I woke slowly the next time, coming up warily from another blank dream and finding—space—next to me. Then, oh—Sally was gone. Lynnie was there sleeping solidly, but Sally was gone. I got up and went to the bathroom and then found her sitting on the couch with Fuzzhead, drinking coffee and looking at the Weather Channel.
“Hey, there,” Sally said. “Sleep well?”
“I did, pretty much,” I said. “I felt—safe.”
“I feel better, too,” Sally said. She pointed at the TV. “Your tornado last night hit the dogfood factory.”
“Oh, good!” I looked at the TV but didn’t see video of the stupid dogfood factory, just a bald meteorologist drawing a bold line on a map from central Oklahoma, though Weirton, and on up into Missouri.
“We’re going to get hit today, too,” Sally said. “Torcon 8—it only happens a few times a year.”
Sally put down the TV remote and hugged Fuzzhead tight. She looked at me. “I think we’re all going to be okay.”
It took me a moment to realize she was talking about last night—about what we did, the murder or whatever—and not about any tornados. It wasn’t that I had forgotten shooting Ted, exactly, but the weather on the TV seemed much more real and important. I said, “Oh, of course!”
Sally nodded. “You need to take me home so I can get ready for work.”
I got up and found a pair of khaki shorts and put them on. Sally got her phone and cigarettes and keys and wallet—she held her stuff in one hand, and held up my underwear with the other. She noticed me watching her. She said, “Dude, you’re fat.”
In the garage the bag with our dirty clothes was still sitting there, along with the bucket holding my pistol and Ted’s car keys and wallet and phone. I was going to have to do something about all that. What the hell. I got behind the wheel. Sally was already in the car and she leaned over and kissed me on the cheek, cheerful.
“Yeah!” I said. “It’s a good day!”
I hit the button to open the garage door and backed out into bright sunshine. We drove down along the edge of town to Sally’s house. There didn’t seem to be much storm damage—a few branches down, and the Pray to Me and I will HEAL THIS LAND billboard by Chrissy’s had been flattened. I drove on across some old railroad tracks and around a block to Sally’s house and pulled into the driveway behind her car.
Sally leaned over again and kissed me—oh, soft and close and tasting of coffee and wet flesh and I pulled her tight and put my hand on her warm starburst tattoo. Then she broke back and I took a deep breath.
“Yeah,” Sally said. “I need to get out of your pants and off to work.”
“I’d like that….” The pants part, I meant.
“See you this afternoon?”
“I don’t teach today,” I said. “I’m taking the fucking day off.”
“Lazy!” Sally opened the car door and started to get out.
“I’ll text you,” I said.
“Don’t worry about anything!” Sally shut the car door and made her way up the steps—clumsy, holding the waistband of my underwear—and unlocked her door. She looked back and smiled at me, then disappeared inside.
When I got back home I found Lynnie on the couch with Fuzzhead eating cold pizza.
“I woke up and thought you’d left me,” Lynnie said.
“I’ll never leave you.” Then I thought of the aborted job at Midwestern. I would have left her if I’d had the chance. “Well—morally, at least.”
“I guess that’s reassuring,” Lynnie said. She nodded at the TV. “Two people got killed up by the dogfood factory.”
“Damn,” I said. I got a Coke and sat next to Lynnie and Fuzzhead. Cold pizza—best breakfast, ever.
“I’ve been thinking about Ted’s car,” Lynnie said.
“I say we pick it up tonight and drive it to Kansas City and drop it off somewhere.”
“Okay.” I thought about that. “We could drop it off by a strip club, maybe.”
“There you go! Two hours up, two hours back—we’ll be tired tomorrow, but it’ll be worth it.”
“Okay,” I said. It was a plan, at least.
“And I’ve been thinking about your car, too.”
“You’ve got more herpes blood in that backseat there than I did Nancy’s blood in my car,” Lynnie said. “So you get one of those high-end detail jobs somewhere out of town—maybe Tulsa? Then take it on down to Fort Worth or Dallas and sell it at one of those cash for cars places.”
“Yeah, but I’ll lose money….”
“Sure—but then we’ll go over to my dad’s dealership and he’ll get you a great deal on a used Toyota.”
I thought about that. Get rid of my car in Fort Worth or somewhere, dispose of the pistol and the clothes and everything along the road between here and there.
“Okay,” I said. “That’ll work.”
Lynnie said, “We’re a team.”
I settled back on the couch and stared at the TV. More radars showing not much going on. Video of tornado damage in Sedan—the town hit pretty hard, though the stupid clown museum survived. Fucking Kansas. I closed my eyes.
“Don’t fall asleep,” Lynnie said. “You need to drive me home to get ready to go teach.”
“Yeah,” I said. I stood up heavily. I slept well but I was exhausted again, ready to go back to bed. “Jesus. I’m going to sleep all afternoon.”
“That’s what Sally said.”
“Yeah,” Lynnie said. “That girl likes you.”
Out in the garage we turned on all the lights and went through the car’s back seat. The old blanket took most of the blood spatters, but there was blood on the backs of the front seats—and on the roof, too.
“It’s not terrible,” Lynnie said. “But you still ought to get rid of the car.”
I nodded. “It’s time.”
We drove back to Lynnie’s house in the bright warm sunshine. In the vacant lot next to Chrissy’s a video crew was taking footage of the flattened HEAL THIS LAND billboard—the loss of the billboard cheered Lynnie—and it looked like at least a dozen storm tracker vehicles were lined up in the Chrissy’s parking lot for breakfast. I drove past the hospital and around a bend and dropped Lynnie off at her house—Fist bump! Soulmates!—and I watched her scamper up the steps, like Sally with part of her butt showing. Sugar was jumping around in the window, happy to see her.
After I dropped Lynnie off, I went over to the grocery store—the one across the street from the cenotaph for the Unknown Fetus—and picked up a big porterhouse and some sweet potatoes and some frozen peas, and then I swung north to Mocol’s Liquors.
Old Mr. Mocol came to the drive-thru window. He said, “Looks like you’re getting an early start.”
“Taking a mental health day,” I said. “Also maybe a tornado party.”
Mr. Mocol leaned out the window and studied the April sky and nodded. He said, “It might get pretty bad.”
Then I went home and broiled the steak and roasted the potatoes and cooked the peas and had a shot of rum and some beer and watched the Weather Channel until I grew too drowsy, and then I stumbled off to bed and collapsed with Fuzzhead.
The aftermath of an execution is exhausting.
I woke up in the afternoon and the light in my bedroom was—dim. Fuzzhead was curled up next to me. I got my phone off the nightstand and there were a bunch of texts.
From Sally, just before noon.
Tee says Fred’s farm got hit by the tornado last night
Those big dogs are all running loose
Texts from Lynnie, around two o’clock.
TOMMY its getting dark
TOMMY go look outside
There was a rumble of thunder outside.
I got up and went to the front door and looked out. The sky was—green. I’d seen that only two or three times before, green from sunlight filtering through millions of tons of water—rain, hail—suspended in the clouds above, eerie and oceanic. I went out and stood on the steps. No wind. Everything still. A couple of neighbors were out in the driveway, gazing up at the sky. I tried taking a couple of pictures to capture the green.
Then I texted one of them to Lynnie.
The sky is beautiful!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Inside the weather radar showed a big, big line of storms heading toward Weirton from the southwest.
My serious tornado options were the same they had been the night before—nonexistent. I liked my house, but the construction was actually kind of flimsy, and I had no inside rooms to hunker down in. No tornado bunker. Sitting it out was all I could do, and so I grabbed Fuzzhead and put him in the cat carrier—a little extra protection for him, maybe—and plugged my iPad in to charge, and made sure my portable battery and wireless hotspot were charged. Then I grabbed a beer and waited.
Outside the sky grew darker. The town’s tornado sirens went on. Sally texted me.
We’re seeking shelter now—you too!!!!
There were tornado shelters on every floor of Reeb Hall. I texted back
big world/small tornado
A moment later she answered
My phone buzzed again—a weather warning. SEEK SHELTER IMMEDIATELY. I had nowhere to run, so I went back out and stood on the steps. More rumbles of thunder and then I saw a line of wind-driven rain sweep across the open field to my west and it hit me—boom!—and I went inside to stay dry.
I texted Lynnie
The funnel cloud dropped to the ground on North Front Street, taking out the Starbucks, the Sizzler, and the Walmart, killing maybe 14 people. The body count would have been higher, but a quick-thinking assistant manager at Walmart herded people into the meat locker, and they lived. The tornado skipped a bit to the southeast, jumping over the American Legion Hall, but still taking the roof off Mocol’s Liquors (Mr. Mocol and Dan and the other clerks were fine, sheltering in the walk-in). Then it hit the Strip Pit square-on. There were only a few people around on a stormy Wednesday afternoon, but the bartender and the DJ and the dancers and the customers all hid in the keg room and were okay. Two customers went out into the parking lot to look at the storm, and were killed—and in the parking lot every car was sucked up, battered, blown away. Every car.
Me? My power was out for about an hour.