The Man With The Canteen

Carlie and June sat out on the prairie under the stars. A fresh pot of coffee had just finished percolating over the fire, and June poured it out into plastic mugs for the two of them. "Want any cream?" she asked.

Carlie shook her head. "Nope--black is fine for me."

They sat in silence for several minutes, sipping the hot coffee. Then Carlie said, "I ain't been out on the prairie for a lot of years."

"Do tell."

"When I was a young girl, one year we went up for summer vacation to visit some folks in Saskatchewan. My mother's family, the Zwermans, were from up there. One day I was out walkin' on the prairie with my cousin Tonya. We'd been out for an hour or so, walkin' and talkin'."

"What about?"

"'Kinda stuff girls talk about. Men, clothes, music, that kinda thing. Tonya was tellin' me about things in Saskatchewan, and I was fillin' her in on how they was in the big city."

"Mm."

"Anyways, we was a ways from the house, and thinkin' of turnin' back to get somethin' to eat, 'cause we were gettin' mighty hungry. When we turn around, what's behind us but a huge big bank of cloud. We feel the wind startin' to rise, and Tonya's yellin' and sayin' that last time she say cloud like that it was a tornado."

"They get tornadoes in Saskatchewan?"

"They did that time. So, anyways, we're tryin' to figure out whether to keep goin', or swerve off, or go back, or lay low and wait for it to pass, when suddenly one o' them big funnel-clouds touched down and hit the ground, and started comin' straight for us. 'Course, it was a ways away still, and it could'a been aimin' to miss us by a mile, but it looked like we was its target. So we started runnin' off at an angle, towards this little ditch that was out there. We got to the ditch, and we dived in and looked out at the tornado. Well, darned if it didn't still look like it was comin' straight at us. That's when we saw the man."

"What man?"

"Shut up, I'm tellin' this story. There was a man at the bottom of the tornado. He was right in the middle of the funnel thing, but it wasn't touchin' him at all. When we looked closer, it actually kinda looked like the funnel was comin' from him. Or from somethin' he was holdin'. Tonya and I tried to figger it out, and the closest we came was that it was some kind of water canteen thing. It was about the right shape, and all. We watched him a little more, and it seemed like the tornado was comin' the same way he was. So we figgered he had somethin' to do with it."

"That's crazy, Carlie."

"You weren't there, June. Anyway, so Tonya and I figger that if we want the tornado to go away, we gotta get the canteen from the guy. It looks kinda dangerous, but better us than some farmer. We'd seen a house not that far on the way we were goin'. So we flipped a coin to see who'd do it, and Tonya lost. It turned out that the guy was goin' past us anyway, so we waited until he'd gone by. By this time it was rainin' pretty bad, and looked fit to hail any minute. I crouched down in the ditch and watched.

"Tonya snuck up on him real good. He must not've seen us before, so he wasn't expectin' nobody to show up. She looked like she was havin' some hard goin' through the wind, but it was so loud he never heard her until she was right behind him. And then she grabbed the canteen before he could react.

"Well, what happened right then was pretty strange. He turned around all startled-like, and she pulls the canteen out of his hand. Then she drops it, 'cause it's all slippery with rain. It falls on the ground, lyin' on its side. And darned if the tornado don't go with it. Yep, a tornado lyin' on its side. Let me tell you, it tore up the ground somethin' fierce. Ripped a huge swath in the ground.

"Both Tonya and that man were caught up in it. I leapt out of the ditch and ran toward them. I slipped and fell on the wet grass, and when I was gettin' up I saw a little metal thing on the ground and picked it up. It looked like the cap for the canteen. So I ran up to the canteen and stuck the cap on it.

"The tornado went away. The clouds went away. It got all sunny. And Tonya and that man were never seen again."

"You still got the canteen?"

"You think I'm crazy? Nah, I buried it. When I got back, I said there'd been a tornado and Tonya'd gotten lost. It was real sad, but they never could find her, and when they found that swath, they knew somethin' fishy'd gone on, but I never told. They had a funeral for her a few days later. But I bet you she's still inside that canteen."

Based on the words: Wind Canteen Coffee Prairie

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The Den of Ubiquity/ Aaron V. Humphrey / alfvaen@gmail.com