Another spring storm gathers momentum, announcing itself with a bold, deep voice from miles away. Wind gusts through the open window, challenging the fan blade to try and resist spinning faster. Soon, lightning strobes like a discotheque in the black post-midnight sky. My mother lies on her back in the dark, listening to the thunder. My father snores. She wonders which is keeping her awake.
A clatter as close as my father's breath shivers the window panes. The curtains twist and billow in the rushing wind, panicked and confused, not knowing which way to turn. My mother thinks about tornadoes. My father snores. She wonders which is keeping her awake.
Tornadoes. Does she hear one? She listens. My father's erratic snoring confuses the situation. My mother wishes he would hush. For a moment he does. Then she pensively waits for him to suck in hard, drawing oxygen back into his lungs, her fist ready to give his shoulder a shove should he need restarting. His motor cranks. She gets back to listening. The wind's whine intermingles with my father's fitful breathing. She wishes she could sleep.
My father snores.
To distract herself from the raging weather and my father's obliviousness, she formulates her disaster plan, starting with how she will possibly awaken my father if tornado-gale winds cannot. She imagines the two of them carefully descending the steps in the inky darkness to the first floor. The closet beneath the stairs is their safe-place. My mother keeps a jug of water and a few expired valium in the corner, essentials for survival in a claustrophobic space with a chronic snorer, in case the house comes down on them and it takes several days for me to travel the five miles from here to there and dig them out.
Sustained lightning joins with an ongoing, deafening drill of thunder. It invades her carefully orchestrated plans. She strains to detect any sign of whirlwind, such as witches on bicycles spinning past the window. The wind howls, but it doesn't whistle or moan, so she continues, in her mind, toward the closet. My father snores.
My mother gasps. Folding chairs and a card table and Tupperware and necessities without homes have expanded to the width, depth and height of the space. A tornado won't pause for her to make room for them to climb in. My father inhales, a snorting, choking gurgle, startling my mother. Either envy or annoyance eats at her. She wonders which is keeping her awake.
Other options surface. She could shove my daddy in as far as he'll go then dive in on top. But that doesn't seem reasonable at their age. The crawlspace under the house would offer protection. But she's told everyone they'll be in the closet. They could lay down in a low place in the yard. But she imagines them running around the lawn arguing about which spot is the lowest.
She can think of no good substitute for the closet. My father snores.
The storm passes and the 6 a.m. alarm blares and my father emerges from an alternate consciousness, unaware of how narrowly he escaped catastrophe. My mother declares that they won't get into a scrape like that again. She plans to clean out the closet after breakfast.
Clouds clear and the sun shines and birds sing. My father goes to work. My mother goes to her garden. The day gets on with itself. Night comes. My mother lays awake thinking about impending tragedy and the closet she didn't clean. My father snores. She wonders which is keeping her awake.
(Lucy Adams is the author of Tuck Your Skirt in Your Panties and Run. She lives in Thomson. E-mail Lucy at email@example.com.)