Sally took longer than she needed to pour the coffee. I’m sure glad everyone could gather at their usual breakfast spot as if nothing had happened. Assholes. In my present state, I felt like someone made me suck on an exhaust pipe all night long. And my brother Dan, the weatherman, was dead. Not that anyone around here seemed to care that he lay below them in the basement.
Charlie buttered a biscuit while I tore open three packets of sugar into my coffee. I stirred the black sludge as I cracked my neck, let out a long yawn, and tried to get over my malaise.
The farmer next to me tore into his breakfast with his knife and fork like he was ringing a bell.
“Those good eggs?” I asked.
“As a matter of fact, yes.”
“You know there’s a dead guy below you, right?”
He stopped in mid-bite and slowly brought the fork to his plate. He craned to look at the floor.
“No. I didn’t know.”
“Don’t worry about it. Any damage out at your farm?”
“No. Not a thing.” He looked over at the busted up clinic. “Nothing like here.”
I watched him scrutinize the pile of brick, wood, and plaster where the clinic once stood. Smoke rose from the rubble where I spent last night watching a storm crush the walls, suck out the sheriff to who knows where, and toss an IV stand into my brother.
As I thought about the events of last night, a stream of four army trucks rolled through and blocked the view.
“What are they doing back?”
A patrol of green army men jumped off the trucks and marched over to the clinic. They began picking up the debris and hauling it to the trucks. Colonel Cox watched as a sergeant barked orders. Every once in a while he would stop the soldiers hauling the debris. A man in a white coat joined him and they seemed particularly interested in pieces of rock and sheetrock covered in frost.
“Come on Jake. Let’s go take a look.”
“You go on ahead Charlie. I need to figure out something first.”
A bell chimed as Charlie left the diner and I followed his stride as he ambled over to the crowd watching the soldiers work. A few farmers looked from the diner as I lifted the storm cellar door and disappeared under the floor. Sally glanced at me before returning to the cleaning the counter. Just another day in tornado alley. Nothing, not even a tornado, could stop the folks of Pretty Prairie from moving on.
Dan lay silent in the dark basement. I fumbled for a light switch and fluorescents flickered to a shade of pale green. I inched over to the body and uncovered his face. He looked like a dead version of me lying on the table. In the clinic, he told me he was my brother. The nose matched mine, but one thing bothered me. When I first saw him, his eyes were brown. When I was a kid, Dan had blue eyes. So I decided to take a look.
I lifted the lid of the right eye and it stared out into the room. The color of the eyeball didn’t seem natural. Then I solved it. He was wearing contacts! I wet my finger with my tongue and lifted the contact off the eye. It didn’t seem to bother Dan that I was sticking my finger in his eye. I checked again to make sure he was dead. I peered through the lens and saw a faint pattern around the edges. The pattern was too light and I couldn’t be sure what I was seeing. I decided to take a closer look by sticking the contact in my eye.
Just so you know, I didn’t just stick the contact in my eye without hesitation. After all, Dan was dead and the thought of putting a dead man’s contact in my eye made me a bit squeamish. Still, I needed to know what was going on, and being dead, Dan was in no position to offer any clues.
I blinked a few times to settle the contact in place. It was a hard glass contact – not one of those plastic films – and it felt a bit weird in my eye. I had to blink quite a few times to make sure it stayed in place.
I opened my eye wide and focused on the far wall until a diamond pattern in four colors surrounding a center purple dot reflected back. I blinked again to be sure. The pattern didn’t go away. The contact was some sort of a key.
The storm cellar door slammed shut and I jumped away from Dan. The door swung up as I pulled the contact out of my eye.
“Jake, you better get back up here. Charlie has started a riot.” Sally stood at the top of the stairs looking down into the basement. “Jake, you still down there?”
“I think Charlie can take care of himself. Why would he be starting a riot?”
“The soldiers are trying to take the sheriff away and his family doesn’t want him to go. They say its for his own good. But the guy is torn up and it’s disrespectful to be taking a dead man away from his family.”
“Just a sec.” I lifted Dan’s left eye and saw another brown contact. It had a similar pattern. I lifted it up and cradled it in my left hand. Now I was juggling two contacts in my clinched hands and had nothing to carry them in.
“Jake, it’s getting bad out there.”
I set both contacts on Dan’s chest and searched for something to keep them safe. All I found was Dan’s wallet, an envelope, and a pill bottle buried deep in his pocket. I grabbed everything and ran up the stairs.
A small riot was taking place in front of the diner with soldiers on one side, farmers on the other, and Charlie in the middle with a pitchfork. He was standing beside a gurney covered in cloth and a leg sticking out. I assumed it was the body of the sheriff. I recognized the 4X4 and the football players from last night who were standing by the body like guardians. They were in a crouch and trying to pick it up despite the soldiers. An older woman comforted a crying women while trying to hold back a militant third woman who was yelling at Colonel Cox. It looked like Charlie had set off his last stand. I rushed out the diner and into the street.
“Whoa. Why do we seem to have the beginnings of World War III starting in the streets of Pretty Prairie? I think we need to calm down a bit.” I never have trouble jumping into a fray and taking charge. I was the kid on the playground who set all the rules. I always seemed to know you just need to believe you are in charge and everyone else follows. Except this time. This time, the colonel believed he was in charge. All I managed to do was give him a new target.
“Well, well, well, if it ain’t the guy who thinks my flag-burning scientist is a long, lost brother. Did you get a good reunion?” The colonel pointed at the destruction of the clinic. “He caused all of this and he’s the only one who can put the genie back in the bottle.”
I shook my head from side-to-side. “No, I don’t see how a flash of nature has anything to do with my brother.”
“Oh no? Well, your brother not only created the tornado that tore up your clinic, but he scheduled it so he could get away. Now where is he?”
I scuffed my shoe in the street and glanced back at the diner. Colonel Cox followed my eye.
“The weatherman’s in the diner. Go get him.” The soldiers ran towards the diner.
I thought about Dan’s dead body and wondered how he went to Iraq a grunt but came back a scientist who somehow could control the weather?
© 2018, Michael Shawn Sommermeyer. All rights reserved.