Uncle Conrad and the Egg
written by Nick Bruel
"Tornadoes are like angry strangers who come to your door," my daddy once said to me. "That's why they don't name them like they do hurricanes. You can't fight 'em. You can't scare 'em. The best you can do is hide until they go away."
And that's what we did. As soon as Mama heard the siren, she ran into the kitchen to scoop up all the sharp knives on the counter and threw them all into the dishwasher before kicking it shut with her foot and locking it. Then she ran up the stairs to fetch Dodo who was napping in her crib. Her real name's Dolores, but I call her "Dodo" in my head because she's always doing the dopey sort of things babies do like spitting food and sucking on my baseball cards.
"Come on, Diego!" Mama shouted. "We gotta go RIGHT NOW!" I was hurrying pretty good, so I didn't think Mama needed to be so fierce. Besides, we practiced tornado drills all the time in school, and Mrs. Pillsbury always said I was an "excellent listener".
Not every house had a storm cellar, but we did. Daddy fixed it up real nice before he went off to Iraq. We had water and cans of food and a radio and toys and even some of my comic books, although not my favorites. And that's where we sat. Usually nothing happened and I was bored, but not this time. This time we heard a slow rumble come nearer and nearer and nearer like a slow moving train until it grew so loud it hurt my ears. Last week we had a thunder storm so loud I thought I'd go deaf, but this was way worse because it was like thunder that never stopped. Dodo slept through it, of course, which is probably just as well.
My mama's pretty. Real pretty. She's got long, thick hair the color of midnight and bright green eyes. I think she's prettier than most of the models you see in the catalogs. But she didn't look so pretty when she was crying and screaming and praying out loud for the Lord above to help us, which I'd never heard her do before. She was holding me so tight, I could hardly breathe. I knew we'd be just fine. How, I'm not sure. I tried to tell her, but I couldn't because of all the noise from the stranger outside.
Stranger wasn't there for long, though; he soon left as quickly as he arrived. But Mama didn't want to venture outside for a while. "Sometimes there's more than one," she whispered, her voice trembling. I could tell she was scared because of how much she was shaking. So we sat in the silence for a while. I didn't mind. It was a nice change from all the commotion.
"BAM! BAM! BAM!" The sound of someone knocking hard on the door of the shelter made us all jump out of our skin. That's what finally woke up Dodo. Go figure.
"Gina?! You in there? It's safe to come out!" That was Mr. Hamm, our neighbor across the street. His voice was deep like a tuba, which always struck me as funny since he was so short. Maybe it was because he smoked. "Come on out, Gina! Are the kids with you?"
I wanted to say, "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore" when we stepped outside, but I don't think Mama would have found it funny, so I kept it to myself. Half our house was gone. It was like if someone took a gigantic saw and cut right through it, from the roof to the patio. I could see right into my room. Most of my stuff was spilled out all over the neighborhood, but some of my posters were still on the wall. Weird. I saw our refrigerator over across the street. The dishwasher was half a block away smashed up against a car. Now I got why Mama threw those knives in there; they could have done some real harm flying in the wind.
I thought I heard something.
"Oh, Gina! Mercy, Gina! Are you okay?!" That was Mrs. Hamm. She really looked like a ham, big and round on the bottom. Watching her run across the street made me want to laugh, but I didn't. "Laughing at grown-ups isn't appropriate," the grown-ups are always saying.
"Bonnie, what am I going to do?!" Mama shouted. "What am I going to do?!" Mrs. Hamm hugged Mama right away and held her tight.
"You're all alive. That's the important thing. You and the kids can come stay with us for as long as you want." That's the crazy thing about these strangers. They can tear through one house and not touch the one next door. This time, it looked like our house was the only one the stranger bothered. Hard not to take it personally.
Now I know I heard something!
"Mama!" I said.
"I don't even know how to call Pete," said Mama, ignoring me as usual. "He's on a mission and on radio silence and I have to call the insurance company and I'm honestly not sure if any of this will be covered and…"
"Sugar, you got this," said Mrs. Hamm. "Emmet and I will help out however we can, but you got this."
"Mama!" I said again. "I heard a cat!"
"What if it rains!" said Mama. "Everything we own is all over the street!"
"I'll have our boys start collecting your things," said Mr. Hamm. "I've got a buddy who owns a fumigation service. I'm sure he won't mind coming by to put a tent up around your house."
"Mama!" I said again, but this time tugging hard on her sleeve. "Mama! Mama! Mama! I heard a cat! Mama! I heard a cat!"
"Diego!" Mama snapped. "What is wrong with you?! Do you not see what is happening around you?! Our home has been destroyed! We could have been killed! We. Could. Have. Been. KILLED! Don't you even care?!"
Mama started crying again. She was shaking so bad that Mrs. Hamm had to take Dodo out of her arms while Mr. Hamm rubbed her back. Mrs. Hamm flashed me a disapproving look, which really stung me. Usually Mrs. Hamm and I got a long pretty well.
While the Hamms led Mama over to their place, I decided to find this cat myself. I couldn't tell where her sounds were coming from. I closed my eyes and listened as hard as I could for her.
Nothing. I hoped this cat wasn't just a figment of my…
Nope! There she was! Since I was the only one who could hear her, it seemed like she was calling out to me. But from where?
Her meows sounded echo-y, like she was in a cave. I opened my eyes and looked in the direction of her sound. There was a big drain pipe that ran under the driveway of the Anderson's place. Could she be in there?
I kneeled down even though the ground was wet and my knees got soaked and Mama would fuss. I looked into the darkness. I couldn't see a thing. "Hey," I whispered. "You in there, cat?"
I listened, but I didn't hear anything. But then I saw something: two bright silver colored circles glowing in the darkness.
Found you! The same stranger that could pick up a refrigerator and drop it across the street could've thrown this cat at least a thousand miles. But this was a smart cat. She heard the stranger coming, and she hid.
Mama said I didn't care about anything. It wasn't the first time she'd said this. But she was wrong. I cared about this cat. I cared about her a lot. And I was going to do whatever I could to help her and keep her safe.
written by Harvey P.
Mr. Hamm led Mama slowly into their house. She was still shaking with fear and upset. Mrs. Hamm followed holding Dodo. I was still kneeling on the wet soggy ground, it was littered with stones and rocks left by the STRANGER ........ My knees were cut because I could feel blood trickling down, but that wasn't going to stop me saving the cat. She needed me, I was going to keep her safe.
My Mama and baby Sister were now in the safety of the Hamms house, I looked up at my house. My home. It was destroyed.
A faint "Mew" entered my head, the cat reminded me it was there, but where?
I leaned forward and peered back into the darkness of the murky smelly drainpipe. Was the cat stuck because it wasn't coming out? Was it scared? I was scared. Very scared. I couldn't see her, I couldn't hear her. Was she ok?
"Hey," I said quietly. "Cat? Hello? Are you still in there?" All was silent.
I had time to think. What was going to happen to me and my family? How are we going to get in touch with Daddy? Where will we live? I began to cry. Tears ran down my cheeks. I closed my eyes tightly.
"Mew! Mew! Mew!" The meowing was louder now. I opened my eyes and there was a Cat looking up at me! She had crept out while I wasn't looking and was sat on my lap. Her fur tickled but I didn't mind, I had a new pet - something to take care of. She could be my best friend.
This cat was no ordinary cat, this was a special cat . She had bright sparkly silver eyes, which shone like two moons dazzling in the dark night sky. Her fur was as black as coal. Her face was beautiful. One of her ears was pointing up and the other ear was down, her tail was very long and white which was very odd because her body was jet black.
"That's it, Jet. I'll call you Jet. Jet come with me and don't let my mama see you, she has ran over two cats accidentally. Cats scare her. She won't let me keep you especially with all this happening".
The next thing I know was my mama calling me. "Diego, Diego". She was standing in the doorway of the Hamms house. I was trying to hide my new best friend but it was no use. With her silk fur she slipped through my grasp. Too late she saw Jet…
written by James A.
Mama starred blankly at me, then at the cat, then back to me. Her face was completely blank, but I could see the anger rise behind her beautiful eyes.
"What in the world of spicy guacamole chickens is THAT!!!!!!!!! Is it a… a CAT!!!!!!" She yelled, her anger fully emerged from her face. She hated cats… and dogs, only because she has had a couple of harsh experiences with both of them, so much for sympathy.
"Please, I found it in a pipe… and it looked so helpless. It could be from thousands of miles away. Please could I keep Jet, he did nothing wrong. Please, PLEASE!" I begged to Mama, making puppy eyes, pressing my bottom lip up, and making a kindergartener frowny face.
"No." She stated a matter-of-factly. "No, just no. And you've already named the cat!! Diego it's too much right now with all that has just happened. Once Dad comes home we'll figure this all out. But right now we can't have a cat.
I slumped over to Mrs. Hamm's house, my head was turning in so many ways. What am I going to do with Jet? What if there is another storm and it's still out there? Oh man, oh man, oh man!!! What am I going to do?!?!?
As I walked towards the house I heard Mama scream, "Diego it's another twister!!!"
I freeze my heart thumped like a herd of elephants. I raced back as fast I could to pick up Jet. He raced back towards me and I gently picked him up and sprinted back over to the house. I closed the door a fast as a cheetah, and dashed through the halls to the closet and crumpled up in a ball on the side of the wall.
"Diego, is that the cat? My gosh, I told you not to bring the cat… UGGGGGGGG!" Mama screamed in displeasure.
Suddenly there was a rumbling sound, and the ground started shaking violently.
"Mama what's going on?" I said in a panic looking around.
Then the wind speeds become almost defining. I cover my ears the best I can, but it didn't help.
Out of nowhere, the roof falls on top of us.
"AAH!" I screamed covering the cat with by back. Then suddenly, all went black.
written by Harvey P.
I was much too scared to open my eyes. The air was dusty. Coughing, spluttering, choking I closed my eyes even tighter. With every movement the ground seem to fall in on me stopping me breathing. I was slumped over. Something heavy lay across my back. It felt like a person but unable to move I could only guess. Is this the end? Will I ever see my family and Jet again? The stranger had really hit hard this time.
I heard a faint mew, Jet's alive! Voices were in the air above me. People were shouting Diego and Gina. Then the person on my back sobbed, it was my Mama!
"Mama!" I croaked, barely able to speak. Dust and grit was in my mouth. I tried to spit it out but couldn't. My mouth was so dry. "Mama?" The earth started moving again. I was able to touch Mamas fingertips for reassurance.
A voice shouted "The cat found something". All went quiet for what seemed like an hour. Then I heard some faint digging.
I suddenly felt brave enough to open my eyes. The dust was settling now and I could see the destruction around me. The door of the closet had fallen in. There were piles of bricks and plaster. Mama slumped off me and onto the shelving that had somehow survived the roof falling in. Tins and boxes crashed to the floor. Her face and hair were covered with dirt, but she was still real pretty. She grabbed my hand so tightly I thought she would rip it off. Tears fell from my eyes. I was frightened. Would another stranger be coming to tear more of our street apart?
"Mew". Somehow in the chaos I had forgotten about my new friend. I could see Jet was ok. Fur not so much black now but a dusty grey but the tail was still white. My fingers ran along his back, brushing the dust away.
I listened hard. Where was Dodo? Where was my baby sister? There was some hustle and bustle in the street. The voices were our neighbours. They had come out of their houses and were clambering over the knocked down walls of the Hamms house. Upside down furniture blocked the way, but it didn't stop them attempting to get to us. I didn't realise we lived in a community that would help each other in situations like this. We had barely spoke to any of these neighbours since being sent here with Daddy's job. Not long after arriving Daddy had been sent on this mission to Iraq. Me, Mama and Dodo were left behind.
Apart from the sound of feet crunching on the rubble, it was mysteriously quiet. I heard a faint whimper and a little cry. More rubble fell and a section of the roof slid down into another heap. Mr and Mrs Hamm came from behind the only wall left standing at the back of their house. Mrs Hamm was holding my sleeping baby Sister tightly, looking very shaken.
"Mew. Mew. Mew" It was like Jet was trying to tell me something. What's wrong with him I thought? What's the matter? I stood up, Mama struggled up too, not yet loosing my hand. She was still trembling with shock. With the help of our neighbours we climbed out of the closet and over the demolished building. We sat on the kerbside in a daze. Mr and Mrs Hamm joined us putting their arms around us in one big hug. The neighbours had blankets which they were wrapping around us.
Jet ran into the street. I blinked. There was a figure up the street in the distance. The figure was walking towards where we all sat huddled. As the figure got closer, he looked familiar. Daddy was home. I knew now that we were going to be ok.