Tornado Warnings

by | Feb 7, 2022 | Fiction, Issue Twenty Five

           Here there are tornado warnings every other day. The winds pick up, the leaves spiral tightly around themselves. Shingles threaten to snap from the old family home. Every other day, she wonders which version of her husband she will receive, which version of herself will be there to receive him. She feels she is speaking to him through a pair of tin cans.

            She passes time laying in the yard, open-faced, watching the sky for signs of strife. The string to their little can phone carries her voice to her husband as unpredictably as the weather. Sometimes, tornados speed through and snap the cans away, slap the string spindly pieces. Sometimes his words come through muddled, upside down. Once in a while, her husband isn’t on the other side at all, and she wonders who she is speaking to so urgently.

            The yard is full of dead grass, and slightly tilted in towards the road for drainage. In the driveway, she sweeps cricket torsos and flower petals into a dustpan, before saying a little prayer. The funny thing about tornado warnings: they are only warnings, not promises or truths. Still, she is still so fearful, and so small, that it hardly makes a difference.

            On a no-tornado-warning morning, she sees the version of her husband she gets that day. He is in the kitchen, floating over the dirty dishes and counter crumbs, as though afraid gravity. He is flailing his arms, and she sees this is the version of him that is zipped up over several other zipped up versions. There’s inherent isolation for them both.

            Instead of going to the kitchen, she climbs the stairs to the one little room with its one little window and its one little chair. The version of him, floating below her feet, knocks his head on the ceiling. He is a layer of hunger zipped over a layer of horniness, zipped over a layer of fatigue.  She knows to keep her distance, until he floats out the door and on to work.

            When he leaves, she looks in the mirror in a noncommittal way, then, she takes a nap. She wakes a most monstrous version of herself. All thorns and bunions and puss. She rolls from side to side, uncomfortable and furious, closes her eyes and lets her mind perform its furious, spinning acrobatics. Her husband’s side of the bed is just a dip. She second guesses what that means.

            According to family mythology, there was once tornado so powerful and generous that it first averted smashing through the home then scattered gifts across the yard. Some of the gifts were living. A family dog. A rose bush. A snake. A boy from a village halfway around the world, who always wanted to travel. Others gifts were valuable inanimate objects that were divided amongst the children and kept in shoeboxes. One of the gifts was a little bit both. As the story goes, a cadaver of a man dropped as the tornado trailed away. His lips stretched into a smile and it was believed that he had died peacefully, in a blissful state, just minutes before the harsh winds swooped him off.

            All right, already, she shouts to the sky. When will you come, already? She is feeling the way she feels sometimes driving down the highway. Suddenly remembering she can yank the wheel in either direction to change her whole reality in a flash.

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