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Shaolin Tornado Beatdown
A dream log by Mary Chen

I’ve just left a dream party at my aunt and uncle’s penthouse castle in Manhattan, wherein a small man in a plum-colored shirt had attached himself to my back after I had misled him by dancing with him for three seconds. So I’m escaping that party with a lot of relief, like a kid running up the basement stairs after the sole light bulb burns out. And as a friend and I exit the building, we end up walking along a scenic dirt road in the Midwest—Kansas to be exact. My friend mentions it’s tornado season, and lo and behold: off in the distance we see a storm approaching and a tornado touching down intermittently. We stop to watch, more intrigued than frightened. But then the tornado touches down permanently, and it’s moving right for us. By the time it’s close enough to reckon with, I realize it’s approximately person-sized—maybe a foot taller than I am, as most things tend to be.

This tornado has some sort of serious beef with me. I move to one side, and so does it; then I move to the other side, and so does it; and then it charges after me. I'm standing there helpless, bracing myself because I know I can't escape, and my feelings are a little hurt that this thing is so intent on coming after me. But as it gets closer I start to get curious: What is it actually like to get sucked into a tornado? What’s the worst that could happen, really? It'll just pick me up and spin me around and then I’ll puke, right? Maybe it's like a fun ride! But when the tornado consumes me, it feels sort of like an electric jolt to my entire body for a few seconds. Then I’m free, and the tornado is spinning there, staring me down eyelessly.

And I think, “Christ, that hurt.” But it also isn’t the end of the world; it’s just pain. And then, then I have the most brilliant brainstorm of all: perhaps I could fight the person-sized tornado with my powerful kung fu skills! So I deliver a not-very-devastating roundhouse, and, as my leg passes through the tornado, it gets the bzzt, and the tornado just spins there, unfazed. And then I start throwing myself at it in a very disorganized, totally un-Shaolin manner. Punch, kickandpunch, punch—they’re basically the right moves, but I’m throwing them into an immaterial windy void and losing my balance. And bzzt, bzzt, bzzt, the tornado jolts each limb as it connects. And it hurts, and the tornado doesn’t seem to be taking a beating, but it is getting very irritated with me.

And then it says—the tornado says—“Puh-leeze, Wilmington. Tell me you’re not coming after me with that pathetic kung fu.” Wilmington, Delaware being the town that I’m from. So you see, the tornado is mocking not only my lack of martial arts prowess, but my provinciality. And it just cracks me up. I am just absolutely tickled. And I say, “I love that! ‘Nice try, Wilmington’! That’s good! That’s really funny!” And I laugh and laugh and laugh. But the tornado is not amused. It’s not at all impressed with my amicability, or my self-deprecating humor. But it also isn't attacking me anymore. So whoever is with me drapes an arm around me and leads me away, imploring me to please shut up.

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