Everything in what once was a KFC was shattered. Even the ice cube and soft drink dispenser. “Ain’t seen a twister like that since Dorothy left Kansas in ’39,” Old Man Lahr said. “Must be witches about.”
He was standing with am EMT, who actually arrived after the FEMA helicopters because electronic communications were went down with the electric lines, surveying the damage from the storm-made promontory at the west side of town.
“Doubt that. It’s March. Witches usually work their mischief in October. Gale’s folks were counting hatchlings, as I remember. That’d make it Spring.”
“My memory ain’t what it used to be. All I know is, I never had the courage to leave my basement often enough to get to know my neighbors. Can’t give you any names to go with all them bodies.”
“So that medal you got in Oz….”
Lahr pulled a piece of bronze tied to a striped piece of taffeta from under his tee-shirt. “A ribbon and a hunk of metal don’t make a man. Sure am glad Dorothy moved to Ohio. Made it easier to hide the truth. Okay, I do recognize one person they identified as a kid. A Munchkin named Chip.”
The EMT wiped some soot off his face and tried the biker bandana around the lower part of his face. A steady breeze was whipping up mini-swirls through the littered streets. “This place had lots of kids.”
“Only seems so. Most of the little ones is illegal Munchkins. The young families left a long time ago. Silicon Valley. Sun Belt. One guy went to Philadelphia to find work, Chip said. He’d bring doughnuts. We’d play chess. Don’t know who’ll look after me now. Glinda bein’ crushed by the house. I’m all alone.”
“Could be witches about, then,” the EMT said.
Suhela watched the townsfolk harvest the corpses from the sea, sidestepping the jetsam of the torpedoed l’Impassibile, and line them up like flea market merchandise on the Sicilian sand. Most likely it’d been a Wolf Pack. The Brits didn’t target passenger craft; they had better manners.
One of the mangled could have been her. She couldn’t remember who she was with when hull shattered. Probably Torin Eggert—what a hard little prick he had. No wonder his wife sulked in their cabin. But he tangoed well.
She stretched out among the rocks, her elbow resting on a mica-looking black one, and rested her chin on her hand. A man rushed to the shoreline, dragged a legless child from the water, and laid her at the end of the row like a period. Someone formed a goal post with two short legs and screamed, “Here they are!” and put them next to the child. Quotation marks. The first man dropped to his knees and rocked back and forth, using his sleeve for a handkerchief.
“That’s my papa,” Suhela heard a voice behind her say, and turned around. A little girl with tear-streaked cheeks was pointing to the rocking man. Suhela noticed the child was wearing a white organza gown just like hers. She looked back to beach. The man’s contorted face was looking heavenward. What was her last thought before the everything disappeared? Oh, yes. Where was the waiter with her martini?
A hand offered her a long-stemmed glass. “Is this what you want?” Mephistopheles said.
She took a sip. “Yes,” Suhela sighed, “makes up for the sightseeing being cut short.”
“I’m glad. This beach, this martini— it’s all you’ll have forever.”
“Life was boring. Could death be different?” Alone, she felt the breeze turn cold as the film began again.