Tornado

     It was so hot the cats had melted. They lay in the back yard, half in and half out of their holes. Even the Tom cat, who deigns to visit as seldom as is felinely possible, lay sacked out on the bed like a pair of used socks.
     Ninety-nine degrees is hot anywhere. In forested, shady Vermont, it felt like Brazil.
     Then hell broke loose. The storm began around 11 Wednesday night with rain, wind and lightning. At 11:05 the power went out. Lightning came fast as strobe lights.
     A cat cried and I got up to look for it, my limbs moving herky jerky, like I was back in the ’60s at the Fillmore.
     When you hear the “Ssst!” of the lightning, it’s close.
     Power was out all over the county all day Thursday. No electricity, no water, no civilization to speak of. Continued




     Here’s where the old hippie talks about the simple life and the beauties of nature, right? Not this old hippie. Screw nature. I’m close enough to nature already. Nature is rocks and trees and birds, and it’s also ticks and blackflies and dysentery. I like to take a shower every day. I don’t like drinking out of a bucket with the dogs.
     With work impossible (I put the Courthouse News page together on the Internet) I got on my bicycle to survey the damage.
     Trees were down everywhere: giant 200-year-old oaks, 100-foot tall white pines. Most had blown down from west to east, but trees had fallen every which way. Emergency crews called in from five states were cutting up the trunks and hauling them off the road. Tangled power lines had snapped and wrapped around the trees.
     On Friday morning the newspaper reported that emergency crews in a lot of place had to spend most of Thursday morning cutting down trees just to get to the power poles. Dozens of poles had blown down too. It was a mess.
     Half a mile down the road a giant oak had been split in two by lightning. A mile farther down, a lone tree in a pasture had been blown apart. The trunk had snapped off, the tree had blown down and exploded, its limbs and branches neatly in order, but no longer connected to one another.
     The winds must have been cyclonic. In fact, there had been a tornado. I saw the snapped-off stump of a tree at the edge of a pasture – but no tree. Just a jagged stump, 2 feet in diameter, broken off head high. The tree had disappeared.
     Down by the state line, a 100-foot white pine had fallen, from north to south, across the entrance to the fishing hole. A smaller tree had fallen in the opposite direction across the back entrance.
     At one of the little fishing turnouts an old pickup truck had pulled off the road. No fishermen, though: it was an old farmer, filling big buckets full of water from a little bucket. Power was out all the way into Massachusetts. Farmers were in big trouble if the power didn’t come back.
     This morning, Friday, power was still out. I made coffee with water from the dog’s bucket on the porch, then drove into town to try to find an Internet café to get a message to my boss in Pasadena. But Vermont isn’t like Pasadena, where you can hop on a freeway and find an Internet café. In my town, well, there is no town. And in the town down the road there is no Internet café.
     I got a weak signal at a bagel bakery and tried to send a message. No go. No go at Mocha Joe’s either, but the woman behind the counter said when she was in high school she used to do homework in front of the library. So I drove down there and got a weak signal and tried to boot up, sitting on the cement border under a shade tree.
     Beside me lay a sparrow, feet up. He had been blown into the plate glass window. Poor guy. I picked him up and set him right side up in the grass under the tree. He looked alive now. For some reason that made me feel better. I tried to send an email to headquarters. The little hourglass appeared and spun around. Around and around it spun. Then the screen faded and went blank.

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