Thursday, June 16, 2011



An Invitation To Disaster


Al Bruno III

Chester Bush sat on his front porch waiting for the sunset and what the sunset would bring. It was a warm spring day, cloudy with a hint of rain in the air. He had multiple windows open on his laptop and with each one he was checking for news in a city a timezone away.

Three days ago at 7 o’clock in the morning a tornado had come through the town of Drummond, Oregon destroying everything in its path. From his comfy chair Chester could read the incoming stories and watch the video feeds from local and national news sources.

The body count kept rising, it seemed that for every miraculous survival there were three lives cut short. The tornado had destroyed the firehouse but spared the police station. It had avoided the school but leveled an entire wing of the hospital.

There was booze in his free hand, expensive brandy in a cheap glass. His ex-wife Rosie would have said that was typical of him and she would have been right. He had a lousy house full of expensive toys, he had a rusty car with a high quality stereo system. That was just the way he liked it.

He opened one browser window and opened another and listened to the streaming feed from Drummond’s AM radio station. The traffic reports and right wing pundits had been replaced with constant updates. They took calls and tried their best to help people track down loved ones that had gone missing in the disaster.

Chester was two years away from sixty and he was proud of how well he handled the technology at his fingertips. Too many of his friends shied away from it all, intimidated at learning something new, afraid of looking foolish when they made a mistake. Chester had no fear of mistakes.

His cell phone rang and he dropped his drink in his fumbling to get it to his ear. He hung up almost immediately, another one of those damn idiots that kept looking for the previous owner of his cell number.

There had been a time when he would have cursed the person on the other end of the line out until they hung up, then he would have called them back and cursed at them some more. All through his life his temper had been a problem but not anymore. Had he finally mellowed or was it just that at the age of fifty-eight he didn’t have the energy for feuds and fights?

The puddle from his spilled drink had spread out across the bare wood floor. He frowned at it for a moment and then closed his laptop, there wasn’t anything new it could tell him anyway.

He knew that the house belonging to Rosalie Price, formerly Rosalie Bush, had been flattened by the tornado. Just like every other house on that unlucky street.

Chester retrieved a towel from the kitchen then got down on his knees and dabbed at the spilled brandy. The house he had shared with Rosie for seven years was gone, it seemed almost hard to believe. The last time he had seen the place was after the signing of the divorce papers.

He still remembered his last words to her, “Drop dead.”

That damn temper of his again. And hadn’t he enjoyed holding a grudge?

In the eleven years since that day his one great joy had been hearing about his ex-wife’s troubles. He still had enough friends in Drummond to keep him apprised of the gossip. He laughed when he learned her second marriage had crashed and burned. When he heard she had gotten Bells Palsy he’d joked that now the rest of the world would see the scowl he’d had to live with for far too long.

He brought the wet cloth and glass back into the kitchen, he gave the both of them a quick rinse and set them out to dry. For a moment he toyed with the idea of getting another drink but he decided he'd rather be sober.

For now anyway.

The sun had fully set, the sky was a darkening purple.

Eleven years. That was a long time to be angry but it kept his other feelings a safe distance away. Better to be angry than to look back.

That had changed three days ago. News of the disaster had set him trying to call and email friends. Within a matter of hours he knew that all his old buddies were fine, a little shaken up but otherwise untouched. Then they told him about Rosie's street, and Rosie's house.

At first he just shrugged off the news but as the day wore on it tugged at him until it became a sickening worry. It robbed him of his appetite and the ability to sleep. In the silence of his house all he heard were old conversations, when he closed his eyes they filled with twenty year-old memories.

The next morning he started making calls, he contacted all his old friends and even a few enemies, he made inquiries to the civil authorities, he even called in to the radio station to plead for information.

Headlights in the driveway stirred him from his thoughts. Chester hurried out to the porch steps. He almost didn’t recognize the woman getting out of the taxi. Her hair was short and going gray but even in the dusk he recognized her eyes. “Do you have any bags?” he asked.

“I don’t have anything,” Rosie said, she moved slowly and painfully.

“Come on inside,” Chester paid the cabbie and then helped her inside, “I’ll get you something to eat.”

She paused in the doorway, “Why are you doing this? You didn’t have to-”

“-Yes I did,” Chester smiled, “besides it’s too quiet around here.”

“Oh. Well I’ll see to that.”

“I bet you will.”

The porch door swung to a close behind them.


  1. I wasn't expecting to be touched by him at all during the story, but am pleased with the change in him. You also touch on the voyeurism that is available to us all now via the internet:we can live disasters in places we've ever heard of: it makes me uneasy and I thought that was what Chester was up to.

  2. Nicely done, Al. You should do slice of life more often (if thr superheroes let you, I realise how powerful they are)