One Chance; One Life
By Kelly Barina

"I won!" I cried gleefully. The satisfying clang! of a small coin being spit out of the slot machine rang in my ears. Quickly, I retrieved the blue coin and placed it contently in my cup. Not much, but to a thirteen year old girl with bad luck, every little bit counts.

"Mommy! Mommy, I got one!" I grinned at my mother who was standing behind me with my sister. Taking a lick of my beloved vanilla ice cream, I immediately experienced brain freeze, but that didn't kill my good mood. I only squeezed my eyes shut, smiled, and endured it.

"Good for you," my mother replied, taking a seat next to me. She placed a quarter into machine and started to play. "Now let's see if I can win."

I watcher her for a few seconds, then I stood up and started for the exit. "Where are you going?" my obnoxious sister demanded, hands on her hips.

"I just want to look at the beach for a little," I answered, not even breaking my stride.

"Mommy's gonna get mad," she grumbled.

I shrugged. "Oh well. I just want to take a breath of fresh air. It smells like sweat in here," I wrinkled my nose, "and I feel like I'm suffocating. So she'll have to deal with it." I got closer to the doorway and an elderly man opened the door for me, seeing that both of my hands were full. I smiled at him gratefully and stepped out on the boardwalk that overlooked the beach. I leaned against the wall of the casino and sighed blissfully.

Aaah. fresh, clean air. So beautifully breezy out here, not stuffy and crowded like in there. I breathed in and I caught the scent of saltwater in the air. I could almost taste the water, so strong was the smell. I could even feel drops of the ocean sliding down my arm.

I looked at my hand and realized that my ice cream was melting. I licked the ice cream off of my arm and ignored the stares I was receiving from passing people. So much for drops of the ocean.

I noticed that the waves were becoming alarmingly violent and those who had been sitting on the beach had disappeared. I wonder why they left. I admit that it is getting chilly, but it's not all bad out here. Why are they going inside?

Shrugging, I licked the creamy frozen milk again. Oh well. As long as I don't have to leave, it's all right.

Suddenly, a young man came running down the boardwalk, breathing heavily. He threw open the door to the casino and shouted so that everyone could hear. "It's coming! The twister's coming! We have to evacuate now!"
I nearly dropped my ice cream.

Twister? There's a tornado? Here? But this is Point Pleasant; we never get tornados here! Where is it anyway? Will I get a chance to see it? I've always wanted to be able to see one of those things! How close will it get? Oh, I can barely wait! I wish I had a camera!

Too excited to worry about eating, I tossed my ice cream into a nearby garbage can without even taking a last lick. I scanned the horizon for any signs of the twister. Lo and behold, a small cyclone of wind and water slowly approached the shore. My heart thumped in my chest and the sight took my breath away.

"Wow," I whispered. My feet started toward the edge of the boardwalk as if drawn by the tornado. My long brown hair was tossed in every direction by the unruly winds. I reached out my hand to the twister, which had just touched dry land. My sleeve was blown back against my arm and my fingers stretched out, trying to touch the cyclone.

"Kelly!"

I broke out of my reverie just in time to see my mother opening the door in an anxious frenzy, letting in three more frightened people from the boardwalk. "What are you doing? Get inside now!"

"No! I want to see this!" I protested.

"Everyone's leaving," she pressed on. "The police are on their way. We've got to go."

"I'll never be able to see this again. It's the chance of a lifetime!" I gazed back at the twister. Sand whirled around the twister. Garbage that had been lying dormant on the beach flew into the cyclone as well. Trashcans were blown along the beach as if they were nothing more than bits of paper.

A smile spread across my face as the wind picked up speed. Combing my hair out of my eyes, I leaned back against the wall, trying to find something to hold on to.

"Kelly, you've seen it! Let's go!" My mom cried again.

"I don't want to!" I shouted over the whistling winds. "Don't you think it's amazing? I've never seen this before, so I think it's awesome!"

My mother ran out and grabbed my arm. "When it picks you up and carries you away, you won't think that," she mumbled under her breath.

I struggled to break away, but she was already dragging me through the door. I looked over my shoulder at the twister to catch one last glance of the wind demon. Wow. I can't wait to tell my friends what I just saw. They probably won't believe me, but oh well. I know what I saw.

As my mom pushed through the people, still holding on to me, she called to my sister, making sure that she hadn't gotten lost. People in the casino were in a fearful scramble to their cars, rushing to get away from the natural disaster, trying to keep their wits about them. The fight to get out of the door was probably the toughest thing we had to do, but somehow the three of us managed to squeeze out.

Engines revved and cars peeled out, but no amount of noise could break me from my happy state. I clutched my coin cup tight against my chest when my mother had freed my arm. I sighed as the policeman stopped traffic to let us across the street to our car. Quietly, the three of us ran through the lot, careful not to be run over by speedy drivers, rushing to get home.

My mother unlocked the doors and we all piled inside. Shaking her head, she started the engine. "What were you trying to do? That tornado was heading straight for us!"

"I was getting a good look at it. Mom, you should have been there with me. It was great," I said blissfully.

"Weren't you a little bit afraid?" She backed out of the parking space and drove toward the highway.

"You know, if you let everything scare you, you miss all of the really amazing stuff. The stuff good memories are made from," I said, gazing out of my window.

I saw Mother Nature's wrath today. I can say that I did something different. Not many people can say that they've seen a tornado. It's not exactly something you see every day. I'm not going to let fear hold me back. What kind of person would I be if I let fear control my actions? I would miss out on so much. I only have one life to live.

And I plan to live it.