by Kira Marie McCullough
Dinner’s leftovers had been stored neatly in Tupperware containers and placed in an orderly fashion in the fridge. Not even a slice of roast beef was left behind on the counter for Lorna.
“You’re my little Cinderella,” said Peggy. “But nothing for you to clean up tonight.”
She kissed Lorna’s cheek and nudged her towards the living room, shuffling behind her until they reached the overstuffed burgundy easy chair, where Peggy lowered herself with a sigh. Lorna sprawled on the couch.
In the kitchen, Vince scooped generous servings of chocolate Blue Bell ice-cream into bowls and brought them to Peggy and Lorna. As they began to eat, the clinking of spoons against the whalebone china dishes could be heard faintly—like distant church bells—above the din of the television.
Lorna quickly finished eating her bowl of ice-cream and watched greedily as Peggy and Vince slurped the last, sweet drops from their spoons. If not for muscle memory developed over 70 years of using silverware, Vince and Peggy would have missed their mouths because their eyes never wavered from the TV, which blared with ads for Zot’s Used Car lot and Jake’s Panda Garden Restaurant.
“It’s almost time for the news. Why aren’t you on channel 3?” Peggy asked. Vince and Peggy watched Tim Terry and Karen Walker religiously every night at 7 and 10.
“Hold your old bones,” Vince said. “I’m on channel 5 because Channel 3 News comes on right after Vanna’s wheel of crap, which I prefer to miss.”
From outside, a rumble of thunder could be heard, like a timpani drum slowly reverberating and echoing, moving ominously towards the house. Vince put down his bowl, stood up, and walked to the French doors leading to the patio, where he examined the backyard.
“We’ve got almost a foot of water out there, and it’s still raining. We may be riding out the storm in the attic,” he said.
“That nice Channel 3 weatherman will give us the forecast, soon,” said Peggy. “You know, I dated him back in high school.”
“That squirt?” asked Vince. “What’s his name? Winky Waterhose?”
Peggy ignored him. Her eyes were focused on a commercial for hearing aids. “Vince, you need some of those. You’ve got terrible hearing.”
Vince grunted and sat down in his Lazy Boy recliner.
“When you see a commercial for a new wife, let me know.”
As the clock chimed 7, Vince aimed the controller at the TV. Suddenly, the tat-tat-tat of the Channel 3 News theme music boomed into the room at higher decibels than the commercials. Tim Terry’s square face filled the screen, his wavy brown toupee barely concealing the white hair beneath it. To Lorna, the top of his head was mashed potatoes slathered with meat-colored gravy. She wondered if his hair tasted like roast beef.
“Stay tuned for Channel 3’s exclusive reporting on today’s shootings, arson, and impeachments,” he said. Behind his oversized head flashed pictures of crime scenes, fires, and Congressional hearings.
“Mayhem and murder,” said Vince disgustedly. “The world’s going to hell in a hand-basket.”
“Global warming,” said Peggy. “It’s making people crazy.”
“Climate nonsense,” snorted Vince.
The camera cut abruptly to a dowdy gray-suited man with a flushed face, looking nervous and uncomfortable in front of a map.
“I’m Walter Sprinkler. A long night of thunderstorms and possible flooding ahead. Keep it here for 3’s Storm Watcher Radar, up next.” The screen shifted suddenly to a commercial for flea and tick medication.
“See,” said Peggy. “The weather’s getting weirder.”
Vince huffed and got out of his chair, heading to the kitchen. As he passed Lorna he muttered to her sarcastically, “What do you think of global warming?”
Lorna shrugged her shoulders and sniffed. She wouldn’t dignify such an obnoxious question with an answer, especially as she hadn’t yet got the second bowl of ice-cream she wanted.
Peggy squinted at Lorna. “My, your nails are getting a little long. Mama’s taking you to get them trimmed and prettied up next week,” she said.
After a few minutes of slamming cupboards and searching the dishwasher for clean bowls, Vince shuffled in from the kitchen, carrying a bag of potato chips and a bowl of ice-cream.
“Why do you call yourself mama?” he asked.
“That’s what the doctor said when he brought her to me after she had that terrible surgery,” answered Peggy, “Here’s your baby, mama.”
Vince set the bowl on the table beside the couch where Lorna sat.
“Here,” he grumbled. “Don’t say I never gave you nothing.”
Lorna felt like biting his hand, but the sight of more ice-cream made her reconsider.
As Vince stuffed his mouth with potato chips and Lorna delicately consumed more ice-cream, Peggy stared at the beauty unfolding before her on the TV—Karen Walker’s toothy smile had appeared, her shiny face framed by shimmering gold curls.
“Rain forced the annual citywide Pet Parade inside the Convention Center downtown, where hundreds of people showed up to escape the storm and see the crowning of this year’s winner,” said Karen Walker in her sing-song voice.
Images appeared of proud owners with prancing poodles, a slobbering Doberman dragging its owner across the stage at the end of its leash, and a Shiatzu sitting smartly in a tuxedo, wearing a ribbon for first place.
“Wasn’t Len’s wife winner of the Pet Parade last year?” asked Peggy.
“She’s ugly enough to win,” said Vince.
“No, moron,” Peggy said, “I meant her Labradoodle!”
“Whatever it was, they got it blessed or something at their church,” said Vince.
“Maybe that’s why it won. They must be Episcopalian,” said Peggy.
“Episcopalian is next to being nothing.”
“Maybe they’re Methodist?”
“Methodist is next to being nothing,” Vince grunted. He turned up the volume. “Shh, the weather’s on.”
The dreary-looking weatherman wearing a tight-fitting suit stood in front of a blue screen crawling with red, orange, and green blotches. A massive red amoeba-like blob inched towards the city where they lived.
“A severe thunderstorm warning is in effect until midnight, with the chance of flooding and tornadoes,” he said.
A swift gust of air swung the wind chimes outside. Startled, Lorna looked up and saw crackling white light sketching the sky, jagged sparks flying from the electric lines beside the house. Her skin tingled, and she thrust her head under the couch pillow.
“Should we bring in the plants and patio furniture?” asked Vince, nervously.
Peggy didn’t answer, her eyes transfixed by the television.
“Isn’t he beautiful?” she sighed, gazing at the pudgy weatherman pointing at the super cells marching closer to the word, “Taylor.”
“To think that he once took me to Homecoming….”
Peggy stared at Walter Sprinkler with a dreamy, faraway expression.
“And now he’s a famous weatherman…,” she murmured, her body perched on the edge of her chair, motionless.
Lorna thought Peggy looked like a frozen grasshopper stuck to the icy pavement after a freak snow. Very unappetizing. Shuddering, she turned away from Peggy to peer outside at the darkening sky and steady gray showers. Another sharp and sizzling crash of thunder shook the house, this time closer, and the Live Oak in the middle of the backyard lit up like the gray and white skeleton they had hung on the front porch during Halloween.
Something visceral, ancient, almost animal-like gripped Lorna; a primal sort of fear shooting through her entire body, making her feel she had to escape. Even ice-cream couldn’t hold her back.
In sudden panic, Lorna leaped from the couch and ran towards the French doors.
Vince, who had risen from his chair to throw away the empty potato chip bag, saw Lorna furiously pushing and bumping against the door.
“Peggy, your baby wants out. Should I let her?”
Peggy didn’t answer. Tim Terry had taken over the television set. Fascinated, she watched his potato and gravy hair as it slipped to one side of his head. The wind and rain were beginning to sweep into the Channel 3 studios; Tim’s jacket fluttered, and his red and white tie had begun to flap.
Vince opened the doors, which jerked back violently against the wall as the pressure of two feet of water suddenly rushed into the living room. Gray and frothy, it crashed against Vince and Lorna, pushing them backwards in its raging torrent. Lorna screamed and scrambled up Vince’s leg and onto his shoulders, wrapping herself around his neck.
“It’s a flood!” he shouted, bracing himself against the current.
He waded forward to grab the door handles, but another enormous swell hurtled towards him. It came pounding like the ocean before a hurricane, and Vince lost his balance, falling headlong into the deluge, which receded rapidly, dragging him outside, with Lorna now clinging to the top of his head. He was pushed against the Live Oak tree in the middle of the backyard. Reaching out, he grabbed its slick trunk with both arms, hanging on desperately. Above the noise of the television, the wind chimes flapped fiercely, like an off-key requiem played by a black-suited organist.
Inside the house, Peggy exclaimed, “I do believe he’s going to lose his toupee!”
As Tim Terry’s hair blew off, the camera panned to the weatherman clinging to the top of the desk, shouting, “This is a regular Noah’s Ark kind of storm, folks! Better get your scuba gear!”
Peggy’s burgundy easy chair had begun to float on top of the water, her pink slippered feet dangling above the swirling flood. Her eyes were fixed on the screen.
The TV remained immutable and cold, holding steady on the bookshelf as the water grew higher.
Lorna jumped off Vince and clawed quickly up the Live Oak, scrambling to find a thick branch. She reached the crook of the tree, scrubbed and glistening, the bark scratchy and wet. Her fur flattened to her body in the pelting rain. She was a skinny, four-legged creature wondering who would feed her ice-cream tomorrow.
As the TV sparked and went silent, upending, floating mute and dark against the water, Peggy stayed in her chair, aiming the controller at the set as it bobbed past her.
“Damn this remote,” she muttered.
Vince and Lorna watched as Peggy swirled out the French doors, frantically punching buttons and cursing the television. She sailed past the tree, swept into the flooded fields beyond the house, disappearing into the night.
Lorna’s green eyes never blinked.
Kira Marie McCullough believes that the only thing better than writing stories is enjoying a good cup of coffee while writing. She’s also inspired creatively while eating potato chips and ice-cream. Her short stories have been published in Liars’ League NYC, Potato Soup Journal, and Scarlet Leaf Review. You can find more of her creative concoctions at www.kira-marie-mccullough.weebly.com.