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Possumhaw: One week ago tonight

 

Shannon Bardwell

 

A curtain of darkness fell as we spread blankets and pillows on the floor near the stairway. Sam watched the local news until the satellite cut out. An ominous message came across the screen saying, "Don't call us -- we already know." 

 

Neither of us own a "smart phone," so storm coverage by phone was not an option. I ran for the radio, a real radio, and checked the batteries. Dead. A quick rummage through the battery drawer revealed there were no Cs. I thought I had bought some. As long as we had electricity we'd have the radio. I flipped the stations back and forth between French Camp at Ackerman and Mississippi Public Radio. You have to love MPR for the calm tenor of their voices in the face of storms ravaging the state. 

 

I turned on the computer and listened to staccato conversations from the local television station reporting from their basement. It was obvious information was coming in so fast that no one could keep up or sort it out.  

 

Our smarter daughters living miles away had smartphones and texted as more news came available. I was glad we had cellphones. We leaned back on the wall and listened to the rain and thunder.  

 

"Sam, that sound is different," I said. 

 

The front door had blown open. A sheet of water fell like a waterfall and hail bounced across the porch. "The gutters aren't draining," Sam said.  

 

In the rain he unplugged blockages with a rake. "Acorns," he said. "The gutters are full of acorns." Finally he put the rake away with the hope of cleaning the gutters at a more opportune time. 

 

We returned to the blankets and pillows.  

 

"Hungry?" 

 

"Sure," Sam said. 

 

I was up again, making sandwiches and grabbing a tube of Pringles. "You'll like these pickles, they're sweet." 

 

We ate, we listened, we prayed. We do that. We heard sirens. We prayed some more. We called friends to see if they were OK. Nobody answered. 

 

In time, the satellite returned and the daughters texted the storm had passed us. We gathered up the blankets and pillows and went to bed. I tried to stay awake for the MEMA report on MPR but the report was delayed, so I went to sleep. We'd know more the next day. 

 

At work I saw the photographs and read the news. Everyone was talking about the storm. Doug Dalrymple said he had been in a tornado before, he was 12 and he was still scared. Everyone said they were OK but they knew people, or knew people who knew people, who weren't. More prayers. 

 

Surprisingly, I hadn't been scared though I'd been in a tornado before -- "straight line winds" they said, but they weren't there. A 15-foot path laid the grass down, then lifted. The night had been quiet, then thunderous rains; then the explosion and the roof ripped away, the mobile home buckled. The "I" beam slithered like a serpent. I climbed out, barefoot, in my nightgown. Power lines popped and propane spewed. I prayed.

 

Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.

 

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