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Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Positively Promoting....Myself!

by Mauverneen

A little something different today. I had a post planned, but this happened. The local newspaper runs a column called Local Lit, featuring a different author each week. this week, guess who they picked! Me. is my short story. I do hope you enjoy it. Let me know!

"The Storm"

By Mauverneen (Maureen) Blevins

Nobody got what they wanted that sweltering August afternoon.

Not Ron Johnson who wanted to be at the hospital with his wife when she gave birth to their first baby. Not grandma Carlson who just wanted to take a late afternoon nap. Not Ben Barney who was just trying to make it to the truck stop so he could put gas in his car and catch 40 winks before he fell asleep at the wheel. And not Darcee Cummins, whose backpack was getting heavier and heavier as she trudged along the side of the road.

Darcee had had it. She'd stuffed a few belongings in her pack, including her favorite pair of high heels, said a silent goodbye to the few knickknacks she owned and never looked back. She'd planned it for days, thought about it for weeks, and finally reached her limit. Bill had smacked her for the last time. She swallowed her pride as she stuffed that backpack, determined to get home to her folks who had never liked Bill and begged her not to move in with him. Well, they had been right. Why put it off any longer? She was ready to face them.

It was Thursday. She would have a good head start. Bill would work all day and then go out and meet the guys for their weekly pool club or whatever they called it. She surprised him one evening during a game, thinking it might be nice to spend a little time together – or at least in the same bar. He was not happy, so after one drink, she left. He cussed a blue streak that night after he got home, dragged her out of bed by her hair and blamed her for his loss.

"Cost me twenty five dollars" he screamed as he kicked her.

It would be at least midnight before he got home. She smiled to herself. Wasn't he in for a surprise when he found out she wasn't there.

The backpack was not only heavy, it was hot. Her back was drenched. She was thankful she'd had the sense to grab a hat on the way out. But the water she'd brought was gone. A few more miles and she knew she could get more at the truck stop. She just hoped she'd make it before the storm hit. Of all the preparations she had made, she never thought to check the weather and those black clouds were rolling in pretty fast.

Ms Carlson looked out her picture window on the way to her bedroom. She had had a busy morning. She had washed some clothes and picked some tomatoes and green beans from her garden. At 84, that was enough to make her feel tuckered out. She looked forward to her little afternoon naps.

She stopped at the window, eyeing the storm clouds rolling in. 'I hope it don't hail' she thought. It would ruin her garden for sure. She heard persistent barking and realized it was her dog, Dusty, outside in his pen. She heaved a big sigh and turned back to the kitchen. "Poor mutt" she muttered. She figured she'd better get him inside before the rain hit. She did not want to have to clean that dog and her floors if he got all muddy. She slipped on a worn raincoat that she kept on a hook by the back door. The rain could start before she made it back to the house.

"I'm comin' Dusty," she yelled as she stepped outside. The first drops were beginning to fall and the wind was picking up. Dusty's barking got more frantic when he saw her.

Just as she reached his pen, the tornado siren started wailing. She paused and looked around.

"I know baby. I'll be there as soon as I can" Ron Johnson was telling his wife Jody over the phone. "Maybe it's another false alarm – like last time." He was stuck at the fire station. "They're saying the storm could be a bad one. You're safe there at the hospital. I promise I will be there as soon as I can." What he didn't tell her was just how bad of a storm they were predicting. He could only hope she wasn't watching TV. Maybe they wouldn't let them watch TV with tornado warnings on. It might give somebody a heart attack.

He wanted so badly to just up and go. It was their first child. But if a tornado did touch down, every fireman and cop in three counties was going to be needed. Why today? he asked God.

The sound of the tornado sirens made him jump.

Ben Barney jerked his head up. He was beginning to nod off. He had been on the road for two days. Now, on his way home, the miles were not going by fast enough. He rolled down the windows for some air – damn it was hot out there. He turned up the radio hoping to blast himself awake. The music was interrupted by "The Illinois weather service has issued a tornado watch for the following counties." He rolled the windows back up to reduce the road noise. He wanted to know how close he was to the storm. The news was not good. It was headed in his direction. He eased the gas pedal toward the floor just a little bit more.

He flipped the wipers on as rain blurred his vision. It grew darker as the rain got heavier and he was forced to slow down. Suddenly he could barely see. The wind was whipping the trees wildly, and something white blew across the road.

He was already past what he figured was a hitchhiker before he even realized there was anyone out there. "Jeez" he shouted, thinking he could have hit him. 'Poor schmuck – out in this.' He slammed on his brakes and pulled onto the shoulder, lowering the window as the hitchhiker reached his car.

"Get in!" he yelled.

It took a few moments for the hitchhiker to peel off his backpack and throw it into the back seat before jumping into the front.

"Thanks mister" Darcee said, pulling off her wet hat and dropping it to the floor. "I can’t believe this! I had no idea this storm was coming."

Ben was staring. He had really thought it was a guy - with the rain, and her wearing a hat... He wondered if that was a smudge on her face – or a bruise.

He slowly pulled back onto the road.

"I don't usually pick up hitchhikers but the rain was so bad…" He didn't want her thinking he was some kind of weirdo, or out to harm her.

"Well, thanks for stopping. I wasn't hitching. Just got caught in the rain. There's a truck stop up the road aways. You can let me out there. I appreciate it. "

Ben nodded. "Actually, I was headed there myself."

She looked over at him. He did not look familiar.

"You from around here?" she asked.

"No. I just travel this way pretty regularly. Work."

She wondered if she should ask what kind of work he did, just to be polite.

"There it is" she said, pointing out the windshield at the truck stop.

Ben felt his shoulders relax. What a relief it was going to be to get out of this car and stretch his legs. He planned on waiting out the worst of this storm inside. Maybe grab a snack. At least there would be coffee.

Just as they pulled up the ramp to the station they heard the sirens.

The tornado struck with all the force mother nature could muster. It uprooted trees, blew cars off the road and leveled houses - including grandma Carlson's. Ms Carlson, with her hand on Dusty's collar, about to turn him loose to high tail it into the house, looked up and saw the funnel cloud. She saw the roof of her house fly off. She did not see her mattress sucked up into the ugly gray vortex. Nor did she see the walls of her home fly apart, leaving her little bathroom sink and commode standing naked in the rain. She did not see it because once she saw that funnel cloud, she wriggled her upper half into Dusty's dog house, dragging Dusty in with her. She was thankful Dusty was a big dog.

The tornado ripped the roof off the truck stop, mangled it and dropped it back down in the middle of the highway. Ben Barney and Darcee Cummins could do nothing but scream as the force of the wind spun his car around and then sent it skidding across the lot, slamming it into the side of the truck stop. Ben's head hit the side window so hard, the glass cracked. Darcee broke every one of her fingernails, she gripped the dashboard so hard. She also felt several ribs crack against the seat belt as the car rammed into the building.

Once the car stopped, their voices quieted. The noise of the wind and the rain pelting the roof actually sounded soothing. Both conscious, they looked at one another.

"We're alive" whispered Ben. "We're alive."

Some people appeared outside the car, prying the doors open, asking if they were all right.

Darcee began sobbing.

Ron Johnson and his fire crew worked through the day and most of the night. Someone reported the truck stop had been hit and trucks were sent there in the event there was a fire. Thankfully there was none. There were other fires though. And people to be rescued. Several people had been injured at the truck stop and there was even one report of a woman being pulled out of a dog house.

Ron's wife Jody spent the night in the hospital due to the storm. Her labor pains came and went, and when her husband finally walked into her room, she burst into tears.

Back in town, a pool tournament was being played in a bar. The reports of the tornado that touched down not far from where they were had everybody talking. The rain was letting up some and a guy named Bill hoped out loud that his girlfriend had enough sense to close the windows.

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Each week LocalLit will deliver an original short and family-friendly story by a local author – or a review of a book written by a local author – to the newsletter's subscribers.

Authors with a connection to our readership area may submit. Submission does not guarantee acceptance. Stories should be edited and between 1,000 words and 7,500 words.

Featured authors will be spotlighted in publications before the newsletter runs so readers have time to sign up.

To submit a story or book for review, contact Denise M. Baran-Unland at 815-280-4122 To sign up for the newsletter and read Blevins' story on Tuesday,

Click here to manage your email subscriptions.
Joliet Herald-News 2175 Oneida St., Joliet, IL 60435

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