Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Key, Chapter 29

The Key
by Eloise Hawking

Chapter 29

     The air horn blast lasted five seconds longer than normal.  It surprised me how  I could hear it over the thunder and the sound of Grandpa’s ATV motor.  Clinging to Grandpa, I felt the warmth of his body seep into mine.  Jack’s knees were pressed hard against my thighs, because he was too cool to hang on to me with his hands.  I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to push the thirst from my consciousness.  I whispered a thank you to God, when I probably should have shouted it.  I felt unworthy of the rescue due to all the mistakes I made.

    I was about to pay for some of them.  As we approached the driveway through the driving rainstorm, Grandma was standing at the end of it, waiting for our return.

     Grandma was wearing Grandpa’s flame orange hunting coat which hung past her knees and a pair of his old , black galoshes.  The boots were unbuckled and the flaps were sticking out.  With the way the rain was coming down, Sam would be floating his ducks in them in no time.

     Grandma frantically waved her arms in the direction of the kitchen door, urging Grandpa to drop Jack and I off as close to it as possible.  She held her air horn in one hand and a large stick in the other.

     “Hurry.  Get inside!” Grandma shrieked.  I could see even beneath her hood that her eyes were wild with fear.  “Run like you stole something!”

     The apple in my pocket felt heavy against my thigh as Jack and I hopped off of Grandpa’s ATV.  We  bolted for the door to Grandma’s kitchen without looking back.

     The kitchen was warm and bright.   I felt safe, even with the weather channel blaring and a map of our area lit up in red and orange.  The weatherman said, “……..areas are experiencing heavy rain, dangerous lightning, and damaging winds.  People should seek shelter immediately.  If you have outdoor pets, make sure they are in a safe location.”

     Pets.  That made me think of Fangs and how much pain he must be in.  Would Fangs live or die?  He seemed like he was ok, but Skippy said that dogs can have heart attacks like people can, so maybe he wasn’t out of the woods yet.

     And what about Rocky?  Would the Thompsons bring him inside?  If they wouldn’t, maybe tonight would be the night I would ask them if Rocky could have a sleepover.  Ellen The Great Dog Rescuer. 

    We found Emily sitting on top of Grandma’s wooden kitchen table.  She was sitting crossed legged in center of it, holding a stick like Grandma.  I realized Emily must have run to Grandma’s house first, instead of mine, as it was closest to where we were.
     “What happened to Fangs?  Did he live?  Did he die?  Did Farmer Richter come to get him?”  Those were the first of my friend’s rapid fire questions that she gave me no time to answer.

     “He’s alive and  on his way to the vet right now,” I said, moving toward her to give her a hug.

     After our embrace I pushed back away from Emily and said, “Wood is a poor electrical conductor, right?”

    Em nodded as Grandma entered the kitchen with Grandpa.  She ran in the door panting while taking down the hood of her raincoat, slopping water all over the floor and never giving a second thought of it.  She flew directly to the TV set and stood in front of it with her back to us.

     “This is a bad cell, and it’s about blown past, but there’s more coming…look!”

     Grandma pointed to the TV and Jack, Emily, Grandpa, and I all watched as the jerky blobs of green and orange moved across the radar.  It looked like the whole area would be getting drenched for most of the night.

     “Where are my parents?” I asked, suddenly aware that none of my immediate family was here waiting for me.

     “Your dad is out driving the park roads looking for you.  Your mom is waiting next door with Mrs. Anderson.”

     No sooner than were the words out of Grandma’s mouth than I saw headlights pull into the driveway.

     “Mom!” yelled Emily, jumping down from the wooden table to wait by the door.  A flash of lightning lit up the outside enough to see both of our mothers exiting the Anderson’s car and making a dash for Grandma’s kitchen door.

     “My Lord!  What a storm!” Mom said breathlessly as she entered the kitchen first, stepping quickly to my direction.   She grabbed me with her right arm and Jack with her left and pulled us tight to her.

     Emily jumped into her mother’s arms and hugged her tight.  “You’ve got quite a story to tell, Young Lady,”  Mrs. Anderson said sternly, while never taking her chin off the top of her daughter’s wet head.  “You can tell me all about it later.  Let’s get home!”

    “Bye, Jack.  Bye, Ellen,” said Emily softly, sensing she may be in a bit of hot water with the Young Lady that her mother used.  “Call you tomorrow.”

     My mother stood with her long arms still encircling Jack and I and refused to let go.  I had no choice to face my family.  However, my thirst had become almost unbearable.   I was just opening my mouth to ask for a drink when Jack interjected. 

     “Fangs got hit, Grandma.  We watched it happen and went to get help.”

     “I know,” said Grandma, an animal lover herself, “Emily told me the whole story in all of about thirty seconds.  That girl should be an auctioneer someday,” Grandma mused aloud.  

     “What terrible timing.  Are you sure it was Justice who hit Bandit?”   Only a hurt animal had the power to snap Grandma out of her storm terror.

     “Yeah, we’re sure,” Jack said.   “We all saw him do it.”

     A flash of lightning reminded us that this storm was far from over.  We paused a moment and our thoughts were interrupted by the ringing of the phone.  Grandma quickly looked to her caller ID box on top of her TV to see that it was someone calling from next door.  It was probably Dad.

     “Darn it,” said Grandma.  “I’ve told you people once,  I’ve told you  a million times not to use the phone in a electrical storm!”

     My mother who happened to be standing right next to the phone stared at my grandma.  She slowly reached out and picked the phone up, pressing it to her rain soaked ear, never breaking eye contact with her mother in a silent battle of wills.
     “…….Yes, they are here……………..”No, we’re fine………………We’ll be right there………….We’ll run across the yard.

      “Come on, guys,” said Mother to Jack and I,  “let’s get home—we’ll hear the story later.  Jack, your mother is over at my house waiting for you in the driveway.”

     Grandma, who had been glaring at my mother for answering the phone, now had transferred her annoyance to her other daughter.

     “What?” Grandma yelled.  “That fool drove in this?  Didn’t I teach you girls anything?”

     We gathered at the back door and waited for the next flash of lightning and the three of us made a run for it.  I made it across the yard first, followed by Jack who dived into the front seat as Aunt Karen pushed the door open for him from the inside.  I wonder if she noticed he wasn't wearing his raincoat.

     My mother was last because she walked.  I watched her look up to the sky.  Mother Eloise raised her hands up in the air, tipped her face skyward and spun in circles.  The lightning flashed at an opportune moment and I could have sworn that she was smiling. 

     WAHHHHHHHH!  The air horn.

     “Get your butt moving you fool!” yelled Grandma. 

     Mom never looked back, but just started up again and walked the rest of the way calmly into the garage.  She moved slowly as the lightning lit up the space around her.  If she had wings, she’d look like an angel the way she was moving through that rain, floating fearlessly. 

     “Boooowwwww,  boooowwww”  Rocky yelped.

     I guess that answered the question about him weathering the storm.  The flashes of lightning allowed me to see that Rocky was still out there.  He was sitting on top of his dog house trying to bark the storm away, loyally protecting the family whom gave him absolutely no mind. 

     “Take cover, Rocky,” I whispered.  “I’m afraid this storm isn’t over yet.”

     Mom entered the garage and walked right to me.  She stopped in front of me and stood completely still.  Her clothes were drenched.  The flyaway curls that I’d grown to love were now hanging in ringlets that stretched past her shoulders.
     Suddenly I was ashamed of my failings.  I let the time get away from me and I didn’t charge my cell phone before I left.  I didn’t speakup when I needed to and I took too long making decisions.  My eyes focused on the garage floor, which blurred before me as tears filled my eyes.  One tear let go and rolled down my cheek.
     My mother reached out and lifted my chin with her pointer finger.  Our eyes met and I could see warmth in hers.  “I’m proud of you, Ellen.  You were very brave.”  She pulled me towards her and the pressed me tight against her.

      “I’m glad you are safe,” she said sighing and began to swing me from side to side in a soothing way just like she did to me when I was a baby.

     Mom whispered softly, “Sometimes you have to know when to seek shelter from the storm and when to stand and dance in the rain.”


      “Get in the basement you two horse’s peanuts!” Grandma yelled from across the yard. 

     I felt my mother stiffen at the sound and for a second she squeezed me even tighter.  I managed to squeak out a muffled, “Mom?” as my head was pressed to her soaking wet abdomen.

     Mom pushed me back and looked down into my questioning eyes.  “What’s the difference between a horse’s potato and a horse’s’ peanut?” I asked.

     “Beats me,” she said, “But we’d better get inside before Grandma comes over here and beats us with that stick of hers.”

   I was bewildered that I wasn’t in more trouble.  I knew I’d get a talking to by Grandma tomorrow.    For now though, I savored the safety of my mother’s loving arm draped over my shoulder as we walked into the kitchen.   A storm raged around me but I felt safe and secure, enough to go outside and dance in the rain.   A mother’s love.  Perhaps that was the key to all things.  And so the thunder rolled.

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