Wednesday, October 19th 2016 – 5:49 pm
“I said shut the fuck up!” my dad screamed.
“You said no screaming or hitting!” I insisted.
“I said… !”
“No! Go faster or we’ll die!”
“Stop it! I’m trying to get us home alive, goddammit!” he checkmated our panicked excuse for an impromptu argument.
Mom was crying and trying not to scream, fidgeting in the front passenger seat. But she still had the simmering confidence of a woman who had drawn the line. She had the twice broken promise renewed a final time just days previous at the battered women’s shelter in Rolla, North Dakota.
“Everybody be quiet and do what your father said!” she tried to assure us.
Now they both were in charge. At least it looked and sounded slightly more like it.
We all stared helpless through the two leftside windows of our dull green ’73 Impala one more time and the tornado bearing down the field at us was finally swallowed up in our vision by the greatest deluge we’d ever yet seen. And we’d already had over 4,500 miles underneath us, running away from our own wake of trauma across the country.
Dad slammed the brakes even further, as we could not see more than a few feet in front of the car, even with the wipers on high. Mom was comforting my baby brother Prescott and his three year old wail had finally, falsely fallen into a satisfied whimper. Ignorance is not always bliss, but ever inches us to the false abyss. Only four out of five even knew they might die that night. The same as every night.
I kept staring at my brother Paul’s window. The tornado that dominated the horizon for minutes was enveloped in the grayish brown, solid walls of water. Then the lightening struck and we saw it once again, clearer and closer. It was devouring row after row of dirt and vomiting them a hundred yards in the air. It was sentient and had designs on our car and those trapped within. The promise of future violence met with even more force than men can measure.
My dad was straining for control as fast as one might, chained to his third and final promise to God and man and woman to never hit her again. The horizon was littered with the almighty punctuation marks and fiery syntax. The bolts of lightening struck closer.
“Keep your hands away from the doors!” my mom warned all of us several times, to make sure it registered.
Then she started praying.
She prayed that we would make it home alive. She prayed that if we survived, we might dare call one more altered state home.
The storms are less predictable now and are becoming one.
They no longer start or end and I can’t see through the rain like I used to.
I miss the seasons. I missed a whole and holy season. It was stolen, usurped by the slumber of a far too advanced winter.
I’m diving and driving headlong into another month of infinite Falls and I never had the luxury of those precious few years.
The winds are angrier than before. The windows are rattling and threatening to fail. The tires tire of spinning and promise to wind us all to a dangerous crawl.
My father is dreaming of his final storm, unholy and wholly raging in a world the size of a twisting memory. The North Dakota tornado still chases the loose tatters of family, forever crying and forgiving on an infinite loop. How much of the storm does dad still remember?
How much do I?