Service Window

Service Window

A Story by R J Fuller

Is escape possible?

The brackish gray mop sloshed across the floor in a back and forth motion, sprawling water all over the tiled surface. The youth momentarily stopped to look at the glass doors and windows surrounding him, and the water spraying against their outer surfaces. As soon as he stood motionless, the voice called out from behind him.
"Shefonte, you need to hurry up and get that floor cleaned!" the woman yelled.
"We could just unlock the doors and let the rain come in and wash them," he responded.
"Your momma clean her house like that?"
"And opens the windows when it is time to wash the bed linens. Doesn't everybody clean that way?" Before Vonita could answer Shefonte, another sudden pound of rain hit the doors and windows around them.
"Just hurry up and get that area cleaned," Vonita ordered. "Ronique, you should be finished with that grill by now."
"Whether I should be or not, I ain't," the large girl said standing next to the stove top.
Shefonte looked out into the dark rain, barely even seeing rippled images of headlights on the road in the distance.  He flung the mop back and forth a few more times. Behind him in the back, he detected the voices of his co-workers talking about other matters.
"I'm just gonna quit, Vonita," a large male calmly stated.
"You quit, Warren, you're going to walk home in this rain, because nobody else gets off until the shift is over."
He stood for a moment as if thinking then said, "allright, I'll finish up today, then quit, that okay?"
As Shefonte neared completing the meager task, the lights about him blinked. He could still see the greyness outside, but those in the windowless back area were now in darkness and began complaining. The wind was picking up in a fierce howl.
"Vonita, we can't see anything to get anything done," said Warren.
"Lights might come back on, Warren. What's going on out here, Shefonte?"
"Just a lot of bad weather. Lookin' real bad now."
"Can't clean nothing if I can't see it," Ronique proclaimed.
"Well, that's it. I'm gonna go home. This weather is just too bad to work in, Vonita," said the elderly pale woman.
"Wait a minute, Wanda," Vonita began, then stopped. The occupants all heard the unmistakeable siren going off, meaning bad weather.
"Can't clean what we can't see, and lightning don't work like overhead lights," the small girl of the group asked.
"Allright, that's the tornado warning, Debra," Shefonte spoke.
"Everyone to the office," Vonita stated. "It's about center of the building."
"Ain't nowhere going to be safe in this place," Warren fretted. "Whole building going to be body-slammed."
"Man, just get to the office," Shefonte told him. Shefonte let go of the mop and tossed it toward the corner where it situated itself upright directly in the corner.
Every other sound slowly began to muffle out as nothing but thundering wind could be heard. Shefonte inadvertently brought up the rear behind the others. The pounding grew louder around them, the undeniable signs of an approaching tornado.
The people sat in chairs, knelt on the floor, and possibly even stood. The room was dark except for light from the illuminated battery operated clock and a couple of phones being held up, so they could see.
"Can't get any signal," Debra proclaimed, holding up her phone. 
The incessant pounding grew louder, as tho something outside was trying to get in. Those who stood gradually made their way down to the floor. Metal from possibly kitchen utensils began to rattle outside, causing some of the women to react afraid. There seemed to be even more pounding, shaking sounds from beyond the office.
Shefonte slowly did as the others and was closer to the floor. He looked to the clock to see the time. He was against the door and listened to events taking place. Aside from the still sounding siren, there was crashing, booming, just the noise of things being tossed about, it seemed. The door itself motioned inward and outward with the air pressure.
A bang, a pound, the siren and the roaring wind all in unison. Slowly in the dark, Shefonte looked up to the clock again.
Sitting in the chair, Wanda too seemed to be sensing what he was realizing. She was old enough to remember storms of the past.
The door banged once more from air pressure, then banged again. Shefonte put his hand up on the doorknob, as if to hold the door steady. Vonita watched him, as did the other occupants.
Clanging metal, something falling, metal again, and still the thundering howl of the wind. The siren was actually fading away now, but the booming storm persisted.
Shefonte looked to the clock once more, then slowly began turning the doorknob. Vonita reached out to him, trying to protest, but he couldn't hear her. Carefully he opened the door, while in the outer area, the racket gave no sign of easing up.
"It's taking too long," Wanda's soft voice called out to the group. Shefonte turned and looked at her. He now realized the same thing. The storm didn't seem to be moving.
Crawling along the floor, littered with items and spoons and other such things, Shefonte slowly made his way out of the office and along the floor.
Vonita was now near the door and looking out. Still the tremendous noise of the storm around them shook the foundations of the small restaurant as if to rip it away, as tho it was determined to get at the employees within.
Shefonte reached the area of the floor with the drive-thru window now visible. He turned to look at the window and observed what occurred outside.
Darkness and wet, like the water in that mop bucket, spinning in streaks over and over against the window. The window vibrated from the pressure, pushing and pulling back and forth on the rubber gaskets keeping it closed, tho just barely. 
Shefonte crept along the floor, almost spider-like, until he reached the base of the front counter. He raised his hand to grasp the countertop and pull himself up, all in incredibly slow motion. As he rose from the floor, his eyes slowly peered over the counter. The dining area was still dark, with the faintest of muffled light coming from outside, only allowing shadows to momentarily appear with the flashes of lightning.
But Shefonte could see what the wind was doing outside; just a continuous spin of streams of water against the windows. The doors banged continuously from the pressure outside. Tho they hadn't been locked, all the force was beyond the doors. Shefonte looked to the large paneled windows to detect there was definite movement occurring with them as well, as if they would shatter at any moment.
Slowly, Vonita came up beside him. He might have been startled had the current situation not been even more startling.
She tried to ask him what was going on, but he couldn't hear her, plus keeping an eye on everything about them was more captivating.
By this time, the other employees had wandered up from the dark office. Ronique could be heard screaming something in sadness, but her words went unheard. Only Wanda remained in the office, looking out the door.
Warren stared at all the panels of glass vibrating and gave a truly terrified remark, tho again, no one comprehended what he said.
Shefonte looked to the drive-thru window again, noting in the routine, there seemed to be a slosh of water across the window for one occurrence. He watched the pattern through the smaller window, then turned back to the larger segments. The swath of water was there, tho not as distinct. Perhaps because the windows were larger. He looked once more at the drive thru window and slowly approached it to get a better understanding.
"Shefonte, what are you doing?" Vonita asked, but he really didn't hear. He watched the action outside the window to see how the storm was behaving. He moved even closer to the window, spying outward. There was the spray of water again, and Shefonte could now see what it really was.
"Are we in the tornado?" Warren asked. "Are we up in the tornado?"
Shefonte made one more look to the front of the business, "no, we're still on the ground. The storm, . . . the storm isn't moving. It's just sittin' here around the building without moving. This one stretch here is about the clearest spot toward the ground, and you can see the road beyond there and an overturned truck. Even the wind has eased up beyond the tornado."
On cue, the building shuddered and gave a rumble.
"We still on the ground?" Warren asked, "then I'm gettin' outta here!"
"Warren! Warren!" Shefonte and Vonita yelled after him, but with all the outside noise, Warren could hardly hear them, but even then, he wasn't slowing down as he made his way to the rattling back door.
Warren gave a moment's hesitation before he touched the door, then hit the handle with every intention of leaping away from the establishment, but as soon as he pushed on the door to open it, the door was yanked away from the frame with Warren still clutching the handle, but hurled out by the storm. He screamed as held on to the handle with all the fury pushing at him to propel him away and beyond. As big as Warren was, the force pulled at him and caused his feet to stumble. He was truly afraid he'd let go of the handle when suddenly Shefonte appeared braced in the frame and grabbed his pudgy wrist, pulling the nearly airborne Warren and the door back into the eatery. The door slammed shut with Warren and Shefonte still clutching the handle, and now they were gasping for air after the ordeal. Vonita and Ronique stood there as well.
"Oh, Lord," Warren exclaimed, sprawled on the floor. Only now could he see that, aside from being soaked to the skin, his pants had been yanked off his body. He was also missing a shoe.
"Here, Warren," Debra said, handing him a company apron to wear since he lost his trousers. Warren took the apron and wrapped one bit around the door handle, tying the other end to the supply door handle to anchor the exit.
"That door won't open again!"
"We got to get back in the office," Vonita yelled. The ceiling rattled as tho in disagreement with dust falling from the sides and corners.
"No, we got to get out of here," Shefonte hollered back. "Everybody follow me!"
Shefonte cautiously made his way back to the front area, then over toward the service window. Vonita and the others were behind him.
"You see that small clear spot? The cyclone is thinning in that one area. To get out of here, we're going to have to leap through that one spot when it rolls around. The best spot to hold on and brace ourselves will be out this window."
"How are we going to get out there?" Ronique yelled.
"I'll climb out first," Shefonte started.
"You'll get pulled away!" Warren said.
"I'll climb out and brace myself, then each of you come out, one at a time, and I'll tell you when to jump!" he finished.
"Here! Tie this around yourself so you'll be secure!" Vonita said, producing the water hose.
Shefonte pushed open the small windows. The wind and rain greeted the new open portal. One of the small doors flung apart and broke from the building. He raised himself up and put his feet, then legs out the window. He reached back for the hose and wrapped it around his waist. He lowered himself out the window, feeling the blast pulling at him. Momentarily, he feared this wasn't a good idea when his feet couldn't find the pavement below. Finally his feet touched ground so whatever stability he could manage, he secured himself. He looked back into the dwelling.
"Who's first?" he yelled at them, gritting his teeth. "Wanda?" The storm roared with taunting anger.
Wanda slowly stepped up with absolute fear in her blue eyes. Her white hair fluttered around her head like cobwebs billowing in a breeze. Warren picked her up. She was truly terrified as he passed her out the window to Shefonte. Warren held on to her still as Shefonte got hold of her. He pressed his face against her head as close as he could manage.
"Grab hold of my shirt, Wanda!" he yelled to her. "Watch for that clear spot. You want to aim for that. Let go of my shirt when you are ready to jump, got it?"
"Shefonte!" she cried, truly afraid. As the clear strip of weather moved briskly in front of them, they could see flashing red lights, actual people running around on the other side, while they were struggling to be kept from being thrown within the storm. The people outside the funnel simply maintained a safe distance.
"Whenever you're ready, Wanda!"
She began to cry, then as the clear strip vanished around the building, she released Shefonte's shirt. As it came back around, he shoved her as hard as he could while Vonita and Ronique held on to the hose inside the window.
The little woman cried as she flew in the air. Totally doused, she emerged on the other side, striking the grassy area. She spun one time, then managed to get to her feet and stumbled toward a parked ambulance as people ran toward her to assist her. With each clear pass, Shefonte could see the results of her escape.
"She made it!" he yelled back into the window. "Who's next?"
"I guess I am!" little Debra moved up. The routine was now a given. Warren picked her up and passed her feet first out the window as Shefonte held on to her. He offered her the same instruction. She was much younger than Wanda, so she should leap better.
By now, Shefonte was able to count the narrow space to a second, so he'd know when to let her go. Knowing Wanda had made it offered a little confidence to Debra, so clutching Shefonte's sleeve, she released it and when the moment arrived, Shefonte hurled her forward through the opening. She was flipped upside-down a bit but landed securely on the ground. As Wanda had done before her, Debra was up and running to escape this freak trap of nature. Once she was clear and a medic was reaching her, she turned and looked back at the funnel as far up as she could see. The towering blackness spun almost in a form of slow motion, with all the debris and grit in it. She had been pelted by grainules carried by the wind, leaving the sensation of small pecks all over her arms and face. She could still see Shefonte standing at the service window when the storm allowed visibility.
No one said a word as Ronique now made her way to the window. Nearly the same size as Warren, she gave no hesitation as he picked her up to put her feet out the window and Shefonte got hold of her. With each escape, the employees were becoming bolder, seeing that it would work. All focus remained on the clear spot and how it spun around the twister. When Ronique was ready, she did the same as the previous two women and made her departure.
Since she was bigger, Ronique wasn't thrown about as little Debra and Wanda were done. She stumbled along the ground, then made her way to her feet and took off running as best she could in the direction of the parked ambulance.
"Warren!" Vonita yelled. "You're next!"
"You go!" Warren ordered her. Before she could say anything, he was grabbing her around the waist and lifting her in the air.
Vonita gave no hesitation then and manuevered her feet out the window so Shefonte could get hold of her. She slipped out the window and into Shefonte's waiting arms. He held on to her and she in turn grabbed hold of his arms.
"Whenever you're ready!" he yelled to her. She looked at the young man and placed her hand to his face, giving him a farewell kiss. Then she turned back to the wall of wind and decided when it was her time. Shefonte shoved her as hard as he could and she flew into the air through the opening, landing on the other side. She hesitated there to look back at Shefonte, still braced and tied to the window, as Warren's big feet were making their way out the window. 
Vonita stood and made her way to the paramedic and an officer who was on the scene as well. News crews were also present, filming this oddity, this twister that had taken root to the ground on this lone fast food diner.
Vonita stood with these other people and gazed upon the massive column of wind and rain. She watched the base where they were all escaping and, hands pressed together like a diver, the large form of Warren broke through the narrow strip and landed in the comfy grass, barely missing the paved, gravel road. Warren struggled to his socked feet, managing a little better than had the others, and raced toward Vonita. Once he stood by her side, he turned to look up at the cyclone, then looked back to the main focus. Only Shefonte remained on the premises. A paramedic tried to take Warren to the ambulance, but he resisted.
"Shefonte!" he yelled.
Warren and Vonita now looked up the storm and back to the bottom, waiting to see Shefonte. The spiral continued on its predictable path, tho now seemed to be littered with sudden bits of refuse. A grinding noise of sorts was then heard.
"Shefonte!" Vonita called out.
There was no verbal response, only the maniacal growl of the monster whose presence they had been subjected to for nearly twenty minutes. The beast offered up an unearthly roar, then spun somewhat off-kilter from the diner. A brick from the building came flying toward the former occupants, barely missing them.
Then the hideous storm wobbled a few more times and lifted into the air, going straight up, leaving the establishment banged up, but on the ground, save for one ripped up corner. The system continued up into the air until it began moving along with overhead clouds and ventured off into the Heavens.
"Shefonte!" Warren and Vonita both screamed as they ran back toward the derelict property. Warren ran to the closed back door.
"Damn!" he yelled upon remembering he'd tied the door shut with the apron. He ran around the side to the now gutted drive thru window. The frame and glass were all gone. Vonita was already making her way to the front.
Across the way, Ronique and Debra were also coming closer, no matter what official commanded they do otherwise.
Vonita stepped into the front of the business. All glass was gone, clearly having given way at last. "Shefonte!" she yelled. There was no response. She walked across the floor with scant tiles ripped away; the same floor she instructed Shefonte to clean. Warren turned up by then, careful in his socks not to get any glass, tho he wouldn't have been concerned about that at the moment.
Vonita rounded the corner to head behind the counter, walking toward the interior of the window of their escape. There was no sign of Shafonte.
Warren made his way behind the counter as well, with Ronique and Debra entering at the missing doors.
"Where's Shefonte?" Warren asked Vonita, but of course, she had no answer.
"He hadn't worked here long, had he?" Ronique asked. Vonita didn't answer. She stared at the dirty mop still located in the corner where he had tossed it, tho now the storm had wedged it further back behind the drink machine.
"No," she said at last. "He hadn't worked here long at all."          

© 2020 R J Fuller

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Added on February 22, 2020
Last Updated on February 22, 2020
Tags: fast food, youth, tornado, storm, weather, destroy, trapped

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