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John Nippolt
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A Rude Awakening
         Bhhrrriiinnngg! Not the phone, not again, not today, not three Saturdays in a row! I opened my eyes and there, staring me in the face were those little red digital numerals, not quite as red as my awakening thoughts. It was 5:30 in the morning. Bad news usually comes a little bit earlier; it was either a robo-call or some person who would greet me from a distant spot on the mainland, ignorant of time zone differences. I could have used the phone in our bedroom for this conversation, but I was in a foul mood and it would be wise for me to go to the kitchen, so not to disturb my wife further. I grabbed the receiver from its cradle. This had better be good. “What?” I demanded.
        “Daddy, are you guys O.K.?”
        It was my daughter calling from the Big Island. This was the first of many calls from faraway places that morning.
        “Sure we’re fine, what’s up? How come you’re calling? Are you and the kids all right?”
        “Don’t you know about the tsunami warning?” Was her reply.
        I had no idea what she was talking about. I must have slept through any early siren warnings, but I was sure I didn’t hear any Civil Defense vehicles from up on the highway, with their loudspeakers blaring about a civil defense emergency, telling us how we must evacuate immediately, like they did when Hurricane Iwa struck. I didn’t feel the drama; was that good or bad?
        We live on the waters edge but our coastline is protected by a large bay and tidal forces are not our usual issue with Mother. Hurricanes and heavy rains give us pause. The continuous sound of rain on the roof can get pretty scary as you watch water levels rise around you. I’ve struggled out of here with my children on my back in waist deep water…but, that’s another story.
        I asked my daughter if she knew when the tsunami was supposed to hit the islands. She said the radio announced the first wave would arrive around 11:30 A.M. After more small talk, I thanked her for her concern, told her not to worry and that we would be fine. I grumbled to her that I was going back to bed. I hung up wishing I hadn’t been so gruff and I made a mental note that I would call her back and apologize later. Later. Now there was a thought.
        I crawled back into bed mumbling that it was my daughter who called to warn us about a tsunami. Tsunami!? My wife was immediately alert. As I closed my eyes, my son walked into our bedroom urging us to get up, his military training obviously in action. He was still fresh from a life based on the importance of readiness at a moments notice. “C’mon Pop, we gotta get a move on.”
        I wasn’t going back to sleep. By the time I was dressed the T.V. was on and the morning paper was on the table. I stared hard at our books while I began to disassociate myself from all my worldly belongings: those cherished things here inside our house and in our storage sheds outside. We would have to walk away from all of it. I flashed that my Martin was safely tucked away at school on high ground and I consoled myself with the knowledge, should disaster strike, I would still have that wonderful instrument.
        It was useless to pack anything other than the bare necessities; there simply was no time. I went outside and grabbed a large clean cooler that would serve as a storage container for valuables, documents and a few mementos. We would fill some plastic bags with towels, toiletries and changes of clothes. I got some boxes for water, and food. I had several lightweight portable chairs we would surely need and I placed them in my Blazer. There was still time to drive to the market and purchase some extra rations, so, my son and I set off while my wife got things organized. The highway was deserted until we neared the shopping center. Up until the time we got there, there were no cars on the roads and I hadn’t seen a soul.
        The market was packed with shoppers and there were groups of people standing in long lines at every cashier’s counter. I had never seen a crowd in there like this one. It was weird to see what people were buying. It was like everyone there were all going to attend some huge event and tailgate. I could have sworn that almost every man in that store had a case of beer or at least a bottle of wine.
        I wanted a good meal before we abandoned our little home. I was hungry when we got back from the market and I didn’t know if this would be the last chance for us to have a decent meal. We might not get another one for a while and I wasn’t going to start out on this adventure with an empty stomach. Bacon and eggs with some OJ, and we were ready. We loaded the cars and drove to higher ground where we would be safe from all tidal surges and still be able to see what action was taking place.
        There were already people at the location where we chose to sit things out: An elementary school with adjacent public parks around it and a clean public restroom nearby. I recognized most of the folks up there, and I learned later that they had been waiting around since 4:00 a.m.. The morning went by painfully slow as we listened on car radios for news from the Big Island.
         I kept my gaze on the ocean, watching for any obvious changes taking place out on the horizon and then I would focus close to shore; I couldn’t detect a ripple out of place. It was beautiful out, and I wondered at the old saw about “the calm before the storm’. I heard the sirens wail this time and I loo