It’s a regular Wednesday night and I’m doing my math homework, which I hate. I’m Harriet, a 12-year-old, Topeka Kansas middle school student. I have gnarly blonde locks, that I never brush, and hazel eyes.
“Hurry up! I want to watch TV!” says my sister, Cecilia. She’s the brown-haired Rapunzel with brown eyes and she is 16 years old.
“I’ve just finished my last problem, I’m coming!”
“Let’s settle down for the evening news instead” protests my dad when he sees Cece turn on to “Pretty Little Liars”. The weatherman goes:
“We have had a good tornado season so far, there hasn’t been any activity on the radar, yet. There have been no reported tornadoes this season but we are seeing a high and low front that have about 23% chance of developing just above Topeka. As your local news channel we advise you that if and when the chance of development gets over 30% to start preparations for it. Thank you for watching your local storm weather forecast, and have a wonderful night.”
“The casserole is ready, come and get it!” calls my mom from the kitchen.
“Bing-bong, Bing-bong, SLAP!!” goes our alarm clock. Cecilia and I have shared a room since before I can remember and we always wake up together, but lately she has been shoving me out of the room to do what she calls “teenager stuff”. I don’t understand, what is so private about putting on mascara?
I go to the kitchen and my mom asks,
“How did you sleep, pumpkin?” I respond,
“Fine thanks. Can I have a cheesy omelet?”
“No, sorry but I have to get to work, you can have some cereal.” As I start pouring some cereal into a bowl, Cecilia puts a pastry in the microwave and I ask,
“Are you worried?”
“About the zombie apocalypse, of course about the tornado.”
“No, like the weatherman said, it’s probably going to be nothing” Cecilia responds.
“But what if it is? What will we do? I don’t remember the last tornado we were in.” I reply.
“I’ll tell you later about what it is like in a tornado, but if that thing does develop then we do exactly what they tell us to do. We would gather some supplies and go to our safe place. You should know this, your school has been stuffing that into your head since kindergarten. Oh, the bus is here, I’m taking this pastry to go.”
“But I didn’t finish my breakfast, wait for me!!” I call to Cece as she runs out the door. When I get on to the bus I immediately start looking for where Angelina is sitting, but I can’t find her, so I sit down with this annoying blabbermouth named Robert who is in my science class. Angelina is my BFFL. We have been connected at the hip since the first grade and this year we have all the same classes. Her parents are a little overprotective because she is really daring but she is an only child, so I guess that she is at home going over her “safe spot” with her parents. Back to Robert, he starts:
“Did you decide what you are doing for your science project yet? The entry forms are going to be given out next week. I’m going to do my report on ‘the secret social life of plants’. I once read a study that…..”
“Screech!” go the school bus’ tires, thankfully.
So, now another wonderful day of more work and extra to take home begins.
Its 4:30 in the afternoon, I’ve had a snack and now it is time for Mrs. Crumby’s dreaded math homework. Before I get to my backpack my father calls to us and says:
“Let’s gather for a family meeting!” When Cece and I get to the couch she asks:
“What is it? I have an essay due to Mr. Feldman tomorrow.”
“This isn’t what we were hoping for, but the weather channel has reported that the chance of this developing into something has nearly doubled overnight, from 23% to 40% as of this afternoon. We are going shopping right now so that we can get some stuff before the stores run out. Any questions?”
“Does that mean that I have to come with you, or can I stay and do my essay?”
“That depends if you want any special supplies, if there’s nothing that you need you can stay home.” my dad replies.
“Are you coming Harriet?” my mom asks as she comes back into the room with her purse and the jingling car keys.
“I would go anywhere to avoid math, of course I want to come.” I say, repeating the obvious.
When we get to the store we stop to get one of the last gallon jug of water, and then a few more aisles over we get canned goods.
We aren’t there for long but I have the time to think about what it would be like without a house, or being trapped under the house for that matter. When I asked Cece about it she seemed cool and confident, I could tell that she was trying to convince me that there was nothing to worry about, but everyone in the store seems to be on overdrive trying to prepare for something that we have no control over. Such a powerful force that could change lives in an instant. Cece she doesn’t even remember her first tornado that hit our town when she was just a toddler, but my family lost their first house.
The second one when we lost our house again, I was there for, but I was much too young to remember, I was just an infant and Cecilia was 3 years old, but she remembers that house.
We go to checkout then load the bags into the trunk. You could already see that the sky was getting gray and there was a strong breeze. Is this what it looks like when a tornado touches down?
We drive home, take the stuff out of the car and I start my homework again. I try to concentrate but all of these what if’ questions are swirling in my brain and I can’t help but ditch the homework, go to the bedroom, and cry hysterically.
“We’re going to be homeless, we’re going to die, we’ll be trapped underneath the house and die.” I whisper to myself.
I’d never been in a tornado before, but I’d seen the trails of destruction which they could leave behind, flattening whole neighborhoods. I’m sure that the tornado doesn’t care whose house it’s wrecking, or the people it is trapping in the rubble.
Apparently, I whispered louder than I thought and Cecilia comes into the bedroom and calls to mom,
“Mom, come here now! Harriet is crying about something!” our mom comes into the room, snuggles up next to me and asks,
“Did you get mad about the homework again? I told you, you can ask for Cece’s or my help anytime.” Cecilia interjects,
“She said something about how we are all going to die or something like that.”
“Were you freaked out by all the preparations?” just then dad walks into the room and says,
“Oh Harriet, don’t worry, we’re your parents, we’re supposed to do all the worrying for you so that things like this don’t happen. You’re only 12, just calm down.” Everyone hugs me and mom says,
“It’s ok, everything is fine, let’s watch the news and see if things are getting better or worse, alright?”
“Ok.”, I say weakly. We go to the family room and turn on the news but the weatherman starts,
“The chances have now jumped from 23% to 50% and the Topeka school system has now cancelled school until the weather is safe again. Most likely if you look out your window you’ll see that the sky is gray and if you are outside right now you’ll feel winds of more than 20 miles per hour. Therefore the entire Topeka area is under a tornado watch until further notice and you are all advised to stay inside until the all clear is given. Our radio station will be posting updates on the weather as they come in…..”, and at the end the image and sound get fuzzy. My mom then announces,
“Well, nobody is going to be out of this house until the radio says that it is safe to do so. Until then, Harriet and Cecilia should take their back packs and some pencils into the basement while your dad and I take some board games and the radio downstairs. Are we all in agreement?” Everyone says ‘sure’ or ‘ok’ and then we get to our various jobs.
Now would probably be a good time to tell you about what the basement looks like. It is also my dad’s office/man cave so it has a TV, a mini fridge, and internet but it also has shelves of non-perishable foods and water, extra batteries for the radio and the flashlights if the power goes out, and the couches are also pullout beds when we need them to be. I feel kind of safe in there but there hasn’t been a tornado watch for a long time so I’m not really sure what to do in there.
When I get down to the basement I see my mom preparing some PB&J sandwiches, my sister on the couch listening to her iPod and doing her homework, and my dad on the computer trying to fit in some more work before the power goes out or something. The radio is on and the reception is surprisingly very clear.
I go sit down with my backpack on the other couch and start my math. Ok, let’s start with #1. 6 the 7th power, oh god. A few hours later I am sitting next to the radio while the anchor is saying,
“The chance is still at 50 but there have been no reported tornadoes at this hour.”
Then, the lights go out I my mom says while turning on a flashlight,
“So it begins. Does anybody want a PB&J before I hit the sack?”
She puts batteries in the camping lantern and I say,
“I’ll have one” and Cece continues,
“I could go for something to eat” After an extended chewing session, the peanut butter sticking to the roof of my mouth like glue, I ask Cece:
“Can you tell me about what it was like in the tornado? You promised to tell me this morning”
“Fine I’ll tell you about it”, she responds.
“I don’t remember that much about what it was like in the twister, but I remember a lot of what it looked like after. My crib was across the street, my doggie was nowhere to be seen.” I interject,
“Was the dog a stuffed animal or a real one?” Cecilia continues,
“Yeah, it was a real dog that I had gotten for my third birthday, we had only had Belle for a few months. She was the cutest little beagle you would ever see. I think when we were going to the basement of that house we couldn’t find her and we had to lock the door with her still in the house. We were trapped under the house for three whole days, I think, before the rescue crews found us. You were still a baby and the roller coaster of air pressure had upset you, man did you cry” I jump in,
“Hey, what was baby me supposed to do?”
“I don’t know. I remember we looked through the wreckage to see if there was anything that we could salvage, but not even one stuffed animal of mine had been left. After that we gave up on that land and sold it to someone and got this house. I’m really tired, I’ll tell you more in the morning if you want. Good night.”
The next morning all of us are having milk-less cereal while we listen to the radio. The radio anchor says,” A good morning it is because the tornado warning is off but we still advise you against going outside because there is some explosive rain in the forecast for the next two days. We repeat, you no longer need to stay in your shelters if you have proper housing. More good news is that the electricity will be fixed shortly and there is still no school and most businesses are closed.” Just then, the lights came back on and we all say,
“YES!” We all then go back to watching TV, eating cereal with some milk, and we live our lives indoors until the following Monday when the rain stops.
Cece and I wake up bright and early and we hug before we part for the day. I guess we are both very grateful that we aren’t stuck underneath a house right now or looking into getting a new one. The bus ride to school is more quiet than usual, and it is longer too because of all that rain flooded many of the streets to the point that I think my dad could kayak to work.
Fast forward to my math class, Mrs. Crumby doesn’t even notice that the roof of the classroom is dripping right on her beehive hairdo. If she nods you can see her hair wobbling and everyone in the class has this look on their face as if they are about to burst out laughing. 3, 2, 1, TIMBER! Everyone in the class, including me, just starts laughing hysterically. Mrs. Crumby isn’t pleased by this and says,
“Fine, you all get a 100 problems from page 64 to 74 as home work, and I’m going to grade it!”, everyone immediately stops laughing and you can hear a loud sigh all in unison. In the next period, science, they pass out the science fair entry forms and for the subject of my project I put, twisters.
Tonight I’m going to start researching what causes this twisted wind.
Author’s note: I wrote this short story a few years ago, and though I do not believe its the best of my work, I like how the ending comes full circle. I am currently working on more stories to share and send into the inter-space, so keep tuned.