Through the night, we stayed huddled around Dan who alternated between sobbing and screaming. We kept him as comfortable as possible, changed his bandages, and tried to keep him from moving around with little success.
At one point, he tried to sit and all he ended up doing was sliding across the pipe protruding from his stomach. He shouted in pain and promptly passed out. This was really for the best because if he moved anymore it wouldn’t matter what happened when we finally found a doctor.
Charlie kept watch on the door with a shotgun. I guess he thought he was the prime choice for looters, or he expected a pack of wolves. I took a seat by the canned water and listened to the wind and rain pound the diner waiting for another tornado.
I must have fallen asleep. When I woke it was a little passed 6 am and still dark. Everything was silent, and no one was with me in the storm shelter. The whole room was calm, and I wondered if I passed out drunk and dreamed the whole thing.
Then I noticed Dan had stopped moaning and someone had covered his head with a blanket. I knew right away I had missed something. I pulled the blanket away and uncovered Dan’s gray face. I didn’t see him struggling to breathe or moaning anymore.
Dead? What the hell? I lost chance at finding out what he had been up to and what the hell was going on with the weather, the Air Force, and my brother. The family and I stopped being close when I ran off, but still this was much. Family reunions don’t end in death.
I replaced the blanket and stared across the room. It was as dark and empty as I felt.
“What the hell is going on?” I demanded as I climbed the storm shelter stairs. A somber group scrutinized me as I emerged from the basement.
“The storm didn’t blow us away,” Sally reported. “And, we think that guy died.”
Her comment took me aback because it felt so cold. No one knew the guy was my brother. Still, I expected some sympathy.
“I need a cup of coffee.” I motioned for Sally to bring me a mug.
“How do you plan to pay for it?” I smiled and waved her over. I figured she was kidding.
“It’s been a long night and I need it.” I held up my coffee cup and Sally stood dangling the coffee pot behind her. “You didn’t pay for breakfast yesterday and I doubt you can pay for breakfast this morning.”
“Sally, just fill the cup!” She stood there like she was dug in. I fished out my wallet and sorted through the receipts, scraps of paper, and a picture of my mom. I found no cash hidden behind mom’s photo.
I thought, Sally heard the whole thing. Surely, she had to know what kind of night it had been and was more than willing to help a guy out. I made me mad when she acted this way.
I decided to beg. “C’mon Sally. Just give me a cup of coffee.”
“No can do amigo. If you can’t pay, then you can’t play.”
I motioned for Charlie to see if he had any cash. He shook his head no. My head was throbbing from a headache, my brother was lying dead under our feet, and the last thing I needed was the day starting without coffee.
“The mayor came in here half-an-hour ago looking for you to do some cleanup down the street,” said Sally. “Maybe he can buy you breakfast.”
I had many questions and glanced over to the storm cellar door. Was that really Dan? I needed that coffee. Sally wouldn’t budge, and she pointed to the pile of rubble.
“He wants you to clean up the street, so it appears he’s doing something about the storm,” she said. The city had a habit of letting everything else go, but the block around city hall and the mayor’s store always sparkled.
The mess went beyond a small amount of garbage on the sidewalk. Charlie and I removed a tree branch from the mayor’s store, boarded up a broken picture window at City Hall, shored up the corner of a wall where some bricks were missing, and swept out a mound of mud and rock blocking the entrance to the store. We worked three hours, and the mayor handed us each a $20 bill. “I like having you guys around,” he said.
Carrying enough money to buy breakfast, we walked back to the diner.
“I wonder if it is all coincidence? A guy shows up screaming and hollering, the Air Force pops in, and then a storm targets the medical clinic,” said Charlie. “Feels like more to it.”
“Maybe. Or, it might just be a series of odd events.” I held the door to the diner open.
“I don’t know,” said Charlie.
“One thing is for sure. There is a dead guy below all those people.” We shuffled and took a seat at the counter.
I squeezed next to a farmer and placed the $20 on the counter.
“Hey Sally. Here’s enough for yesterday and today. Now, bring us some coffee.”
Part One – Jake Rutledge and the Guy with Bad Timing
Part Two – Jake Rutledge and the Guy with Bad Timing
Part Three – Jake Rutledge and the Guy with Bad Timing
Part Four – Jake Rutledge and the Guy with Bad Timing
Part Five – Jake Rutledge and the Guy with Bad Timing
Part Six – Jake Rutledge and the Guy with Bad Timing
Part Seven – Jake Rutledge and the Guy with Bad Timing
Part Eight – Jake Rutledge and the Guy with Bad Timing
Part Nine – Jake Rutledge and the Guy with Bad Timing
— wordsmithholler (@wordsmithholler) July 11, 2018
© 2018 – 2019, Michael Shawn Sommermeyer. All rights reserved.
Thanks for reading. Leave me a comment?
Want a PDF to save this story to read later? Enter your e-mail address and I'll send you a PDF right away.Enter your Email Address