The Storm by Suzanne Allen

April 28, 2020 – Oklahoma

The afternoon sunshine was growing dimmer, and it felt like it was beginning to surround Audra as she made her way back to the safety of her fence line.  She never liked that ominous feeling. 

Her grandmother once told her, that the feeling was the native part that connected her to the earth.  Audra belonged to the Thunder clan of the Sauk and Fox people.  Her grandmother told her she had no reason to be afraid of the thunder clouds because it was a part of who she was.

She could feel a cooler breeze starting to briskly blow across her arms and legs as she picked up the pace. She was trying to keep up with her cats Goshu and Colby who sensed the rain before she had, during their leisurely walk.

The quiet stillness of the hot June afternoon had been replaced with warm winds blowing off the land as the towering cumulus began to build on the horizon.  The buzzing sound of the grasshoppers had begun to quiet down. The bright white clouds were rapidly turning into darker gray versions. The rain beginning to fall in the distance was mixed with the distant sound of thunder as lightning began to weave across the sky.  A summer storm was beginning to brew.

Thoughts of the teachings passed down by her ancestors briefly went across Audra’s mind but was fleeting.  She was preoccupied with getting back home.

The distinct smell of the dirt being churned up by rain wafted through the breeze and caused Audra to stop, close her eyes and inhale deeply.  She always loved the smell of those first drops of rain as it returned to the earth. It was one of the only things she liked about growing up during the Oklahoma summers.  That earthiness and the smell of cut grass were her favorite things.

She had to shorten her walk so she could take the laundry in that was hanging out to dry from earlier in the day.  She knew that the kids would not remember to take it in, and her husband was still out running errands.

As she quickly grabbed the sheets and towels off the line, a low rumble of thunder came across the field followed by a flash of green light in the distance.  She could feel the static of electricity building in the air as the clouds continued to grow and bump into one another. It was going to be more than just a summer afternoon thunderstorm.

After checking on her kids, grabbing the backpacks with the emergency supplies, and giving them instructions to put on their shoes and stay put, while she listened to the radio.  Audra then walked to her back porch to see what was heading their way.

The sunlight was fading faster on the horizon as the dark clouds began rolling across.  She reached into the beaded leather pouch her grandmother gave to her when she got married. She spoke the words she was taught in her native tongue then tossed a sprinkle of the contents into the wind.  It was the old ways, to protect her and her family.

The sound of the approaching thunder grew louder and longer then began to rattle their windows. She saw the streak of green light this time. The afternoon sunlight was fading in and out over the fields of her neighbors in the distance. Then there was the faint tinkling sounds of the hail beginning to hit the fence line and the tin roof of the tool shed at the end of the property. 

She hoped it was just another thunderstorm but then she saw another flash of green light, this time it was closer, a few miles away.  She saw what was approaching and then heard the distant sirens in town blaring a warning to take cover. It was building rapidly as it began ripping up the earth and tossing debris into the air, it was a tornado.

Audra quickly ran into the house, shouting to her kids to grab their bags, and head to the basement.  She struggled to round up the dogs who began barking and was adding to the commotion. This while also trying to coax the cats out of their hiding places under the kitchen cabinets. The door suddenly burst open; startling her and the kids screamed, it was her husband who had finally returned.  He quickly grabbed the camping lantern off the kitchen counter, the cats, and then ushered everyone to the basement. 

The basement used to be a small, dark, and dusty place, but a few improvements had been made just in case they had to shelter in place.  They had never had to use it before today.  Audra was grateful that they were able to complete it before the rainy season began.

Before everyone could get settled into place, they lost power, and the basement went pitch black causing another round of startled screams.

The glow of the lantern replaced the darkness as they sat and waited.

The destructive forces of the Oklahoma twister began tossing parts of the fencing, the tool shed and various lawn items. The tornado also began raining down the other items it had picked up along its path. 

Audra and her family could hear the breaking glass of the windows and the ripping sounds of either boards or the trees. Then the thudding sound of debris hitting the house above.  The roaring winds were loud and sounded like the train she had always heard about. They could only sit helplessly and wait until it was over. 

The younger children clung to her, crying as they buried their faces into her chest. The older children, trying to appear brave, held their tiny hands and told them it was okay. Her husband sat beside her and held her hand, patting and squeezing it every now and then.  She was scared but her face did not show her truth. She knew that their safety was all that mattered. 

Audra felt like they had sat there for an eternity.  The roar quieted down and was soon replaced with silence.  She watched as her husband got up and went to open the basement door.  It wouldn’t open. Something heavy was on the door and it would not budge. The fear she had of being trapped in that small space was starting to take hold in her thoughts. 

Her husband also had that same fear, and had built a secondary hatch to the outside, just in case. He opened it and daylight quickly filled the space.  A small rush of water started seeping down the steps as they made their way outside.  The water was the same muddy red color as the earth they had built the house upon.

Audra held her breath as she viewed the sight before her.  Their house had broken windows, planters were broken, and the newly planted flowers were flattened to the ground.  As she made her way around the house, the old tree that once held the kids swing, had fallen, and the limbs were now lying into the kitchen.  The reason they could not open the basement door.

Then she turned around and saw her husband’s truck. It was a mass of twisted metal and was lying on its side while her car was untouched.  There were random pieces of metal, plywood, paper, and boards strewn everywhere.  The tin shed that had warned of the pending storm earlier was nowhere to be seen and most of the trees that surrounded the property were lying across the road.

They were lucky, their house had been mostly spared.  In the distant horizon, smoke could be seen rising to the sky from the town.  It had been hit directly, and the sirens of emergency vehicles could be heard.  

Audra sat down on the muddy ground and closed her eyes.  She thanked her ancestors for watching over her husband and her children.  She asked for a watchful eye over the town and the people who lived there.

She was grateful. 

They survived the storm.

**********************************************************

Vocal website writing challenge: Green light

August 15, 2021

Vocal ambassador link: https://vocal.media/vocal-plus?via=suzanne

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