We spent the afternoon under a tornado watch, with rotation popping up here and there. I had cautioned my sixteen-year-old son, Genius, that if I shouted at him to go to the basement, he was to go. Immediately. He agreed absentmindedly, absorbed in Black Ops or some other murderous game on his XBox.
When we lost the satellite signal, I grew restless. No radar. No forewarning. The trees had been doing an intermittent swirly dance. A wall cloud formed out the front window, and I hollered at Genius to get to the basement. He came right out of his room and joined me at the top of the basement steps, just inside the front door of our house. He was jabbering that I was too cautious, and I was responding that I'd rather be safe than sorry. Seriously. It's not like I was sending him to a medieval dungeon to be stretched on the rack. Our basement has all the amenities of home. Big-screen TV, couch, chairs, pool table, bathroom, office, workshop, piano, Wii, electric fireplace, Christmas tree...
Genius was right behind me, doing that little thing where he communicates his superior knowledge to me by moving his hand like a puppet mouth, and saying meh, meh, meh in a sing-songy manner. Just then, we heard a clang and scraping and a thud. I thought Genius was going to elbow me out of the way going down those basement stairs.
We rounded up The Pony from his nest on the couch, and headed into Hick's safe room. He had it built special when we constructed our house. It is under the breakfast nook, which means it's shaped like half a stop sign. The walls and ceiling are concrete, with a solid metal door. Don't go thinking Hick was starting his own Fort Knox, or forming a panic room for his wife and two young children. Nope. The original purpose was to make a secure place for his gun collection. Now, the room is filled with Hick's treasures. Glass cases bought at auctions house a myriad of metal collector cars, like Big A Auto Parts truck banks, and glass-fronted shadow-boxes filled with pocket knives adorn the walls, with rows of special shotgun shells all lined up. Dangling pocket watches drape over shelves, like Salvador Dali afterthoughts. A couple of guns lie behind a cheap roll-top desk. Then there's a barber chair, a tiny violin in a case, Jane and Johnny West figures, and a big pair of silver shears.
Genius surveyed the situation.
Well. So much for staying away from glass.
Yeah. We'll be found with collector cars embedded in our intestines.
It looks like we're all set for the apocalypse.
I think that's what he's planning for.
I'm going to lock this door.
NO! Then the rescuers won't be able to get to us.
Meh, meh, meh.
Quit it! You could at least play the world's smallest violin for me.
I think I'll do just that.
I don't hear it.
It's not making any sound.
Your horsehair is loose. It looks like it's just strung on a stick from the yard.
Knowing Dad, that's probably what he did. No. Here's the problem. It's not strung tight. It sags against the stick.
Look. It even has a chin rest.
(Genius tried to put the tiny violin under his goateed chin. The effect was much like a fat man in a little coat.)
Stop fiddling around.
Aren't YOU funny. I'm going upstairs to check on the weather.
Genius reported that the cloud was gone, winds were calm, and there was rain. I went upstairs to investigate. Genius and I stepped out onto the porch. A metal yard chair that had been sitting in front of his bedroom window had been flipped and blown twenty-five feet across the front porch, coming to rest under the living room window. Thus, that initial sound when we went underground.
When the yard chair talks, Genius listens.