Sitting in the rear of a vehicle that looks remarkably like a tank is where I find myself. I thought I had dodged all the hail until a sudden, excruciating ache in my arm told me otherwise. My terrified inner child gazes across the open field and sees the massive Supercell looming. Despite the agony and the risk, I hold my fear in check as I press on my wound. My cohorts are silent, waiting for a response. I meet the inquisitive gazes of my companions. They are wondering whether I will give up or persevere.

Weeks before the storm, my husband said I should find a hobby.

“Writing is my hobby. That’s what I do.”

“No, that’s your profession.”

His statement was correct. Writing children’s books started as a hobby but eventually gained widespread popularity. Tales of a mischievous gray cat that becomes part of the circus captivated the kid’s book market. Little Bear or Mishka was a hit.

What can you do with a cat to keep the kids entertained until bedtime? Can you picture a scenario where a rat and a gray cat become the closest friends? You could have a duck and a cat, or, if you want to make things more interesting (or complicated), a cat and an owl.

A sneaky gray cat becomes friends with a four-foot owl with yellow eyes.

The stage for a lesson was set since Mishka could devour the owlets, and the momma owl could make a snack out of Mishka. Mishka and the Owl rising above their programming would teach a valuable lesson.

The kids found one problem funny. The cat sneezed. He must be allergic to owls. Every time the baby owls fell asleep, he would sneeze, causing them to wake up again.

Mishka did not excel as a babysitter but was capable of thinking before acting as others might expect.

The famous gray cat who delighted people with his antics taught many life lessons. Little did I realize Mishka was about to teach me, too.

The authorities issued a tornado warning for the area. Sitting in my safe space, riddled with anxiety, I hatched a plan.

Harold was correct. I needed fresh ideas. I was searching for something that was out there. Much like a cat occupying a nest filled with baby owls and not eating them caught your attention. I needed something grand regarding storms. If an elephant can sit in a nest, why not a sneaky gray cat? If the cat can escape his programming, his creator could thwart hers, too.

Flipping through the hundreds of channels, I saw something that intrigued me. A man in Canada named George had this side hustle to give tours of storms.

Get a flight to Calgary, book a room, and wait for a call. “My inner ego,” or Mishka, could calm a storm. It was all a metaphor for a different type of lesson. Despite your fears, go ahead and do it.

George’s videos, which were meant to entice customers, went unnoticed by Harold. He surely would have intervened if he had any inkling of my plan. Before accurately telling the story, I had to experience it firsthand, immersing myself in its sights, sounds, textures, and scents. Every sense should be included.

If the title was to be ‘Mishka Tames a Tornado,’ I needed some serious material and a wild imagination. I did not realize that wild would be an understatement.

I forgot to mention that bad weather terrifies me; I mean the cat, well, me.

Writers will understand the following. Have you ever authored a story from the point of view of an animal or inanimate object? Authors often write children’s books from the point of view of things like toys, teddy bears, and so on. As the writer, I had to become the cat. He is not just any cat; he is a mischievous feline who loves to wreak havoc on my desk and shelves. Mishka is also my mews.

I left the physical cat in my husband’s care while flying to Calgary.

Springtime in Canada is especially rough as the warm air meets the cold from the north. George contacted me early on Monday. You pay in advance because you may never see a tornado. “Weather is unpredictable,” he tells me.

No shit. It seemed to me that I should have chased a career in meteorology since they can consistently make incorrect predictions and remain employed.

“Hey Alice, let me tell you what’s going on.” George opens his laptop and shows me things that I don’t understand. “A low-pressure system is approaching this area, and we are situated ahead of a cold front.”

I nodded rather than asking him about the low-pressure area or the Gulf Stream. The primary goal of my protagonist was to tame a tornado. I didn’t believe that I needed to understand millibars and dry lines.

George’s usual clientele are weather enthusiasts with a deep passion for it. They desired to observe the immense force of the winds within a tornado. I aimed to make the weather less scary for children who might have been as frightened as I was.

How would a gray cat accomplish this feat? That was yet to be written.

The countryside was beautiful, and the sun was glorious. I sat in the back seat observing the man behind the wheel and a woman with a laptop telling the driver where to turn.

Fresh air from the fields filled the car with the scent of yellow flowers.

A man speaking from a two-way radio alerted others in the area that the heat indices were climbing ahead of the cold front. It could get busy later that afternoon.

“Alice, I forgot to ask if you wanted me to assist you with that camera? It is part of the program we offer.”

As part of the promotion, they offered a class focused on capturing action scenes using a digital camera. I didn’t think learning about my camera’s intricacies would apply to the story. Still, since I’ve already invested the time, I might as well make the most of it.

Nelly took my camera to the front seat with her and checked it out. I listened to her talk over the road noise and the two-way radio chatter.

Her explanation of how the camera works left me feeling bewildered. Still, before we could continue our conversation, lightning interrupted us. I suddenly grasped the true meaning of the fight-or-flight instinct I had learned about. We were heading towards the ominous dark clouds in the distance instead of away from them.

The screen on her laptop came alive with yellow and red blobs. The red one was called a supercell. 

“George, there is golf ball-sized hail in that storm.”

George looked at her and then glanced in the mirror. “Alice, you might get your money’s worth today. I have a good feeling about this storm.”

His ‘good feeling’ scared the crap out of me.

Before we got too close to where the roll cloud and the dry line would meet, George swiftly brought the vehicle to a halt on the side of the road. “Alice, grab your camera. I want you to feel the difference in the air as the cold front passes over us.”

Before I stood outside, he gave me a hard hat and safety glasses.

With the first thunderclap, my gray cat would be beneath the bed.

George and Nelly sensed my anxiety when I almost poked my eye with the spectacles’ frame.

As Nelly walked around the truck, the oppressive humidity made her clothes stick to her body. Looking towards the west, she marveled at the cloud formation that resembled a colossal wave about to engulf the horizon.

Lush wheat fields framed the north and south, creating a serene atmosphere as we stood, waiting for all hell to break loose.

Nelly instructed me to photograph the magnificent roll cloud stretching across the sky.

Removing the lens cap could have prevented them from realizing how anxious I was. “What’s wrong with this thing?”

Nelly reached for the lens cap. “Try it now.”

The first few shots were blurry, and then I noticed the clouds' tumbling action as they approached.

“What causes that?”

They explained that the roll cloud's circular motion was just one element contributing to the overall puzzle. As George described the dynamics of a mesocyclone, the gust front approached.

The wheat fields before us bowed as if genuflecting for the queen.

When my hat flew off. I knew the power of the wind.

The force was so powerful that it nearly knocked me off my feet, leaving me in awe. As the hat landed in the field, Nelly sprinted after it, her footsteps stirring up dirt from the side of the road.

I felt my heart racing as we witnessed the approaching downpour. The drops were huge and cold as they went through my shirt.

Rushing back to the car with the last door shutting, we glanced at each other.

“How did you feel about that?” Nelly asked.

I had an unexpected smile, much like one might have after conquering their fear of a roller coaster. The power of the approaching storm was outstanding.

“Cool” was my one-word response. For a writer, that one word would have made Hemmingway proud as it told an entire story.

What I failed to appreciate is that the story might have been ‘broken camera, missing arm, bloody corpse.’

Nelly glanced at the radar image as the roll cloud swept over our location. As we huddled in our car, a torrential downpour drenched the area. With a series of ticks from pea-size hail against the glass, we knew this was only the preamble as the chase truck quaked in the wind.

My heart raced with each thunderclap while George and Nelly plotted our course.

We were off like a herd of turtles. Following the front, we waited for the radar to show us where the storm’s energy would coalesce.

“I have a hook echo forming along the dry line,” she exclaimed, as the wind picked up.


“A hook echo is a common signature of a mesocyclone,” she explained.

George moved us closer to the storm. These two were adrenaline junkies fueled by the impending tornado.

My curiosity had taken over my fear. Mishka, my alter ego, turned into a lion. I put my pen and notepad to use between bumps on the road.

We were following the gust front, hoping to get into an area called the right flanking downdraft or RFD. If we could manage the timing, and if a tornado formed, we should be able to see it.

Nelly glanced at me and chuckled. “Who are you, lady?”


She giggled, “I bet George that we would take you back to the hotel with that first gust front and look at you, camera ready, pen and paper taking notes, asking questions about meteorology, and ready to march into the eye of the storm.”

“At writer’s conventions, I encourage living one’s life.”

She laughed again. “Buckle up. This day has just begun.”

The sun was behind our car as the sky cleared. In front of us, we could see a supercell with unmistakable striations. Those marks in the clouds showed the horizontal circulation. She explained the updraft carried the water up to 40,000 feet, where the temperature was -40 degrees C. The raindrops kept going up and down throughout the storm, forming ice balls. The stronger and longer the storm, the larger the hail. Once the stones get too heavy, they fall, reaching terminal velocity. That means they are moving pretty darn fast. Mixing a downdraft with the horizontal circulation, you get the ubiquitous tornado.

George leaped out and piloted a drone to video the storm from above. As we observed the storm’s progress, I took photographs. My breath caught in my chest as a funnel descended from the sky. Those two were no strangers to this phenomenon and seemed delighted with my reaction as I pointed to the anomaly.

While I snapped pictures, Nelly recorded the sights and sounds. By fine-tuning the aperture, focus, and ISO settings, my photography lesson turned into a fruitful experience.

Through the telephoto lens, I saw debris tossed around by the storm.

The sky darkened as we heard something hit the truck.

“Get back inside!” Nelly yelled.

Hail, much larger than golf balls, fell around us. George abandoned his drone as it crashed in one of the wheat fields.

This is where the story began, and I learned the hard way what terminal velocity was all about. The stone that grazed my arm was the size of a grapefruit and could have killed me.

His truck was battle-weary, and he had seen this type of thing before. The pounding sounds were crazy loud as we huddled away from the windows. He had installed bulletproof glass, but we still stayed clear of it, just in case.

“I should have watched the radar more carefully!” Nelly yelled.

George focused intently on my injury for a moment, his concerned gaze fixed on me, before finally asking, “Can you work the video camera?”

That morning, I would have been a hysterical mess at this stage of the game. I nodded while wiping the blood away from a cut on my arm.

Nelly tossed me a first aid kit. After the hail core passed, we were off to find his drone.

The storm moved with the front; we followed it until we reached the town it had passed through.

Chatter over the two-way resumed as we dodged down power lines, trees, and flipped over cars. Shell-shocked individuals stood in the streets, gazing at their former homes, cars, and other belongings. The damage was consistent with wind speeds of 150 MPH. The destruction was unlike anything I had ever witnessed. A child’s tricycle was tightly wrapped around a naked tree trunk.

As George and Nelly ventured to the toppled homes, the lingering scent of ozone permeated the air. We stayed close to lend a hand until the area was filled with emergency services.

The hottest part of the day had not yet arrived. We climbed back into the truck. I could sense their desire to chase the storm when Nelly glanced at me. “Are you done?”

My face most certainly expressed that same shell-shock look as those who lost their homes. My mouth hung open before I spoke. A crimson stain on my rain-soaked white blouse stood in stark contrast to the rest of me. “Let’s follow that thing.”

Nelly smiled while George checked the mirror. “Ok, we’re off.”

We drove hundreds of miles that day. The storm cut a path five miles wide and 140 miles long, destroying many farmhouses and several small towns.

As the evening descended, we stumbled upon a bustling truck stop.

The sunset, painting the sky in a breathtaking array of colors, left me in awe. After witnessing Mother Nature's destructive force, this was a gentle reminder of her beauty.

Over dinner, Nelly and George painstakingly crafted our itinerary for the next day, considering every detail.

After a five-day journey, we arrived in Texas. We had a last dinner together before the team departed.

We’re heading east towards Louisiana and potentially returning to Illinois. Would you like to extend your chase for an additional five days?”

The act of chasing had taken hold of me, and I felt a surge of adrenaline course through my veins at the mere mention of staying with them. Did I have enough information for Mishka and the book? Absolutely. Could storm chasing become a hobby? The uncertainty of whether that would happen hung in the air. For five days, I had the chance to experience life to its fullest rather than just going through the motions.

I shook my head while smiling at them. “I need to get back to my book. My editor is expecting another book to be published in the series.”

George glanced at me. “That cat book, right?”

I nodded as Nelly chuckled.


“I want to know how you will have your cat tame a tornado and not scare the devil out of kids?”

Tapping my fingers on my chin, I glanced at both of them.

“Knowledge is power. I was so afraid of storms that I ducked in the closet whenever the weatherman said one was coming. What if my cat teaches kids about storms so they feel empowered to learn more about them and how to stay safe?”

“How would your cat…Mishka…do that?”

"What if he educated them about radar so they could learn to track the storm’s direction instead of relying on fear-mongering news anchors?"

Nelly responded with a casual shrug. “Maybe you could advise them about not staying at the ballpark or in a trailer home. Fear can petrify people, as you found out. You can make better decisions once you understand it, even a little bit. Weather can be dangerous. Flooding and lightning kill more people than tornadoes. You saw some of those roads with markers off the side to tell you the water level in case it floods. I don’t know if your cat is the right emissary.”

I glanced at George. “George, who reads bedtime stories in your home?”

He chuckled, “my wife, and sometimes myself. Are you saying that the parents will learn from your sneezing cat?”

I nodded.

Because of my help capturing the events on video, they offered me a complimentary ride-with at a future time. It wasn’t until later that I discovered George’s truck had a unique design—a gray cat boldly chasing a tornado.

Mishka had a new audience in the storm-chasing world.

March 07, 2024 03:29

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Susanna Jade
21:29 Mar 14, 2024

One of my favorite Russian Blue cats was named Mishu. They are steel gray cats, very smart. I am curious how Mishka will "tame" the tornado after Alice's experiences with it. Although I know that chasing tornadoes is dangerous and deadly, I didn't really get that sense from your story except that you said so. I love the premise, and certain parts did give me a bit of a chill. Perhaps more "showing" of how the wind raced through the landscape, or maybe how huge trucks were picked up by the ferocious storm? I like the story, but I think I shou...


Scott Taylor
00:08 Mar 17, 2024

Thanks for taking the time to critique my story. Mishka, my true-to-life MEWS, is my constant companion. He was a rescue. I wasn't sure if he was the cat for me until I discovered someone had returned him. What I know of the breed is they are not your typical lap cat. They are steadfastly loyal to their human. Upon entering the premises, a man was profoundly considering adopting him. His concerned murmurs caught my attention as I surveyed the furry creatures needing homes. "Considering my frequent travels, I wonder if he can manage being al...


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Trudy Jas
22:21 Mar 07, 2024

Makes one turn around and around, just to be blown away and still land on one's feet (like a cat, hm.) :-) Great story, Scott.


Scott Taylor
18:13 Mar 09, 2024



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