Severe Weather Warning (1995)

This work first appeared in the August, 1995 issue of Suffusion.

All day long the weather had turned, slowly, about an invisible axis somewhere near the Target store in the middle of town. The calm, cool, westerly air of morning became muggy, rough, easterly, sometime late in the afternoon. I am on the phone when the four tones sound. Channel Forty-Two flashes a severe weather warning during The Simpsons. What began as a Thunderstorm Watch in the eastern third of the state has become a Severe Weather Warning. I look out the window at the sky: pink and green and low, reflecting the silence of the squirrels and crows, who are ominously absent from the north yard.

During the first advertisement, sometime around seven-ten, the sky opens over the city. Curtains of rain, thrashed ragged by the wind, burst in squalls through the open windows I’m rushing to close. The odor: wet dusty bug screens and fresh-cut lawns. I have to turn up the sound on my vintage portable TV, until it becomes harsh and tinny. Tom makes coffee. He leans against the kitchen counter, thumbing through the photos of our Spring Break trip to New Orleans. He keeps the photos in order, always sending the top photo to the back.

Then it becomes the first official summer storm, with a Tornado Watch for half a dozen counties, including Lancaster. The Channel Forty-Two meteorologist interrupts The Simpsons with his Doppler Radar graphics and Tornado Readiness Checklist and we know, he’s not kidding folks, this kind of weather is very dangerous and please seek cover immediately by going right away to the basement or a low ditch but don’t forget your battery-powered radio and for God’s sake don”t try to drive anywhere. Tom and I step out onto the porch with our coffee cups to watch the sky boil and flash. Louise and Scott, our unmarried neighbors to the west, are also on their porch, cheering the fireworks in the north sky. With every good flash of lightning they cheer: Wooo-hoo.

Janice and Christy, the ex-Californian students who live above us, come downstairs with a transistor radio, asking, Can we go down into your basement? Tom pours them coffee and we stand at the edge of the rain line on the porch, watching the sky. Rrrrrain, says Tom, in a growl, to remind me of New Orleans. I laugh to myself, as the air rattles with a nearby roll of thunder. Wooo-hoo.