My First Last Words

    There was a tornado warning in Howard County today. A real one–not the kind that beeps during reruns of Friends. That kind, you ignore. This kind, we couldn’t.

    I was at Howard County Community College. I had commandeered one of their private study rooms for my own selfish purposes, and was cheerfully plugging away at the novel. I was on a roll, and nothing needed doing for a couple of hours. Such freedom should have been my first clue a natural disaster was afoot.

    Some guy brandishing a walkie-talkie burst in and shouted something about the windows being bad. I rather like windows, but this fellow was telling me they were bad. As I said, he had a walkie-talkie–I believed him about the windows.

    I started to pack my laptop and journals. The walkie-talkie guy started shouting at me again. He thought I should hurry up.

    “You don’t understand,” I explained. “I’m writing a novel.”

    He was not impressed.

    “I don’t give a God-damn,” he said; and really, who was I to argue?

    I managed to grab all of my stuff and schlep over to where a gaggle of students and teachers were crowding a stairwell. The door to the stairwell was marked, “Tornado Safety Zone”. I wondered if the sign had been there before today.

    When I finally squeezed in, people seemed more giddy than afraid. I liked that.

    I have this tendency, to try and ease uncomfortable social situations. I find awkwardness unbearable, and rather than allow the pressure of it to crush me, I combat it by spitting dopey one-liners at everybody, in hopes of getting people to lighten up. I wish I didn’t do things like this.

    “Who brought the weed?” I declared–the star of the damned tornado show. “If we’re gonna die, we might as well get high, right?”

    This got some laughs, though not as many as I had expected. I made my way to the back, by an exit door where two professors were busily tapping away on their smart-phones. I set my backpack to the ground, and whipped out one of my journals. I like this one because it has the initials, “MJC” engraved into the leather. Three pens protruded from my pocket like arrows in a quiver. I removed one, and set it to the paper. Only one thought was guiding my every movement.

    I haven’t finished my book.

    Immediately I began to scrawl instructions into the journal. I felt light-headed, but in a pleasurable way. I think I was excited by the prospect of writing my last words. At some point, I remembered a mom and a girlfriend were out there, so I paused to text-message them and ask if they were somewhere safe. I went back to the writing. The phone buzzed in my pocket a couple of times after that, so I assumed the ladies were at least safe enough to have responded.

    Not much else happened. It got pretty windy, but that was about it. Outside, everything looked pretty much the same as when I had arrived.

    Disaster or no, I thought it would be neat to post what I wrote in the stairwell onto the Bloggery. So here it is, folks. My very first last words.

———-

    A tornado warning has come to Howard County. Students of the local community college have been moved to a Tornado Safety Zone, which is in fact a stairwell. I am among them.

    If I am dead, and you are reading this, please finish my novel. In my laptop, which is in a bright orange case inside a black backpack, search for a file called, “chrochester”. This is the novel. It’s not called ChRochester; it’s called Khush. There is another copy in a black memory stick at [address has been removed due to author paranoia]. It is on the nightstand, next to my bed.

    This journal–as well as the owl journal inside the laptop case–contains information that should assist with completion, assuming you can read my handwriting.

    As a child, I had many nightmares in which I was suddenly sucked into the air–rising up, up, up until, finally, I would awaken. If such a death is my fate, I hope this is not the one to do it. I don’t fear death, mind you. I just want to finish my book.

    I am planning a second novel, called–wait. They just announced we can leave the stairwell.

    I’m a little disappointed.

———-

    In case you’re wondering… yes, all of this is true. That’s really what’s in my journal and, like a teaser, they really did announce we could leave just as I started to write about my second novel. And yes, I really did blurt out that weed comment to the inhabitants of the stairwell.

    I feel like I should conclude on a profound note, but I think I’ll just let it linger there. Death, when you think about, isn’t all that profound, is it?

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