My Mum didn’t die a peaceful death. She got bitten on her toe by a rattlesnake whilst walking through the big park at night in her flip flops. She didn’t have the cell phone with her because my Dad had it that night. The poison got into her veins and stopped her heart. The next time when we saw her, she was all stiff and puffy. But her face was angry, most likely about the cell phone, I think. My Dad says she comes back in the form of a hurricane every few years or so and it’s our goddammed duty to weather the storm. He says they can call ‘em whatever they want – Irma, Katrina, Harvey, but they all Hurricane Josephine to him.
You probably know this already but there’s a really big one coming. Everyone’s leaving, even my most favorite school teacher, Miss Stevens, and my most favorite ice cream man, Mr. Hensom. I want my dad to leave too, but my dad says, “Carmichael, we’ll just batten down the hatches like we always do.” He says, “What are we gonna do? Take our pig, and our horse, and our geese and hit the road?” He says, “No. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”
I talk to our Pig, Clyde, sometimes. That’s the thing about pigs. Everyone thinks they’re real dumb, but they’re actually kind of smart. Smarter than dogs even. And Clyde knows all sorts of things that the geese and the horse don’t know. Clyde says if I want to help my Dad, then what I need to do is take a big old spike – one of the old pieces of our yard fence – and stick it in the middle of our yard. I normally do what Clyde says because, most of the time, he’s right, but there’s something about his eyes today that I don’t like. They’re big and bulging as if they’re filled up with all the things he knows.
“I’ll think on it, Clyde,” I say.
A reporter comes around to our yard to talk to my Dad. She’s got pink nails, almost the same as my Mom was wearing on her toenails, the day she died. But the reporter lady smells like something fancy, and I can tell by the way that she looks at my Dad, that she hates him.
“What advice would you give to locals like yourself that are determined to weather out this storm despite the warnings from our governor to leave immediately?” she asks, and crosses her arms over her chest like she’s trying not to catch some nasty disease.
“Buy booze,” my Dad answers.
The reporter doesn’t like that. I can tell. But my Dad goes on anyway.
“Hit up the ATM. If you run out of booze you’ll need cash money to bribe some other god-fearing folk for more.”
“Anything serious to add, Mr. Jones?”
“I’m about as dead serious as they come.” My Dad scratches at his beard. “Oh, and buy prayer candles. The ones with Jesus’ face on them, if you can get ‘em.”
The reporter whizzes away in her van to safety. Part of me wishes I was going with her because the sky is spitting on us now. It’s yellow electric, and a wind is picking up, a violent wind, that comes in angry bursts and near knocks me off my goddammed feet.
“Oooo-eeeeee,” my Dad says, “Your mama’s furious as all hell, boy. She’s coming for us.”
“There’s still time to go, Dad,” I say, because I’m starting to get a little scared.
He doesn’t answer me. Which makes me really mad. I wish he would talk to me.
It’s my job to lock the animals in the barn. But when I go in, I find that Clyde has gotten loose from his pen and his eyes are like great wide, glittering saucers. His hooves are tangled up in a length of barbed wire, and blood runs down his skinny legs, forming a puddle underneath him.
“Poor Clyde,” I tell him, freeing him carefully from the wire.
Clyde says he was only trying to get to the spike. Someone’s gotta be man enough to stick it in the ground. I tell him I’m man enough, like goddammed Indiana Jones. Clyde is my most favorite animal. I’ve saved him seven times now from being eaten, and so I figure I might as well do what he says. I drag the iron fence pole, with the thick curved spike on the end, right into the middle of the yard. I wrench it up and plunge it deep into the wet, muddy ground. “Bam,” I say.
“It’s done,” Clyde sniffs and trots back into the barn.
Me and my Dad weather out the storm in the basement. This time, I sit in the corner and listen to the wind battering, no, that’s not the right word, the wind is ripping off our windows and our roof and our shutters like shreds of paper. I can barely hear myself think so I stick my hands over my ears to stop the noise hurting them. My legs are shaking so bad I think I might slip right off the table. My Dad is pacing, drinking beer. Occasionally, when a big bit of our house flies away, he cries out, or throws his bottle upwards where it smashes and makes more noise.
I can’t stop thinking about the spike. When I close my eyes, all I see is the sharp end. I think back to the last time Clyde got all weird. It happened right before my goldfish died. And my Mom. And actually, come to think of it, it happened before-
I jump to my feet. I run towards my Dad but it’s too late. The eye of the storm creeps up and looms over us. Our house is taken from our heads like a hat. I scuttle for something to cling on to but my Dad just stands there, and lifts his hands upwards, as if he might stop the storm in its tracks with just his mind. The storm picks him off his feet, and throws him away like a banana peel. He lands, perfectly skewered, on the spike in our yard. It pierces him straight through and blood gushes from his mouth and drips onto the grass.
“Clyde got weird before my death too,” I say to my Dad who’s standing beside me now. Clyde, who was slaughtered after I failed to save him an eighth time, is standing beside us. The storm has moved on and we’re watching my Dad’s body carefully slide down the spike to the ground.
“And before your Mom’s,” my Dad replied. Finally, he can talk to me, really talk to me, not just pretend to talk to me. We’re dead but I’m happy. Mom’s coming too, I can feel her, travelling through the neighborhood towards us. My Dad turns to me. “It’s so good to see you, Carmichael. Goddammit if I didn’t miss you so fucking much.”
My name is Carmichael Jones. I died after my Mom got bit by a rattlesnake. I was running for help and got hit by a Porsche 911 and died at the side of the road with my eyes open. That’s my story. And here’s what I know. I guess sometimes, you just don’t want to run from the storm. You’ve got perfectly good reasons to run straight into the goddammed middle of it.
Banner Image: Pixabay.com