As eerie as the sound of half-starved wolves lifting red throats to the winter moon. Frightening, almost brutal, it reverberated through the restaurant, freezing forks in midair, suspending the chef’s wooden spoon, silencing the most chatty diner. The tornado siren. Lord, how I hate it. We had just ordered dinner when it sounded. I opened the shutter slats on the window beside me and looked out at a scene worthy of Dorothy’s Kansas on that most fateful day. A swirling black sky, tinged with green. And Edward and Apple home, alone.
We did not have a television for the first five years of my life, a fact I am most grateful for today. Those five years gave me time to simmer an original imagination, allowed me room to create unique mental images without the interference of Hollywood. But when we finally did acquire a television set, the first thing I remember seeing was The Wizard of Oz which, of course, sent my already fantastical little mind into hyperdrive.
Strange, tiny munchkins that danced and sang.
Grouchy trees that hurled apples at you.
Fields of red poppies that could put you to sleep.
Snow that could wake you back up.
A good witch with a sing-song voice and most enviable crown.
A bad one with a sharp green face and armies of uniformed monkeys that flew.
And through it all, a little dog in peril.
I was glued to the screen, lost in the colours of exhilaration and terror.
I still shudder when I picture that wicked witch of the west riding past Dorothy’s window on her hideous broom.
But as scary as that green faced witch most certainly was, nothing petrified me more than that 1930’s black and white recreation of a tornado. I’ve yet to see one depicted on film with more power. Like the long-nailed index finger of Satan himself, lazily drawing hideous pictures on the homeland, it cut a quite horrible figure. Though I have yet to meet one of these twisters face to face, the mere threat of their visit retains the ability to send me racing to the closet with my dogs.
As the tornado sirens blared last night, all I could think of was, of course, those two wonderful dogs facing this experience without me. We had to get home to them, now. Our dinner left uneaten, the check hurriedly paid, we ran through the storm to the car, embarking on one of the more perilous journeys in memory. Hit with too much water to be called mere rain, we were driving blind - streetlights out, windshield wipers useless as noodles. Trees were transformed into monsters that twisted and bent into grotesque positions as though under a green witches’ spell. Thunder like cannon fire, lightning like a strobe, icy hail that bounced off the car like tiny white apples thrown towards the dark earth by those Ozian trees. We inched along in total silence, with me in my scary movie pose - hands to my face, peeking out through my fingers - my thoughts back at home with those two furry dogs. Before the car fully stopped in the drive, I jumped out and ran - soaked to the skin in just a few steps. We threw open the door and ... there they were... a big, black and white blur spinning in the entry hall, incredibly happy to see us. The four of us collapsed on the floor of the bedroom, - us, weak and wet - them, dancing in circles. The pack reunited and safe.
At three in the morning, the same dreaded siren sounds once more.
But this time, snuggled down as I am with one white sheepdog on one side, and one black sheepdog on the other, it holds no power to scare me.
Perhaps we shall all awaken in Oz.