Civil War Transcendence, part 372


When I showed up in the hotel lobby, the desk clerk fixed me with a bewildered stare. He seemed to want to ask what I was doing down here when I had this beautiful wife in a room upstairs, but was afraid to do so.

I gave him an embarrassed smile and walked out on the front porch of the hotel.  The wind had picked up, and dark clouds were beginning to gather overhead.  Suddenly, I heard what sounded like a train in the distance coming toward us.  The only thought that permeated my mind was “tornado.”

From the porch, I raced through the lobby and up the stairs to the second floor. I beat on our door until it was abruptly opened by Daphne, who was attired in what would have passed for the 19th century version of Victoria’s Secret apparel.

She must have been surprised by the ferociousness of my ardor, but still gave me a ‘come hither’ stare.

I quickly yelled, “Tornado’s coming. Get a robe on and get down stairs as quick as ya can into the cook’s pantry. I gotta get the rest from upstairs.”

I left as fast as I could and yelled down the hall, “John Lee, tornado’s a-comin’. Get Daphne downstairs.”

I turned and raced up the stairs and began to beat on all the doors on the third floor.  Because I didn’t know the room number for Hattie and Mrs. Douglas, I kept yelling, “Hattie, tornado’s a-comin’. We gotta get downstairs.”

I had proceeded down to the middle of the hall when, about two doors back toward the landing, a door opened, and Hattie stuck her head out in the hall.

“Whatcha want?” she cried.

“We gotta get downstairs. There’s a tornado comin’!” I shouted.

She immediately went back in the room, and a few seconds later, she emerged in the hall with Mrs. Douglas in tow. She made for the third floor landing and the stairs. Other hotel guests had vacated their rooms and were moving toward the stairs as well.

By the time I got to the third-floor landing, there were about ten people on the stairs leading from the third to the second floor. I leaned over the third floor banister and saw John Lee and Daphne on the stairs to the lobby. They were leading a charge of about eight other hotel guests

I was the last person to start down the stairs from the third floor. I herded the hotel guests down the stairs like a cow puncher; cajoling, cussing and praising them all the way.

When I hit the second floor landing, I could hear the freight train sound increasing as the nemesis of fair weather rampaged toward us. I increased my urgings until the last of the hotel patrons were in the lobby. All the guests had gathered in the lobby, which was a dangerous place to be.

I yelled, “Everyone follow me,” and began to head toward the kitchen and the cook’s pantry.

Once I made it to the kitchen, I began to push the guests into the kitchen and into the cook’s pantry until everyone was squashed together like commuters on a New York subway car.

The kitchen was the safest place in the building. It was on the back wall of the hotel, and there were no windows.  With the last of the guests crammed in the make-shift storm cellar, I stepped into the last remaining niche available and closed the kitchen door, just as glass from the front windows of the hotel was blown into the lobby and dining room like shrapnel from an exploding bomb.

Some of the shards of glass from the dining room front windows hit the kitchen door with such force that they penetrated the door about two inches.  Gratefully, none of them came completely through the door, or else, I would have been lacerated.

We heard roaring as the cyclone ripped through the town and headed off into the distance. Once the freight train noise had completely dissipated, I opened the door and warned the occupants of our panic room, “Be careful. Tha door is full of glass shards that’ll stick ya.”

I waited at the edge of the door in the darkness and helped everyone exit the kitchen. Finally I said, “If anyone knows where a lamp is located, please light it.”

After a few moments, a lamp was lit in the lobby, and then a few more were illuminated in quick sequence.  The hotel patrons were in shock at the destruction of the lobby. Glass shards had pierced the furniture and the front of the desk register.

As the last of the people filed out of the kitchen, Daphne appeared, and when she saw me, she ran into my arms.

I hugged her to me, and seeing John Lee behind her, I released Daphne with my right hand and shook hands with John Lee.  “Thanks,” I said. He just smiled and nodded.  I looked down and saw that Daphne had evacuated our room so swiftly that she had failed to put on any shoes, so I picked her up in my arms to prevent any foot lacerations.

We began to survey the destruction to the hotel, which wasn’t as bad as I had originally thought it would be.  Windows were blown out of the front of the hotel, and trees were down close to the Potomac, but that was about the extent of the damage. While many of the guests milled around the lobby or went to check out their rooms, I carried Daphne upstairs.

Our room window had been blown out, and glass was strewn all over the bed and floor. I set Daphne down in the hallway to prevent any foot cuts. Once I had lit the lamp in our room, which had been knocked over but not broken, I retrieved her shoes, which she quickly put on.

John Lee peeked out from his room down the hall and reported that his room hadn’t been damaged. I waived an okay. He waived back and closed his door for the night.

Daphne came into the room, closed the door and sighed dejectedly. Revealing her erotic choice of nightwear, she said, “Well, I guess we’ll never have that last night of frolic, will we?”

“Wanna bet? Wait here!” I commanded.

I ran down the stairs as swift as a thoroughbred race horse and returned with a key to an empty room across the hall. Turning the key in the lock, I picked up a giggling Daphne Hager and kicked open the door to our newly-anointed frolic room to the amazement of the meandering second floor hotel patrons.

About Civil War Reflections

Vernon has been a Civil War buff since childhood, but had been inactive in Civil War history for over two decades. However, in the early 1990s his interest was rekindled after watching Ken Burns’ “Civil War Documentary” on PBS. He particularly became interested in the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg) and decided to learn more about this epic struggle.
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