Here's one final excerpt from The Former Things. In this scenario, Sean Winter and his co-workers have recently survived a tornado in Oklahoma City. Now, Sean is at his apartment contemplating what happened.
I start heating some water for chamomile tea on the stove. A few minutes later, the whistle of the kettle alerts me that it’s ready. While I wait for the tea to steep, I flip on the TV and remain standing. It seems our tornado made the national news.
“—according to the National Weather Service, the Oklahoma City tornado that hit this morning was a strong F3 on the Fujita Scale. Local storm chasers have claimed it was more like an F4,” the female news anchor says. “Whichever the case, we have verified reports of serious damage throughout the city, at least eighty-four people were injured, and six are confirmed dead.”
Given how violent the storm was, it’s incredible that it wasn’t far worse. I sit down on the couch and look at the screen. I see the news anchors talking with a reporter on the scene, but I don’t hear their words. I’m lost in thought. I think I’m starting to see how close I came to dying today. It could have been our building that the tornado ravaged. It was right outside, across the street. My fears about us all being sucked up into oblivion almost became reality. The people in that bus and the parking garage weren’t so fortunate. I keep thinking about Keith and his vehicle. They weren’t lucky, either. I mean, he’s fortunate to be alive. Vehicles can be replaced. But I do feel bad for him. He’ll have to file a police report and wait for the vehicle to be towed. Then he’ll have to get a ride home and find other means of transportation.
If I had a car, I would have given him a lift. Why should it matter to me? I have no obligations to him, none at all. Except that, for some reason, I care.
I take a sip of my tea and nearly burn my tongue. I try to shake off the sting from the heat before I lean forward, grab the remote, and immediately change the channel. Maybe some sci-fi will take my mind off things. At first I’m excited, one of my favorite shows is on: Battlecruiser Amsterdam.
It starts with a visual recap with voiceover by lead actress, Chance Powers — who plays Commander Sylvia Michaels: “Previously on Battlecruiser Amsterdam, the crew encountered an ion storm, which severely damaged the ship. Will the crew be able to survive long enough to repair the ship and make it out of the storm?”
Frowning, I turn off the TV.
The tea is so weak, it tastes like someone put grass in water. But it’s the right temperature now, so I gulp it down. I hope it can steady my nerves. I lean back against the couch and try to unburden my mind. Think good thoughts, right? But I keep seeing the destruction outside the Prosaic building and reliving the tornado sounds. I close my eyes and slowly tilt my head from side to side for a few seconds, feeling the crick-crack noises of my joints popping and relieving their tension. I breathe deeply a few times, but my right foot keeps tapping erratically, betraying how frayed my nerves still are.
Now I think about Keith. Even though I may not agree with Keith’s belief system, I know he was trying to help me through the whole experience. His actions helped quell my anxiety attack. He didn’t overreact when I was freaking out. That got me through two storms — the one outside and the one inside. And I walked away from the disaster without a scratch. But he lost his vehicle. He’s the one who needs help now. Is that what I’m really wrestling with? How am I supposed to do anything?
My finger starts tapping on the armrest. I can’t help it. Keith couldn’t do anything about the weather. He just did what he could for me. He acted like a friend. He stayed with me, listened to me.
Why should it matter to me if someone else believes in a god? People believe in all kinds of crazy things. Besides, it’s not like he forced me to pray with him.
You can preorder The Former Things now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Releases July 12, 2022!
About the author
Allen Steadham is a nondenominational Christian. Happily interracially married since 1995 and the proud father of two sons and a daughter. He and his wife have been in the same Christian band since 1997. He plays electric bass, she plays strings, they both sing. It's all good.
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