My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean
A Carlson Septuplets Story
"Come on, they're boarding the plane now," Mrs. Carlson lead her husband and seven daughters to the check-in on the boarding platform. "Let's get our seats before they give them away."
"It's a good thing we got our seats," Mr. Carlson said. "You know, with all these labor disputes Northwest is having right now, we're lucky to be flying anywhere!"
"The airline we flew earlier this summer was good," Melissa said. "Why don't we fly them again? It wasn't Northwest, was it?"
"It was Japan Airlines, silly," Molly said. "A Japanese company wouldn't fly from Detroit to North Carolina!"
"Well, I forgot, sorry!" Melissa retorted.
The Carlsons were taking their second trip of the summer. In June, they had gone to Japan. They had been saving for that trip for a very long time, but at the last minute, the company that produced their movies offered to pay for the whole thing! The catch was that they had to help promote the movie in Japan by making a few special appearances in various cities, but they didn't mind doing that. With the company's funding and the money they had already received from the movie, not to mention all the money they had saved in the past few years, they had much more than enough for a few souvenirs! The Carlsons never considered themselves rich; they had seven kids to support and put through college so there were rarely any big splurges. However, now was one of those rare times when they did do something extra special. They were going on a second vacation two and a half months after their trip to Japan. The Japan trip hadn't exactly been very restful (although it was lots of fun), and Melissa and Megan were dying to go to an oceanside resort. So they had planned a trip to the North Carolina coast for the last week of August, and that's where they were heading now.
Unfortunately, there was this issue of the airline's pilots planning to strike. People's fights were being canceled, and the Carlsons were afraid it would happen to them. Luckily, this flight seemed to be going as planned.
"I hope they don't cancel it at the last minute," Monica said after they were safely seated in the coach section.
"Relax, there's no way they'll kick us out now," Michelle said.
"Michelle's right. I'm not worried about that either," Molly said. "But you know what I am worried about?" Everyone looked at Molly, waiting for an explanation. "There's a tropical depression or something like that in the Atlantic right now and I heard them say something about how people on the East Coast should be sure to watch it. We're going to be on the East Coast!"
"Oh, please, Molly," Melissa said. "The East Coast is a big place and this tropical whatchamacalit isn't even anywhere near us. I think we'd better stick to worrying about them kicking us off the plane."
"Yeah, Molly," Meredith agreed. "You just like to follow meteorology stuff. We know that. But let's not get too carried away. Mary sorta follows it too and she's not panicking."
"Mel and Meredith are right, we don't have to worry about anything. Not some storm that's a zillion miles away and definitely not being kicked off the plane, because the fasten seat belts sign just came on." Michelle pointed to the lights above their seats. A flight attendant came out to talk to the passengers for a few minutes, and then they were ready to go!
After many hours of travel, both on plane and rental van, the Carlsons finally arrived at their final destination: a hotel on the coastline of northern North Carolina. The hotel had a pool, and on top of that, right outside of the pool deck was a sandy beach. The hotel itself was very nice too; the Carlsons were trying to be somewhat frugal since this was the second trip they had taken this summer, and they had been lucky enough to find a very good yet relatively inexpensive hotel. They checked in and went up to their rooms on the third floor (which was the top), which had a windows that looked out over the ocean.
"Wow, this is great!" Melissa exclaimed when she saw it. "This is what vacations are supposed to be like!"
"Whaddya mean by that?" Meredith asked her. "That going to Japan wasn't a vacation?!"
"No," Melissa said. "That's not what I said. I just meant that this is what most people do on vacation instead of touring through foreign, trying to squeeze as many things into two weeks as possible and giving up sleeping to do it—"
"Would you rather not have gone to Japan?!" Monica demanded.
Melissa ignored Monica's question to continue her description. "Or instead of camping out in the rain! This is actually relaxing, with an ocean resort and plenty of time to do...well, to do vacationy things. You know, what normal people do on vacation."
"Lots of normal people go camping," Mrs. Carlson mentioned. Melissa didn't think so, but she didn't say anything.
"Are you saying that you didn't like the trip to Japan?? I thought you did! You'd better have liked it, 'cause a lot of people would have liked to take your place," Molly said.
"NO," Melissa insisted. "I am NOT saying that. You people just don't get it. All I'm saying is that all that stuff is really great, but it's about time we did something like go to an ocean resort and just sunbathe and relax and stuff like that!"
"Who said anything about sunbathing?" Mary replied. "I'm going to swim at the beach! Bye!" she grabbed her towel and dashed for the door.
"Wait, Mary!" Megan cried, but her sister was already gone. "I'm going too," she said, and took off after Mary.
"Me too," Meredith said. "Let's see if we can rent a jet ski or something!"
"No, let's not," Mrs. Carlson said. "I don't think those things are safe. But there's always the inflatable raft we brought from home."
"Oh, great, the inflate-a-yacht," Melissa said sarcastically.
"Hey! I like the inflatable boat!" Meredith defended. "Give it to me, I'll take it outside and inflate it."
"Well, I can see that I'll have some peace and quiet while I'm getting a tan!" Melissa said. "Everyone else here is too insane to actually relax. Now I know why we never go on relaxing vacations!"
Almost every day, the Septuplets spent their time running from the beach to the pool and back again. When they got tired of swimming, they took a break and went to a local ice cream shop that had really great homemade ice cream. They took a few trips to local attractions, but they still spent most of their time in the water. (Or, in Melissa's case, beside the water.) Meredith never did get to rent a jet ski, but they took the inflatable boat out in the ocean very often.
Everyone was having a great time. No one really cared when Molly mentioned one evening while they were eating dinner at a restaurant what she had seen on TV that day.
"Tropical Storm Bonnie was upgraded to a hurricane today," she explained.
"Yeah, so?" Melissa demanded.
"They're predicting it's going to hit the coast in a few days!"
"Relax, Molly," Monica said. "The coast is a pretty big area. And we're not going to be here much longer."
"North Carolina is in the predicted target range," Molly said. "And it's probably going to be here in the next few days!"
"Well, what do you expect us to do then?" Michelle asked. "Leave?"
"I'm just warning everyone so you know what's going on. Maybe leaving wouldn't be a bad idea! But I know everyone's having too much fun to just leave. Still, I thought you might like to know that there's a hurricane heading right for us," Molly said in a casual tone that dripped with sarcasm, as if hurricanes were always sneaking up on them and it was no big deal.
"Thank you, Molly," Mr. Carlson said. "I'm glad you're paying attention. But don't let it spoil your fun. Your mom and I are keeping an eye on what's happening and if it looks like we should go early then we will. For now, I think we're okay. Lots of other people are still at the hotel. They'll let us know if anything unsafe is going on, and we'll watch the situation very carefully too."
Mrs. Carlson nodded. Like any responsible (yet not very hurricane savvy) parent, she was paying close attention to the news, but she didn't think it was worth panicking right now. "Now let's stop worrying about this hurricane and eat a nice, peaceful dinner, okay?" Mrs. Carlson said. "Like your dad said, everything's okay right now."
"Yeah, Molly, everything's okay, so you can stop monitoring the Weather Channel," Melissa taunted.
Molly stuck her tongue out at Melissa.
The morning of August twenty-fifth was just like any other morning of the past week for the Septuplets. After eating some bagels and muffins from the hotel's continental breakfast, they rushed out to the beach again for more swimming. Megan and Michelle were going to take the inflatable raft today.
"I get to paddle, I get to paddle!" Michelle took off running for the water, pulling the inflated plastic raft behind her.
"Fine, be my guest! I don't even want to!" Megan yelled, chasing after her across the sandy ground.
"Look at those waves," Mary observed. "They're getting pretty big! I think that's the biggest they've been since we've been here. Do they really want to go on the boat in that?!"
"It's from Hurricane Bonnie," Molly said. "If anyone cared to listen to me. The waves'll be even worse on coastline that isn't on a cove like this one." This hotel was just inside of a natural cove, so it had some protection from the open ocean; still, the cove was extremely large, almost like a bay, so the large waves still had plenty of room to wash ashore with their size diminished only slightly. "I wouldn't go out there myself," she continued. "Didn't you hear about the two swimmers drowned in riptides from the storm? It was on the news."
"You're really having fun with this hurricane thing, aren't you?" Meredith asked.
"There's no lifeguard on duty here, either," Molly noted, ignoring Meredith's comment. Molly just seemed to be trying to scare them, but with her you could never really tell.
"Oh, they'll be fine. They're not that big. It's not like a storm surge or something," Monica pointed out. "They're just medium sized waves. It's not even cloudy outside; there's no hurricane around!" She was right. It was a bright and sunny morning. Lots of other people were swimming, too, although the crowd did look a little thinner than it had in past days. There weren't any other rafts, but there were never any other rafts; the Carlsons seemed to have the only one there. Furthermore, Monica had seen on the news last night that they were showing people still swimming and still having fun regardless of a hurricane a few hundred miles away. All the "beach conditions" sign in the lobby said was stay close to shore, and be careful. So if her sisters stayed close to shore, they'd be fine.
Meanwhile, while standing in the surf, Megan was noticing the same thing Molly had mentioned. "Do you really want to do this?" she asked her sister, who was completely oblivious to the breaking waves by her feet. "These waves are kinda big for this little raft."
"Nah, they're not so bad," Michelle brushed them off casually. "You went whitewater rafting, right? This isn't nearly as bad as that. Look, there's two people surfing a ways down the beach. If they're safe, we're safe."
"Surfing! Surfboards are pretty different from bulky rafts like this one! Maybe you should go by yourself."
"Calm down, Megan! I didn't mean we'd go that far out. Not any farther than usual. Maybe ten yards, that's it! Just like always, okay?" They never went very far out in the raft.
"Oh, okay," Megan consented grudgingly. Both of them climbed in the raft and Michelle started churning the oars until they were a ways out. The waves rocked them considerably near the shore, but further out they hardly noticed it.
"That's far enough, that's far enough!" Megan cried suddenly. The precarious swaying of the boat was getting to her, and she wasn't enjoying herself very much. "I wanna go back now. C'mon, let's go. Please?"
"Fine, fine," Michelle consented. She turned the boat around and began rowing back to shore.
Only a minute or so later, they were getting very close and the waves were getting bigger again. The boat was only about ten feet from the beach. Suddenly, an especially large wave came by. The little raft flipped over violently and Megan and Michelle were hurled out into the waves.
"AAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!" Megan screamed as she flew towards the water. They both hit the surface with a splash and went under. Megan completely lost her orientation; for one terrifying moment that seemed like an eternity, she didn't know which way was up. She choked on some of the salty sea water, and finally made it to the top, coughing and sputtering.
Michelle had not lost her guard as completely as poor Megan had, and she had recovered from the shock almost immediately. After a split second of panic, she calmed down and started trying, in a very business-like fashion, to get herself and her sister back to the shore safely. "Megan! Where are you?!" she shouted. At this point Megan was still lost a foot below the surface. When she popped up on the other side of the capsized raft, Michelle heard her coughing
"Are you alright?!" Michelle shouted over the sound of breaking waves.
"NO! I'm not okay! I'm choking and I'm going to get washed out to sea and drown!"
"Grab the rope on the side of the raft and hang on!" Michelle directed, ignoring her sister's overdramatic but understandable complaints. "We're not going to get washed out to sea. The waves are going towards shore, obviously. Just hold on to the raft and we'll float back."
Megan grabbed one side of the boat, and Michelle had the other side. Megan started swimming to shore, pulling the boat with her. This threw off the balance, so when another large wave came by, it flipped over again. Michelle was a little upset by now too, although she remained calm. Megan started to panic and shout but then her foot hit sand below her. Both of them realized that they could now easily touch the bottom and could wade to shore.
The other Septs had witnessed the first flip of the boat, and had been panicking as well. They had been shouting, "Megan, Michelle! Are you okay?!" and gathered at the shore to watch the situation. Some other people had noticed the commotion and had crowded around to see what was going on. Mary and Meredith waded out to meet them.
"What happened? Was it a wave?" Mary asked.
"Yeah, a really big one. It completely surprised me," Michelle said. Megan didn't say anything, she just coughed a little more.
"I told you! You shouldn't have gone out there," Molly said, wading out after them. Mary didn't say anything, but she was glad that Molly hadn't mentioned anything about riptides to them before they had gone, or else they really would have panicked.
"Relax, Molly. We're fine. Nothing happened to us. We just went for a little swim, that's all," Michelle explained. Megan continued coughing, but by now it was probably more for the dramatic effect than out of necessity.
The small crowd dispersed now that the two girls were safely to shore. A lot of them left the beach altogether. "I think we should leave now," Molly said.
"Why? It's still bright and sunny outside. It's not even windy! It sure doesn't look like your hurricane is showing up any time soon," Michelle replied.
"Actually, I've heard that when a hurricane is coming, there's often nice weather like this just before it strikes. A calm before the storm, you know? Something to do with atmospheric pressure or something like that," Mary observed.
"Right! Thank you, Mary!" Molly looked smug.
"But I still want to stay out and swim some more," Mary added. Now Molly looked surprised and glared at her.
"Let's go in the pool," Melissa suggested. She wasn't done lying in the sun yet. The other Septs still wanted to swim (except Megan) so they all agreed. Megan just hung her feet in the water, and Melissa found a deck chair to lie on.
The beach was emptying out considerably. Some people were coming to the pool instead, which made it rather crowded, but most just stopped swimming altogether. The Septs hung around together near the deep end. From their corner of the pool, they saw a hotel employee come out and talk to the pool attendant. They couldn't hear what they were saying, but after a few minutes, the pool attendant shouted so that everyone could hear, "Okay, everyone, I'm sorry but the pool is closing for the day. Everyone out."
"What's going on?" Meredith asked, as if any of her sisters somehow knew.
"I don't know," Mary said. "Do you think it has something to do with the hurricane?"
"I don't see what else it could be," Molly added.
Everyone got out and headed inside. No one really wanted to swim longer anyway. Now it was getting gloomy outside. Even Melissa had noticed that the sun was now taking time off from being her tanning light.
As they trudged through the lobby to the elevators, they noticed that it was more crowded than usual. Walking past the front desk, they heard someone say, "So it's mandatory evacuation?"
"Yes, sir. That's why so many people are leaving today, although I don't know if the hurricane will actually hit here. May I have the key to your room?"
He handed her the key. "There's a hurricane watch, for crying out loud! If they say mandatory evacuation, there's a good enough chance of it that I don't want to be here."
The Septs exchanged glances (Molly's was even more smug this time) and hurried upstairs to their rooms. Megan looked slightly pale, realizing that she had been out on a raft at sea while there was an evacuation order and a hurricane watch. True, she had only been a couple yards from the shore, but it seemed especially frightening after being tossed into the water.
"Dad! Mom! Have you been watching the news?" Meredith asked as they burst into the room.
"What have I been saying?" Molly demanded. "I told you!"
"I was just about to come looking for you girls. I have some bad news," Mrs. Carlson said. She seemed slightly upset.
"About the mandatory evacuation?" Michelle asked.
"So you've heard?" Mr. Carlson said. "Who told you? One of the hotel employees?"
"We heard people talking about it at the front desk," Mary explained. "Did you hear it on the news or something?"
"A little while ago they sent some people to each room to explain that there was a mandatory evacuation and the hotel's owner is recommending that everyone leave. They said something about a dangerous storm surge. But besides that, we heard it on the news earlier today. We were just deciding what to do when the messengers came around. I'd say that settles it, wouldn't you?" Mr. Carlson said.
"Yes," his wife agreed. "I'm so sorry, girls, but we're going to have to leave early."
"I knew this would happen," Molly said with that same "I-told-you-so" grin she had been sporting earlier. She seemed unusually happy for someone who's vacation had just been cut short.
"Well, we tried to stay, hoping that it would miss us, but it looks like that's not the case," said Mrs. Carlson.
"This is so not fair," Melissa complained. "We finally get to go on a relaxing sort of resort vacation, just like I've always wanted, and now some stupid storm comes and we have to leave. I have the worst luck in the world!"
"I don't know, Mel," Mary said. "It's kinda exciting, don't you think?"
"Exciting? Exciting?! You are insane! This is not exciting! And I don't want exciting right now! I want relaxing!" Melissa fumed. She looked nearly ready to attack her sister when Molly joined the conversation and Melissa's attention went to her instead.
"I don't believe this is happening," Molly said. "Anyone with half a brain would have evacuated long ago, or at least prepared for the storm. I mean, sure, some people who've lived their whole lives on the coast are probably riding it out, but where we live they don't teach us anything about hurricane preparation! We're doing everything wrong! We probably shouldn't even have come when there was a tropical storm already heading this way! Mom and Dad obviously don't even know what's going on."
"Molly, please," Meredith replied. "You just said it yourself: we don't know all that much about what to do in a hurricane, so I think you have to give Mom and Dad a little credit. We're doing pretty well, I think. They have been listening to the weather reports all week, even if they didn't tell us all about it; they just didn't want to spoil our trip if they didn't have to. Besides, who says you are such an expert on hurricane procedures?? And do you even know exactly what we're doing now? Dad just told me that we're going to the airport right now to see if we can fly home right away. So stop complaining!" Meredith was obviously a little bit tired of Molly's attitude towards the storm, and she was in a bad mood because they had to leave. Molly looked a little surprised at her sister's outburst; she could tell Meredith was upset and didn't bother to argue. What would it help to fight over this? So she just shrugged.
As Meredith had said, they were going straight to the airport. Although no one had specifically said to hurry, everyone packed their bags as fast as they could. They finished packing relatively quickly. Mr. Carlson took the key back to the front desk and checked out, they loaded up the rental car, and headed for the airport.
The roads were becoming crowded, like it was rush hour, but it wasn't the right time for that. People were starting to get away from the coastline.
The car was very quiet. No one was talking much, until Mrs. Carlson piped up suddenly. "How about a song?"
"A song?" Melissa and Molly both said at the same time, in the same surprised tone.
"My Bonnnnnnie lies over the oceannnnn," Mrs. Carlson started singing. "My Bonnnnnnnie lies over the seeaaaaaaaaa..."
"Oh, no," Michelle groaned. Their mom loved to sing old songs, but they didn't really like listening.
"That's not funny," Meredith said about her mom's attempted joke.
"Please don't bring back my Bonnie to me, okay?" Mary said, referring to the rest of the lyrics.
"Haha! That's right, Mary. We don't want to see her! But it looks like she's coming whether we like it or not," Mrs. Carlson said.
Molly, Melissa, and Michelle all rolled their eyes. Mrs. Carlson continued singing. "Bring back, bring back, oh bring back my Bonnie to me, to meeeee...."
It took them a while, but they finally got to the airport. Just like the expressway had been, the terminal was unusually crowded. They weren't the only vacationers fleeing Bonnie's path
"Peter, would you get the boarding passes ready?" Mrs. Carlson requested as they unloaded their bags from the airport shuttle bus. "Why don't you go in and get the passes changed while we bring all this luggage in. Hopefully they'll let us change them for the next flight, if possible. It's so crowded here, though. At least if we can't get on the next flight, they'll have another one later, I'm sure."
"Our tickets aren't good until a few days from now, are they?" Melissa questioned.
"I've traded tickets in before like this," Mrs. Carlson explained. "And because of the situation, I'm sure they won't mind us doing it now. It's a mandatory evacuation, so they have to, don't they?"
They dragged their suitcases and backpacks into the terminal's lobby, where they saw Mr. Carlson waiting in line at the airline's front desk. The line was long, but it seemed to be moving very quickly. All the Septs except Megan and Melissa ran off to some nearby vending machines to get snacks; after just a few minutes they were back and Mr. Carlson was already at the desk. They couldn't hear what he was saying from where they were, but he looked upset.
"What's going on, Mom?" Michelle asked. "Is there a problem?"
"I'd better go see. You girls stay here and watch the bags." Mrs. Carlson ran up to the desk to see what her husband was doing.
The Septs glanced at each other with expressions of worry. Something was obviously not going as planned.
Mrs. Carlson looked angry too now. She came storming back to where her daughters were sitting. Their dad followed close behind, after pleading with the lady at the desk for a few more seconds. They both looked extremely frustrated.
"What is it?!" Monica demanded.
"The labor disputes are getting worse and they're having trouble with the pilots," Mr. Carlson explained. "They had to cancel the flight to Detroit Metro Airport today."
"WHAT?!" Melissa shrieked. "Does this mean we have to stay here in a hurricane?!"
"Can't they fly us to City Airport instead?" Molly suggested hopefully.
"I don't think they have any planes flying to City Airport," Mr. Carlson said.
"What are we going to do?!" Meredith asked, sounding panicked.
"Well, they're trying to accommodate everyone who missed this flight on other airlines," Mr. Carlson explained, "but they're giving priority to the people who actually had tickets for this flight. People like us who booked flights on later days are the last to get seats, and there are a lot of people trying to get out of here right now so it looks like our chances of flying out today are pretty low."
"But they HAVE TO get us out of here!" Megan cried. "It's a MANDATORY EVACUATION!"
"Not necessarily," Mary said. "I think it's just a voluntary evacuation in this area. So they don't have to let us leave."
"Well, I'm volunteering to evacuate! So they have to take us home!" Megan panicked.
"So what are we going to do?!" Monica questioned, repeating Meredith's question in an even more worried tone.
"Here are our choices," Mrs. Carlson explained. "We could either stay here and see if they can find us nine seats on any flights going to Detroit, even with stop-overs in other cities. Or, we could take them up on their other offer. They said they can direct us to a shelter or hotel until the storm is over and we can fly out on the flight we're supposed to take."
"That is, if they have any pilots by then," Meredith mumbled, but no one heard her.
"Stay in a hotel? Let's do it!!" Molly cried.
"What did you say? Let's stay in a hotel? Are you crazy? You're the one who's been saying we should get out of here!" Michelle cried.
"Yeah, but no one listened to me, and now we're stuck here in the middle of a hurricane," Molly said in a sing-song voice, as if she was very happy. The others stared at her like she had gone insane.
"WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM?!" Melissa demanded in a rather loud voice. She was extremely upset by Molly's bizarre behavior, after the fuss she made about the dangers of a possible hurricane. All the people in the near vicinity turned around and stared at her. The rest of her family glared at her.
"Melissa, please calm down," Mrs. Carlson said in a stern voice. "Why do you want to stay at a hotel, Molly?"
"It'd be really interesting! How often do we get the chance to experience a hurricane?" Molly asked.
"Molly," Monica said with forced patience, "you have been going on for several days about how unsafe this is and how we should get out of the way of this storm. Why are you so excited about it now?"
"I would have liked to have gotten out of the way, but now since we're stuck here, we might as well make the best of it. We would stay in a hotel that's in is a safer place, away from shore, not right on the coastline like the hotel we were in where the storm surge would carry us away!" Molly explained.
"I get it," Mary said. "You know, actually, I think it would be kinda cool too. I mean, as long as it's in a safe place. Don't you always hear about people staying in their coastal homes to wait out these storms?"
"You two are both insane," Melissa said decidedly. "Completely insane. Especially you, Molly."
"Why don't we drive home?" Megan suggested. "We can rent a van that we can drop off in Michigan or something like that."
"I don't know of any places to get vans like that around here," Mrs. Carlson said. "It's a good suggestion though, Megan. Maybe we should try to find one?"
"No, why don't we just take the planes?" Michelle suggested. "Maybe they can find us some tickets home, even if we can't fly non-stop to Detroit, at least we'll get there. I mean, they have to give us seats, right? They have to evacuate us, it's like an order or something." Apparently she hadn't heard what Mary said about voluntary evacuation, or else she didn't agree with her.
"I'll go see if we can get on a list for seats or whatever they're doing to distribute them," Mrs. Carlson said. "I don't know how likely it is that we can all get seats, though. We'll see what happens."
Mrs. Carlson ran over to an information booth to see what she could find out. After talking to the man there for a few minutes, she came back and said, "Well, forget that idea. He said we have about a ten percent chance of getting even TWO tickets on any planes any time soon, because so many people want 'em. He recommended we just head for one of these shelters. Look, he even gave me a map."
The map gave the directions to two shelters in the area, and numerous hotels that were away from the coast.
"So, is that where we're going? To find another hotel?" Mrs. Carlson asked everyone to make sure this plan was definite.
"It seems like the best choice," Mr. Carlson said. "C'mon, we'd better hurry. I guess we have to get another rental van." They had already returned the other one.
Dragging their luggage behind them, they hurried over to the airport shuttle and headed back to the car rental. The same van they had just returned was still there, so they got it back. The man running the rental shop even gave them a special discount because of the strange circumstances.
It took them a while to drive to the first hotel on the map, but not nearly as long as it had taken to get to the airport. The roads leading back into town were a lot less crowded.
"We must be the only people crazy enough to be driving back towards the shore right now," Melissa said.
"This hotel's not very close to the ocean, unlike the one we were at," Mary noted. "It's just closer to the shore than the airport."
They reached the first hotel on the map, and Mr. Carlson went in alone to see if there were any rooms. Unfortunately, the hotel was full. The owners of the small establishment were already closing the storm shutters on all the windows, locking their patrons up tightly inside the little building to hide from Bonnie's fury when she came ashore. Although they were far enough from the ocean that storm surge would not be a problem, the high winds and rain were still a frightening probability.
"Well, I guess we head to the next place on the list," Mrs. Carlson said. So they headed for the second hotel. They followed the road past some people piling sandbags and up a hill to a small two-story building: the Sunset View Inn.
When they arrived there, it was Mrs. Carlson's turn to get out and check on the vacancy status. It turned out that there was one room left. Although the Carlsons normally preferred to get at least two rooms for their large family, they decided to stay here. No one could guess if any of the few remaining hotels on the list would have any vacancies. There weren't many hotels listed, so there wasn't a huge chance that they'd find any other places to stay. So they checked into the last room at this hotel. The room was pretty large, but still not large enough for a nine person family.
"Welcome to the Sunset View Inn," the proprietor said when they signed in. "I'm sorry that we only have one room left, since your family is so large. If you'd like, you're welcome to stay in the lounge. That's where most of our tenants are going to wait out the storm. We'd recommend it, even if your family wasn't so large. It's the safest place, and that's where all our emergency supplies are."
"Thank you," Mrs. Carlson said. "I think we'll do that."
Most of the Septuplets and their dad were up in their room wondering, among other things, how they'd fit in there and whether this was really a safe place to be in the storm. Monica and Meredith were still hanging around in the lobby, so they decided to take a look around. Adjacent to the lobby was the aforementioned lounge. They decided to take a look.
It was really just a large living room-type area, with thick, orange carpeting, two plushy, overstuffed couches and a few chairs. Four people, including three adults and a young girl, were sitting around watching the wide-screen television that sat in the corner. They were watching the local news which was giving updates on Bonnie's approach. Behind the television set was a sliding glass door that lead to a deck, but it was being boarded up just as Monica and Meredith walked into the room. The one other set of windows was already secured with storm shutters. The far corner of the room had a few tables and chairs set up, a pop machine, and some large cardboard boxes. The only way they could see outside was to go back into the front lobby and look out the window or the glass door there.
The two Septs sat down on an unoccupied couch and joined the other four people who were already glued to the news.
"As Hurricane Bonnie approaches the coast, residents are hurrying to prepare for her arrival. Mandatory evacuation is in place for the Carolina coast, as far north as the Virginia border. Voluntary evacuation is also in effect for areas further from the coast where storm surge is not such a threat. Even in these areas, those who chose to stay are in for hurricane force winds, intense rain, and flooding." They showed pictures of people preparing for the storm, just like the employees at the hotel were doing.
"Hey Monica, Meredith, aren't you coming up to the room?" Mary joined them in the lounge. The little girl looked around to see who was talking and noticed Monica, Meredith, and Mary sitting on the other couch.
"You're the Carlson Septs, aren't you?!" the little girl shouted, after staring at them for a moment. "You look like them and you have the same names as them!"
"Yep, you're right. We are." Meredith said.
"Wow! Are all of you here? What are you doing here? And your parents, too? Are you staying for the hurricane? Is that why you're here?" The girl talked a mile per minute with nonstop questions!
"Kelly, don't pester the girls!" ordered a woman who apparently was the girl's mom. "I'm sorry, you'll have to forgive our little chatterbox."
"Oh, it's okay," Monica said. "We get this sometimes, it's no big deal." She smiled at Kelly, who kept staring at them.
"I saw you on TV before. My friend has a poster of you in her room. Did you know that? How come you're on TV? Is it because you're septuplets? Did your mom want to have septuplets? My aunt's going to have a baby, you know."
"Oh, really?" Meredith replied to Kelly's last question. "No, we didn't know that. So you're going to have a new cousin?"
"Yeah! My aunt is here right now in one of the rooms. She doesn't feel well. I think it's because she's going to have a baby. Maybe she'll have septuplets like you. Do you think so?"
"Ummm...well, maybe she will," Monica said, trying not to laugh. Of course, she didn't really think Kelly's aunt would have septuplets, but it seemed like what Kelly wanted to hear. "But I'm sure you'll be just as happy with one new cousin, won't you?"
"I guess so," Kelly said, not really thinking it over. "I'm already seven years old and I don't have any cousins yet. Aunt Linda and Uncle Luke don't know what they're going to name the baby yet. They said they don't know if it's a boy or a girl. I wonder when the baby will be born. Probably after the hurricane, I think. Because they're here on vacation right now, so Uncle Luke said they can't have the baby until they get home. Are you staying for the hurricane too?"
"Yes, actually, we are," Mary said. The three of them were having fun talking to Kelly. "We've never been in a hurricane before. Have you?"
"Well, my mommy says I was once before, but I don't remember it. It sounds really scary. I don't like thunder and lightning. My daddy says that they'll have a lot of that, and it will get really windy. He's really smart about storms."
"Okay, Kelly, why don't you go see if your daddy needs any help in the room, okay sweetie?" Kelly's mom tried to convince her daughter to leave the Septs alone. They didn't mind talking to Kelly at all, but her mom tried to be polite and make her over-talkative daughter leave.
"But I wanna talk to the Septuplets. Ally has a poster of them in her room at home!" Kelly pleaded.
"They'll be here when you get back. Now go help your dad."
"Okay. But I'll come back really fast, okay?" Kelly waved to the Septuplets and ran off.
"I'm sorry," Kelly's mom apologized to the Septs. "She's such a chatterbox, I hope she didn't annoy you too much."
"Oh, it's no problem at all! She's really friendly!" Mary insisted.
"Heh, yeah, she is, but sometimes she gets to people. It's just a phase she'll grow out of, I expect. For now, she talks to absolutely everyone. I just hope she stays this cheerful through the storm. She doesn't like normal thunderstorms at all, so I don't know how she'll take this. So you girls have never been in a hurricane before?"
"Nope. We don't get too many hurricanes off the Great Lakes," Mary explained. "That's where we live."
"Oh, of course. You guys live in Detroit, don't you? I guess you don't get many tropical systems through there. Well, you're in for some excitement. I just hope everything goes well and everyone's safe. It's certainly not my first hurricane and I'm still here, safe and sound, but they do still make me nervous every time."
"You've been in lots of them before?" Monica asked.
"Oh, sure. I've lived on the coast all my life. Last time a storm hit, we went to a shelter in a high school. That's an official emergency shelter around here. We live a lot closer to the coast, so the storm surge always gets us to leave. This time, though, we decided to stay at this hotel because it has a little nicer accommodations. My sister is here right now and she's expecting, as Kelly told you. My brother-in-law wanted to make sure she was as comfortable as possible. They live around here, too. She's almost due; what a bad time for a hurricane!"
The Septs could see where Kelly got her talkative genes from. The lady (whose name they still did not know) continued chatting about the hurricane.
"Where we are right now, you know, there's only a voluntary evacuation, but the storm'll hit us here too, I'm sure. It's a good thing we're up on this hill. At least flooding shouldn't be such a problem. It seems like the employees here are pretty competent, but I still get nervous. Oh! Am I making you three worry? I'm sorry! Don't mind me, I'm sure we're safe, but these storms can get frightening. Even though we're far enough from the shore that storm surge isn't a big problem, the wind and rain can be very intimidating."
Melissa showed up at the entrance to the lounge. "What are you guys doing? Mom and dad wanted you to come upstairs. Now come on because I'm not bothering to come back and get you again. Mom made me look for you."
"Okay, coming," Mary said.
"Well, it was nice chatting with you," Meredith said. "We'd better go see what our mom wants."
"Good idea. By the way, it was nice meeting you girls! I've seen you on TV so many times, it's amazing to meet you in person! What did you say your names were?"
"I'm Mary and this is Meredith and Monica. That's Melissa who just came and yelled at us."
"Well, it was nice to meet you," she repeated. "I'm Stacey Windson, I don't think I ever introduced myself! Well, see you later."
"Bye," they said, and ran back upstairs to see what their mom wanted.
It turned out that all she wanted to say was that they should eat something, but getting dinner would be tricky. This hotel didn't have a restaurant. There was one next door, but they didn't know if it would be open. Mr. Carlson went back downstairs to ask the hotel's manager for advice, and he directed them to the restaurant, but they had better do it soon because they were boarding up and they were going to close soon for the night, reopening only after the hurricane passed. It was an Italian restaurant, and all they were selling right now were pizzas. It was easier to prepare only one type of meal with minimal staff while the other few staff members (mostly family members of the people who owned the restaurant) hurriedly prepared the building for Bonnie.
Mr. Carlson walked over and picked up a pepperoni pizza. The few other customers were all people who were staying at the Sunset View Inn. It seemed like no one else remained in the area.
After eating their pizza, it was pretty late. Everyone was tired from such a busy day, so they decided to go to bed right away. There were two double beds and a fold-out couch in the room; Mr. and Mrs. Carlson took a bed, of course. The Septs were left to fight over who got the bed and who got the fold-out couch, and who would have to find a comfy spot on the floor. Meredith said she had a headache so could she please sleep on the bed, and everyone said it was okay. Melissa claimed she had a headache too after seeing that the excuse worked for Meredith, but no one believed her. She ended up on the fold-out couch as a compromise. Michelle ended up with the other side of the bed and Molly on the fold-out. Mary, Megan, and Monica took some extra pillows and blankets provided by the friendly hotel manager and tried to sleep on the floor.
Soon everyone was asleep, except for Megan and Monica. Mary had been able to sleep on the floor, but the other two were having a hard time. For Megan, it wasn't that she couldn't get comfortable, but she was worried that the hurricane would strike at any moment.
"Monica?" she whispered. "Are you awake?"
"Can you see out the window from where you are?" Megan couldn't see the window because she was behind one of the beds.
"I can see it, but the shutters are closed up, remember?"
"Oh, yeah. Well, do you hear that?"
"That whistling noise. Is that the wind?"
"I don't hear anything. You're just imagining it. The storm's not here yet, Megan. Just try to sleep. I'm sure we'll know when it's here, but don't worry, this place seems safe enough."
"I guess so." With that, they stopped talking. Monica fell asleep soon after, but Megan lay awake for a while longer, worrying. Finally, she too fell asleep.
Soon it was morning. The Carlsons got up and got dressed, then headed downstairs to the lounge for the continental breakfast that came with the room. They had donuts and orange or apple juice. The lounge was pretty crowded. They saw a lady who looked like she was close to her due date; Mary, Meredith, and Monica assumed correctly that it must be Kelly's aunt. They saw Kelly, too. She was stuffing her face with chocolate sprinkle doughnuts.
After breakfast, most people just sat around, waiting. Some stayed in the lounge, and some went back to their rooms.
And then Bonnie arrived.
It started with the rain. At first it was just a normal shower, but it quickly intensified into sheets of water streaming from the sky. The wind really did start whistling now, and it blew the rain right at the little hotel. The constant barrage of rain against the outside walls could be heard very well inside the lounge.
Most of the tenants came into the lounge to wait out the storm; for some reason, it seemed like the safest place. Out of the one window that wasn't boarded up completely, in the front lobby, they could see the chaos outside. Trees were swaying violently as if they were made of rubber.
"So this is what a hurricane is like," Michelle said, staring out the window in awe.
They heard crying from the other side of the lounge. Looking in that direction, they saw Kelly curled up in a chair and shrieking in fear. Her parents were trying to make her calm down.
"Don't worry, sweetie, you're perfectly safe. It's just a little storm, right? The nice people at the hotel boarded up all these windows to make sure that you're very safe. I know it's scary, but mommy and daddy and all these nice people are here." Her parents didn't seem to be very successful at calming Kelly down; she continued to sob in fear.
The power was still on, so the television was on. They were watching the news reporter talk about the hurricane.
"Bonnie's category three winds of one hundred miles per hour are tearing along the North Carolina coast. Residents who chose to stay this one out had better be safely inside a secure facility. The storm surge is hitting the coast with intense force...."
Melissa wondered why some people bothered to watch the news; they could see exactly what was going on just by looking out the front window. Of course, most people were hidden in the back of the lounge, far from the window.
The Septs just sat in one corner of the lobby, trying to play a game of Uno, but not really paying attention to the game. Everyone was worried. It was a lot like taking a long car ride: they just sat there, trying to amuse themselves, but mostly just waiting. The difference between this and a car ride, of course, was that car rides weren't nearly as frightening!
Hurricanes were very different from the typical severe thunderstorm that occasionally rumbled through Westfield: besides being much more intense, they lasted a lot longer. All through the morning, Bonnie continued to pound the little hotel. Kelly continued to hide her face in a chair in fright. The Septs continued trying to play card games, but were mostly just watching out the single window (from a long distance) in awe of the storm.
Sometime in the early afternoon, something disrupted the constant waiting. Kelly's parents and some other adults were sitting at a card table on the other side of the lobby. They were talking about something that, from the tones of their voices, sounded very serious. The Septs couldn't hear the whole conversation, but they did pick up parts of it.
"Can we get her to a hospital?"
"No, we can't risk it! It's not safe to drive right now!"
"What do you suggest then?"
"Oh, of all the bad times for a hurricane to hit, this is the worst!"
They continued talking for a while, until one lady ran out to the table. "Luke! Come NOW! You can't wait any more!"
"I wonder what's going on?" Molly said.
"Isn't that Kelly's family?" Monica asked.
"Who's Kelly?" Michelle asked. Some of the other Septs had met the little girl today, but Michelle hadn't yet.
"She's that little girl who's been crying all day," Melissa said.
"She said her aunt was here and that she was going to have a baby soon, remember?" Meredith said. "Maybe that's what's going on?"
"Yeah, you're right, Meredith!" Mary said. "She did say that. That must be what's going on!"
"What are they going to do?" Megan asked. "Like they said, they can't very well drive right now!"
"Hmm. I dunno. I hope they're okay," Meredith said. The others all nodded in agreement.
Just then, a man raced down the hall with a raincoat and hat and headed for the door. "I'm going to take her to the hospital right now!"
"You can't be serious, Luke! All the patients have been airlifted out of the hospitals around here, anyway. They were just talking about that on the news. You're not going to find a hospital anywhere near here that's open! And you can't risk going out in a hurricane! It's too dangerous! Linda will be fine, just trust me! She won't be fine if you risk going out in that! Now get back in the room!" The lady who was yelling at Luke was Kelly's mom.
"Yep, I think that's what's going on, what you said, Meredith," Molly said.
Then the hotel manager came out of his office and made an announcement. "Excuse me, excuse me, everyone," he said in a loud voice, so everyone in the room could hear him over the constant noise of the storm. "We have a minor medical emergency. Is anyone here a doctor? Please, we need you in room two, down the hall."
"I'm a nurse," a lady said, standing up.
"That's great. Could you help us out?" But the lady was already rushing down the hall.
"I'm in medical school, but I haven't graduated yet," said a young woman.
"That's okay, we can still use your help! Thank you!" the hotel manager said. The medical student followed the other lady down the hall.
"What's going on?" Mr. Carlson asked his daughters, after hearing them talk about it.
"I think some lady is ready to have a baby," Megan said.
"Oh, that poor family, that must be so frightening, they're not even at a hospital and in weather like this?" Mrs. Carlson said.
"Hey, Septuplets!" It was Kelly. "Did you hear? My cousin's gonna be born!" Her face was tear stained and her eyes were read from crying for so long, but her cousin was taking her mind off the hurricane, for now.
"Yeah, we thought so, Kelly," Meredith said. "Do you want it to be a girl or a boy?"
"Well, I still want her to have septuplets like you guys. I don't care if it's a boy or a girl as long as it can play with me."
Suddenly, there was a huge crash in the lobby and the sound of glass shattering and water splashing everywhere.
Everyone looked towards the lobby. "Oh my God, what happened?!" screamed a middle aged woman. Kelly immediately started shrieking in terror even worse than she had before. Water started blowing into the lounge and everyone moved away from the entrance to the lobby in case glass blew in on the 100 mph winds.
"The front door is smashed!" shouted a hotel employee over the din of the rain, the wind, and people talking and crying.
"Get the boards from the office!" another employee hollered.
"I knew we should have boarded up that window!" shouted a third.
"Everyone away from the lobby!" the first employee ordered. He needn't have bothered because everyone was already crowding into the far corner.
The employee squad quickly put on safety goggles and raincoats and grabbed some boards, duct tape, and a hammer and nails from the office. They rushed out into the lobby, just as a gust of wind blew in and knocked one of them backwards. She quickly sprang back up again and they rushed at the door, trying to pin the board against the broken glass as the wind tried to force it backwards and water flooded from the intense rain outside. It took them a while to fix it, during which many of the tenants were shouting and panicking, but soon the hole was patched. They swept up the glass and mopped up the flood in the lobby, and they boarded up the remaining window as well, leaving only a very small portion uncovered so people could see what was happening outside. What they saw were trees continuing to tilt, newspapers blowing through the air, and water streaming down relentlessly from the sky. Bonnie refused to let up.
"Shouldn't we be seeing the eye of the hurricane about now?" Mary guessed.
"I don't think so. I think we might not being hit head-on by the hurricane. The eye's only a small area and it might not pass over us."
"This isn't head on?!" Megan demanded.
"Well, you know, the effects are still pretty much the same," Molly said, as if she had been in several hurricanes before.
From under the boarded-up sliding door in the lobby, water was beginning to seep in. "It's just too wet out there. Somehow water's getting in," one of the crew of employees said. "Bring out some towels. We'll have to stop it up."
They did, but water kept seeping in. After a while, the towels were absolutely drenched, but they kept stuffing more in. It didn't help much; a huge wet spot was forming by the door, but it was better than nothing.
"Look at this!" someone shouted, pointing to the TV. It was now on the Weather Channel which was constantly doing updates on Hurricane Bonnie. They even had a reporter out in the hurricane reporting live!!
"That guy must be insane," Monica said.
"Or else they must pay him a LOT," Melissa chimed in.
The camera that was filming the scene showed just what they saw looking out the window: debris flying through the air and heavy rain pouring down so much that it blurred the picture. The camera itself was blowing about severely; they expected the picture to go at any moment, but it didn't. The reporter was having trouble standing up against the force of the wind. He was saying that a hospital roof had recently been blown off. "I guess it's a good thing that those people didn't go to a hospital! They could have been there when it happened!" Megan observed. As the reporter said, though, the patients had been taken to other hospitals before that happened so no one was hurt.
"That reminds me, what happened to that family and their baby? Are they okay?" Meredith asked.
No one knew. For now, everyone just worried a little bit more. The hotel was still standing, but there was still water coming in under the back door and the front window had already been smashed. Would the roof be next? Would the walls stand?
A little while later, the hotel manager came back and made another announcement. "Excuse me, everyone, but I would just like to let everyone know that proud parents Linda and Luke Montgomery have just welcomed Bonnie Victoria Montgomery into their family!"
Everyone cheered. The baby was safe and doing fine, as were the parents.
"What a name," Melissa said. "I wonder where they got that idea from."
Kelly's mother returned to the lounge, ready to talk some more. She heard Melissa's comment and said, "yes, isn't it a cute name? Linda said she just loved the name Bonnie already, and she would have considered it even if they never named a storm after it. Although I don't know if she would have thought of the name if the National Hurricane Center hadn't picked it out!"
"It's Bonnie Victoria, right? Is that a pun or something?" Michelle asked.
"A pun? Why do you say that, dear?" Kelly's mom didn't notice anything clever about the name, she just thought it was adorable.
"You know, victory over Bonnie? As in Hurricane Bonnie, of course. Since Baby Bonnie is okay and they were sort of victorious in a way, right?" Michelle explained her logic.
"Oh! I get it now! You know, I don't think they even thought of that, but you can never tell with that sister of mine and her crazy husband. Anyhow, it's a wonderful name, don't you think? I know Linda was already thinking of the name Victoria for a while. Maybe she just put it together with Bonnie, which is another name she already loved even before the storm, and thought it sounded cute. I really hope they weren't trying to make a joke out of the baby's name. But it's still adorable."
"But they didn't have septuplets," Kelly said, joining the conversation. She sounded slightly disappointed.
"I'm sure your Aunt Linda is happy enough with one baby for now," her mom said.
"I know what you could have named them if they were septuplets," Mary said.
"What's that?" Kelly's mom asked.
"Alex, Bonnie, Charley, Danielle, Earl, Frances, and Georges," Mary said.
"Why those names?" Kelly's mom wasn't in the right state of mind for figuring out the Septuplets' jokes, after her sister just had a baby and going through a hurricane.
"You know, the 1998 list of names for the Atlantic hurricane season!" Mary explained.
"Oh! I get it!" And everyone laughed.
"Of course, they'd have to have the right number of boys and girls," Melissa noted.
"Would you girls like to come see Baby Bonnie? We're not letting everyone in, but I'm sure she'd be glad one day to say that the day she was born, the Carlson Septuplets came to visit her," Kelly's mom said. "Kelly, you can come see your new cousin too."
"I think she has enough stories to tell about the day she was born already, but sure, we'd like to come see the baby," Monica said.
They were heading down to the baby's room when suddenly two things happened almost simultaneously: first, a boarded up window down the hall blew out after being hit with a flying piece of wood. Second, everything electric shut off.
"Shoot! There goes the power!" someone complained.
"Well, we were lucky to have it as long as we did," another person replied.
"Out of the way! Get back in the lounge!" one of the employees ordered as they grabbed their goggles, jackets, and supplies and ran down to fix another window. The wind blew fiercely with a shrill whistling noise down the hall and the Septuplets were glad to retreat back into the lobby.
They fixed the window, swept up more glass, and mopped up more water. Everyone was getting very worried. Would the hotel stand it until Bonnie was through? (The hurricane, that is, not the baby.)
A few more hours passed. A tree finally snapped and crashed into the side of the hotel with a tremendous THUD; several people panicked and thought the wall would cave in, but it didn't. The wind continued to blow outside and the intense torrent of rain continued outside. It was very dark inside the hotel; the power didn't come back on, but there were a few emergency lamps.
Then, several hours after it had started, it began to stop. Bonnie was leaving the area. The rain slowed and gradually stopped. The wind became more gentle. The clouds stayed, but somehow they looked less threatening.
"Hurray!" cried several people. Everyone was cheering. "We survived Hurricane Bonnie!" Monica and Megan danced around the room happily.
No one left right away, but after a while people began to venture outdoors. The damage was widespread, but all the buildings were standing, at least. There was more cheering and dancing around happily. The Carlsons stayed for one more night at the hotel, then had to pack up and leave on Mary's Sept Day, August 28. They did get on their flight, narrowly missing a complete shutdown of the airline by less than twenty-four hours.
Hurricane Bonnie continued to rage elsewhere along the coast, after being downgraded to a tropical storm and then upgraded back to a hurricane for Mary's Sept Day, and then downgraded again as it headed farther and farther north, finally becoming an extratropical storm. That was the fate of Bonnie the Hurricane. Bonnie the Baby did very well and was completely healthy. Her parents took her to a hospital just to be checked out when they finally had a chance soon after the hurricane left, and everything was fine. So the Carlsons waved good-bye to Hurricane Bonnie, Baby Bonnie, Kelly, her family, and the friendly hotel manager and his staff, and headed back to Michigan. It hadn't been the most relaxing trip they had ever had, as Melissa had hoped, but even she had to admit it had been exciting.
"My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean" © 1998 by Jessie Mannisto.