or got report of a tornado in the county. It had been going on for a while, just drowned out, as it were.

And that reminded me of when I was a kid in elementary school. That wasn’t too far from here, in space, if not time, and it was the practice back then to crack open the windows and herd all the children into the halls, where we would line up against the walls in the main hallways during tornado warnings. We’d crouch down on the floor, knees up to our chests. They seemed to be undecided whether we were supposed to be facing the wall or facing away. I just remember on one of these adventures I was seated on the floor next to a pretty girl I had always had a bit of a crush on — bright, hard-working, not much driven by what was popular. Even at nine, that sort of thing got my attention.

I was a nerd back before nerds were fashionable, so she wouldn’t much give me the time of day. I don’t remember resenting it back then. That was just the natural order of things.

I just remember that she was scared and crying and that when I put my hand on her arm to comfort her, she leaned in and draped my arm around her shoulders, and I held her like that until the “all-clear” sounded, and then we picked up whatever stuff we’d brought with us and got in line to go back to our classroom. She gave me a thank you and went back to her desk and nobody ever mentioned it. Even the kids that ordinarily would have teased the hell out of both of us under other circumstances, who I knew damn well saw us.

It’s one of the moments I go back to in my head when it’s time to talk myself out of climbing up some random clock tower somewhere and starting the shooting. If a pack of rowdy ten-year-olds can tell when it’s time not to tease someone having a weak moment, then there’s hope for humanity.

But every time I hear a tornado siren, I think of her tear-streaked face framed by wavy brown hair and wonder how she’s doing.

When tornadoes are nearby, they sound like a train going by. The one that had been spotted was close. Or rather, close enough. I could hear it. I didn’t particularly feel like seeing this one, as I had already seen a few, what with my likely-to-be-terminal case of not knowing when to come in out of the rain. What can I say? I like to see God work, even when what he’s doing is dragging the eraser on the top of His pencil through a line of houses in a subdivision.

Sometimes it seems it takes the worst that He can do to bring out the best in us. That’s not the way it ought to be, but what can you do? People are stubborn and selfish until they realize that losing everything isn’t the worst that can happen.

But then the rushing sound started to fade, and in the next minute or so the siren went quiet.  And I went to grab my camera. I loved taking pictures of the trees and flowers with water dripping off of them. And that really is the only time someone with allergies as bad as mine can get close to the damned things.


February 28, 2011 · by xalieri · Posted in This One Time  


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