Summer Storms

I looked out the front door up at the sky. While there was still a pocket of sunshine, it was quickly fading. The clouds were dense-solid at the center-and they were gulping, hopelessly, the small corner of sunlight.

“Audrey, what are you doing?” My mom stood near the doorway, her hands at her hips.

“Nothing,” I replied, forcing an innocent smile.

“Quit looking out the window. It’s going to be fine.”

Before turning away, I caught a glimpse of the sky turning to a sickening shade of green, like the color of the outside landscape through a tinted train window.

“It’s going to be fine. It’s going to be okay.” I repeated this three times to myself as I walked towards the kitchen. My brother was calmly sprawled out on the family room couch, watching TV. My mom was cooking dinner-salad and chicken. I sat down on one of the barstools at the kitchen island.

“Why don’t you do something fun,” my mom suggested.

“Like what?”

“I don’t know. Maybe read a book. Just sitting here worrying isn’t going to do you any good.”

“I know.”

Just then I heard the ring of a TV, a sound much like a phone left off the hook too long. It was a sound I knew all too well. I rushed into the family room.

“The National Weather Service has issued a tornado watch for Cook County. Please turn to channel four for more information.”

The words displayed on the screen read like a death sentence. Before it was too late, I knew I had to be prepared. I flew up the stairs, my dog nipping at my heels. She obviously thought it was time to play.

“Audrey!” my mom yelled angrily behind me, but I ignored her.

“Okay, what do I need?” Opening my closet, I found my old duffle bag. I quickly grabbed as many clothes-from pajamas to t-shirts to jeans-as would fit. With each new item, I could see the seams on the side of the bag ripping more and more. Every time a day like today happened, more cotton strings floated away like dandelion seeds from the bag. I wished on these seeds to make it all go away, but it never did. The strings weren’t dandelion seeds, and the weather couldn’t appease my fears.

Finished with my duffle bag, I went downstairs to the basement and safely placed it atop one of the couches.


“There is not going to be a tornado. There will be no tornado. A tornado is not going to come. We are not going to have a tornado.” I relaxed a little, temporarily convinced of my safety. However, I could not keep my hands from shaking.

Satisfied with my preparations so far, I went to go find my mother in the kitchen. Hearing my footsteps, she looked up from her cookbook.

“Honey, relax. This is silly.”

“It’s not silly. I’m just trying to be prepared. Any new information?”

“No.” My mother turned her head and returned to her cooking.

“Jake, can you please turn off the TV?”

I couldn’t bear the thought of hearing that awful noise again.

“Jake?” Mindless images reflected off his forehead as he stared at the television. My voice would not disturb him. I walked closer.

“Jake!”

“What?!” he growled.

“Don’t be mad at me. You wouldn’t answer.”

“What do you want?”

“Could you turn off the television please?”

“Why?” Now Jake was really annoyed.

“Because…”

He interrupted me. “Because of the stupid tornado watch? God, Audrey!”

“Jake, come on!”

“Come on what? You’re being stupid!”

“Jake,” my mom interjected, “don’t call your sister stupid.”

“It’s just a tornado watch.”

Suddenly, that horrible dial tone came on the television again.

“I can’t hear this; I just can’t.” Plugging my ears-a pathetic child- I ran into the living room and sat down by the computer. “Okay…bookmarks…Illinois weather,” I muttered, fumbling with the mouse. On the screen read the following, “Tornado watch for….Cook County until ten pm.”

I drew out my breath and looked at my watch. It was five o’clock. How could I possibly wait another five hours?

“Honey, are you okay?” My mother came in to check on me.

“Yeah,” I replied absentmindedly. Planning for the worst, I ran back upstairs to make sure if there was anything else that needed saving. Grabbing some books, jewelry, and stuffed animals, I packed these items into bags and headed for the basement. Taking out Jane Eyre, I began to read. I was not leaving the basement until ten.

“It’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay. It is going to be okay.” But my normally satisfying compulsion failed me. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get those images out of my head. Images of a jet black sky with monstrous winds forming from beneath the clouds. With glowing eyes, that monster would rip by, pulling trees from their roots and roofs from my neighbors’ houses. My knee was bouncing up and down uncontrollably, my hands were shaking, and I was biting my bottom lip so hard, I could taste blood.

“Audrey? What are you doing in the basement?” I heard my mom call from the basement doorway.

“I’m staying in the basement till the watch is over.”

“What? Why?! Honey, it is going to be fine. Come out.”

“No. I’m fine down here.”

“Audrey, really.”

Now I was becoming angry, hurt by her patronization. Getting up from the couch, I crossed the basement floor and climbed the first few steps.

“I’m not coming out. What if there is a tornado?”

“Audrey.” My mom rolled her eyes. “There is not going to be a tornado.”

“Just because we have never had one doesn’t mean we never will.”
“Even if we did have a tornado, we would be fine. And what good is it doing you to sit down her in the basement worrying?”
I wasn’t listening. I just pointed an accusing finger, “You pinky-swore. You pinky-swore that this wouldn’t happen. You pinky-swore we wouldn’t have a tornado!”

“We haven’t had one!” Now my mom was frustrated.

“But we could! We could! We could! There is a tornado watch! Look at the sky!”

My mom was about to speak, but the crackling of thunder interrupted her.

“Ah!” Plugging my ears, I ran back downstairs and cowered on the couch.
How stupid was I? How silly. A tornado watch, that’s it. To most people, that would have about as much significance as finding spoiled milk in the fridge, just a minor disturbance in their day. Even if someone was afraid of the clouds and the sky, he wouldn’t waste an entire day imagining catastrophe. But I did. I wasted days and days. I had never been in a tornado once in my life, but every time the sky darkened just a bit or the clouds formed mangled images, my day became consumed by fear.

OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. That is what the doctor called it. Passed down the family line, from mother to daughter, getting worse with each subsequent generation. When I was born, I not only received blue eyes and poor teeth but this disorder, packaged with an obsession with the weather.

Secretly, in the back of my mind, I wished for a tornado. I prayed for one. Then maybe I could have my life back. Lying on the couch, I felt tired, exhausted. All the worry was wearing me out, like heavy steps on a battered old rug. I was tired, just so tired of it all. The doctor told me to fight it, but fighting was hard. My worries weren’t fog that would eventually fade or curtains I could brush away. Fighting wasn’t easier but was it better?
After thinking for a few minutes, I made a decision. Slipping off the couch, I carried myself upstairs. Walking into the kitchen, I found my mom finishing up dinner. She smiled.

“Ready to eat?” she asked.

I nodded.

“Jake! Dinner’s ready!” my mom called.

My teeth were chattering a bit, but I was doing alright…until about halfway through dinner, I froze. In the distance, the ringing of siren bells could be heard. Tornado warning.

“It’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay,” I repeated to myself.

“Well, I guess we have to go into the basement,” my mom said calmly. “Don’t worry, Audrey.” She glared at me. Then she left to get our dog Bailey. But I couldn’t move.

“Audrey. Audrey! Come on!” Jake called to me.

Drawing out my breath, I managed to move once more and climbed downstairs. My mom shut the door and the three of us sat down on the couch, knocking over my duffle bag.

“What’s this?” Jake asked accusingly.

“Nothing. Just some clothes.”

Jake rolled his eyes.

“Shh.” My mom had turned on the television and was listening to the weatherman. “Looks like if it comes, it will come in the next ten to fifteen minutes.

My blood was rushing through my body, running a race and stomping my heart. My heart hurt as I ran my fingers through my hair and rubbed my eyes. This was it. What would I do?

A few minutes later, a hard crash came and the next thing I knew, the lights went out. Grabbing onto my mother’s arm, I clung to her. I could hear the winds howling outside and the sirens blaring. They sang a mournful song of call-and-answer as I tried to fight the fear.

But with not even enough time to tell myself “It’s going to be okay” three times, it was over. The sirens stopped and the song ended. We waited for awhile in the basement listening to the radio. We found out the tornado, barely an F1, had passed, having touched down somewhere in town and leaving minimal damage.

I laughed lightly to myself as Jake, my mom, and I went back upstairs. I went to the window, still shaking, and looked up at the harmless blue temporarily losing the fight against the black. But blue always won eventually.

There was still a tornado watch and a storm, and I could still feel that fear, but I said to myself, “It’s going to be okay.” One time. That is it. Not three times and no repeats. The next morning, I went into the basement, took out my clothes, and threw away my old duffle bag.





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