Advertisement

Hot Tin Roof: Tale of the twister



Hot Tin Roof
Hot Tin Roof is a program to showcase current literary work produced in Iowa City. The series is organized and juried by representatives of three IC-based cultural advocacy organizations: The Englert Theatre, Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature and Little Village magazine, with financial support from M.C. Ginsberg Objects of Art.

By David Duer

The sky was a bruise the color of my wife’s arms after a tough day with the combatives at the nursing home. It was July, when the vegetation grows rank and you don’t even pretend to control it anymore. I’d left early from work, but by the time I got home, Pat had already been on the phone with our neighbor Helen and heard about the sightings. I’m sure the tornado sirens in town were wailing to god-almighty-heaven, but unless the wind’s blowing just right, their mechanical scream won’t carry across the interstate and the two miles farther as the crow flies to our place. Pat and the kids were already hunkered down in the basement — sitting on a pile of blankets between the furnace and the fuel oil tanks, tuning in the staticky weather-eye-spotter reports and playing a desultory game of Monopoly.

Like I said, the sky was a bruise and the wind was picking up. I joined the vigil in the basement, candles and flashlights ready for the inevitable power outage. The weatherman interrupted Bob Seger’s whiskey-soaked wail to announce that a funnel cloud had been sighted five miles west of West Liberty moving in a northeasterly direction. Toward us.
While Pat was sidetracked by the weather report, I crept upstairs and stepped outside. I wanted to see it coming across the fields, ploughing up the corn, twirling a barn or two in the air.

Nothing.

The wind whispered mild obscenities into my ears — Pigsausage! Beefcake! Kittendeath! Sodomy! — and sprinkled me with a parsimonious aspergillum of rain. Nothing more.

Back down in the basement, no one wanted Baltic Avenue. I’ll take it, my own little piece of the pie, my purple corner of heaven, that place just beyond GO. Tornado Alert was being downgraded to Tornado Warning. We went around the board a few more times; Pat and I told tales about the twisters that had gotten away — the ones our granddaddies had tried to outrun, racing up from the barn three leaps in front of a funnel cloud with two pails of milk exploding either side of them — all the famously wacky things that tornadoes do — the telephone pole impaled by the ubiquitous piece of straw, the rowboat firmly moored in the topmost branches of an oak tree. The radio hadn’t given the all-clear signal yet, but heck, they didn’t know where we were. The world seemed quiet outside.

I climbed the stairs to the kitchen and started doing the lunch dishes, watching the rain outside, washing cups and plates, measuring the angle of the rain, the sway of the trees in the windbreak, then the rain flattening out, going horizontal, the trees doing a hula dance, leaves flying by, twigs, then whole green branches, small trees, sheet metal pig sheds tumbling across the fields, billboards from the interstate. Wild absolutions! Hullabaloo! All the summer’s accumulations swept off the back porch. Great day in the morning! The mighty Rock Island Line roaring by. A large moment standing still all around us. Whirling dervishes! The Wicked Witch of the West in drag! Hail Mary, full of grace! There went Miles Davis and John Coltrane! Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker! Janis Joplin and Joan Jett! Shake, Rattle, and Rock this Joint! . . .

When it was all over, we wandered out of the house, mouths agape, wearing the blank stares of survivors striving to comprehend. It was a total mess. The aftermath of some hellacious party. The small garage that’d been built unattached to the house had been picked up, folded into parts, shuffled, and dealt out into a stand of black locusts about fifty yards east of where it had previously stood. All the kids’ bikes that had been in the garage — they were left untouched, still resting on their kickstands. Of the twenty boxes of used books being stored there for the next Friends of the Library book sale, just one had been emptied out, all romance novels. Those bodice busters now littered the cornfield. Tender Harvest, Ripe for the Picking, Rapture in the Hayloft — all these titles will be ploughed under next spring before planting.

The farm a half mile to the east was virtually unscathed. We were just lucky, I guess.

David Duer is an English language arts teacher at Cedar Rapids Washington High School and advisor for the Washington Literary Press. This article was originally published in Little Village issue 199.


[gravityform id="17" title="false" description="false" ajax="true"]
<div class='gf_browser_unknown gform_wrapper your-village-form_wrapper' id='gform_wrapper_17' ><a id='gf_17' class='gform_anchor' ></a><form method='post' enctype='multipart/form-data' target='gform_ajax_frame_17' id='gform_17' class='your-village-form' action='/hot-tin-roof-tale-of-the-twister/#gf_17'> <div class='gform_body'><ul id='gform_fields_17' class='gform_fields top_label form_sublabel_below description_below'><li id='field_17_7' class='gfield gfield_html gfield_html_formatted gfield_no_follows_desc field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible' ><h3 style="font-weight:800; font-size:34px;">Let's get started</h3> <p style="font-size:18px;">Fill out this form and we'll contact you with information about marketing with Little Village!</p></li><li id='field_17_4' class='gfield field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible' ><label class='gfield_label gfield_label_before_complex' for='input_17_4_3' ></label><div class='ginput_complex ginput_container no_prefix has_first_name no_middle_name has_last_name no_suffix gf_name_has_2 ginput_container_name gfield_trigger_change' id='input_17_4'> <span id='input_17_4_3_container' class='name_first' > <input type='text' name='input_4.3' id='input_17_4_3' value='' aria-label='First name' tabindex='2' aria-invalid="false" placeholder='First name'/> <label for='input_17_4_3' >First</label> </span> <span id='input_17_4_6_container' class='name_last' > <input type='text' name='input_4.6' id='input_17_4_6' value='' aria-label='Last name' tabindex='4' aria-invalid="false" placeholder='Last name'/> <label for='input_17_4_6' >Last</label> </span> </div></li><li id='field_17_5' class='gfield gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible' ><label class='gfield_label' for='input_17_5' ><span class='gfield_required'>*</span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_5' id='input_17_5' type='text' value='' class='large' tabindex='6' placeholder='Company name' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false" /></div></li><li id='field_17_3' class='gfield gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible' ><label class='gfield_label' for='input_17_3' ><span class='gfield_required'>*</span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_email'> <input name='input_3' id='input_17_3' type='text' value='' class='large' tabindex='7' placeholder='Your email address' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false"/> </div></li><li id='field_17_8' class='gfield gform_validation_container field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_' ><label class='gfield_label' for='input_17_8' >Phone</label><div class='ginput_container'><input name='input_8' id='input_17_8' type='text' value='' /></div><div class='gfield_description'>This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.</div></li> </ul></div> <div class='gform_footer top_label'> <input type='submit' id='gform_submit_button_17' class='gform_button button' value='SUBMIT' tabindex='8' onclick='if(window["gf_submitting_17"]){return false;} window["gf_submitting_17"]=true; ' onkeypress='if( event.keyCode == 13 ){ if(window["gf_submitting_17"]){return false;} window["gf_submitting_17"]=true; jQuery("#gform_17").trigger("submit",[true]); }' /> <input type='hidden' name='gform_ajax' value='form_id=17&amp;title=&amp;description=&amp;tabindex=1' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='is_submit_17' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_submit' value='17' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_unique_id' value='' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='state_17' value='WyJbXSIsIjlmNzc1YTEyZmZjNmYyODk5Mzk0NDM3ZjRlOGYyZDNmIl0=' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_target_page_number_17' id='gform_target_page_number_17' value='0' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_source_page_number_17' id='gform_source_page_number_17' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' name='gform_field_values' value='' /> </div> <p style="display: none !important;"><label>&#916;<textarea name="ak_hp_textarea" cols="45" rows="8" maxlength="100"></textarea></label><input type="hidden" id="ak_js_1" name="ak_js" value="115"/><script>document.getElementById( "ak_js_1" ).setAttribute( "value", ( new Date() ).getTime() );</script></p></form> </div> <iframe style='display:none;width:0px;height:0px;' src='about:blank' name='gform_ajax_frame_17' id='gform_ajax_frame_17'>This iframe contains the logic required to handle Ajax powered Gravity Forms.</iframe> <script type='text/javascript'>jQuery(document).ready(function($){gformInitSpinner( 17, 'https://littlevillagemag.com/wp-content/plugins/gravityforms-asdf111aasdfffs-nope/images/spinner.gif' );jQuery('#gform_ajax_frame_17').load( function(){var contents = jQuery(this).contents().find('*').html();var is_postback = contents.indexOf('GF_AJAX_POSTBACK') >= 0;if(!is_postback){return;}var form_content = jQuery(this).contents().find('#gform_wrapper_17');var is_confirmation = jQuery(this).contents().find('#gform_confirmation_wrapper_17').length > 0;var is_redirect = contents.indexOf('gformRedirect(){') >= 0;var is_form = form_content.length > 0 && ! is_redirect && ! is_confirmation;if(is_form){jQuery('#gform_wrapper_17').html(form_content.html());if(form_content.hasClass('gform_validation_error')){jQuery('#gform_wrapper_17').addClass('gform_validation_error');} else {jQuery('#gform_wrapper_17').removeClass('gform_validation_error');}setTimeout( function() { /* delay the scroll by 50 milliseconds to fix a bug in chrome */ jQuery(document).scrollTop(jQuery('#gform_wrapper_17').offset().top); }, 50 );if(window['gformInitDatepicker']) {gformInitDatepicker();}if(window['gformInitPriceFields']) {gformInitPriceFields();}var current_page = jQuery('#gform_source_page_number_17').val();gformInitSpinner( 17, 'https://littlevillagemag.com/wp-content/plugins/gravityforms-asdf111aasdfffs-nope/images/spinner.gif' );jQuery(document).trigger('gform_page_loaded', [17, current_page]);window['gf_submitting_17'] = false;}else if(!is_redirect){var confirmation_content = jQuery(this).contents().find('.GF_AJAX_POSTBACK').html();if(!confirmation_content){confirmation_content = contents;}setTimeout(function(){jQuery('#gform_wrapper_17').replaceWith(confirmation_content);jQuery(document).scrollTop(jQuery('#gf_17').offset().top);jQuery(document).trigger('gform_confirmation_loaded', [17]);window['gf_submitting_17'] = false;}, 50);}else{jQuery('#gform_17').append(contents);if(window['gformRedirect']) {gformRedirect();}}jQuery(document).trigger('gform_post_render', [17, current_page]);} );} );</script><script type='text/javascript'> if(typeof gf_global == 'undefined') var gf_global = {"gf_currency_config":{"name":"U.S. Dollar","symbol_left":"$","symbol_right":"","symbol_padding":"","thousand_separator":",","decimal_separator":".","decimals":2},"base_url":"https:\/\/littlevillagemag.com\/wp-content\/plugins\/gravityforms-asdf111aasdfffs-nope","number_formats":[],"spinnerUrl":"https:\/\/littlevillagemag.com\/wp-content\/plugins\/gravityforms-asdf111aasdfffs-nope\/images\/spinner.gif"};jQuery(document).bind('gform_post_render', function(event, formId, currentPage){if(formId == 17) {if(typeof Placeholders != 'undefined'){ Placeholders.enable(); }} } );jQuery(document).bind('gform_post_conditional_logic', function(event, formId, fields, isInit){} );</script><script type='text/javascript'> jQuery(document).ready(function(){jQuery(document).trigger('gform_post_render', [17, 1]) } ); </script>