Dimon Kendrick-Holmes: Attack of the killer red blobs

February 1, 2013 

There it was, on the storm radar.

Tuesday night, a giant red blob was floating across Alabama, and its destination appeared to be Columbus. The expected time of arrival was mid-afternoon the next day.

Nothing to do but wait and calculate.

I sat at the dinner table with Joe, my 10-year-old son, estimating the height of the pine trees in our backyard and their distance from our roof. They were already swaying in the mild breeze, incredibly tall.

Destruction seemed inevitable.

We sat there and listened to the tree frogs.

In late summer, as I've mentioned before, my family moved into a house that for the previous 25 years had been inhabited by professional gardeners. Every month since, some previously unnoticed flora blooms and some previously unheard of fauna makes an introduction.

An unseasonably warm January brought a lovely patch of daffodils and a legion of screeching tree frogs. Joe's bed is next to an upstairs window facing the backyard, and one morning he asked me if it was possible to die from lack of sleep.

Now, with the storm on our minds, we sat and watched the trees and listened to the frogs. How can such a little creature make such a big racket? "Maybe a tornado will knock down all the trees," Joe said, "and kill all the tree frogs."

The next morning, the blob hadn't changed course. Outside, it was freakishly warm and the pines rocked back and forth like metronomes. A storm has a way of realigning your priorities. We stopped worrying about our house and started worrying about our dog, Dexter, who was pacing inside the garage.

My wife and I reviewed the children's schedules to figure out who would be where when the storm was supposed to hit town. Then we went our separate ways, just like every day.

It wasn't a typical day, of course. Like everybody else in town, I watched the red blob inch toward Columbus. When after-school activities were canceled, I ducked out of a meeting so I could pick up Joe from school.

The skies were dark, and the storm was supposed to hit any minute. On the way out the door, I asked somebody if you were supposed to park under an overpass during a tornado or avoid doing so. I knew it was one or the other.

Nobody knew. I checked my smart phone and discovered it was a really bad idea to park under an overpass during a tornado.

At Joe's school, Blanchard Elementary, I sat stalled in a long line and noticed that the principal, Tim Smith, knew every parent in every car and was able to call each child from the cafeteria by name.

You notice little things like that when you have a heightened sense of doom.

As it happened, the red blob missed Columbus and we survived. That evening, we sat around the table eating soup and listening to the tree frogs. We were happy to be together and alive, but still wondered how such a little creature can make such a big racket.

Dimon Kendrick-Holmes, executive editor, dkholmes@ledger-enquirer.com.

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