The Tornado

Hinc illae lacrimae – Terence, Andria

The pioneer town trembled as the tornado advanced, howling like a ravenous, demented jinni. Tearful parents hunkered down in dank cellars with speechless children and prayed fervently. Husbands hugged wives as though Ragnarök had arrived. As they heard the hellish cacophony descend to earth, every man and woman and child prayed to be spared: not me, not me. In the wake, the survivors crept out to see that the only house demolished was the preacher’s, who had prayed for the protection of the village. The pioneers, in their heart of hearts, had all wished for it not to be themselves, and so everyone’s wish had been granted.

Omar’s Coffee

     Omar sat quietly sipping his coffee in his usual haunt in downtown Damascus. He had listened to the intermittent gunshots ringing through the neighborhood the previous night as the rabble-rousers yelled in pitched anger at the implacable regime. Omar took another sip. It soothed his nerves and quickened his pulse simultaneously to be in this familiar spot. He refused to be intimidated by the urban guerrillas and took no side in their internecine conflict; what was it to him, a moderately poor cobbler? He thought about buying flowers for his wife, who had slept poorly while clutching his arm every time she had heard a crash of a window being broken in the vicinity. Or perhaps buying her a loaf of bread, her favorite kind with the honey baked inside, the one that cost a day’s wages? He smiled, sipped, and wiped off the stubborn drop of coffee that had escaped his mouth and slowly trickled down the side of the white demitasse. A child walking outside saw Omar’s smile and she smiled back a crooked toothy grin. She walked up to him under the green canopy to his wrought iron table, and, still smiling, she pushed the detonator button.

Mr. Chopin’s Revenge

     Mr. Ezekiel Chopin, the sole Jewish resident, had been hired by a reluctant community to direct the Easter play. Pastor McClellan, who had been serving up bad and boring for years, fell ill. While the community had enjoyed Mr. Chopin's plays at the high school, they snubbed him for their pulpit productions. After all, he wasn't one of them, even though he came to see the tree lighting and caroling at Christmas time and smiled a kind, warm holiday greeting to his gentile friends. 

     He smiled again as, in his new version, the play opens with the Last Supper, with Ben McClellan as Jesus standing up, overturning the table while pointing into the audience while yelling, "You have betrayed me! And you! And you!"

     The gasping congregation turned to find the director gone, bags packed, apartment empty, no forwarding address. Speculation percolated for years over cups of coffee but no one saw Mr. Ezekiel Chopin nor heard from him again.