15 comments

Romance Adventure Suspense

Locals say it's a magnet for drifters but he just calls it home. It’s known as Tornado Alley, but most folks don’t go there to bowl; they go there to drink and forget. The foundation is original, but the building is not; it’s been rebuilt twice, once in 2009 and again in 2014. 


His small apartment sits just behind the office and has everything a single man needs. It has a comfortable chair positioned right beside a twin bed and in front of a flat screen TV. He has a refrigerator that sometimes has food, but always has beer. There are no pictures on the walls, only a calendar and clock. Silent reminders that time and days actually do pass. At closing he cleans the mess from the drunks he never kicks out, restocks the bar and retreats to his sanctuary to wait to do the same thing the next day. He is alone. He is always alone.


In Moore, Oklahoma, everyone knows the sound. It’s high pitched, it’s loud and it’s continuous. Most folks hear it and rush for the cellar—but not him, not tonight. He’s been destroyed and rebuilt, twice. It’s his business and his life and he’s not going to do it again. If fate chooses him tonight he will go willingly. Tonight he is Ahab. Tonight he is Leonidas. Tonight he’s a bowling alley owner at his breaking point. As the siren sounds he pulls the rag, ever present, from his back pocket and cleans the bar just as he always does at closing time.


The door bursts open and he sees her standing against the quickly blackening background. She is windblown and panicked. Her hair ruffled and unkempt. She isn’t pretty now but he’s sure most Friday nights she’s manicured and attractive. She’s dressed in a skirt and high heels. Even tonight she doesn’t fit in. She scans the room but finds no one but him. Her face contorts in fear. If she’s looking for safety, it's nowhere to be found. There is nowhere to hide, no protection from what is coming.


A mind plays out all the scenarios in the space of seconds but in a moment she changes everything. He is willing to let destiny decide his fate tonight but that is his choice, not hers. Why is he responsible for her? He doesn’t know but he is. The storm cellar is no longer an option—it’s too far. There isn’t enough time. There is never enough time. 


There had been women before, but in this moment there is only her. In this moment he is no longer Ahab or Leonidas; he is a father or a brother or a husband.


His instincts take over as he motions her to follow him. Without hesitation she complies. No words are spoken as he leads her to the room behind the office. It doesn’t offer safety but it does offer companionship. They will not face this trial alone. He leads her to the chair beside the bed in front of the TV and he coaxes her to sit down next to him. He knows she shouldn’t do it, she doesn’t know him. None of that matters, she follows his directions without question.


In the chair he places his arm around her. He’s not sure why, he just thinks he should. In the chair she leans against his chest as if she is listening for his heartbeat. The only sound is the siren until it comes. 


A tornado is wind, only it’s not. It’s death. It’s a freight train. It’s the sight of things flying that don’t fly and the sound of things colliding that shouldn’t collide. In the chair and without words they feel the rumbling of the building, they hear the destruction that surrounds them. He is painfully aware of his vulnerability and the consequence of his choice. He is aware his choice now involves her. He pulls a stranger close because a stranger is all he has. He is powerless, which is terrifying yet strangely beautiful. In an inexplicable way he understands what it is to share only one thing with another human being. No past, no future, just a moment.


And then it’s gone. Death came for a visit but didn't stay. The siren is silent, the wind has subsided and the danger has passed. The two strangers, as if waking from a dream, realize they are in a life-saving embrace on a comfortable chair in front of a flat screen TV next to a twin bed. A few frightening minutes—that felt like years—are over and real life has returned, only it hasn’t.


She gathers herself and stands. He does the same. She fixes her hair as best she can and he puts his rag in his back pocket. She turns to him as if to say something, anything, but there is nothing to say. After a pause, almost longer than the trauma, she takes his face in her hands and kisses him.


In his life he will never have another kiss like that one. Soft yet strong. Thankful and passionate. Intimate yet anonymous. She turns to leave, he wants her to stay. He wants her to but he knows she won’t. He wants the moment to last, but like a tornado, a moment like this is here and then it’s gone and there is no way to stop it. He watches her walk out the same door she entered just a few minutes earlier and his mind fills with questions. 


Is it possible to meet the love of your life without words? Is it possible to see her just once and have her fill your heart forever? Is it possible to face death and find life? Is it possible she might feel the same? 


He will never know the answers to those questions, but he knows the bar won’t clean itself so he pulls the rag from his back pocket and starts to wipe. Everything is back to normal but nothing will ever be the same.



October 29, 2022 18:18

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15 comments

16:40 Nov 05, 2022

Very well written

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Graham Kinross
03:55 Nov 10, 2022

Great story. Well done. You should dive into the action of the story, this describes it after the fact.

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14:32 Nov 10, 2022

I think the action hits exactly where it should. I loved the pace of this. So short but so intense.

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Tommy Goround
01:07 Nov 08, 2022

Congratulations on making the recommended list.

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Robert Lee
01:22 Nov 08, 2022

Thanks. Congrats on your stories from last week. This weeks are great too.

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Tommy Goround
01:44 Nov 08, 2022

I got this kid in Malaysia that whips them out so fast. Let me know if you need his number

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Thom With An H
01:48 Nov 08, 2022

Does he do windows?

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Tommy Goround
02:59 Nov 08, 2022

I'm sorry but my guy is a rascal. He's asking 'how big is your window? How dirty is your window? Do you service it often?' Then he has some forms I cannot quite understand. It appears that in his culture, if he takes care of your house... You have to become his dad. I don't think you'll have to play catch with them all the time because of the missing arm.

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Robert Lee
21:40 Nov 08, 2022

You guys crack me up. On a side note, is it a fair fight if your opponent in unarmed?

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Dave West
02:10 Nov 07, 2022

Love it. Concise, precise, complete.

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Cindy Strube
05:17 Oct 30, 2022

Wow - compelling story, very well written.

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Michael Mabrito
04:23 Nov 20, 2022

Well done, very much enjoyed and held this reader's interest all the way. Didn't know what would happen and I especially like the way you end with the kiss and then the protagonist continues cleaning. Two comments about the ending. Would it be more effective in the third to last paragraph to just eliminate the end of the last sentence, '..and his mind fills with questions.' The questions follow and this intro to them takes me a bit out of the story. And then in the final paragraph I find myself wondering why he will never know the answe...

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BRUCE MARTIN
18:21 Nov 11, 2022

Beautifully written, very thoughtful and introspective.

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Robert Lee
23:31 Nov 11, 2022

You are so kind. Thank you very much.

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Jack Bell
12:00 Nov 08, 2022

It's on my bucket list, to storm-chase. You've just moved it up a notch.

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