Thirteen Months Unemployed

A Story

by Chris Bryson

There are tornado warnings, but my wife and I still go to bed. The pillow she hugs at night pushes me to the edge of the mattress, and I can’t sleep. Through the thin walls, the sound of the rain drenching the yard calms me, and every few minutes thunder shocks me awake.

My brother-in-law calls around three with the tornado siren oscillating in the background, and he tells me we should go to the basement. I hang up the phone and listen. The siren can’t be heard; we’re too far from town. Anxiety rises in my chest. We gather our cats and go into the basement. They protest by sitting on the top steps by the basement door. Lightning flashes through the squinting basement windows; one of them leaks during downpours. It is downpouring, but the leak flows straight into the sump pump. We stay up until four and watch the weatherman on an old black-and-white television. He plays with his fancy radar. Since all its colors are black and gray, it makes the threat seem less urgent. My wife asks if I plan on doing laundry the next day. I tell her yes, assuming we don’t have to pick it up out of the neighbors’ yards. Nothing touches down.

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