On the Loose: Preview Part II

Here is the other half of chapter one. Just to refresh: Tornado. People in bathtub.

Rocky’s whining is louder than both the siren and the TV. His big dog mouth is near my ear, and his breath is more of a natural disaster than any twister. I try to shove the dog off me with an elbow, but he’s rock solid.

“Doing OK?” James holds his cushion up with one hand, his other arm curling around me and Millie.

My teeth chatter and my body quakes. No, I’m not OK. I’m petrified! I’ve watched the Discovery Channel. I’ve seen what random chaos a tornado is capable of. I know perfectly well in a few hours it could be me, a few cows, and a television set stuck in a tree on the other side of town.

“Everything’s going to be fine. It’s tornado season. Nothing to be afraid of. We’re just taking some precautions.”

Millie’s voice does little to comfort me. Precautions? A precaution is wearing your seatbelt in case you might have a wreck. Or carrying an umbrella because it may rain. Three people and a dog huddling in a tub with parts of a couch balanced on their heads is not a precaution. It’s what you do when the weatherman says a tornado is going to sail over your house and rip through your community.

“I’ll pray for us.”

With our heads already bowed, James leads us in prayer, asking God for safety and protection.

Even though I’m living with a pastor, and I’m at church a million times a week, I’m not a Christian. Shocking, I know. I’m still on the fence. I’m new to church and God, and I’m only now getting to the point where I can go to the youth services on Wednesday nights without wanting to hide in a broom closet all night. This life of faith the Scotts lead has been a huge adjustment for me.

That being said, I hope we don’t get wiped out tonight because I’m just not ready. Should we meet with untimely deaths, I know where the Scotts would go. They’d waltz right into the pearly gates of heaven. Me . . . now that’s another matter. Not tonight, God. I’m not exactly in the believers club yet . . . And besides, I can’t die without getting my driver’s license. It would be so embarrassing.

Rocky’s ears perk up and he sniffs the air. Maybe he got a whiff of his own breath.

The lights flicker a few times, and James’s arm tightens around my shoulders. This is not good.

The trees outside beat on the house, and rain pelts the roof. Isn’t it supposed to be really quiet before a tornado? Maybe the threat is over. We’ll probably be back in front of the TV in a few minutes.

Then the room goes black. I stiffen.

No lights. No noise from the TV. Nothing but the sound of the wind howling in the rain and the house shaking at the force of it.

The dog growls and paws at the tub.

I scratch his ear. “Rocky, calm down.” But who can blame him? I’m about to pee my pants myself.

Woof! Woof!

The walls begin to vibrate, and Rocky catapults out of the bathtub, barking at a new noise.

“Got that cushion over you, Katie?” Millie’s voice is higher-pitched than usual, and our huddle gets tighter.

The dog scratches at the door, whining and yelping.

“You shut the door, right?” Millie whispers to her husband. “Rocky, come here. Come on.”

An eerie sound like a distant jet plane has me holding my breath in fear.

The door creaks open then crashes against the wall, as the dog frees himself from the bathroom.

“Rocky!” We all call out in unison.

The jet sound is getting louder.

And closer.

I can hear things flying against the house. Or maybe it’s hail.

“I’ll get the dog.”

“No, James. Rocky’s more likely to come to me. He’s got to be under the bed. I’ll run out really quick and get him.”

“Millie, no.”

Ignoring her husband, Millie makes a dash for the door, calling for the dog.

Just as the bedroom window explodes.

My ears fill with the pounding of my pulse. The alarm can no longer be heard, and the jet sound is now more like a train—coming for our house at mach speed.

“Stay here!” James flies into the bedroom, calling his wife’s name.

“I’m over here! Just got a little scratched.”

I can’t see a thing, except for the bedroom occasionally illuminated through the doorway by lightning. My eyes don’t leave the door, and I only release my pent-up breath when the shapes of my foster parents are in front of me.

James shuts us in the bathroom, and we gather close again.

The wind roars, and the Scotts cocoon around me. James is talking, but I can’t hear him. Tears slip down my face, and I grit my teeth and bury my head into Millie’s shoulder.

The house shakes and sways, as if it’s fighting to stay in place. Glass shatters somewhere else in the house. I hold on for dear life.

And then it stops.

My breathing is the loudest thing in the room as the locomotive sounds fade away.

“Is everybody all right?”

The calm timbre of James’s voice fills me with relief. We’re OK. We made it.

“Katie?” And now Millie’s voice.

My body sags against her.

“I’m good.” Though my head is spinning. I can’t believe I just sat through a tornado. Maybe the Weather Channel will want to interview us.

“I’m going to get a flashlight. Everybody just stay put for now. I think we lost a few windows, so there’s probably glass everywhere.”

James returns in a moment, the beam of his light illuminating the bathroom. “Millie, you said you were OK.”

“I am.” She tenses beside me. “Oh . . . I see what you mean.”

My eyes follow the path of the light, and I see Millie’s white shirt.

Covered in blood.

Copied from On the Loose, by Jenny B. Jones, copyright 2007, by permission of NavPress, www.navpress.com. All rights reserved.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 3 comments
Anonymous - August 30, 2007

WOW! Super! Applause! I love it! You’re the best! Whew! I am glad you got us through that one!

However, I am not exactly sure that this is enough to qualify you for the seminar prize!

Paula

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C.J. Darlington - August 31, 2007

Love it too! Great job, Jenny. Definitely no sophomore slump for you! 🙂

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Anonymous - August 31, 2007

That is just cruel to leave us hanging like this!

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