This is a bit of an aside but it does relate to our theme going forward. This incident occurred during a very severe thunderstorm in the summer. Matt was probably twelve years old, his sister three and his baby brother a mere newborn. The entire event dramatically illustrated how powerful a weather event can be. We might call this our fear factor event. It taught us all to respect the power of Mother Nature.
What happened was that our dog, Sammy, got caught up on some falling branches and debris which came as a result of the first storm that day. He was a beautiful golden Lab, an outdoor dog who was tied to a long lead in the yard. The problem was that Sam could not gain access to his comfy Dog-loo House because of the debris and branches tangled in his lead. The storm was picking up in its intensity and the kids were frantic. The lightning flashed and thunder was constant as the rain poured down in raging torrents. My daughter designated me as the rescuer and Matt as the door holder who would keep access to the house open when I made my mad dash.
I decided to turn this event into a short story. By changing the names and the involvement of the characters, I tried to capture the feelings we felt that day, our fear and our ultimate respect for the power of a storm. Hopefully, you will sense what we felt that day. I know Matt carries so much respect for nature’s power when he is chasing. He is extremely careful and stays at a safe distance from the most destructive action. This approach comes with the knowledge and experience he has attained.
Here is the story. I hope you enjoy it.
Storm Warning: A Short Story
David’s stomach churned as he watched the approaching darkness. Black clouds raced across the slate gray sky as swirling gusts of wind twisted the giant maple tree. Flickering lightning flashes illuminated the tops of the distant thunderheads. A gentle rain rattled the windowpane. He feared for the worse.
“Let’s get started on the dishes,” Nancy suggested. “Mom and dad will expect them to be done by the time they get home.”
“Not now, sis, I gotta see what’s happening.”
“David, you’re eleven years old! You know we’re safe inside the house.”
The word exploded inside David’s head. He tried to block the memory but each horrid image flashed into his thoughts. He felt as if he was floating in a tub of water that was about to overflow into some dark oblivion. The taste of bile erupted in his mouth.
Swimming lessons at Lake Gibson . . . black threatening clouds rolling in . . . the sound of the instructor’s whistle blaring . . . get out of the water and buddy-up . . . running toward Nathan . . . a blinding flash of light . . .then the instructor blowing air into Nathan’s mouth . . .pushing down on his chest . . . the rain pounding down, drowning his tears.
No chance to say good-by!
David snapped his head to the right and glanced at the television. He stepped closer into the long adjacent hall that led to the living room. A printed message scrolled across the bottom of the screen. Each letter appeared seven feet tall from where David was standing.
“SEVERE WEATHER WARNING: POTENTIAL FOR DAMAGING WINDS, TORRENTIAL RAIN, LIGHTNING AND POSSIBLE HAIL.”
“Come on, David, we’ve got to get these dishes done!”
Back to reality, David thought, as he ambled back toward the kitchen and the task at hand. He watched his sister slip a greasy plate under the gushing hot water tap.
“Let me wash this time,” David suggested.
“They’re all yours, David!” Nancy smiled, as she stepped aside “I guess it’s about time I started taking care of these beautiful hands.”
Through the rain-streaked window above the sink David observed the progress of the storm. He could see that the approaching blackness appeared luminescent with hues of pink and green. These were danger signals. A sudden rumble of thunder rattled the dishes stacked beside the sink.
“Storm’s getting closer.”
David shuddered when he heard the concerned tone in Nancy’s voice. Why couldn’t he shake this uneasy feeling? He knew, of course, but he never could confront it.
“You can go down to the basement if you want,” Nancy added. Her expressive eyes reflected the knowing she shared with her brother.
“Don’t worry; I can handle this one, sis.” David blurted out the words. He knew that his quivering voice would never convince his fourteen-year-old sister.
It wasn’t long before heavy sheets of rain smashed against the window. The thunder banged and crashed continuously. David stared at the sharp forks of lightning shooting across the sky. His hands trembled as he put cups and saucers into the sink.
A sudden movement in the backyard caught David’s eye. His body stiffened.
“Nancy, something’s wrong!” he blurted.
David felt his sister’s hands tightly clasp his shoulders as she leaned over toward the window.
“Oh, no!” she gasped. “Sam’s tangled-up in his chain. He can’t get to his house.”
David saw that the dog’s frantic struggle merely tightened the chain, making things worse. He winced when he heard Sam’s mournful cry.
“Oh, no, what can we do?” Nancy screamed. The line of tears running down her cheek surprised David. Her body trembled.
“I’ve gotta go out there!” he shouted. The words fell out of him forceful and easy – which surprised him.
“David, you can’t!” Nancy begged. “It’s too dangerous!”
“Nancy, I’ve got no choice!”
David felt his sister’s hand gripping his wrist. With a quick twist of his forearm, David freed himself and rushed for the door.
He struggled against the force of the howling wind as he pushed the aluminum door open. The rain bit at his cheeks like pine needles that pricked. David swallowed hard as he tried to ease the sickening feeling in his throat.
“Nancy, hold on to the door and be ready to let me back in,” David huffed. He considered that these just might be his famous last words.
Taking a deep breath, David charged down the wooden steps. Instantly, the heavy rain soaked his ragged sweat shirt and jeans. He felt his long hair matted to his face and scalp. Drops of water dripped from his nose. Crouching low, he scurried across the spongy lawn.
A sudden flash of lightning turned the blackness to light, just for an instant. Like a statue, Sam stood at the foot of the swaying maple tree, frozen in place. The flickering scene reminded David of an ancient silent movie. He willed his legs to pump even faster.
Slipping and sliding, David tripped and fell headlong into a patch of slimy mud. The bitter taste of the earth made him gag. Quickly, he wiped the grime from his lips.
A explosive flash of light overwhelmed him. His eyes snapped shut.
A thunder crack, as deafening as a shotgun blast, was too close for comfort. Scrambling on hands and knees David crawled the last few feet to the struggling dog.
Reaching beneath Sam’s snout David felt the cold steel of the chain. The shivering dog licked excitedly at David’s face. His mud covered fingers fumbled with the clasp until, it snapped open. He unraveled the tangled chain like a frenetic Houdini. In an instant, Sam quickly scampered to the safety of his dog house and slipped inside.
David’s nose tingled as the hair on his neck danced. The air carried a scent not unlike laundry on the clothesline. The acrid air around him felt electrified. Fragments of leaves and twigs swirled in every direction.
David fixed his eyes on Nancy’s silhouette. The side door that she held ajar appeared to be miles away. Jumping to his feet, David exploded into a powerful sprint. His churning legs ached as he dashed toward the house. In one frantic leap he cleared the three wooden steps and tumbled inside the doorway.
In an instant, David felt the warmth of his own tears stroking the cool wetness of his face. His chest heaved as he gulped air into his burning lungs. He found comfort in the protection of his sister’s reassuring hug. They held on tight, knowing their beloved pet was safe. Their shared silence gave purpose to their relief.
“You’re a hero,” Nancy finally whispered.
David had no response to that. No, he just held on tighter because at that moment he felt as if he could easily melt like candle wax into a puddle on the floor.
Written by: Jim Johnson