Andy Henion
Louis and I pedaled eight miles out of town so he could kick some kid's ass. We rode ahead of the fury, the world behind us turning black, the suddenly cool air sending shivers down my bare legs. The storm appeared so abruptly, so completely, that turning back was not an option. When you're sixteen years old and two weeks into summer vacation, you don't check the forecast.
Sean Whitbeck tended his old man's beer-and-chips store out in the soybean fields along the state highway. The store actually sat on the border of two towns and Whitbeck went to the rival school. He was tall and stalk-skinny with a dozen face piercings and black fingernails, a Goth wannabe. He had stolen Louis's girlfriend and now Louis wanted to snatch out his heart.
I wouldn't put it past him. Louis was a large and intense specimen, an all-conference linebacker whose unforgiving father had raised him with the belt. He shared the old man's chiseled frame and quick temper. In our school there was no one left to fight him, he was just too goddamned vicious, though he hadn't always been this way. I guess you could say Louis was growing into his brutality. Only his value to the football team kept him from being expelled.
We pulled into the gravel lot as the first sloppy raindrops fell. Louis dropped his bike and faced the store, fists clenched. I glanced behind us nervously, but he was oblivious, seething. I hadn't challenged Louis in years. I said: She's not worth it. He said: Don't go there. I said: The fuck's wrong with you, man? And Louis, my best friend since kindergarten, hammered me to the ground and headed for the store.
Halfway there, the wind took him to his knees. I stayed prone, the blood from my broken nose staining the gravel, and watched the funnel cloud sweep across the highway and shear off the front half of the store. Then it danced about, inhaling a propane pig and a plywood sign advertising beer before rising up and spiraling off toward town.
No movement, no sound, save for the pattering rain. The store was a jumble of splintered two-by-fours and twisted metal shelving. No sign of life. I shivered in place and longed to hear Sean Whitbeck's screams. Louis stood on wobbly legs and looked back at me and his eyes said the same thing, or at least I think they did, and then he turned and ran into the ruins.
Andy Henion was born the day before man landed on the moon and has felt a bit flighty since. He lives somewhere cold and flat with some people and an animal. His fiction has appeared previously in DiddleDog, along with Word Riot, Spork, Ink Pot, Pindeldyboz, Hobart, Storyglossia, Thieves Jargon and elsewhere.