Truly Virtual Web Art Museum

May 29, 2013


Going Up?


By Rodney E.J. Chang
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      Archie Pinkerton was a farmer who lived in a small town in Oklahoma.  He knew that his homestead during the past century had been lucky.  When one lives in “Tornado Alley” where the region averages fifty tornadoes a year, you not only had to be lucky, you continuously prayed to remain lucky. 



     Not like the poor folks who happened to be in the path of that monstrous category-max that just came through Oklahoma City,  he thought.  Not that I deserved better, he secretly confided to himself. 




     Archie had accumulated his share of sins, as an irascible country boy and then later as two-timing young husband who once too often went out on the town on weekends.  Fortunately, he remained married to loyal Bertha.  They lived together, working the farmland with their now grown son.  Henry, still single at 43, stayed on to farm the property that he looked forward to later inherit.



        At the moment, Archie was watching the local weather report on television with his family.  Like so many other times, a storm was approaching with the possibility of the formation of a tornado.  Nothing new, the usual unfulfilled threat.  In the past, even if a tornado did manifest itself and approach their vicinity, the place had always been untouched. 



     Archie looked out the paint-peeling wooden frame of the kitchen window, pouring himself another glass of whiskey.  The wind had picked up and the sky was darkened by looming black clouds in the distance.  Nothing spectacular.  Folks in this region in the belly of the nation’s mid-section were used to such foul weather.  The occasional boom of a thunder and bouts of steaks of lightening added to the ominous atmosphere.



         Nothing another stiff drink can handle, he chuckled to himself.  In a weird way, Archie welcomed the challenge of another tornado warning.  Over the decades  their homestead had  dodged the few that swirled close by.  But always his farmhouse had stood it ground.  The farmer started to think that there was an invisible shield around his property.  Such heavy drinking during weather warnings helped strengthen his sense of invincibility against nature's wrath.



     Bring it on, you bitch! he even sometimes dared to think, when way too under the influence.



      But maybe this time things could be different.  On the old television, it appeared that a  potential tornado was in their vicinity.  If it did materialize, the funnel's touch down path was projected to be right over the location of  the acreage of the their  farmland and house!   It didn’t take long to discuss but family decisions had been made.  His wife Bertha, their live-in 43 year old son Henry, and their aged retriever Ray all hopped in the pickup truck and high tailed it from their homestead with their most important personal belongings.  Drunken Archie refused to leave, repetitively stating nothing would happen, like all the years of false alarms that resulted in  no direct hit of his place of shelter.  His kin knew better than to waste the time to urge Archie to join them in the truck.



      “Don't cha worry, nothin's gonna happen as usual.  You all go on now if you must.  I'll be OK and see ya'll later.”  With that reassurance, the pick up took off and Archie then was alone.  Ah, now I can drink in peace without all this yacking and worrying about nothing.  Got this protective shield that they don't believe in.  It'll get me and the place through this one too, just like all the other ones.



     “Huff, puff, and try to blow my house down,” he would joked, looking up at the stormy skies, as he still remained outside after saying farewell to his family.



     “C’mon, Mr. tornado, show me your stuff!”  Archie was so sure, as usual, it was a false alarm and he, as well as his place, would remain standing.



     Not this time.


     Alone in the house and seated on the living sofa, a figure suddenly stood in front of him. 



     Too drunken to be alarmed, the farmer thought to himself,



     Hey, how about that, can this be happening.  It’s old Jensen, dead now for quite a few years, standing in front of me.  Can’t be, it's gotta be the booze.



     “No it’s not, Archie Pinkerton.  I’ve been sent to tell you your number is up.  This time the approaching twister is going to hit your place.  Just like it did mine.  And it’s going to be a mighty one.  A category 4, as they say.”



      Still in disbelief, Archie, chided back to the vision,



     “At least it ain’t one of them monster 5s.” 



      “Don’t be so thrilled.  This one is large enough to turn your house and barn to kindle, and you into part of the tally of the dead.”



      “That's pure nonsense.  Is that really you, Jake Jensen?  Or just the bottle?”



      “Not the one you knew – and the one that you stole supplies from over the years.  I’m his spirit sent on a mission.”



      “You suspected me?”



      “That's not important anymore.”



      “So you're here to save my ass?”



      “No, just your soul.  You’re already a goner.”  Old Archie gulped down another jigger, then said,



      “If this time it’s going get this place, isn’t there still time to lickey-split outta here?”  He was looking out the window and still saw no black funnel approaching.



       “And how are you leaving?  Like Elvis, the only wheels on your property has “left the building” fifteen minutes ago.  Sorry ol' buddy, this demon approaching has a 1-mile width of destruction.  Your dead meat.”



       “Shit, now I must really be drunk.  I’m talking to a ghost who's messing with my head.  I think I’ll leave you now and go get me another drink.  This here bottle's empty.  That should clear the cobwebs from my noggin.”



       “Suit yourself.  But I suggest that you recognize it your last request.  Any moment now that witch of a wind is a coming for you and there’s nothing you can do about it.  Better start praying too, neighbor.”



        “OK, let me play along.  If I’m going to die, where am I going? Up or down, heaven or hell?  I know what’s I’ve done in this here life time.”



        “I highly recommend that you get into the old Buick that don’t run no more, the one in the back of your barn. Pronto! Be sure to lock the doors and belt up.  Then you will be tested.”



     “Huh?  I don’t understand…”



     Before farmer Pinkerton could finish saying the sentence, he spotted the looming spiraling funnel coming straight towards his location, riping up everything in its path.  Now knowing “this was the one,”  he opened the front door, stormed out into the howling wind, ducked some flying debris that almost knocked off him off his feet and could have rendered him unconscious.   But Archie successfully reached the barn, flung open its large doors, and ran to and jumped inside the rusted remains that once was an automobile.  He buckled up and wound up all the windows as he had been instructed by what he know considered an angel, come to rescue him.



    Thanks, Jake. Sorry I ripped off some of your farm supplies.  Guess best to let begones be begones, right ol’ buddy?  After all, if you had returned for revenge instead of saving my butt, yah wouldn't have steered me to what I also now see as the safest place to ride out the twister.



    And what a ride it was!



    With horror Archie watched screaming wind strip away, all at once, all the retaining walls as well as roof of the barnhouse.  For a split moment it reminded him of the lawyer in Jurassic Park sitting on a toilet when instantly the outhouse was gone.  But he didn’t have time to feel lucky that at least a T-Rex wasn’t upon him.  In a second the farmer was hurling up in the old sedan, as if in some sort of miraculous elevator car riding up swiftly in an elevator shaft!



     After the rapid acceleration off the ground, the ride upwards seemed to slow down.  The vehicle with Archie belted in safely was ascending in the eye of the monster where it was a bit calmer than at the periphery of the swirling funnel of wind.  It was all so surreal to the drunken farmer, still not quite sure if he was in some sort of nightmare.  Especially when suddenly, looking at the driver side, he saw the ghost of his neighbor Jake sitting there and staring at him.



     “Told you so, Archie boy.”



     “I believe you know, dear Jake.  Oh, how do I believe you now!’



     “When I told you that a tornado was coming for you and your place?”






     “Well that’s not what I’m talking about.  Remember I told you there'd be some sort of test?”



     “Yeah, but…”



     “Well, my man, here it comes.”



     “Whatcha talkin' about?  What the...”



     Outside the window next to where Archie sat, belted up on the passenger side,  appeared a little girl, swirling upwards along with the car.  Like two cars moving in the same direction and at the same speed, it appeared that the frightened, screaming girl was motionless next to his window.



     “Why don’t you wind down your window and save her?” asked the phantom.



     “Hell, no! I ain’t going to stick my neck out to rescue somebody I don’t even know.  Besides opening the window might suck out the air in here and cause my car to start tumbling in this here wind tunnel.  Sorry, that poor girl is on her own.”



     “Wrong answer,” said the entity in the driver’s seat.



     “Watcha mean by that, Jake?” pleaded Archie with a worried look on his face.



     “I told you that you were going to die anyhow.”



     “Ah shucks, I thought this car was gonna somehow save my ass with the help of a guardian angel like you.”



     “It could have.   It was moving upwards to eternal life with the Lord.” 



     “What do you mean it was?”



     “Not anymore it ain't.  Because of your selfishness and lack of compassion for that  child, by the way also doomed, you, my dear friend, is now sentenced to … “



      Archie thought it, was afraid to verbalize it, so the messenger vocalized it.



      “Yes sir, Archie Pinkerton, straight to hell.  You just flunked the test.”



      After that was declared, the tornado dissipated as abruptly as it had materialized.  Down when the vehicle that had protected Archie from the spiraling sharp debris within the twister’s funnel.  Having also functioned as a capsule that shot him high up into the sky, now, without the swirling updraft, it turned into a dead trap bolting downward at an ever accelerating speed.   Upon touchdown, it mashed itself as well as its contents into fiery smithereens, cratering deep, deep... very deep, below the surface..



       Farmer Pinkerton felt the searing heat from the towering flames around him, due he thought, to the horrendous crash.  Then he heard a sinister voice say,



       “Welcome to Hell.”