Righteousness of upright ones saves them; And in a desire of ones acting faithless they will be caught.
The picture that comes to mind is the “monkey trap”. A gourd tied to a tree with fruit inside has a single hole big enough for a monkey hand, but not the fruit. A monkey is caught when they stick their hand through the hole for the fruit but refuse to let the fruit go.
Difficulties happen to both the righteous and the ones acting faithless, but the outcome of those difficulties is determined by their life before their Creator.
Brian never liked tornado season, but it was still a reality of life. The summer storms were amazing to watch, but terrifying as well. The TV blared the weather with the red cones of terror showing hot storms, and their predicted direction. His house was right under the center of one of them. He didn’t have much time.
A box of pictures, some documents, and his daughter’s old stuffed dog were thrown into a duffle. He looked at a picture of he and his wife from years ago and blinked back a tear.
Better times, but still, time to go.
Brian slung the duffle of stuff and clothes on his shoulder and made his way to the basement door. There was a knock on the front door. He looked over in some surprise, but he still had time, a little. Dropping the duffle by the basement door, he went to the front door.
“Who is it?” Brian asked without opening.
“It’s Jeremy, open up, man,” said Jeremy, a young man from down the street.
Brian opened the door, and Jeremy let himself inside.
“Sorry, everyone at my house is hunkering down, so I thought I’d hang with you.”
“Jeremy, I’m headed for the basement.”
“Can I watch your TV while you’re down there?”
Brian blinked at Jeremy without asking for a second. He cocked his head to one side.
“What’s going on, Jeremy? There’s a tornado coming this way. Why aren’t you hunkering down?”
“What for? What difference would it make? If that thing comes through here, no matter where you are, you’ll be dead.” He flopped on the couch and picked up the remote.
“So, your family, hunkering down in their house, they took the TV with them?”
Jeremy looked over at Brian quizzically.
“No, of course not.”
“Then why aren’t you watching TV at your house, Jeremy?”
Jeremy looked at the TV. The announcer was motioning over the storm tracking radar image. The road pattern was familiar to anyone living in that section of Watkins, Oklahoma. The storm was close, hot, and rotation had been spotted.
“They keep whining at me to come down in the basement with them,” Jeremy said without looking at Brian.
“So, you left.”
“Yeah, I couldn’t listen to it any more.”
Brian came around the couch and sat next to Jeremy, looking intently at his face.
“Jeremy.” Jeremy looked away from the TV at Brian. “Are your mom and dad okay?”
Jeremy stared at Brian, and the corners of his eyes moistened as water pooled slowly.
“I don’t think so.” He sniffed and looked at the TV.
“Jeremy, where are your parents?”
“In the basement, like I said,” Jeremy said without looking over.
“Jeremy, look at me.” Jeremy looked at Brian. “Where are your parents?”
There was a pause as Jeremy’s face went through a series of expressions, his eyebrows arching and furrowing, his mouth curving down on one or both sides.
“They’re in Fort Worth,” Jeremy said finally.
Brian relaxed and sat back.
“Why didn’t you go?”
“I didn’t want to.”
“I get that, but why didn’t you want to?”
Jeremy kept looking at the TV. The sound of wind could be heard outside, and the intensity was rising.
“Jeremy, we need to go.” Brian stood up and looked down at the young man on his couch. “You can hunker down with me.”
“I’m not going.”
“Well, I am, so help yourself to whatever in the fridge. I’ll be in the basement.”
Brian turned, and went to his duffle. Picking it up, he opened the basement door, and took one last look at Jeremy, still sitting staring at the TV. He shook his head, and descended the stairs, shutting the door behind him.
The stairwell was a narrow concrete corridor ending in a sturdy metal-banded wood-plank door. He had joked with his wife it was his dungeon. He opened the door and went into the small rectangular room. The sides were cinderblock with a poured concrete ceiling. It had taken him a while to figure out how to do that under the house, but he felt it was well worth it. A vent in the ceiling allowed the sound of the raging wind outside to be heard, but no draft came through. A wide bench ran along one wall, a rack with a few wines and canned supplies lined the back wall, and a couple of outlets and single bare bulb were all the electricity visible. A metal toilet and sink were fixed to the wall at the end of the bench. He had gotten the fixtures from an old prison. Brian liked their look, although his wife had sworn she would never use them. She had been right.
He spread out some blankets and a sleeping bag on the bench and sat down. He looked at the door for a moment and frowned. Jeremy still didn’t come through. The door didn’t even have a lock, just a latch. He looked back at the TV. He looked back at the door and stood up. The wind outside deepened in pitch, and suddenly there was a gut-wrenching sound, of wood creaking and snapping, metal groaning and crashing, and the small room shook. The light suddenly went out, and the small room was plunged into darkness.
Brian stood in the bleary overcast daylight. A gentle breeze blew tatters of debris that made up the whole of the landscape around him. His house was a shredded debris field eight times the size of his yard, just like every other house on the street. A tear traced a path down his cheek.
All those people in bathrooms, hiding in tubs…
The neighborhood was now all debris surrounding bare concrete foundations. Old trees were pulled, roots and all, and dropped in the street, in yards, even on an otherwise bare foundation or two. No car was left upright, and few were even in the street.
He looked down at his own bare foundation. Even some of the tile was missing. Most of the carpet was gone, and there were no walls.
Jeremy, why didn’t you come downstairs with me? Whatever you were after wasn’t worth it.
Brian pulled out his phone and looked at the signal strength. Surprisingly, he had a few bars. He searched through his contacts and hit dial. It took a few seconds to pick-up.
“Hi Jack, it’s Brian.”
“No.” Brian’s face contorted as he choked back a sob. “He never came downstairs with me.” His sob escaped and he breathed in deep and thready.
Brian sat on the edge of the foundation of his house. He rested his elbow on his thigh, and his face in his palm, the phone to his ear. The faint sound of a voice was audible from his phone. The breeze rose gently and tousled Brian’s hair.