Thanks to everyone that helped me with this story. My friend Rachael who helped me with ideas (I love you, baby sis), my editor, PapaKilo14 for his usual sterling job, my second edit Hal for his good work and of course, my beta readers for their help. They all make me look like I'm not an idiot.
I lived on the right side of the street. Not right as in the opposite of left, but right as in the opposite of wrong. There wasn't anything bad about the other side of the street; it was just an unlucky place to live. My side was lucky. I never knew it until May the 22nd. I live in Joplin, Missouri. I was in Tulsa. I was flying home from Austin and the plane came into Tulsa when I wanted it to, so I drove the two hours to get the flight I wanted. I got my car out of long term parking and popped the trunk. I have a black Charger RT and I'm in love with it. I had a SRT-8 on order but I wasn't going to get rid of the RT. It would be my daily driver. I was playing an album on my iPod on the way home and wasn't paying much attention to the rest of the world.
I hadn't listened to Montrose in a long time but I saw a movie on the flight home that reminded me of Bad Motor Scooter so I was singing along with Sammy Hagar. No one could hear me and my car wasn't offended. We had an understanding. Sometimes I listen to her and sometimes she listens to me. When I got to Joplin the first thing I noticed was that the hospital had been destroyed. It looked like a bomb had blown it up. A cop flagged me down and told me I couldn't get through.
"I live here," I told him. "What the hell do you mean I can't get through?"
"A big tornado just came through," he said. "Where do you live?"
I gave him my address and he looked at a map. "You're right where the tornado hit," he said. "You can't go there."
There's no use arguing with the police. I turned around and went around the back way. It was a mess. There was debris everywhere and it took me a long time and several backtracks to get home. One of the trees in the yard on the side of my house had fallen on the kitchen and every window on the south and west was gone but my house survived. Everything on the other side of the street was gone. The church across the street was badly damaged and the bell was sitting on some guy's car. All my neighbor's houses, the store on the corner, everything was gone. There was damage on my side of the street but the houses were all there. Some idiot had painted a big orange X on my siding. That was going to be hell to clean off. There were a lot of emergency people around and I went in the back door. I cleaned up all the glass and got black plastic to duct tape over the broken windows. I went out the front door to look at the east side and there were two girls sitting on my front step. I recognized them right away. They belonged to my neighbors across the street and their house was gone. They were holding on to each other and crying. They looked up when I opened the door. I tried to remember their names. Kaitlyn and Amber Osborn; I remembered.
"Hey girls, you okay?" I asked.
"Hi, Mr. Chapman," Kaitlyn said. "Yes we're not hurt. We were over at a friend's house three blocks north and we got in their basement. Our house is gone and we can't find Mom and Dad. We're afraid they got hurt." They started to cry harder.
"Well, come in and we'll try to find out," I told them. "I'll get you something to drink and we'll talk to some emergency workers."
"Thanks, Mr. Chapman," Amber said.
"Please, my dad is Mr. Chapman," I told them. "My name is Cedric."
I took them to the refrigerator. The power was out and if we didn't get rid of the perishables pretty quick they were going to spoil. I sent them to the garage for coolers and ice out of the freezer out there. I got everything that had to stay cold out and we packed it in chests. We drank the milk. That's what they wanted and I drank a glass too and we ate some chocolate chip cookies. The milk wouldn't last anyway. I took them outside and immediately, some clown came by and told us we needed to evacuate.
"We live here and we're not going anywhere," I told him. "These girls need to find their parents. Who should we talk to?"
He didn't have a clue but he told us we had to leave again. "No, you're on my property and you need to leave," I told him. "Come on, girls."
We went to the front yard. The maple tree there had the top broken out and it was a mess but not a priority. We talked to a couple of more emergency people and they told us that people whose homes had been destroyed were at churches and shelters around but it might take a few days to a week to get everyone found. People that were hurt were in temporary hospitals and the other one that hadn't been destroyed.
The girls were pretty upset about that but I told them they could stay with me until we found their parents. I tried to keep them busy for a while. The gas had been turned off but I had an underground propane tank. I changed the orifice and we got the water heater lit. We still had running water. I took them out to the garage and we got the generator running. It wouldn't run the whole house but we could keep the lights running and some other things. We got a window air conditioner and put it in the living room window. The generator could handle that and we shut all the doors we could. We dragged three mattresses into the living room and made up beds. I changed the orifices in the range, cooked supper and we took showers upstairs.
I gave them shorts and t-shirts to wear and that's what I put on too. They were both tiny little things. Amber was fourteen and Kaitlyn was sixteen. Amber was a freshman and Kaitlyn was a junior. We kind of talked and got acquainted. I told them we could turn off the lights and run the TV and PlayStation 4 if they wanted to pick out a movie or play a game. We sat on the sofa in the cool air under the air conditioner and they looked over my movies and picked out a Blue-ray. It was Monty Python and the Holy Grail and we laughed like hyenas. They sat on either side of me and put my arms around them. They seemed like they were getting very comfortable with me and I realized I had two very pretty girls staying with me.
Neither one of them had much going on in the development way. They were both very short, maybe five one or two and slender. Amber had very blonde hair and Kaitlyn had kind of strawberry blonde hair. They both had freckles, but Amber's eyes were baby blue and Kaitlyn had these glowing green eyes. They were very happy girls and even though they were worried about their parents they seemed like they were okay. We watched one of those stupid vampire romances they picked out and they loved it. I hated it, but I liked them, so I put up with it. I can't imagine what possessed me to buy that title.
We moved to our beds about halfway through the movie and I fell asleep. When I woke up someone was pounding on the door and the TV was just the PlayStation home screen. The pounding woke the girls up and they went with me to the door.
"What do you want?" I asked whoever was out there.
"Is everyone okay in there? We're with the fire department!"
"Thanks for checking," I told them. "We're fine."
We went back to bed but the girls were a little upset. They pulled their mattresses over next to mine and we went back to sleep. That happened four more times. I was getting tired of it. I made a sign and put it on the front door. "We're fine and we're sleeping," it said.
About four in the morning some asshole knocked anyway. "You can't stay here," he said when I answered the door. "This area has been evacuated."
"Go away and leave us alone," Amber shouted.
The next time I woke up it was to the sound of the lock being broken on the back door. I jumped up and grabbed a shotgun out of the closet under the stairs. I heard people moving around and when they came into the dining room I snapped on the light. The sound of a round being jacked into a .12 gauge froze them in their tracks. There were four of them and I think they were looters but they pretended to be emergency workers. I went along with it but I escorted them back out the door with the shotgun and I locked the dead bolt that time and propped a chair under the knob. The girls were pretty freaked out now and they came over on my mattress and huddled against me. I let them use me for a pillow and we went back to sleep. It was ten when I woke up and the girls were already up and making breakfast. We carried it back to the living room and talked while we ate.
We went out in the yard after breakfast and I got out my chainsaw. We cut the fallen tree up and made a woodpile. We worked in the yard all day and asked everyone that came by about the girl's parents. No one knew anything and I told them we'd just have to be patient. As soon as they got the streets clear of trees and power lines we'd drive around and look for them. We walked over to St. Paul's Church at dinner time and they fed us and gave us water, food and some clothes for the girls, just underwear, t-shirts and stuff. FEMA was starting to show up and as soon as it was safe to come in they promised they'd get clean up and rescue crews in.
.... There is more of this story ...