Author: Remi Lourenco PM
In Bible Belt Wichita, Texas, A young boy named Jacob's faith is tested. "I did not know it right then, but we had one hour. One hour until my perfect utopia was to be crushed by a level 5 tornado."Rated: Fiction T - English - Tragedy - Words: 1,910 - Published: 06-09-11 - Status: Complete - id: 2922177
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
It was hot. That kind of hot that makes your eyebrows sweat. Anywhere else in the world it would be raining. But this was Texas, and it's always hot in Texas. Wichita, Texas, or most commonly known as the "city that faith built", was my perfect little utopia. Faith was a big part of our community here in Wichita Falls. Ironically enough, I was on my way to church when it all started.
Though most religious people attend church on Sundays, our local Church held mass every day of the week. Tuesdays, like today, were generally just as crowded as a Sunday in another church. Today the Pastor preached about trusting God, and having faith that even though we may not understand his methods, he has a plan for us.
It was exceptionally quiet at church today. Save for my brother Matthew and I, the pews were sparse and the pastor's voice lacked its normal vigor. He dismissed the congregation early with a preoccupied face. His final words, "May the Lord be with you" had a somber level of finality to them.
I walked out of the Church, confused and concerned. Matthew hopped down the wooden stairs of the Church we had known for years. As we walked away, I stared at the sadly hopeful little church, and the statue of Christ on the Crucifix that had been there since before my grandparents were born.
As a very young child, I had once asked the Pastor why Jesus looked so sad on the cross. The pastor told me that when Jesus descended he was made human for us. Humans experienced pain, and he went through awful pain to bear our sins. And though his eyes were said, his heart was not. I stared at the statue a moment longer before turning to go.
As we walked the dirt covered path from the town and drew closer to my home in the downtown area of Wichita, I noticed overwrought mothers stuffing their children into packed cars. Some of the children were crying and others obeyed blindly. Regardless, all were heading somewhere- but I couldn't help to wonder why. I saw windows and doors of houses being barricaded with heavy wood and sturdy metal. I wondered why everyone was leaving our little town of Wichita or acting so peculiar.
"Look, Jake, a penny!" Matthew exclaimed, bending over to pick up the shiny copper coin from the floor. "See a penny, pick it up and all day you'll have good luck."
"That's great, Matt." I said halfheartedly. Matthew, forever the optimist. Completely oblivious to anything around him. Sometimes I envied him.
When we finally reached home, we found my mother up against the back corner of our living room holding rosary beads and praying. She didn't even notice me come in. She just stood there, eyes shut , chanting " thy kingdom come, thy will be done" , each plastic bead rubbed by her small fingers seemed to make her more in tune with the Lord.
"Look ma, I found a penny. It's even my birth year. It must be super lucky!" Matthew said excitedly. My mother's eyes opened. Without a single word, she grabbed us in one fell swoop and pulled us into her chest. I could feel her heart race and felt her tears on my hair. Her rosary beads made shallow indentations on my skin, as she tried without success to hold us closer. "Everything will be all right." She choked out. "We have to keep the faith. You will see. It will be all right." Then, silence.
After a few long minutes, she spoke.
"We will stay here. This is our home. We are God's people, the Lord will not abandon us." she said. I had trouble deciding if she was trying to convince me or trying to convince herself. Her eyes were swollen, her lips pursed and her grip on us as deadfast as ever.
I did not know it right then, but we had one hour. One hour until my perfect utopia was to be crushed by a level 5 tornado.
I listened to my mother's hushed sobs and felt her chest rise and fall.
"Mommy, what's going on? I'm scared." Matthew whined. His eyes darted around the room. My mother could not shield him from the hollow winds that flew through all the crevices of the house, creating a ghostly howl. I stared outside the window. There was not a soul in sight.
Was I was supposed to comfort my mother? Was I supposed to be a man? Everything I ever knew was falling apart in front of his eyes. I needed to be told it was all going to be okay, and that we would all make it through this. I looked at my brother, and then at my mother again. They needed me. I felt tears roll down my cheeks and started to push furniture towards the front end of the house. My mother took Matthew to the bathroom and ran into the room to get clothing to pad the bottom.
I walked into the bathroom as my mother sat inside.
"Jacob, get in here!" My mother yelled. The wind was picking up, and the house felt like it was wobbling. An unsteady to-and-fro that took your nerves along with it after every sway.
A siren screeched.
"Boys," My mother said, tears streaming down her face. "I love you. God loves you. God is with you, God is with us. Let's do a Psalm. How about 125?"
We were silent. Fear had muted us.
"Psalm 125." My mother said more insistently. "I know you know it."
"Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion," I began. "which cannot be moved, but abides forever."
"As the mountains surround Jerusalem… so the Lord surrounds his people-" continued Matthew in an unsteady voice. "from this time forth and forevermore."
The wind began to pick up, and the noises were almost unbearable. My mother had to yell to be heard above the screeching sounds of metal against metal.
"FOR THE SCEPTER OF WICKEDNESS SHALL NOT REST ON THE LAND ALLOTTED TO THE RIGHTEOUS, LEST THE-"
A piece of the wall fell out above us, landing on to my mother. She fell silent and limp. Matthew began to cry.
"Mom?" I asked. She was quiet. Scared and crying, I laid closer to her chest. I felt the fall and rise. I turned to Matthew.
"It's okay, it's okay, she's okay, come here." I held Matthew in my arms. He was sobbing uncontrollably. My own tears fell undeterred down my cheeks. I held my family close to me.
Suddenly, like out of a scene from a movie, torrential gusts of wind tore through half of the house. I felt grass and debris hitting my skin and cutting into me. My brothers screamed. I didn't want to open my eyes in fear that if I did, I may so the same. More screams came from a few houses down. Then, I heard the single scariest sound I have ever heard in my life. The only way to describe it was to say it was like a train headed full force in your direction. Then everything went black.
I awoke to my mother shaking me.
For a moment, I thought it was time for school and rolled over, asking for five minutes.
"Jacob, wake up!" She screamed. I jumped up. I was outside of the house, or rather, what was left of the house. It looked as if it had been gutted and smushed, a pile of debri and glass. All that was left was a partial skeleton and the bathtub we'd been in.
"Jacob!" My mother held me close, crying. I saw her right hand, bleeding in the spots where her rosary had once been. My mother kissed my forehead, my cheeks, my eyes.
"Matthew." She breathed to me, wiping tears from her eyes. "We have to find Matthew."
I nodded mutely. I rose gingerly, assessing the damage on my body. I had cuts and bruises almost everywhere, and I felt a fat lip.
"Matthew! Matthew!" My mother screamed panicky. I could hear my neighbors call out the names of others they were searching for. I watched Mrs. Burke, on her knees digging through debris to find her three month old daughter, Flora. People just stood there frozen, crying, staring at the bodies. It was like a scene out of Revelations: "The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath." There was nothing left of Wichita. Wichita had fallen.
"Jacob," my mother commanded frantically, "start looking through the rubble. Hurry. if your brother is in here we will find him. God help us. God help us."
I did as I was told. I had to. I could not think for myself. It all felt unreal. I was here, but outside myself. I began to dig, and dig. The debris were heavy, and I tried hard to avoid the sharp pieces of glass. As I dug, I hit something that was not as hard as the metal, wood or glass. It was softer. I lifted more debris, and tentatively touched it. It was a hand. Inside it was a a penny. The copper coin gleamed in the ironic sun light.
The moments after I found Matthew are blurry. I think I screamed; I remember my mother running over and holding him to her chest, sobbing and screaming. I just sat there, numb. This couldn't be happening. As my mother held him, the penny slipped from his palm.
I heard Matthew's voice in my head. "See a penny, pick it up and all day you'll have good luck."
I picked up the penny and inspected it. In raised capital letters along the face of the coin, it read, "In God We Trust."
What God? The God at church? The Jesus with sad eyes who knew our fate but kept silent? The God my mother was praying to a few minutes ago? The God that would protect us? Or do we trust the God that let my brother die? What God do we trust? What God? Where was this God today?
I raised myself from the debris and began to walk. I didn't know where I was going, I just couldn't be there.
I had watched my mother cry in disbelief and grief, watched as others did the same. I watched people sift through what was left of their houses, their lives. Everything they had worked for and achieved gone in the blink of an eyes.
I looked at the Church I had been in, only hours earlier. Not even the Church had been exempt from the Tornado. I looked for the statue of Jesus, but it was gone, most likely swept away by the violent winds.
They call Wichita, Texas the "city that faith built". I stared at the debris, of what was once left of my little utopia. I thought of all the prayers today, of the psalms, of the rosary beads. My mother's faith that God would protect us. Today, Wichita was the city that faith destroyed.