Tuesday, March 21, 2006

And now, for the weather...

Huge, freakish and violent storm Sunday night. Tornadoes were reported all around us here in the Texas Hills between Blanco, Uvalde and Austin. We had some sheet metal blown through our yard, ripping down some fences and tearing the shingles off of the henhouse.
I had no idea it was coming, since I hadn’t seen the news. It was 10:30 PM and I was folding laundry; Monsieur was doing something or another in the basement, when he came into the living room, pulled out the television (normally we keep it facing the wall, to avoid tempting the children) and turned it on.
“Television?” I asked, wondering; he doesn’t watch much.
“Weather,” he said, and finally found a channel with a weather report. The weather radar was a circle of red, yellow and orange with a little amoeba-like glob of purple in one spot. That one spot was the leading edge of a storm, and he pointed it out to me.
“Watch that,” Monsieur said, “and also they will be mentioning some vectors; pay attention to that while I get some rain gear and set up a radio and flashlights. We may lose power, or worse.”
“Victors?” I asked; when he is disturbed his accent is strong and I can’t always follow it.
“Vectors,” he repeated, “the direction and speed the storm is probably going. They will attempt to estimate its direction and the approximate time the storm will strike each town.” He was putting flashlights, a big sheet of plastic, pillows and the big camping pad into a box; then he took the box into the basement.
I looked back at the screen. The weather map was basically a computer monitor, and the weather lady was using a mouse and pointing to that purple amoeba and saying, “this is the area that we’re worried about, this circular motion in the crook of the storm. Our friends out in Fitzhugh, Henly, and Round Mountain had better start finding shelter in the interior of the house, away from windows, with a battery-operated radio and flashlights….”
I swallowed hard, noting that Round Mountain is visible from the upstairs bedroom on a clear day. The night sky was suddenly punctuated in the west with flashes of brilliant lightning.
“This is it,” Monsieur said. “This is when we find out if it will twist or not.”
Jeez and tarnation, I thought, then got dressed and put my shoes on. I went upstairs to check on the boys. I was closing all the windows when I could hear the squall line, roaring through the valley to the west of us and charging up the hill. I looked out the west window and the sky looked like something out of a Tolkien novel. Jeez and tarnation.
Monsieur came upstairs. “I have three pads made up in the basement,” he was saying; then I couldn’t hear him as the house shook from the near miss of a lightning strike. He leaned over and shouted, “Downstairs. Get the baby. Go to the basement.”
I ran downstairs to the bedroom and, carefully picking up the sleeping Littlest Boy, I wrapped him up in the blankets and took him to the basement. I just got him settled and covered without waking him up. Monsieur came in with Middlest Boy under one arm, and Bigglest Boy was stumbling his way down the stairs, carrying his shoes. Monsieur had another flashlight in one hand and a box of supplies.
“What do we do now?” asked Bigglest Boy as Middlest Boy got tucked in.
“We wait here,” said Monsieur, “until the first storm cell passes.” There was some whimpering of protest from Bigglest Boy, which was shot down by a stern look from his daddy.
I held him for a second and said, “This is the safest place, sweetheart. A storm like this could break the windows upstairs; we don’t want you to get cut by broken glass.”
Bigglest Boy pulled away; then he leaned up against me. “What about tornadoes?” he asked.
“They’re very dangerous, too,” I said, somewhat evading the point of his question.
“Is this a tornado, Peppermint[1]?” Bigglest Boy asked, persistent as usual. Monsieur was going through the dirty laundry in the basement.
I held him tighter. “We’ll find out when it’s over, okay? The only way to know is to go outside, and that’s even more dangerous than being upstairs right now.”
“What about the animals? The chickens? Mister Frank[2]?” asked Bigglest Boy.
“They know what to do,” I replied, hoping to sound convincing.
“I’ll get Frank,” said Monsieur, pulling a dirty pair of jeans on and putting on heavy lace-up work boots. “I am going out to pull the van into the garage. Mister Frank will, sans doute, run into the house and hide under the furniture as soon as I will open the door, I would allow.”
I bit my lip, trying not to argue with him[3]. “Be careful,” I said, and then immediately regretted it because it sounded so ridiculously melodramatic.
“Good idea,” he replied, damn him; then the basement door closed and he was gone.
I told Bigglest Boy the story of how I used to play in our storm cellar back in Kansas and get in trouble for it; I didn’t tell him that the storm cellar was where I first kissed a boy. Rather, the boy kissed me. The boy in question practiced a form of kissing that seemed like he was trying to catch flies in my mouth with his tongue. I was repulsed at the time, but didn’t know enough to know he was a clumsy idiot. I really thought that’s what “deep kissing” was at the time.
I heard a “thump” that startled me, but then I realized it was only the garage door closing on the other side of the wall next to us. A few moments later Monsieur was coming down the basement stairs.
“Crisis is over, unless I am very much mistaken,” he said.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
Bien, it looks like the rotation never really formed. Come, boy, to help me put the shoes and clothes away. Aunt Peppermint will replace the other ones in their beds.”
“Yes, papa.” “Yes, Monsieur.”
I was upstairs putting Middlest Boy back in his bed[4] when I heard the hail coming down. I looked out the window, but could only see a little of it. It was pea-sized and sounded like popcorn kernels were being poured on the roof of the henhouse.

Back downstairs, I was getting undressed and was going to rinse off in the shower. The thunder was still rolling in the distance, rather like a dog with relationship issues that didn’t want to lose a barking argument. “And another thing…” it seemed to rumble.
A sudden >Boom< and I damn near leapt right out of my socks. The lights flickered out and came back on. I forwent the shower, slipping naked into bed, waiting for Monsieur so I could plead with him for sex.

[1] The boys call me by my nickname, Peppermint.

[2] The cat.

[3] What is it about dangerous, freakish weather – blizzards, ice storms, pea-soup fog, hail, locust infestations, plagues, tornadoes, or hurricanes – that makes men want to Go Outside and Run Errands?

[4] Who hadn’t even open his eyes the whole time; that kid could sleep through the bombing of Dresden and wake up at dawn wanting breakfast.


Cardman said...

Having been born and lived my whole life in California, I am severe thunderstorm challenged. I have experienced a few storms, but nothing like what you describe. I would love to see what it's like though just the same.

Glad everyone made out ok. So did your plead succeed?

introspectre said...


Growing up in Michigan, I have seen enough tonados to last a lifetime. Now I live next to an ocean.

Hurricanes? I'll be in Michigan if one comes this way.