It’s a saying we hear a lot in the Ozarks: “If you don’t like the weather, wait fifteen minutes.” That time can safely be cut in half during the spring and summer months, when tornadoes crank up like mad mosquitoes, biting down on selected towns throughout the region. For the last few weeks, we’ve had storm predictions just about every other day, so the hubby and I took our chances and headed out to the nearest Cineplex, about an hour away. We don’t go out to the movies much anymore, but ‘Iron Man’ was too much of a temptation, and who can beat $4 matinee prices? Since the movie wasn’t being shown at our usual fave theater in northwest Arkansas, we went south to the nearest college town to see it, a decision we would appreciate later in the day. It started raining as we headed into the theater, and we could even hear the downpour in the cocooned environment of Cine-pod 14, one of many screening rooms that now form the modern movie multi-plex. I was soon distracted from the weather by a series of too-loud car commercials, goofy reminders to turn off your phone, gag your baby and otherwise keep quiet, and bad trailers for movies I wouldn’t even rent from Netflix. (Other than Indy 4, which looks promising.) By the time the opening scenes of the featured flick started up, I was so grateful that I would have loved it even if Robert Downey, Jr. just walked around encased in Reynolds Wrap, saving kittens from trees. But the movie was amazing, and it flowed so well. This was the first movie in years that I didn’t feel the urge to look down at my watch, the acting was wonderful, Downey was perfect, and the special effects were seamless. After we popped out of our movie pod, we noticed that the sun was shining and the rain had moved on. I was relaxed and stress-free after the movie, so we kicked around town a little, perusing bookstores, office supply stores, and other fetish outlets known to writers. As we left the last one, though, the sky had turned dark again. The radio announcers were throwing around fun phrases like ‘tornado warning’ and ‘supercell,’ the usual confidence-building forecasts of spring. We decided to take the southern route home, since the really bad stuff was happening north of us, and away we went. As we sped homeward, the sky became increasingly moody, and the radio announcers were discussing funnel clouds spotted on the ground, just a few miles from our usual fave theater. There, storm sirens were piercing the air, and a school roof was being peeled away. We were just in a bad thunderstorm, hoping to get home before everything hit. As we listened to the ongoing news stream, I kept my eyes locked on a singular patch of blue sky in the storm clouds, a patch that seemed to ride with us. For some silly reason, it made me feel better.
Due to road construction, we ended up too far south, out of the storms, and realized they had time to pass over. For the next twenty minutes or so, we laughed at ourselves, getting lost on roads we knew from childhood, singing along with the radio, and dispelling our own weather-related stress. When we were approximately ten miles from home, another tornado warning was issued, this time for our area. Cop cars zipped past us, looking for funnel clouds. We realized, too late, that we were bolting headlong into a huge green wall of tornado weather. It was raining so hard, I don’t know how my hubby could see the road, but he drove brilliantly. I did notice that he kept looking off to the left, but I was already nervous and watching for flying cows. Finally, we discovered the other side of the storm and drove home. During that last mile, he told me why he had been glancing to the side. He spotted a funnel cloud coming down from the sky, keeping pace with us for a while, but there was no place we could have stopped to get off the road. I told him he was right to not share that info with me at the time, as it would have been difficult for him to drive with me perched on his head like a cartoon cat. We arrived home, safe and sound, but I don’t plan on leaving this little valley for a week.