My mom, my sister, and I ride along with Dad to Ohio on a business trip. We stay in a motel room while he works on oil rigs – he’s an electrical engineer for Chicago Pneumatic Tool, and very hands on. The drive from Reno, Pennsylvania to the other side of Ohio takes four hours, but people back home are not travelers, vacationers, roamers, so this part of Ohio is the other side of the world. It’s a whole other planet. For instance: channel three is on channel eight, channel twelve doesn’t exist. Further: the sky turns green one night and a bright white squaw line roils in from somewhere, no hills to shield us from the ever-expanding horizon. New weather patterns to us, and this one, the radio says, could lead to a tornado.
A tornado! That’s the neatest thing my sister and I have ever heard. Mom, on the other hand, seems distraught, despite our six- and seven-year-old reassurances. We watch some big old hail in a dark midday. Some rain washes a couple weeks worth of dust off the world. The wind picks up. The wind dies down. The air clears. Rain falls.
During which time, we tire of waiting for a tornado, and turn instead to the motel television. The sky outside grows lighter and eventually dark with late afternoon. Dad comes home earlier than we expect with a gash on his forehead above his right eye. New excitement after a bust tornado warning. He’s been hit in the head with a hammer – I plan my vengeance. He’d been hit in the head with a hammer by accident – I postpone my vengeance. The company asked him to go to the hospital to get stitches. He and the hammer-swinger went to the bar instead to get gin and tonics. At the motel, he’s brighteyed, and when we ask what happens, he says, “What this? Well, I was sorting bobcats and I got a hold of a mountain lion.” He puts a Disney bandaid over a gaping wound, and we said, “But doesn’t it hurt?” He said, “Oh, it don’t hurt.”
Moments like this, we pick our heroes.