The Lights Went Out

By Angie Romines

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Naomi was holed up with Scooter and his beautiful baggie of Oxy in The Cutler Corner Motel—Room 13—when the tornado touched down and set the whole place to shaking. She had barely partaken of the powder when the walls of the motel room began to rumble like a train was passing just outside the window. Naomi gripped the threadbare comforter, wondering if a mine had collapsed or the world was ending.

“Oh shit! Oh shit!” yelled Scooter, trying to pull his jeans up over his greying underwear but kept getting tangled up until he tipped into the veneer dresser, knocking his stash onto the red shag carpeting.

Naomi dropped to the floor and tried to wedge herself under the bed, but the frame was too close to the ground. Am I really going to die sober? she thought as she huddled next to the nightstand, covering her head. As soon as the winds died, Naomi rushed to the window. The motel office trailer was blown clear across the parking lot where it lay upside down. The sky was a greenish grey, looking like a storm-tossed lake. Trash covered the main road—Big Gulp cups, used napkins, beer cans blanketed the asphalt.

“Cheyenne,” she gasped, embarrassed that she was just now thinking of her daughter, alone at the trailer up in the holler. Cheyenne dragged Scooter toward the door.

“I’m sure she’d fine, Nay,” Scooter whined, before breaking from Naomi’s grasp to pick up his baggie of Oxy. He held the powder in front of her and shook it a little. “Just a hit to take the edge off, and then we’ll check on her.”

Naomi snatched the baggie from his hands, jogged out the door, yelling over her shoulder, “We’ll snort while we drive!”

Scooter groaned but trotted out to the parking lot in his bare feet, the ragged bottom of his jeans dragging through puddles. Luckily his truck had four-wheel-drive since the roads were littered with massive tree branches and metal scraps.

“Jesus, Scooter, can’t this old piece of shit go any faster?” Naomi snapped, certain Cheyenne was already gone. Cheyenne and Naomi’s trailer had no foundation, let alone a storm cellar. If the twister touched down anywhere near their rusted tin box, her daughter would be sucked to the heavens. And for a brief, terrible moment, Naomi hoped that when she got to their place, Cheyenne would be gone, taken by the winds. A wave of relief washed over her. The weight of her failure as a mother would float away like ash from a campfire. No more peanut butter sandwiches. No more glasses of water in the middle of the night. No more waiting to go to the Motel until Cheyenne was asleep. She’d be alone, free.

Naomi dug her fingernails into the fleshy underside of her arm, pinching and twisting.

Naomi was stuck here with this child she clearly was not capable of raising on her own, a child who might bear the curse of her family line. Poor Cheyenne. Wasn’t she the stuck one? Always hungry and dirty but never blaming Naomi even when she should. When she was sober, which was rare, Naomi tried to watch her girl for signs that she had the gift. But Cheyenne never woke up in a sweat like she used to, shaking from the visions that had come to her in the night.

Jericho would be ashamed of you, she thought as she punished her skin, scratching until she saw a thin streak of blood appear.

Scooter’s truck barreled up Naomi’s gravel driveway. “Cheyenne, baby!” Naomi screamed as she saw the damage to the trailer. The tornado had peeled the roof off like it was opening a can of tuna. Naomi’s bras were haphazardly strewn in a bush out front. Their Lucite kitchen table was twenty feet up in a tree. She ran in through the front door which was about to fall off its hinges.

Cheyenne was sitting quietly in a rocking chair, one of the few possessions still remaining in the trailer, reading an Archie comic book. “I’m okay,” she said quickly and walked over to hug Naomi.

“What happened? How are you alive?” Naomi checked all over Cheyenne for bruises and scratches. She didn’t have a mark on her.

“The lights went out, so I hid under the table. Then it got light again, so I looked up. But the electricity hadn’t come back on, it was the sky. I closed my eyes, and then it was over.”

“That table is in the tree. Why didn’t you get sucked up? Are you lying to me?” Naomi didn’t know why she’d lie, but it didn’t make sense.

“No, mama. The storm wasn’t coming for me. It told me,” she said calmly before running out the front door to start gathering their wet belongings.

Naomi watched her girl go, braids slapping against her dirty t-shirt. She stood amongst the ruins of their home and shivered for a spell before collapsing into the sorry mess that used to be their living room. And in that moment, Naomi knew. It was happening. It was happening to Cheyenne, and Naomi could do nothing to stop it.

Angie Romines