"The Storm"- Part 2
by Sandy Kay Slawson
Hildie Sablich dropped her bike on the side of the road and raced to her brother. "Gene?" He tried to rise. She reached for him and helped him stand as she sent a glower toward the impotent man. A bloody elbow and knee were Gene's only injuries as far as she could see. She turned on the man with fire in her glare. "What happened, Mr.?"
"What happened? Your...brother almost got himself killed is what happened. I had to slam on my brakes to keep from running him over," said the man. Though his voice shook, his tone conveyed more anger than concern.
"What happened, Gene?" Hildie asked with a raised voice as another squall pushed against them.
"A gust of wind blew me and my bike down in front of his car," said Gene with a nod toward the man. "I'm okay, exceptin' my elbow and knee. Let's just get on home. Mama's waitin'." He faced the man. "Sorry, Mr., I didn't mean to scare you none."
The man nodded. "You two need to get out of this storm. It isn't safe."
"Yes, sir," said Hildie and Gene with practiced respect for their elders. Hildie moved Gene's bike to the side of the road and laid hers beside it.
"Whatcha doin'?" asked Gene.
"We'll walk the rest of the way. It's not much further."
Without another word, the man got in his car, pulled around them and drove off.
"He was about as useful as a wheelbarrow without a wheel," said Hildie with one more scowl directed at the back of his car.
As Hildie and Gene pushed toward home, each gale forced them to hold on to each other. Rain began to fall in sheets. Noises heard through the howl of the wind and splashes of the rain made them cling to each other all the more. Unknown items toppled, crashed and broke. Debris flew by; pine cones, pine straw, small branches, and a variety of man-made objects. Someone's patio umbrella took flight and a large trash can rolled across their path.
Hildie saw the branch out of the corner of her eye right before she felt the stab of pain above her left eyebrow. She held the wound and warm blood oozed between her fingers.
"Are you alright?" Gene tried to move her hand but she shook her head.
"A branch hit me. Mama will have to patch me up, too. Come on, we're nearly there."
Their mother, Joanie Sablich, stood on the screened in porch of their family's 1930's bungalow. When she spotted them, she pushed through the screen door and raced toward them. Her housedress and apron twisted around her and her hair pulled loose from her tight bun. Worry knit her brow as she drew them both into a quick embrace and led them onto the porch. As she opened the door to the house, the screen door flapped in the wind and banged against the wood siding. Their mother turned to try to close the screen door, but it broke lose and blew away before she could grab it.
"Get inside. Get inside," said Joanie as she pushed them in and slammed the door behind her. "Goodness gracious, you two have about scared me half to death. Look at you. Drowned cats, the both of you. Go get into some dry clothes and then I'll see to your injuries."
Hildie and Gene left to do their mama's bidding. By the time Hildie returned dry and changed into her blue jean dungarees and a gingham short sleeve blouse, Gene lay on the sofa asleep with his elbow and knee bandaged.
"Come in the kitchen, Hildie. We need to take care of your wound before we lose electricity," said Joanie.
"Yes, ma'am." Hildie pulled out a green vinyl and chrome chair from the dinette set and plopped down. Her mama moved the towel she held against her cut and studied it for a few seconds. Nervous jitters overtook Hidie when she spotted her mom's first aid kit on the table. Please don't say it needs stitches.
"I'm afraid it needs stitches, honey."
Their storm shudders shook and the lights flashed. Hildie knew they couldn't wait any longer. She closed her eyelids and said, "I'm ready, but will you tell me about how you met Daddy while you do it?"
"You've heard the story so many times, you could tell it to me."
"Please, mama? It will take my mind off the...surgery."
"I don't think this qualifies as surgery, hon, but alright." Joanie dug through her supplies and pulled out surgical thread, rubbing alcohol, Puretest Mercurochrome and a roll of gauze and medical tape. Hildie's mama didn't begin her story until the first stab of the needle.
"As you know, I worked as a nurse at the VA hospital in Gulfport before your daddy and I were married."
Hildie sucked in her breath when her mama pulled the thread tight.
"Well, Papa Eugene was one of my patients. After he suffered with pneumonia in The Great War, it seemed he got it near about every year after until he passed a couple years back."
"How many more, mama?" asked Hildie.
"I'd say three or four. Now your daddy strut into that hospital room to see your grandaddy one afternoon while I was working. I do declare that man was a flirt. He had dark thick hair---"
Hildie giggled. "It's not so thick or dark anymore."
"You hush. Age and war will do that to a man. Anyway, him being so handsome and charming, he swept me off my feet in a matter of days. Even after your Papa Eugene went home, he'd come to the hospital with wildflowers or some poem he wrote. A couple months later we married."
Hildie felt a tug and then heard the snip of scissors.
"I just need to cover this with the gauze. You must keep it dry for a week."
"Oh sure, not hard to do in a hurricane," said Hildie.
"Hush your sass, little miss," said Joanie.
"Will it scar?"
"Probably, but it shouldn't be too noticeable. What have I always told you about scars?" asked Joanie.
"Whether on the inside or outside, they are reminders of trials we survived by God's grace," recited Hildie.
"That's right and don't forget it. All done." Hildie's mama placed a gentle kiss on top of the bandage. An explosion came from somewhere outside and the lights went out.
Hildie and her mama rushed to light three lanterns and a few candles. They each carried a lantern and spread the other lights around the house. They filled every pot and bucket they could find with water and filled their two tubs as well. Gene still lay on the sofa sound asleep despite the ruckus.
"How can he sleep with the noise this crazy storm is making out there?" asked Hildie as she stared at his sweaty brow. "And this heat is awful. I wish we could open some windows. It's like a steam bath in here. And where are Daddy and Paul? They should have been home long ago." Hildie went to their grandfather clock and held her lantern higher. "Mama, it's after eight-thirty. They should have been home hours ago."
"Come sit down. You're making me nervous. If you're worried, pray. Complaints don't change a thing. However, our God is bigger than this storm and we are in His hands," said Joanie.
Hildie sank on the floor by her mama's feet and laid her head on her knees. A loud groan and then a tremendous crash sent her upright again. "What in tarnation was that?" Her mama pulled her arm until she dropped to the floor once more.
"If I had to guess, I'd say we lost our big pine in the back yard and maybe your daddy's shed, too."
"Should we go check and see?"
"No, there's not a thing we can do about it tonight," said Joanie.
Another hour went by and another tree fell somewhere nearby. A heavy thump on the roof sent them in search of a leak in the house, but they found none. Hildie led the way into the living room with her lantern held high. The front door flew open and banged against the wall. Hildie's stomach jumped into her throat. Her mama pushed into the room and they both held their lanterns towards the entrance. There stood her daddy with her brother Paul behind him.
"Take cover. A tornado is coming this way," said her daddy as he and Paul shoved the door shut against the force of the wind.
To be continued...
Happy Monday and Happy week. May the Lord God bless each of you and your families with faith, hope and love. In Jesus' Name.
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