Chapter Seven ~
When Jim caught up with the rest of his team they were scoping out a monster tornado.
Faith gasped when she saw it. "Wow, They look so different than they do on radar, don't they? It's nowhere near as exciting to see it on a computer screen as it is to see it in real life." She pulled her camera up and started shooting video. She spoke quietly, but the excitement was obvious in her voice. "It must be almost a mile wide! I see debris! Oh, those poor people are losing their homes!" Dear Lord, be with them.
She continued to take pictures after she clicked the record button to the off position. She had never been so excited in her life, but the excitement was tempered with sadness at the destruction the mighty storm was causing.
"It looks like its shifting, Faith. We need to get out of here," Jim yelled.
Faith didn't respond. She was too busy taking pictures. A thrill rushed through her as the monster twister headed straight for her.
"Faith, we need to leave!" Jim yelled. He ran up and grabbed her, forcibly pulling her back to the SUV. He opened her door and shoved her inside, ran back around to his own side and hopped in, starting the car as he did. He peeled out and backed up until he reached a side road. He backed into it until they were out of the twisting storm's path.
The other SUVs were already there and Jim stopped a few feet in front of John Haney's. He picked up the CB mic, pushed the button on the side and said, "That was a close call guys. Did we get any data?"
"We did, boss," John Haney returned. "Did you see how big it was?"
"Yes, I also saw the debris from the damage it did."
"That's true boss, I'm sorry,” John said. "I just get excited every time we see one that big.”
"I know, and I feel the same way, I just don’t want any of us to lose sight of the death and destruction these beasts cause. That's why we do this, so we can stretch the warning time out, maybe save some of those lives," Jim said.
"You're right, Jenny's on the data right now. She says there's another system developing about an hour from here. Should we go back and get our gear and head out?" John asked.
"That's affirmative, let's roll," Jim answered and began to pull-out of the muddy road. He shook his head and asked Faith, "Did you get some usable footage?"
"I sure did, It's even better than last time. I can't believe I've wasted so many years sitting behind a desk."
"The people sitting behind desks are just as important to this job as we are."
"I know, but this is so much more exciting. I want to learn everything I can. I want to be as good as you are."
"I think you are that good, you’re just not giving yourself enough credit. Think of all the lives you've saved by tracking these storms and issuing warnings."
"I tracked the storms, but I didn't issue the warnings. That's my sister's job."
"Still, don't sell yourself short. Your job is important."
"I know." She said wistfully. "It's just these last few months I've felt a discontent I didn't understand. I mean, my job pays well and it does save lives, but it's become so tedious and predictable, ya know?" I wish I could explain this better.
"I know what you mean. Some people are happier with more excitement in their lives. I happen to be one of those people." He gave her an understanding smile.
"I guess I am too, I just didn't realize it until now. I mean, I've spent my whole adult life sitting behind a desk, and I thought that's what I wanted, but since I saw that first tornado up close and personal my whole outlook on life has changed. Do you think that's wrong?"
"No, I think as people age they go through different growth spurts. They become more emotionally mature and their intelligence grows along the way. Sometimes, their needs and desires change, too. I believe as long as you follow God you can't go wrong." His tone was hesitant, like he was fishing for the answer to a question but didn't want to push too hard.
"I...don't know about all that God stuff. I mean, I believe in Him, I just don't know if I want to follow all His rules and regulations. There are some pretty confusing stories in the Old Testament I don't understand. I don't know if I can love a God like that." She wasn’t conveying her thoughts about this the way she wanted, either.
"You can't sit on a fence forever. If you only call on God in times of trouble He might quit calling on you," He warned.
"I know. When that tornado came through my Dad's property the first thing I thought to do was pray to Him, and then again later when I shot my first video, but now I'm right back in that state of confusion that keeps me at arm's length. Do you know what I mean?"
Jim liked the fact she was searching for answers. That was better than not thinking about God at all. "I do know what you mean and if you have any questions about God or the Bible feel free to ask me. If I can't answer them I'll call my pastor and ask him. Between all of us we'll find the answers you're looking for."
"Thank you.” She smiled. "It's nice to know someone cares about my soul."
"I do care about your soul, but God cares even more. Do you have a Bible?"
"I did, but it was at my Dad's." Guilt flooded through her. She should’ve kept it at her apartment.
"How long have you lived on your own?" Jim asked as he pulled into the motel parking lot.
"I've been on my own for about seven years." She gave him a sheepish grin.
"You need to read your Bible," Jim said in a shocked voice.
A shiver of alarm went through her at his tone. "I'm sorry. I know I should read it, but that Old Testament just got to me and I can't seem to get through it." That isn’t a good excuse.
As if reading her mind he said, "That's not a good excuse." He turned toward her. "If you want, I can study with you. I can even set up a meeting for you with my pastor if you want."
"I don't think I'm ready for anything that drastic yet. Maybe we could read together or something, see how it goes."
She got out of the car and walked toward her room. He watched her go, knowing it was too late to guard his heart from this woman who'd wormed her way into his life faster than he'd been able to build a barrier to keep her at bay. He’d been praying for a wife, maybe God had sent Faith to him, in more ways than one. In his own mind the play on words was enough to convince him that was exactly what had happened. He got out of the car with a secret smile on his handsome face. He went toward his own room to gather his things and get ready for the next run.
When Faith got back out to the car Jim was already waiting on her. He had a map out, studying it intently. She slid into the passenger seat after throwing her bag in the back. "Do you think my car will be safe here?"
"It'll be fine. I already called Chuck. He's the manager. I told him to keep an eye on it. Now all you have to worry about is the tornadoes," He teased her with a wide grin. It brightened his baby-blue eyes and made Faith's heart take a flip.
"I didn't see any more weather headed this way," She said, scrunching her eyes.
"I was kidding, but you know how it is around here." He started the car and pulled-out.
There was nothing around but farm land and red dirt so Faith laid her head back against the seat because it didn't quite reach the headrest. She tried to doze, but it didn't last long. A few minutes after shutting her eyes she felt the air pressure in the car change. Her eyes flew open to see what was going on. She was astounded by the sight of trees ripping from the ground out her side window. There was debris flying everywhere and she hastened to get her camera up in a position to take it all in. "Wow that was quick. I just looked at the radar before I closed my eyes and there wasn’t anything there,” She exclaimed in excitement.
"It happens that way sometimes. We can't always tell when a system will drop a twister, or where for that matter." His grip tightened on the steering wheel.
Faith could just make out the other bright red vehicles through the dust and debris. It looked like they were slowing to a stop. "What's going on, we need to get out of the way," She yelled, pushing her foot into the floorboard, hitting an imaginary gas pedal.
"They're going to turn right up ahead. There's a small service road that's hardly ever used. It should bring us up beside it, but still out of its direct path. You should be able to get some good footage."
"Oh, I see." Embarrassment colored her face. She felt like a child. "I thought you were going to stop, I'm sorry."
"Nope, I was turning to get out of the way. We've been doing this for a long time, Faith. We make mistakes, but not very often.
"There it is,” she exclaimed. She turned on the video recorder and began following it with her lens.
"It’s a nice rope. I've never seen one so big," She said for the video's sake. "It's awesome to be this close to something so beautiful and dangerous."
"Faith, look to the left," Jim said in excitement. There was another tornado coming out of the same wall cloud. It was massive in size, and wedge-shaped.
"Oh wow, it’s beautiful. It isn't hard to believe in God at all when we see such evidence of his power," Faith said in a hushed tone.
"It certainly isn't. I just wish people would quit attributing the power of God to some false idol called 'mother nature.' He has to be angry about that one," Jim said.
"I bet. It's times like these I don't have a problem acknowledging His existence. I wish the Old Testament wasn’t such a stumbling block for me,” She said after she turned the video recorder off.
"I meant what I said earlier. We can study together if you want. I'll do whatever it takes if it means you'll come to know the truth." He pulled out and headed toward Texas.
Three hours passed as they drove down U.S. two-eighty-seven going south. They made small-talk, getting to know each other.
Jim had just told her he was about ready for some lunch when a huge wedge tornado dropped down to the west of them. It didn't last long, but he saw his chasers rushing to deploy some of the little electronic pieces into it that he lovingly called his 'bugs.' They collected all kinds of data about the tornado itself, including wind speed and velocity. His hope was to extend the warning time to more than just a few minutes.
They sat together and watched the funnel do its damage to the countryside. Jim picked up the mic to the CB and pushed the side button in. "John, did we get any data?"
He seemed weary and Faith felt sympathy for him. This was a side of him she hadn’t seen yet.
"We sure did Boss. Jenny's in her element right now. Her fingers are flying over the keyboard. She was saying something about a triple-hook echo..." His voice became mumbled and static took over.
Jim looked at Faith. "Did he just say 'triple-hook echo?"
When she nodded he said, "I've never heard of such a thing."
"I've heard people say it's possible but I've never even seen two, let alone three. Call her Jim,” She demanded with excitement.
Jim pulled out his cell phone and made the call. After Jenny answered he said, "did I hear John right? Did you see a triple hook echo on the radar? What does it look like?"
"It's one of the coolest things I've ever seen. We have to get the warnings out now, though. I already put a call into the weather station. The storm system is developing just southeast of Wichita Falls. It's heading right for Dallas. I don't even know what a system like this is capable of. What I do know is if those systems combine it'll be the worst direct hit to a city this nation has ever seen," She warned.
"Are you sure about what you're seeing, Sis? It's possible cloud cover is causing it to look like something it isn't," Jim suggested.
"I'm pretty sure, Jim. Faith, pull out your computer and take a look," She ordered.
Shivers of fear and excitement were traveling up and down Faith's spine. She got her computer out and pulled up the satellite radar. Sure enough, she saw what looked like a triple-hook echo on the screen. Unfortunately, it looked like it was already developing into one massive storm. "It's one huge storm system with several hooks. It'll take out whole towns even if it just grazes the ground," She yelled in a panicked tone. She turned the computer so Jim could see the screen.
Jim took in a sharp breath, causing an involuntary whistle. "Oh my, let's go team," he said into the mic he'd grabbed from Faith's fingers. "We have to get in place before it gets here." He depressed the mic and said to Faith, "Hold on, we're gonna be traveling fast." He pushed the mic button down again and asked Jenny, "how fast is it moving?"
Faith was a little hurt he hadn't asked her, but she couldn't really hold it against him, she wasn't part of the team.
"It’s traveling about fifty miles an hour," Jenny said over the radio.
Jim looked at Faith. "Let's get set-up ahead of the storm. We'll go grab some lunch and a new motel before it gets here." He said into the mic, "Team, we're going in for some lunch and a room. We'll set-up as soon as we're done."
He got several affirmative replies as he sat the mic back on its holder and headed the car toward rooms and a quick meal.
As soon as arrangements were made they set-up all their equipment and waited impatiently for the storm of a lifetime to rear its ugly head.
Faith glanced at Jim as he watched the sky, thinking, He is such a handsome man. Could he ever be interested in someone like me?