Not Your Average Clouds

Submitted into Contest #143 in response to: Write about a character who loves cloud gazing. ... view prompt

9 comments

Fiction Funny

The Jeep was battered. The bumper had a dent in it from where Erin had backed up into a streetlamp three years ago. The AC refused to work anymore. She had to jerk the steering wheel in order to make a fast turn, and one tire perpetually leaked air. But it was the only car she had. Erin started the ignition, the car sputtering twice before it finally decided to wake up. Her chipped nails tapped against the wheel as she waited in the parking lot.

After a few minutes, the main door to the weather station slammed open, a chubby man running toward her car. He seemed out of breath by the time he got to the car. A camera bag was slung over his shoulder.

“Took you long enough,” noted Erin as he took his seat. She opened the laptop that was in her lap, running her fingers across the mousepad. “If you had taken any more time, we might have missed it.”

The man rolled his eyes. “We would not have missed it. Stop being dramatic. Here, give me that.” He took the laptop and brought up the weather radar. Erin could see the area to the west was filled with greens, yellows, and reds. The blob of color was slowly moving toward their location. A fat raindrop smacked against the windshield.

Erin reached into the backseat, pulling out two yellow hardhats. She handed one to her partner.           

“Ready?”       

The man secured his hat with a yellow-toothed grin. “Born ready. Let’s burn some rubber.”

Erin pulled out of the station’s parking lot, turning her wipers on low as the beginning of the storm started. Before she had left her house, there had been fluffy white clouds in the sky. One had been in the shape of a rabbit, and she had paused long enough to enjoy the temporary good weather. Even as she had been loading up the car that morning, she could smell the incoming storm. The air was heavy. The wind seemed to move sluggishly as if it was already trying to battle out the air space with the humidity.

Her partner, Roger, made sure to give her updates on where the worst of the storm was. “Turn right on Little Creek Road. Then we head straight for about 7 miles.” He wiped his forehead. “When are you going to get this thing fixed up? I’m tired of sweating it out before we’ve even hit the storm.”

“I’ll get it fixed later.” Erin leaned forward, looking up at the sky through the windshield. They were starting to hit the heavy grey clouds now. The cumulonimbus had changed from white, fluffy cotton balls to an ominous grey. There were few cars riding on the same road, so Erin let the car drift from the right lane to the left. The clouds seemed to do the same, stretching out from east to west, like a blanket for the sky.

“Look at that.” Erin whistled as a bolt of lightning streaked across the sky. The crash was loud, but not ear-shattering. It lit up the underside of the clouds, making them go from grey to a sooty black. She nudged Roger with her elbow. “What do you think? Do you want to get closer?”

“That’s where all the good stuff is, ain’t it?” Roger let the laptop rest on his knees and pulled the camera bag up from where he had set it on the floorboard. He got it out and turned it on, all while looking at the sky ahead of them. His blue eyes twinkled as another bolt of lightning struck. “Trust me, this is just a baby. When you’ve worked this job as long as I have, you get to know the storms with just a look. Keep going. You still have a way to go before we turn again.”           

“It’s just so…cool.” Erin switched her wipers to fast as the rain began pouring down. Within seconds, water was all she could see. The grey color seemed to seep right out of the sky and plummet toward earth. Occasionally, more lightning would flash, letting Erin see the white lines on the road. She eased up on the gas. Just because she was excited to see the storm didn’t mean she could be reckless. It would only take a little bit of water getting under her tires to spin them out of control. She looked over, checking the radar once more. They were starting to get into more intense storms now. Yellow as far as the eye could see.

After enjoying the sounds of the rain hitting the metal roof of the car, she continued: “I mean, just look at that lightning! And did you see the formation of those clouds right before we got into the storm?”

“It looked like a floating mountain,” agreed Roger. He ran a hand through his few strands of grey hair, looking out his window at the fierce storm. “You know, I was just talking to my wife a few days ago, saying how I might retire and all that. But then I come back out here, and I get to see the beauty of nature, her pure ferocity…” He trailed off with a sigh. “It makes me feel young all over again.”

“You just like the adrenaline rush.”

Roger chuckled. “Like you’re any better. Hold on, there’s something on the radar. Pull the car over, would you?”           

Erin did as he asked, turning on her emergency lights in case anyone else happened to be driving by. Roger pointed to a spot on the radar, a blip of red no larger than his thumb. To most it would be nothing to worry about, but…Erin clutched the steering wheel.

“Is that rotation?”     

“Looks like it.” Roger dragged his thumb over to the main cell, showing how the red seemed to be spiraling inward. “Might be small if it happens, but the conditions are perfect for one. It’s not far. If it hasn’t started yet, we might be able to get some good video of it and send it back to the station.”          

“No need to tell me twice.” Erin pulled back onto the road, now speeding through the rain toward the potential tornado. Farmland was on either side of the road, devoid of any cattle. Flat land that spanned for miles? Nothing could be better. Roger manned the radar, telling Erin which roads to turn on. The lightning was closer now, and louder too. Erin flinched as one bolt struck somewhere to her left.        

The rain, which had been pouring down hard, was starting to slow down. Not by much, but enough that Erin could clearly see the road again. She leaned forward, squinting. She couldn’t see any funnels forming, but it was still a bit hard to see. Roger did the same, looking out his window at the pastures. The rain played drums on the roof of the car.           

Both jumped when a piece of hail hit the windshield.         

“Did you see that?” Erin whooped, slowing down as another piece hit her side mirror. “That was at least golf-ball-sized!”       

“Be careful!” But even as he said it, Roger was grinning, starting a video on the camera. Both storm chasers were swiveling their heads. Hail didn’t necessarily mean a tornado was guaranteed, but it could be a good indicator of strong updrafts. Another piece of hail hit the windshield. The glass cracked, the hail leaving behind a spider-web pattern. Erin winced but kept driving. The storm was more important.           

If it hadn’t been for Roger, she would have missed it. They had just driven past a barn when her older partner yelled for her to stop. Erin barely stopped herself from slamming on her brakes, instead slowly pulling the Jeep over to the side of the road. The two chasers looked behind them, back at the pasture with the big red bard.

“Right there, to the right!” Roger pointed the camera out of his window, ignoring the hail hitting his arms. “That’s a clear funnel!”           

She knew she shouldn’t have, but Erin rolled down her window and stuck the upper half of her body out. Hail pounded on her hardhat, but she didn’t feel it. Her eyes were locked on the grey funnel, a piece of the sky about to touch the earth itself. It was small, wispy, but very clearly the start of a tornado. It was a grey tentacle, constantly moving right and left as if it had a mind of its own and was trying to figure out the best way down. Roger excitedly talked into the camera.          

“It’s small but moving fast. Hail’s coming down hard. It’s a little bigger than a quarter but can still cause some real damage. Look, right there. You can see the air beginning to spin on the ground up towards the funnel. Man, what a beauty!”           

Erin could see exactly when the tornado touched down. First, a brown dust cloud, and then chunks of dirt were thrown up into the air. The top of the funnel was a dark grey while the bottom was brown, the two colors clashing in the middle. Erin held her breath as the wind wiped her braided hair into her face. She knew it was just air and dirt, but it looked tangible. Like she could get out of her car and touch it.           

A piece of hail hit her in the cheek, snapping her out of her weird tornado daydream.          

She got back into the car at the same time as Roger, rolling up her window. She could see the tornado in her rearview. It pulsated, waxing in and out as it gathered more debris. She knew clouds couldn’t breathe, but it looked like this tornado was sporting a pair of lungs. Roger got back into his seat, leaning back to get the tornado in the shot.

“I think we should pull out of here,” he noted. “Before it gets any worse.”

“Yeah. Yeah, good idea.” Erin’s hands were shaking from the excitement. Few could say they had gotten close to one of Mother Nature’s handiworks, and yet for Erin, this was just another Monday. She pulled the car back into the road, earning another crack on her windshield from the hail. Roger radioed in to the station, telling them of the confirmed tornado at their location. Erin drove them through the back half of the storm, the hail slowly getting replaced by gentle rain. The storm was moving away from them. Even the wind was starting to calm down, only slightly moving her car’s antenna. The clouds changed color, going back to the gentle white from that morning. Roger pointed at a big cloud in front of them.

“Look, it’s an ice cream cone.”

“That is obviously a wizard with a pointy beard, what are you talking about?”

Roger sighed, turning the camera off. “Agree to disagree. Come on, let’s get moving. Looks like there could be another tornado on highway 46. We’ll have to circle back, but I think it would be best if we went a different way. Let’s get cracking.”

“Aw, but we were having so much fun! It’s a long drive. Why stop?” She pointed to another, thinner cloud to their right. “That one is a taco shell.”

“It is obviously a cowboy hat. Are you on something?”

“What about that one? That has to be a dragon head.”

“You are completely wrong. That’s a Gatling gun.”

“A what?”

Roger shook his head. “You’re impossible.”

“You know what? Maybe I will just drive. Turn on the radio.”

“But I thought we were having fun?”

Roger.”

“Fine, be that way. Take the next right turn, buzz kill.”

April 25, 2022 22:23

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

9 comments

Sharon Hancock
01:36 May 06, 2022

Oh so much fun and excitement! I thoroughly enjoyed this story. Very interesting take on the prompt. I love to read and watch storm chasers, but they are crazy! I’d never want to be that close to a real tornado. Great job!😻

Reply

Sue Hunter
13:38 May 06, 2022

Thank you! I'm glad you found it exciting! I agree, storm chasers are absolutely crazy, but they allow us to get some really cool views of the weather.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Michał Przywara
20:49 May 05, 2022

I found the story exciting! I think a big part of this is the attitude of the characters. They're excited, and it's catching. Believable dialogue. The descriptions of the storm building up were good too, I could almost feel it.

Reply

Sue Hunter
22:29 May 05, 2022

Thank you very much! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Maggie Bass
22:28 May 04, 2022

Hey Sue! I liked your story. I saw you comment on mine( thanks for the advice) and had to check out yours. Super good!

Reply

Sue Hunter
22:34 May 04, 2022

Thanks! Glad you enjoyed :]

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Felice Noelle
21:52 May 02, 2022

Sue: That was an interesting take on the prompt. As a kid I lived in Tornado Alley, and my adult years have been spent in Hurricane Lane, so I really related to your story. I thought it was believable, the dialogue was authentic, and the story was well-paced. Thanks for a good read. I always try to mention some of the things I especially liked, so here goes: the description of the tornado forming, the first paragraph where you described the car. It occurs to me that you might want to start the story with the paragraph where the llight...

Reply

Sue Hunter
22:33 May 02, 2022

Thank you so much! Your comments mean a lot! I'll definitely take your advice. I wasn't too confident about this work, but your kind words really gave me a confidence boost. :]

Reply

Felice Noelle
22:47 May 02, 2022

Sue: Know that you are in good company, not knowing how others will read and accept your "babies." Sometimes you just need to keep on being courageous enough to just write what you like and put it out there. Readers come in all kinds and every reader has their own preferences. Keep writing and responding to other writers and learning, and your readers will come. And for what my opinion's worth, don't judge the quality of your writing by how many read it. Just write each story the way you like it and like to read it. You'll develop yo...

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply