Attack of the Dust Devil
The old man awakened to the sound of music and rolled over on his side to glance at the bedside clock radio. It was six o’clock, Saturday, July 8, 1995.
He laboriously got out of bed and started his morning regimen. All the time, wary of the day ahead. As the morning wore on he could not shake the foreboding feeling, for he sensed something afoul was in the air.
The skies over Denver were clear, blue, and sunny, but he knew a storm would soon gather over the mountains. He could always tell by the dull ache that came to his left leg—a remnant of the malady he suffered in World War II. Today the throbbing pain was more bothersome than usual, and the memories it resurrected were more disturbing than ever. Will I never escape that night? he wondered.
It was late morning when Pastor Desmond Morehouse left his home. Driving westward toward the mountains, he saw white, billowing clouds forming over the Front Range. The sight confirmed what the ache in his leg had been telling him: Denver was in for a bigger than usual thunderstorm.
Not that late July thunderstorms were unusual in Denver, but today’s would be different—much different. Unknown to Pastor Morehouse, high in the atmosphere aberrant forces of nature were plotting a devastating attack on Denver. The onslaught would come in two waves. The first was a monsoonal flow, swirling up from Mexico, and the second was an unseasonably cold front swooping down from Canada. More than bringing severe weather to the Front Range, these fronts were, for the Pastor, the harbinger of something that had never been and never would be again.
Pastor Morehouse had lunch alone at the Coco’s restaurant, not far from his Church. It was his custom every Saturday. This respite from the busy affairs at the church provided him a time of solitude to work on the next day’s sermon. As always, the two-hour lunch passed all too quickly. And now he was perturbed with himself for having made such little progress on his sermon.
The Pastor walked briskly from the restaurant across the parking lot toward his car. Heat waves were radiating from the sun-baked black top. With his back to the mountains and the gathering clouds, he was oblivious to the approaching storm’s little precursor, sneaking up from behind.
He was a step shy of reaching his aging, white Cadillac when the dust devil’s swirling wind struck him with a vengeance. He lunged for the car’s door handle as the shrieking wind hurled stinging sand at his face and into his eyes. Blinded and choking on suffocating sand and dust, he tugged on the door. But the twister’s invisible force pinned it closed. He widened his stance and, with greater exertion, pulled again. At the same time, the dust devil abruptly changed directions and the door flung open. It threw the Pastor off balance and sent him sprawling to the pavement. Pain shot through his left leg. He clambered into the car and slammed the door closed.
The angry, invisible predator struck again and rocked the Pastor’s steel lair from side to side. Gasping for breath, and with watery eyes smarting from the sand and dust, he watched the tiny twister zigzag on across the parking lot, kicking up a cloud of swirling dust and debris.|
Then it subsided to a blustery breeze. The Pastor’s heart continued to pound. Perspiring profusely, rumpled and covered with dust, he brushed the sleeves of his suit, then dabbed his watery eyes with a handkerchief. He adjusted the rear view mirror and watched his fingers comb his thinning gray heir beck into place. Strange sounds caught his ears. He froze, listening. Faint, fleeting sounds rode the restless wind. Muted, shrill voices painfully moaned an eerie dirge.
An image flashed in his mind—a long ago sight from the war, a haunting scene of fog and drizzle and death that lurked in the dark recesses of his memory. Would he never forget? Would he never forgive himself? He shuddered from the foreboding memories. Oh, how he detested clouds!
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The Pastor started the car’s engine and began the drive to the church. As his car sped down a tree-lined boulevard, he kept an apprehensive eye on the skies. The contemptuous clouds were lowering, closing in around him, and he felt the suffocating sensation of claustrophobia coming on. His palms were moist and slippery on the steering wheel, and the throbbing pain in his leg had spread to his temples. His disposition was deteriorating as rapidly as the weather.
© Frank Allnutt. All rights reserved.