I ran a couple of errands this afternoon, stopping by WalMart and the college, where I carried some copies of the annual litmag to the library (sparing the Spawn a bit of exertion) and handed the new shipment of Berries CDs to Justin. It had begun to rain when I left the store, and dampened me fairly well at the college. I made it into the house and down to the den, and had just let the Hound of the Basketballs out when my phone had a conniption.
I received a text that Mondoville was under a tornado warning so TAKE COVER RIGHT NOW DAMMIT! About a second later, the sirens downtown (approx. half a mile from here) went off, and not quite simultaneously, the Spawn calls me from the special collections vault at the college library.
“Dad, there’s a tornado warning!”
“Yeah, I know — I got a text and I hear the sirens.”
“Are you in the laundry room?”
Actually, I was standing half in the den, half on the patio, trying to get the dog to come back in, but I didn’t really think explaining that would be productive, so I said “I’m about to be,” and then the phone chirped again, this time from Mrs. M. The dog, meanwhile, is ambling away from me, toward the end of the patio. I’m calling the dog as I mash virtual buttons on the phone: “Jasmine, damn it — hello?”
MRS. M: “There’s a torna–”
ME: “I know. I got a text, [Spawn] called, and I hear the sirens. I’m trying to get the dog.”
MRS. M: “Are you in the laundry room?”
ME: “Not yet, but maybe once I get off the phone I can work on that.”
MRS. M: “OK — bye.”
After applying some harsh language to the Hound, she comes into the house, and wanders into a different section of the downstairs. After a brief chase and a few scattered treats, I scoop her up and we make it through the laundry room, which has a window, and to the adjoining furnace room (or as I call it, “the deceased hobo storage facility and curing room”, but that’s not important right now), which is below grade and windowless, with cinder-block walls and a concrete floor. I closed us both in there, grabbed a folding chair, sat down, and wondered if anything interesting was going to happen.
I’m not making fun of any of this, mind you. But I didn’t feel especially frightened, either; I had done what I could do, gone to the safest spot in the house, and even brought the dog with me. I knew the girls were in equivalently secure positions. While Dr. Johnson is almost certainly right that the prospect of being hanged in two weeks concentrates one’s mind powerfully, I found a certain serenity in knowing that little I might do in the next few minutes would matter. There were larger forces at work.
I saw a mousetrap had been set off, but there was no evidence that anything had been caught, and I wished whatever critter had triggered it well. The Hound stood next to me — she didn’t seem particularly troubled, but she didn’t lie down, either. I couldn’t blame her; the concrete floor didn’t seem terribly inviting. Honestly, the folding metal chair wasn’t exactly the Ritz-Carlton either, but I still had power. I could hear the AC unit, but not the sirens.
My phone beeped; Mrs. M wanted everyone to check in. The Spawn said she was fine. I said I was dead, but the upside was that they didn’t have to worry about feeding the Hound, as she would feast on my entrails. And so we texted back and forth like that until the college emergency message system announced an all clear. The Spawn came home from work a few minutes later, pleased that she got paid to lie on a comfortable sofa in the library basement for an hour. Mrs. M arrived a few minutes later. She said “We were told that [an official] had ‘released the teachers,’ so I came on home.”
“That’s good,” I said, “but I hadn’t even known you were being held hostage.” The dog offered no comment.
And how was your afternoon?