June 15, 2012 by The Citron Review
We flew down I-74 toward the tornado, ignoring state officers and traffic cones and cloud—now hemophiliac—now bruising violet. Traffic in the opposite direction slogged past us—frantic little boxes of metal beeping to move faster, get off the road. Hurry. Get underground.
My sister and I sat in the back seat of our station wagon with Mom between us, holding hands while grandma barked at my father to keep driving.
“We’re almost there.”
“This is suicide,” my father said.
“I don’t break promises.”
We had dreamed of the great water park for months, my sister and I—3,000 acres of slides and spirals and pools of aquamarine. A themed establishment, just outside Denver. We wore our best swimsuits and denim shorts. We pulled our hair into ponytails. We had waited all summer, counting days and minutes. When Grandma promised something, she meant it. My sister used to say, “She’s Italian. That’s where it comes from, like the Godfather—don’t mess with the Grandma, capiche?”
Mom had told us that Grandma was abandoned, put outside with the trash at 15, with two children at 25. A father, a husband: a string of shattered pearls. Her only possession was her word.
Ahead, a state officer waved us over, halting us to stop. We were the only car on the road.
“Sorry folks. Storm’s ahead, can’t let you through.”
“We’re going to the water park,” Grandma said.
“Lady, you see that tornado? There may not be any more park.”
“I promised my grandchildren.”
“Can’t let you do that.”
“Then we’ll drive around you.”
“This is crazy,” Dad said.
“You’ve never seen crazy.”
“Grandma, it’s okay, we can go another time,” I said, but when she turned to face me her teeth were barred like a wild animal.
She said, “We’ll wait out the storm.”
Allyson Armistead’s work has been published or is forthcoming in Narrative Magazine, Ruminate, A River and Sound Review, Redux, Emprise Review, and Coal City Review.