Angel Steps and Other Stories
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The clouds turned black and started to bubble. Hank Potter saw it at the tree line and stopped the chain saw. The sky looked bruised with green streaks.
"Don't stop now," a voice called from the truck.
Potter put the saw in a holster and adjusted the lift control. The sky bucket jerked past an oak limb.
"This ain't time to play," the voice added from below. "There won't be any tater logs at the minute mart if we wait past lunch."
Potter was crew chief for a bush unit at the Hurricane Utility Company. He pushed his hat back and looked west. Clouds tumbled toward Haven, his home town.
"Load up," he shouted. "Got some bad weather on the way."
He shifted the control and dropped the sky bucket on the truck. Limbs snapped in the distance with the rush of wind. Potter jumped to the deck and climbed in the cab.
Junior Howard turned on the highway.
"Looks like Hurricane County is the right name for this place."
"I've seen them all my life," answered Potter. "But this looks different."
He pushed the hard hat back over his red hair. Sweat and sawdust lined the creases in his neck. The cloud rolled closer to town in a cylinder that twisted the landscape in smoke and darkness.
That darkness dropped into a cone shape as it snatched trees and flung them skyward. The roar grew loud. Farmland disappeared in dust.
"We're heading right to it," Junior whispered.
"No, it's moving north." Hank gripped the door. The cloud crossed the highway. Power lines blinked. Tin roofing spun as if thrown.
Junior raced the engine. Potter plotted the course in his mind. His double wide was north of town. And it was almost lunch. Lois would be home with the girls.
They'd be in the kitchen listening to Paul Harvey on the radio. He imagined Lois with a bowl of chicken salad while the tornado approached.
"It'll body slam that trailer," Potter whispered. "They won't have a chance."
"My wife and girls are in the path."
Junior snatched the microphone from the dashboard. Potter grabbed it and clicked the button on the side.
Static came from the loud speaker. "Joice, this is Potter."
"A tornado's heading North into Haven." Potter looked dazed. The truck shook as Junior downshifted.
"Call my wife," he added. "Tell them to get out of that trailer." The funnel leaned sideways and continued north. Junior watched with an open mouth.
"Watch the road." Potter felt his stomach churn with the thought of a double wide in a storm. Maybe they got out in time. Maybe the twister banked northeast. Maybe God would spare his family.