Peggy Keener: The screaming fury of silence

Published 7:06 pm Friday, April 15, 2022

During our long stay in Asia, we experienced a number of hurricanes. While living on tiny Okinawa (70 miles long by 7 miles wide), one particularly bad one bedeviled us for two full days. Ironically, we depended upon these deadly storms as a main source for our potable water for although we were surrounded by ocean, we couldn’t drink it. One dreadful summer we unfortunately ran out of water … but that’s another story. Not a good one.

The storm I’ll tell you about now was really unnecessarily mean spirited. We had heard of nor’easters, but never far’easters. This typhoon proved to be the real Far East deal!

We prepared by X-taping and re-X-taping our windows, all the while praying that 3M would come through with its sticking promise. Rugs were rolled up and furniture stacked, while food and flashlights were made ready. Our last duty was to let the dogs out for one final wet. Meanwhile all the frantic urgency was lost on the bored cats who with their private litter boxes arrogantly dismissed making any plans whatsoever.

None of our prepping, however, prepared us for the ferocity of this storm. Its wind and rain hammered us throughout a dark afternoon whose sun was as black as a moonless night in an underground shelter. Night fell as the hours passed. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any fiercer, the gales turned horizontal stabbing the walls as if a tribe of Zulu warriors were practicing their spear throwing.

To our horror, the drenching deluge began seeping around the living room windows and gushing onto the floor. Glen and I spent the entire night on our hands and knees sponging up the overflow while the children ran back and forth emptying the full pails into the bathtub. It was an unremitting, endless night.

By noon the next day, the typhoon was still at its full fury. Poor Okinawa. Poor us! Then suddenly without warning, the uproar stopped; the eerie pandemonium muffled as if a thick down quilt had been dropped over our house. Complete and utter silence—the freight train’s switch impetuously flipped off. We were lost—flabbergasted!—as our world instantaneously shifted. What had just happened?

But, wait! Wasn’t this sudden tranquility what we had been so fervently praying for? Instead, in an ironic case of reverse psychology, the absolute calm had created in us as much fear as had the furious turbulence.

Filled with dread and exhaustion, our family stumbled toward the door and peered out. Across the neighborhood, we could see others doing the same. Then as if we were members of a synchronized swim team, all the front doors sprang open. Kids burst out with their parents lurching behind them.

No one, albeit, moved faster than the dogs. Taking no time to either sniff out a fire hydrant or circle in place, they got right down to business beside the first compatible object.

Everyone was now looking up into a cloudless, blindingly bright sky that was as transparent as a Frederick’s of Hollywood nightgown. Then like a volcanic eruption, Mardi Gras hit. The neighbors exploded into wild frivolity yelling, “It’s over! Glory hallelujah, we’re alive!”

The last arrivals to the celebration were the cats. Their long and luscious slumber had been only mildly disturbed by the night’s ferocious bombardment. Masters of disdain, they knew with certainty that this planet and its only important contents (Friskies, laps and litter boxes) existed exclusively for their purrrrfect universe, so what was all the fuss about? Nonplussed, they deliciously stretched out each leg in turn as only a cat can do, and stepped outdoors.

Holy crap! What was that? In pure disgust the felines retreated, finding their pristine feet had been unexpectedly, without their permission, tainted by wetness. Now jolted into their senses, the cats meowed in astonishment over how their cosmos had become so deceptively damp on such an otherwise bright sunny day.

And what’s more, their annoyed faces seemed to say, “Just why hadn’t anyone checked with them before ordering this uncalled for disturbance? And could someone tell the towel bearers to dry this wet repugnance off our feet. Now!”

Meanwhile in our unhinged ignorance, we people were jumping around like disjointed goons, (You can only appreciate this if you’ve been through a really bad typhoon.) We thought the storm was over. Little did we know that the odd piercing cone of sunlight—like a laser beam jammed through gauze filled keyhole—was only a temporary reprieve. Unknown to us, the peaceful momentary respite was known as “the eye of the storm.”

In a flash, thick rotating clouds returned as the tenebrous sky erupted, belching its awaiting load. As quickly as the quiet had arrived, it had vanished, our short lived jubilation crashing into a returning convulsion of caterwauling winds and rain. The grand finale of the hurricane’s violence was upon us.

While the people and dogs flew back inside, the nonchalant cats—ignoring the danger because they had all those extra lives—simply moseyed indoors just a titch faster than their usual slink. With a backward glance over their sleek furry shoulders, they reconnoitered the turmoil behind them. Then with a contemptuous sneer that raised their whiskers to an even haughtier height, they assured themselves that absolutely none of that disarray had anything to do with their world.

Thus reassured, the felines curled up for what they hoped would be a long undisturbed nap. Puleeeeze, the poorly disguised looks on their faces pleaded, for our sake could you just keep it down?

(If a cat spoke, it would say things like, “Hey, I don’t see the problem here.” Roy Blount, Jr.)

Many hours later, the cyclone was at last bored with bullying us out of our terror-riddled-minds and fizzled to a stop. For all the destruction, there was one good thing. The water reservoirs on Okinawa were full again. We were all set for the upcoming months, knowing with assurance that in time we would go through this all over again. Meanwhile, we would wait with anticipated dread — plus a quirky kind of thankfulness — for the next replenishing storm.