• Elliot Harper

The Tales of a Yorkshireman living in Texas: Storms

Updated: Dec 21, 2019

“News events are like Texas weather. If you don't like it, wait a minute.”

- Jessica Savich


I’m hunched over the laptop at my desk trying to decide whether to write a story, submit one or just endlessly surf around online looking at pointless shit, when suddenly the sky turns orange. A sigh escapes my mouth. As anyone who has ever lived or been in Houston knows this can only mean one thing. We are in for a classic Texas storm. Houston, and Texas in general, are famous for them. That’s what you get for living in a sub-tropical climate. The heat just builds and builds pushing the humidity higher until eventually, it breaks, and we get a good old storm. Now, you guys in England are thinking, “So what? It rains all the time in England. A storm isn’t so bad.” I can see why you would think that, but this isn’t that drizzle that soaks you to the bone that Peter Kay famously joked about. This is a Texas-sized storm.

They say everything is bigger in Texas, mostly it’s true, the freeways, the malls, the cars. The storms are no different. The sky turning orange is the first sign. I have no idea why; I could easily look into it right now but I won’t. All I know is a strange off-shade orange invades the atmosphere. I was brought up a catholic, but even the atheist that I am now can’t shake that feeling of an imminent apocalypse. I can imagine the ancients feeling the exact same thing. As soon as they see the orange light, they are straight on their knees, praying to whatever deity they’ve chosen to worship, begging them for forgiveness for whatever sins they think they’ve committed.

Anyway, back to that ginger-faced Yorkshireman you all know and love, bent over his laptop pretending to work. The orange glow descends, so I know a storm is on the way. The signs of the apocalypse are beginning to grow. I can hear a rumble of thunder in the distance. It is long and deep. God moving his furniture, my old primary school teacher used to say. If I wasn’t such a heathen, I could nearly believe it. When that thunder is finished, the clouds roll in, and the orange is replaced with the dark of night. This is also fairly disconcerting as it's in the middle of the day. The third sign is our “pavement special” dog, Hank, sprinting past the door to the office in terror. The little guy does not like these storms one bit. I let another thoroughly pointless sigh leak from my lips (why do we sigh if no one else is there to hear it?) and stand up. I find Hank cowering and panting in the spare room and quickly put on his thunder vest just in time for another clap of thunder to hit.

Now, we get another sign. Lightning. I can see bright streaks of electricity battling it out in the sky. Some forgotten war in the heavens. It briefly illuminates the now darkened sky every few minutes. So, now we’ve got the whole set. Darkness, thunder, lightning and small frightened animals but there is one thing left. The rain. It arrives suddenly as if it has just decided on the spur of the moment to begin. It comes down thick and heavy. No messing around. One second it’s dry, then the next we are close to a deluge. Flood warnings are flashing on my phone. I’m not worried about this because the house won’t flood, but it still only adds to that fear. Probably because of the memory of Harvey, but also because I think it's primal. It’s a human instinct to fear a storm. Just like those ancients who trembled in their caves terrified of their god’s wrath, I get that fear. It could also be hereditary for me. My grandmother on my mum’s side was terrified of them. She would have had a funny turn inside this beast of a storm that’s for sure.

It is really coming down outside now. I can see water forming in giant puddles outside in any ditch or hole that’s available. I head to the back and see that the garden is quickly filling with water. I curse when I realise that I haven’t turned the garden chairs upside down. I quickly open the door and flip them over. Outside, I face the full brunt of the storm. The small overhanging around the periphery of the house provides the bare minimum of protection. The water is splashing all around and falling in miniature waterfalls from the roof. The corner of the garden where the creepy swinging chair resides is now surrounded by water. I briefly see a sodden feral cat crouched under the tree. I’d feel sorry for the little bastard if it didn’t shit in our front garden all the time. It doesn’t look happy, and I can understand why. I wouldn’t dare venture out into that garden to help the little shit anyway, mostly out of fear that I would stand in a fire ants’ nest. You learn to fear those industrious pricks quickly in Texas, especially if like me, you’ve been bitten by one. They are at their most active after a storm.

Safely back in the house, I catch a glimpse of Hank sprinting around to try and find a safe place. I have no idea why he runs around like this. I guess he thinks he’ll find a safer place to hide than he is already in. I’m not sure he would stay in it even if he found one. Bray, our greyhound, literally doesn’t give a shit. He just lies on the sofa on his back with his legs in the air in an incredibly unflattering position. It is a great advert for that breed of dog. Storms, fireworks, hurricanes. They don’t bother him, although he is petrified of laminate floors, so swings and roundabouts. I switch on a few lights to drive away the now near pitch darkness. The thunder and lightning rages on outside. I can hear the rain battering the flat roof of the house. My phone continues to send me endless messages of a flash flood until I get annoyed enough to flip it over so I can’t see them anymore.

I return to the front window to observe the storm at its peak. The streets newly paved tarmac surface stands no chance against this level of rainfall. It quickly overflows before my eyes and begins to drift down the street to my right. Before I know it, there are wheelie bins speeding down the road propelled by the speed and voracity of the storm. It’s quite an incredible sight, although also highly entertaining. I can’t help myself. I pop open the door and quickly record one of the green travellers as it floats to the bottom of the street. I imagine if a plastic bin could produce thoughts it would simply think “What the fuck is going on??” I too thought that very thing even though I’m safely inside and not out in the tempest. To add to the drama, the power briefly cuts out for a few seconds before returning with only the oven clock protesting at the sudden occurrence.

You guys in England must be thinking this sounds horrible. Why live in Houston when there are storms like this? You guys who live in Houston though, know the truth of it. As bad as these storms are, they are so quick that after half an hour they are gone. The darkness recedes slightly, and some normal daylight starts to peak through the clouds. The biblical deluge becomes more like every single day in Manchester, light innocent (but annoying) rain. The thunder and lightning slow and then move off to do battle elsewhere. Hank has even stopped running around and is just quietly panting on the floor of the front room. The apocalypse has moved on. The ancients can climb out from their hiding places and give thanks to their gods for allowing them another day to live.

Only a short amount of time passes before the storm has fully passed to be replaced with bright blue skies and a pleasant low temperature now that the weather has cleared away the humidity. Give it a few hours and the beating sun will have evaporated the standing water away, and it's like it didn’t even happen. Poof, just like that its gone.

Procrastination is over. I can now return to my desk. I flip my phone back over to find a message from Naomi saying that an almighty storm has just arrived on the other side of the city. I smile and reply with a wink and a storm emoji. She asks how Hank was. I send her a picture of the puddle of slobber where he sat panting during the worst of it and then the state of the garden post-storm.

The excitement is at an end, I focus my attention on the laptop screen with the intention of writing but end up falling down a Wiki hole. The content? Mythological floods and water deities. That was a storm in Houston.

That was a tale of a Yorkshireman in Texas. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it.

A bloke with a ginger beard who writes.



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