Darkling Skies

Yesterday the weather in central Illinois was interesting, to say the least. The whole day was grey and up till about 4:30 or 5:00 it was also very warm and muggy. Late in the day I told Jeff he was going to have to fix the air conditioning wires that were destroyed by Destructo-Dog and her Boy Wonder because I couldn’t sleep with it like that. He went out and took care of it like a good handy Jeff.

We ran several errands during the course of the day, including a trip to Lowe’s for miscellaneous yard tools and garden implements and a trip to the grocery store for my week’s supply of seltzer water and Propel. We planned a return trip to Target for some camping gear after we went home to get Gab and let Nina take her afternoon nap.

All day the skies threatened. I worried a little about Gab because she was on a field trip to Decatur and it was particularly black in that direction. When she got home she said one of the buses had to pull over because it was raining so hard the driver couldn’t see. The forecast had been for thunderstorms all day. We’re at the tail end of tornado season. Oh yeah, and Krispy Kreme donuts opened here today — my friends in Arizona, if you think it was a big deal in Tempe when it opened, you have no idea how much more Midwesterners like them their donuts. If I was at all tempted to stop in, I was quickly deterred by the ridiculously full parking lot, the ever-present long line at the drive-thru, oh yeah, and the jiggly-ness of the people I could see going in and out. Sorry, but the donuts are not all that and certainly are not worth undoing the work I’ve done over the past few weeks with one or two little scraps of flour, fat and sugar.

So in the midst of that, we made that return trip to Target for camping gear. Jeff is set on a camping trip for Memorial Day weekend. I wanted to go to Boston, but he could not be deterred. We will go bed down in a tent to celebrate Nina’s birthday. I like camping, though, so it will be fine. It ain’t Boston, but it’s something. Anyway, we headed over to Dick’s Sporting Goods first, just to make sure we weren’t missing out on any screaming deals (we weren’t). On the way out of the store, it started pouring. Pouring, like silver dollar sized rain drops and lots of them. Instantly the parking lot had an inch or two of standing water and in fact, the surface looked kind of foggy because of the spray when the drops hit. We, however, have lived here long enough that weather does not turn us away from our goals. We listened to the radio and they said there was a severe thunderstorm warning and a tornado watch. Watch means one hasn’t been spotted yet, for those of you who are not glued to the Weather Channel 24/7.

When we got to Target, Jeff dropped the girls and me off at the door and went to park the car. We were greeted by an employee at the door who told us that they were closed due to a tornado warning — apparently the radio station wasn’t very on top of things — and that we were welcome to go hunker down in their storm shelter. She assured me she would send Jeff my way once he got in from parking the truck. We wound our way through the store to the back, noting the abandoned carts and the strategically placed employees in their red shirts and khaki pants guiding the way. One guy was pierced in every visible place — I imagine in several places that weren’t visible as well. It reminded me of something I heard recently on our morning radio program wherein some comic was remarking on a pierced friend of her son who she had dubbed “Toolbox.” I mean, I have a few piercings of my own, but this guy was sporting some serious hardware. I’m sure he steers clear of magnets. He actually motioned us into the coffin-shaped shelter.

The shelter, such as it was, did not inspire much confidence. Aside from the afore-mentioned coffin-shape, it was covered with a rather flimsy looking tin roof — you know, the kind you see go flying right off into the sky in Twister, when they’re stuck at the drive-in? And it is protected at the far end by a set of double doors — these would be making up the foot of the coffin. In case of tornado, I’m sure they fly right open and eject all the poor saps who think they’ve reached some kind of safe zone. And if they don’t, well, then the roof that is sure to peel up will take care of that. Still, I wasn’t that worried. I figured we had our shitty luck for the year and that a tornado was unlikely to wipe the rest of us out. I didn’t share my back-handed optimism with the fifteen or twenty other souls sharing our space, however.

I realized as I looked around that the stereotypes portrayed in disaster movies are pretty right on. Or at least they were yesterday. There was the large know-it-all type lady who had to pee because she had just finished a coke at McDonalds — hello, too much information! — the kindof alternative Parker Posey type ingenue clutching her Jack Skellington umbrella (we happen to have one of those too, though not with us, of course, when we might need it), the annoyed uptight soccer mom with her 15 year old son barking into her cell phone and whining about leaving before the warning was lifted, the grandma/mom/daugther trio, and of course us, the tragic family. Let’s not forget the peripheral characters who didn’t speak much and were kind of like extras. They would die first, you know. The rednecks, the sadsacks, the normal joe-shmoes. Yes, the gang was all there. Too bad they were with us. We kept anything bad from happening. Today we’ll probably get smashed by a random falling tree or something, just so the universe can laugh at my hubris.

So finally they let us out. We went and had dinner at Taco Bell, which is in the same center, then came back and bought our tent and lanterns. All in all, an interesting day. One thing about living here — the weather is never boring.

Oh yeah, and at the end of the day, I got this great story idea that I’m running with, which means I’m letting myself off the reading deprivation hook. Whew! There’s nothing as pathetic as a junkie without her smack.

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