I and my cat were sound asleep when my cell phone began beeping a storm alarm. A possible tornado was in the area. The sky turned purple. It might have been a biblical sand storm or a wave off Oahu, traveling at 45 miles per hour. Trees knelt east and dogwood petals blew straight down, covering the front yard like snow.
Lightning bolts ran like race horses and sliced up the Mississippi, striking high on the bluffs. The river was engorged. I switched between channels Four and Five, as the weather forecasters called out the storm line, Godfrey to Delhi to Brighton and on to Piasa and Fidelity. Channel Four pronounced the place names correctly. Channel Five said “Pee-ah-suh” instead of “Pie-uh-saw” and “Deli” instead of Dell-high.”
Emergency vehicles raced up and down Route 3. The epicenter of the storm was the border of Jersey and Madison counties, just two hundred yards from my driveway. Three firetrucks passed, going west.
Weather is not destructive enough to act as a cautionary tale for the human race. We have no predators, save for ourselves. Which is why we wage war. We need high body counts – I think whites secretly pray for high black body counts – to preserve the Aryan Way, the entrance to Walmart. There is nothing to preserve; memory is not history. If one walks three paces, one cannot return to the beginning, only retrace steps which are now future.
On Saturday, April 29, at 3:30 pm, my cat and I slept and were awakened by a storm. (I remember.) On Saturday, April 29, at 3:30 pm, my cat and I died from carbon monoxide poisoning. (It was painless.) On Saturday, April 29, at 3:30 pm, my cat and I played and chased each other around the house. (I recall.) On Saturday, April 29, at 3:30 pm, my cat and I caught mice in the field across the road. (Tasted like chicken.) On Saturday, April 29, at 3:30 pm, my cat and I practiced vocabulary. All of it happened. None of it happened. The storm was – n’t.
History, for the record, requires eyewitnesses, quotes. The eye is unreliable, quotes are reported words, words are symbols, memory is not history. We are dangling modifiers and musicians of a deaf universe. We were not, we are not, we will not be.
John Paul Sartre, John Rawls and John Cage walk into a bar and order vodka calamities with stuffed olives, no ice. The bartender is Pope John, the floor swabber is King John, the pool player is “Meet John Doe,” the juke box guy is John Boy. A tornado is coming. Rawls recites his theory of justice, Cage hits bar stools with a hammer, Sartre sings “A Little Help from My Friends.” The tornado blows up the bar, but these guys keep on envisioning.
Pope John calls last call and drops dead; John Rawls downs his vodka calamity with stuffed olives into his lungs, drowned as he sings his theory of “original position;” John Cage reaches nirvana by hitting himself in the head; “Meet John Doe” jumps into a urine puddle in the men’s room; King John falls on his broom handle; John Paul Sartre shouts, “Oh my god, I am dead,” and dies; John Boy says good night to himself – after the storm
And on the juke box, Miss Peggy Lee sings, “Is That All There Isn’t.”