Chapter 1 In Progress

I didn’t wake up this morning thinking I would take someone’s life. I woke up thinking about the smudge on the kitchen linoleum.

But that was before the tornado. Tornados change things.

I look up into the tree nearest me, the tree in my front yard, the tree I parked my truck under every day, the tree a truck now appears to be attempting to climb and failing, the tree that now creaked with every sway breeze. It’s limbs were splintered, odd looking now with unnatural lengths and bizarre angles.

This can not be real, I think. I feel utterly detached from my body as if I’m ether or vapor.

I stand up and approach a truck that looks like mine. It is mine, I realize. I know that inside of the truck is my best friend. I know she is dead because her head is gone. I can see that a limb from the tree has erased her face. Her name was Sunny.

The glide up to the truck in the tree. I float myself up the pile of limbs and debris the truck is resting on to reach through the shattered back seat window. Sunny’s purse upside down on the seat. I take it. In its place I shove my purse. I lean forward toward the front window which is also shattered out. I take off my ring, the ring my husband gave me 18 years ago and pick up Sunny’s lifeless hand. I try not to notice the blue tint of her skin or the blood that is drying on her arm. I look away as I slide the ring over her knuckle. I then let myself slide down from the truck and float back to the curb and sit down with Sunny’s purse.

Rain begins to fall. I can feel it cool and wet against my face. It is light and pleasant in an odd way. I pull the purse a little closer to me.

A flapping noise catches my attention, drawing it away from the sad sound of the water line behind me and the worried calls of a woman down the street looking for Henry. I looked up to see a piece of linoleum caught in the broken branches of the tree across the street. The tree that once hid the house of my neighbors the Heshers. The house that I had always wished we would have bought because of the charming front porch and the big deck in the rear.

That was all gone now. The house and the deck.

I stand up, feeling my body for the first time in what seemed hours. I look down. My shoes are stained with drops of blood. My jeans are ripped above the knee on my right leg and the open seam oozes a bloody dark color. I feel no pain. That seems wrong somehow. It doesn’t matter, I tell myself. I reach down and pick up the purse beside me, put it over my shoulder and walk toward the flapping linoleum.

“Henry!” The voice is loud now.

I look up into the open sky and the openness comes crashing in on top of me as I feel the absence of the houses and trees in what once was my neighborhood. The world seems so huge in this moment, as if it the sky expanded, ran wild past its boundaries and swallowed up all the houses and trees and people into its dimension.

I reach up to grab the linoleum shred out of the tree, but it is beyond my fingertips even when stretch to the limit of my tiptoes. As I reach, the purse slides down my arm and catches in the crock of my elbow. I hike it back up again and fall back onto my heels still looking up. The breeze moves the linoleum just enough so I can see the smudge nestled neatly where two lines in the pattern merge. “Damn it,” I say. The spot mocks me as though I were Lady MacBeth. I jump up, reaching with everything I have. I miss. “Fuck,” I say.

“Hennnnrrrry!” The voice is breathless now.

“Henry’s dead,” I yell back. “The fucking tornado ate him!”

The fucking tornado ate my life, I think.

And then I smile.