By Albert Williams
Roddy Bane shakes his head as the weatherman announces that a hurricane watch is in effect for the islands. His wife Sheila-Anne is seated on a settee across the room; his sixteen year old daughter, as beautiful as a morning sun, is standing by the front door. Mr. Bane is absent-mindedly twirling a glass filled with rum.
“Can’t he find something proper to tell people?” he mutters. “Good Lord, I’ve lived all my life here and no hurricane ever…”
“Aw, won’t you hush up!” interrupts his wife who is trying to make sense out of the weatherman’s predictions. “This is serious you know, they say this is a dangerous storm,” she adds making a gesture with her hands to silence him.
“A dangerous storm…Bah” retorts Mr. Bane. “Nothing but a little…”
“Well listen nuh,” chides Sheila-Anne, her eyes glued to the TV set as the man on the television points out the current coordinates. “I wonder what’s it like to go through a hurricane,” says Tarah, almost to herself, flicking a handful of her dark-brown tresses over her right shoulder as she peers out into the fading light.
“Not a very nice thing,” responds her mother, who saunters towards the front door where Tarah is standing. “I can remember my mother telling me that in 1930 a bad hurricane hit Dominica and plenty people did get killed,” she says nodding her head sagely.
“All this meteorological stuff……Bah!” interjects Mr. Bane. “Never heard anyone talk about a hurricane in…”he leans back into his favourite armchair frowning.
“Papa God, make this storm pass us,” utters Sheila-Anne as she quickly makes the sign of the cross. “All you not hearing,” ejaculates Roddy. “All you and dat TV is two of a kind, I wish dat hurricane would come for true and let me hear you talk bout storm coming.
“Roddy!” exclaims Mrs. Bane, her teeth clenched and
eyes glowering. “How can you say dat?” she spurts.
Mr. Bane doesn’t reply, instead he leans forward reaching for the centre table where the bottle of D-Special rum, newly opened, is standing. He tops his glass with some more of the stuff. Without much of a thought he dumps the contents into his mouth, swirls it around, then swallows with a gulp. The stinging beverage makes his eyes twinkle with redness, as his face contorts with a hideous grimace. He coughs.
Mr. Bane is a sawmill operator at a local lumber yard. This afternoon he is home earlier than usual as the company has let the workers off since midday, so that they could look after their families in the anticipation of a direct hit by the storm. He had passed by Port-of-Call for a drink or two with a few of his colleagues, and by the time he reaches home he was thoroughly intoxicated.
Tarah, who herself would normally have been out with her friends about this time, has taken the government’s warning seriously. She has decided to stay indoors, keeping periodic checks on the storm’s progress via the radio and television for updates.
Mrs. Bane peering out of the window observes in the distance huge masses dark of clouds, she says, “Boy! The sky so ugly, I’m glad you are here with me. I’m going to check the kitchen to see if we might need anything.”
As the afternoon wears on the sky changes drastically; an otherwise red and orange sunset is obscured by the foreboding cheerless clouds.
Mr. Bane is propped up in his favourite armchair, dressed in the same blue jeans and denim long sleeved shirt that he wore to work today. His head is cocked to one side as Tarah tries to wake him pleading. “Daddy,
come on, help me to nail some plywood over some of the windows,” she begs. “They say the hurricane will hit us at midnight,” she adds shaking him. Roddy’s reply is blurred and angry.
“Aw leave me alone,” he chides, “can’t you see…Can’t you see no hurricane, Bah!”
Tarah gives him a disgusted glance.
Suddenly a dazzling streak illuminates the evening sky, plunging the villa into a thick darkness, followed several moments later by a deafening roar overhead as thunder pounds the already humid atmosphere.
Tarah covers her ears giggling while her father is startled. “What the !…what was dat?” he says springing to his feet in a daze. At that moment Mrs. Bane returns from the kitchen holding a long white candle, its warm flame casting dancing shadows. “Hello dear,” she says “the lightning must have cut the light. We have a flash light nuh?”
“Yes Mum,” answers Tarah, “I’ll go and get mine.”
The contours on Tarah’s feminine silhouette recede into the darkness. Mrs. Bane sets the candle on a saucer, placing it on a shelf below the portrait of Jesus Christ, then she turns, walks over to her husband who’s still sitting in his armchair. She touches him lightly on his knee and sighs. After a pause she says, “so look at you, Mr. Bane. You should be ashamed of yourself.” She turns and continues speaking . “Drunk like a fish when you should be helping us get things under control.” Another clap of thunder rumbles in the heavens and slightly rocks the house, followed by a burst of heavy raindrops large as golf balls that now beat upon the roof.
Tarah returns with the torch, training its beam from window to window. She says, “I really wish we had boarded up the other windows.”
“Let’s just take it easy,” advises her mother trying to sound comforting. “Maybe…Things won’t be as bad as all that.”
Tarah complains further that she is feeling chilly since the evening temperature had dropped a few degrees as the evening thickened over the island. When she went to search for the flash light she had donned a thick woollen sweater and a pair of slacks to keep her warm. She also brought a small transistor radio which she has on a local radio station, its soft music mingling with the feeling of apprehension in the living room.
Roddy is still clutching his empty glass, but now he’s singing a refrain of a reggae number; “When the rain falls,” he croaks, “it won’t fall on one man’s house top,” he runs his hand over his unshaven face, then points in the direction of his wife and child and adds, “Remember that.”
Time draws by slowly. The evening is uneventful. Tarah is sitting by the front door on a low stool. She is thinking over what her mother has said about the hurricane of 1930; then she shudders at the thought of so many people being killed. Mr. Bane has other thoughts as he peeps between half closed eyes. He silently concludes that his wife was naïve enough to expect a hurricane of some silly tale told by her
mother, perhaps to keep her quiet like a little girl, or discourage her from playing outdoors in the wind and rain. As the midnight hours arrives, Mr. Bane breaks the gloomy silence.
“As you see, midnight, no hurricane,” he laughs, a deep-belly kind of ridiculous laugh.
Mrs. Bane retorts defensively “well it’s better to be prepared than to be not ready and wind and rain come mashing up everything and you don’t know what is going on.”
“But I want to see the wind and rain, like how they does show it in the learning channel,” Tarah says with a smug smile on her face, making the dimples in her cheek stand out like two holes on either side of her mouth.
“Anyway,” replies Sheila-Anne, “you and your father does really get under my skin.” She begins to walk
around the room checking to see of everything is in order, then she sits on the sofa and sighs, “well my dear, we might as well try to get some sleep.” She tries in vain
to stifle a yawn. “Perhaps your father is right, dem weather people always predicting.” She nods in the direction of her husband who is already asleep in his armchair.
Dawn breaks under the ferocious winds, a low atmospheric pressure has created ideal conditions for the deadly vortex that has developed into a category four hurricane—a very dangerous storm. Roddy, Sheila-Anne and Tarah listen to the extremely high winds accompanied by torrential rains that are now pouring as if all the waterfalls in the world had been diverted over the Bane’s residence. Roddy, who seems to have slept off the effects of last night’s carousing is shouting above the screeching scenario. “All you,” he bellows “get buckets, bath tub…anything to put where dat leaking,” he advises.
“This really looking bad,” says his wife. Roddy nods in agreement, his mind now sober, but rather confused not knowing what to do in the present circumstances. Roddy has never experienced anything like this before. He turns his head abruptly to what sounds like someone trying to yank off the entire roof. Roddy Bane is a well built man, having gotten plenty of exercise from handling loads of lumber at his work place. He considers himself fearless, afraid of no one; but at the moment he feels a painful ache
in his chest at the mounting concern for his dear family. Up to eight inches of muddy rain water flows freely on the floor. An earthy odor permeates the air. Outdoors the gale continues to blow from every direction. Suddenly Mrs. Bane screams,
“Oh my God.”
Through the open front door she recognizes Tarah’s girlish figure crouching against the weather as she attempts to record the scene on her camcorder. “Tarah!” shouts Mrs. Bane with tears welling in her eyes, “get back inside.”
Her order passes in vain. Tarah’s fascination with the phenomenon has her trapped within its magical grasp.
Meanwhile, Mr. Bane himself is at the entrance in a trice.
He too shouts to his daughter. “Tarah!” he yells, cupping his thick hands around his mouth, “what do you think you are doing?” “Come inside,” he commands her. At that frightening moment, to his horror, he sees his daughter being lifted clean from her feet and being hauled several metres along a slippery lawn before she is lodged in a low-cut hedge that acts as a fence along the perimeter of the front lawn where she now holds on to prevent herself from being blown further, as well as for the fear of the loss of her life, her camcorder now carried aloft by the powerful currents tumbling and smashing before her eyes. Roddy is almost dumbstruck, he gapes unbelievably as Tarah is obscured from sight by the screen of leaves, dirt and other debris hurled between them.
“What!” exclaims Sheila Anne, “do something” she shrieks, tears now streaming down her face.
“God helps me utters Roddy, as he bites hard into his lips, “I’m going to get her,” he adds, his hands trembling.
“Hurry Roddy!” screams his wife again, the strong wind blowing her hair into her face. They gaze for moments as Tarah wedged among the branches of the shrub some forty feet away, stares back at them with a look of utter surprise and terror in her beautiful brown eyes.
Roddy crawls on all fours, gripping the earth as one would grip a blanket, inching his bulk forward, pushing against what seems like the strength of twenty men. He curses under his breath, wishing he could say the word and all at once still the storm, but Roddy realizes there is no way out. He now fears for both of their lives. As he closes in to Tarah he calls out to her, “don’t move—Daddy is coming to get you.” A few more feet and he has reached the bushy branches of the shrub.
He orders Tarah to hold on to him while he firmly grips the young lady around her waist. Tarah instantly obeys her father. She feels more secure as Mr. Bane’s towering form acts as a human shield, and together they retrace their tracks back along the lawn, pausing at times on all fours as the cruel winds wipes around them. All the time Tarah is thinking about the power of the wind as she witnessed first hand a number of fruit trees completely uprooted. She also saw portions of the roof of roofs of the neighbour’s home flying in the storm like kites. At last they reach the house where Tarah sees her mother waiting anxiously, her hand holding her jaws like one who has a terrible toothache.
It’s all right,” purrs Mrs. Bane looking over her rescued daughter.
“Mother,” Tarah says. “I never know wind could be so strong.” She gazes fearfully over her shoulder at the dramatic view of a hurricane in full force.
“I never knew,” says her mother, glaring at Tarah,
“that you could be so irresponsible to try something like that.”
“All I wanted was to record some action,” confesses
Tarah, “so we could watch it later.” Meanwhile the storm is unrelenting like a monstrous octopus, its tentacles lashing the villa with a barrage of powerful gusts.
Hardly a minute has passed since the child’s return to safety, when Mr. Bane realizes the roof of the house will not hold. “All you,” he says “lets go under there,”pointing to an open space beneath the counter in the kitchen, as the gusts outside seem to intensify.
“Quick!” he shouts. Sheila-Anne and Tarah huddle beneath it clutching each other, followed by Mr. Bane as what sounds like a huge wave envelopes the area spewing large chunks of the stonewall, almost enclosing the three of them in a dark tomb.
For the next few hours the family is utterly quiet. Only the horrifying screech of the wind can be heard, that echoes in their very bones. Finally the wind subsides and the sun shines with a brilliance as if nothing disastrous had taken place. It’s brilliant midday rays revealing total devastation.
Roddy Bane, meanwhile is pushing against a slab of
the stone wall that has enclosed him and his family under the counter where they had weathered the storm. Finally succeeding, he climbs out, then helps Tarah, then Sheila-Anne. “Well,” he sighs, “I’ll never doubt another weatherman again. They knew what they were talking about this time.” Roddy took his wife in his arms, kissing her gently on the cheek.
“Hey, you two,” says Tarah, “I want to experience another. This is fun but just a little rough, don’t you think,” she added rubbing her chin. “You and your adventurous mind,” teased Mr. Bane. “one of these days you will understand the real adventure.”
“You mean I’ll be on televsion reporting live from
Dominica for Diablotin Television!”
Amid the ruins of their home they all break out in tears of joy to be saved from the worst of the storm.
“I’m not sure about that,” replies Mr. Bane, “but you
nearly became a missing actor in a revised “Gone with the Wind”.
“I guess that’s what they call riding the storm,” says
Sheila-Anne as she draws Roddy and Tarah towards her, pressing them to her breast.