Monday, March 31, 2014

The Key, Chapter 31

The Key
by Eloise Hawking

Chapter 31
     I was completely exhausted, yet continuously awakened, making it for an odd night of sleep.  I slept fitfully from the noises of the night which kept bringing me out of my slumber.  Moments of utter confusion would give way to knowledge of where I was—safe in my own room.  Then I would quickly plummet back into another deep, dark dream. 

     I dreamed of Fangs howling, only to be awakened by the wind.  Sam would thrash and kick me, and in my dream Jack would be jabbing me with the whittled end of his stick.  I would dream that I was running hard and fast through the mud and driving rain only to be going nowhere, as if I were running on a treadmill.  I awakened to find myself covered in sweat with the blankets tangled tight around my legs.  I dreamed many of times of the smelly mud, or that I had stepped in dog poop with my new sneaker.  Then I’d awaken to the smell of my little brother, who continued to blow boofers all night long.

     When I opened my eyes for good the next morning everything was still.  Very still.  No more rain.  No more wind.  The storm had passed.  I heard the gentle breathing of Sam lying next to me with his arms wrapped around mine.  He looked warm and snug and very cute.  So cute in fact I leaned over and gave him a little kiss on the nose.  Sam inhaled hard and flopped over to face the wall, releasing his grasp on me.

     As I slid quietly out of bed not to disturb Sam, something felt strange in the house.  A hollowness of sorts.  I stood still in the center of my bedroom with a growing awareness that something was wrong.  I looked at the clock to see that it was still blinking, showing that we were still out of power.  There were footsteps beneath me—quick footsteps though accompanied by hushed whispers of my parents.  I had to go investigate.

     I used the bathroom and remembered that our pump doesn’t work when we have no electricity, so I couldn’t flush.  Gross. 

     I creeped down the  steps slowly.  I heard my father’s deep voice say to my mother, “She’s up.”  My mother didn’t respond with words.  That meant that she used a non verbal response which I have always interpreted to mean the next thing coming is not going to be good. 

     I walked into the kitchen and both were standing side by side, fully dressed.  I could see by their shoes that they had been outside.  Neither said anything to me, but I could see in their eyes that something was wrong.

     “It stormed all through the night.  Did any of it wake you, Ellen?” said Mom.

     “Once in awhile I heard the wind,” I lied, “but I was really tired so I slept pretty well.”

     “How did your brother do?” asked Dad.

     “Fine except for the fact he was blowing boofers all night,” I said rolling my eyes for extra effect. 
Mom and Dad laughed simultaneously, breaking a tension I could sense was hanging over our house but didn’t know why.

     Mom walked over to me, took me in her arms, and held me tight.  “Oh, Ellen.  You are such a good kid,” she whispered into my hair.  Her breath felt warm on the top of my head and gave me good shivers down my spine.
     She held me for a little longer than usual it seemed, then pushed me back by my shoulders to square me up to look her in the eyes.  “I’ve got some upsetting news, for you, Honey.”

      It was one of those moments in that you wish you could run away from.  Your mind knew something was coming that was big and you had to know, but your gut was telling you to run.  Run fast and far away so that you wouldn’t have to hear what was being said.  Fight or flight.  I wanted to flee but Mother wouldn’t let go.

     She  twisted my shoulders and eased me around to face the window.  “We lost a couple of trees in that storm last night.  One of them got your tree house.”

     I couldn’t really make sense of what I was seeing.  There were branches and leaves all over the yard.  The tree house tree had snapped at the top and was bent at an odd angle.  What used to be the east wall now looked like the floor.  The tree was uprooted and the big hairy chunks of earth stuck up from the ground.  My garden gnome that greeted guests on the at the top of the staircase was lying on the ground with a crushed red hat. 

     Tears sprung to my eyes and I could not think of a single word to say.  My hideout was destroyed.  I looked to my dad, my eyes pleading with him silently asking if he could fix it.  

     “It’s going to have to come down, Ellen.  There’s no way to save it.  Grandpa and I went out and looked at it together this morning.”

     That sealed it.  If Grandpa said the tree house could not be salvaged, then it was really over.  My tree house!  My space.  The one thing I called my very own.

     I opened the glass sliding door, zombie like and walked into the yard, stepping over branches and leaves in my socks.  For the second time in less than twenty four hours I felt the mud seep into them.  I looked down to find my guestbook had blown way into the yard near our house.  It was bent and watermarked and looked just like my mother’s paperback books did after she dropped them in the bathtub during one of her bubble bath reads.  I bent to pick it up and leafed through pages stained with the tears of rain.
     I noticed Mom and Dad were oddly quiet and following along behind me letting me  make sense of things.  

     “I know you are sad, Sweetie,” said Mom, “but we’ll figure something out.”  She paused, as if to say something else but didn’t.  She held back.  She was waiting for something.

     “How did it happen?” I asked.  “Was it a tornado?  Did it hit our house?”

     “It is doubtful it was a tornado.  It was probably something they call a micro burst---a very powerful gust of wind that is similar to a tornado,” said Dad.  “I’m guessing the gust must have been over 60 miles per hour.  That’s a pretty strong wind.”

     I walked down through the debris a little further, deeper into the yard.  I found the string to the tin can phone.  The string was snapped and it was tangled around a branch.  I reached up and put the can to my ear to listen one last time.  It was then, when I turned in the direction of Emily’s yard that I saw it.  Another tree had fallen, too.  Oh God, NO!   Please NO!

     I turned to look at Mom and Dad and sucked in air so hard that nothing would come out.  My cry was inside.  A wrenching silent scream that came up from the depths of my gut.  Fight or flight.   I did fly this time, in the direction of more devastation.  

     Another tree uprooted and had fallen, crushing Rocky’s house.  My feet carried me as fast as they could to the corner of my yard that met with Rocky’s.  I jumped the fence, the sharp point of the triangular post poking into the bottom of my muddy socked foot. 

     I ran around the tree to where the doorway of the doghouse used to be.  The house was completely crushed.  The roof bent and the wooden sides pointing upwards like hideous spears.  

     “Rocky?” I whispered.  “Rocky!” I yelled.
     I looked up to the edge of the fence where my parents now stood.  Mom had tears in her eyes.  I turned to face my mother and said,  “Rocky?”  

    This time I said his name with an inflection at the end, hoping my mother would give me the answer that I wanted to hear, not the one that I felt to be true.

     Mom shook her head no, and the motion shook loose a tear.  I watched it roll down her cheek and underneath her chin.   She didn’t even try to wipe it away.

     “Rocky was killed last night, Ellen.  Grandpa and I found him this morning.   We told the Thompsons.  They buried him about and hour ago underneath their dogwood tree on their side of the creek.  You can go see him  if you want to go say goodbye,” said Dad.

     The dogwood tree.  I looked up to see it on the west end of our yard.  Underneath it was a mound of brown dirt.  The shovel was still resting against its trunk.  I found the dogwood tree and now my favorite dog was buried beneath it.

     Say goodbye?  Say goodbye!  I am not supposed to be saying goodbye to Rocky today.  I don’t want to.  I don’t want any of this.  I want to run away get and have this be all a bad dream. 

     So that I did.  I started to run.  Run in which direction, I really didn’t know so I ran in circles for a minute.  I couldn’t go to my tree house and my brother was sleeping in my bedroom.  I had to go somewhere so I just took off in the direction of Grandma and Grandpa’s yard with tears burning in my eyes. 
     How could an innocent, sweet, lovable animal die like that out of sheer neglect on the part of the owners?   Didn’t they listen to the weather man say to bring pets inside?  Why didn’t I just go get Rocky last night when I thought about it?  I was too lazy, too thirsty and too plain old afraid of that storm to do anything about it.  My kind and loyal friend Rocky died all because of me!  How could I ever forgive myself!
What kind of God lets that happen?  What kind of God lets the innocent die?  

     Not my God.  My God can do anything.  He made Lazarus alive after he was dead.  He made the blind see.  Maybe if I prayed real hard to him he would raise up Rocky and I would ask the Thompsons if he could be my dog since they didn’t pay a lick of attention to him anyway.  

     I believed that God could do that if I asked him to.  All you need  is to believe. That would sure change the world, wouldn’t it?  Some ten year old girl prays for a dead dog that isn’t even hers and he comes back to life.

     I ran out to the woodpile out of the sight of everyone and ducked behind the garbage cans.  I dropped immediately to my knees and began to pray from the bottom of my heart. 

     Dear Lord, Please don’t take Rocky from us just yet. I didn’t have enough time to love him like I should have.  If you brought him back to us, I’d love him more and ask for him to be my dog.  I’d give him a good home and give him baths and feed him good food.  Please God Please bring Rocky back.  I believe you can, God.  Please hear my prayer.  Please, oh please.  I am so sorry I didn’t listen to my heart.  I am selfish and stupid.  Punish me, not Rocky.  Please God, please make it not be true.

     Believing in something is important.  Maybe that was the key to all things.  Belief.  And if I believed hard enough and strong enough, God would hear me and answer my prayers. 

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