It was a typical Saturday. I’d been meandering through the house smoking a pipe and carrying a toolbox, trying to look like I was accomplishing something with door hinges or stair rails so my wife wouldn’t give me a real assignment, like digging out the driveway’s drainage pipe or doing battle with the Screaming Peruvian Poison-Spitting Spider population colonizing our crawlspace. Nobody can make abject laziness look as purposeful as I can.
My wife had finished scrubbing all the tile in the house with a toothbrush or disinfecting the insides of all the light bulbs or some such thing—I don’t really pay attention to what women do for fun. She’d finally decided to take a nap, so I took a break from pretend activity and concentrated my full attention on indolence and sloth.
While reclining on the couch, smoking a nice Virginia/Perique blend, I uncharacteristically summoned the energy to shift my eyes and noticed what was happening outside the window. The wind was whipping the trees around and the sky was casting a sickly yellow-green light over the entire outdoors. I made a mental note to take down the deck umbrella if I found myself out there anytime soon.
Then hail the size of Dunhill group four bowls started pelting the window, and I became curious enough to reach for the remote control and turn on the local weather. Doppler radar indicated a line of thunderstorms 15 minutes from the house—thunderstorms that had already generated several tornados. Drat, I thought, I’d better get my pipes downstairs in case the roof gets blown off.
We have a coat closet in the hall that fits snugly under the stairs and acts as our storm cellar in emergencies. The crawl space under the house would probably be safer, but the Peruvian spiders down there have seniority and are not accommodating of visitors. I emptied the closet and then went upstairs to my office, where I gathered about half my pipes into a gym bag before remembering I also needed to save my tobacco. There was little time, but I got the pipes and three cases of aged tobacco into the closet with five minutes to spare and was feeling pretty good about the accomplishment when it occurred to me that I should probably wake my wife.
She was disoriented but sprang immediately from the bed when she heard me say, “Tornado coming in five minutes.” “You get the dogs,” she said. “I’ll get the cats. Where’s Kaitlyn?”
Kaitlyn is our 16-year-old daughter. She was at her boyfriend’s house that day, a situation infinitely more worrisome than any storm. No immediate action could alleviate that and she was on her own.
So we huddled in that little closet in the dark while the storm raged outside—two humans, two big dogs, two angry cats, a bag of pipes and 45 pounds of tobacco. Then an eerie quiet descended and the storm seemed to have disappeared. I’d heard about this—the famed quiet before disaster. There was a flash of light and my wife jumped, but it was just my lighter. “You are not,” she said, “smoking that pipe in here.”
“What? Why not? This is my house, my closet, and I smoke where I like.”
The storm picked up again but eventually passed without damaging our neighborhood. I know because I watched it from the front stoop, locked outside the house, smoking a nice Virginia/Perique blend.