The Coming Storm
Andy carries a heavy bag of oats into the medium-sized red barn. The paint on the barn is peeling and there is a leak in one corner of the roof, but the inside of the barn is very neat and clean, almost homey. He supposes it is home to the animals that his grandparents keep there. Grandpa had said he was going to have someone repaint the barn later that summer and patch up the leak. Andy had thought that would be fun to watch or maybe even help---if Grandpa let him. He had turned 12 last March and Grandpa didn’t believe in anyone shirking their duties when it came to working on the farm so he might want Andy to do chores instead of doing something he would consider goofing off. Running a farm meant a lot of work most of the day and Andy and Carla’s grandparents had enough chores for the two of them to do at least a few hours of work a day.
Every summer the two of them visited their grandparents’ farm in Nebraska for about a month and this year they had continued that tradition. Andy loved his grandparents and he loved their farm so he didn’t mind the visits even though it meant he had a lot more chores to do than he did at home in Ohio.
He had dark blonde hair---which was really more of a light brown, with dark gray eyes that seemed to know more than you would expect a boy of his age to know. He wasn’t particularly tall for his age. In fact there wasn’t anything physically outstanding about him at all. Yet something about him always drew people to him.
His sister on the other hand was very dark in coloring---she had dark brown, thick wavy hair and brown eyes, which were fringed by thick, short lashes. Whereas Andy had a tendency to burn if he spent too much time in the sun, Carla’s skin darkened quite easily.
Although four years younger than her brother, Carla was almost the same height as he was. Carla didn’t seem to notice that she was nearly eye-to-eye with Andy and anyone with half a brain could tell that she absolutely adored him. If she hadn’t had chores to do with Grandma, she would have been trailing behind her brother that very minute.
Andy begin taking food from the tan, cloth sack he’d carried into the barn and had set on the floor. Stenciled across the side in black letters were the words Hastings Feed and Farming Supplies. He took some pale, golden-colored oats from the bag and began putting them into Tawny’s trough. The horse had been named Tawny because of the deep, rich color of her coat. She was a beautiful chestnut mare that Andy had fallen in love with the moment he saw her, and from the way she nuzzled his shoulder affectionately whenever she was near him, it appeared that she felt the same way about him. The barn also housed two other horses, a cow and three pigs that he was responsible for feeding twice a day.
Just as he began emptying food into the second horse’s trough, he heard the creak of the barn door. He turned to see Carla standing just inside the doorway looking at him shyly.
“Hi Andy,” she says.
“Hi Carla,” Andy responds, smiling at his little sister.
“I’m finished helping Grandma in the house and with feeding the chickens. One of them had some baby chicks and Grandma let me use my finger to rub its head. It was so soft. I thought maybe I could help you out with the rest of your chores then we could ask Grandpa if we could go to the lake,” she said without pausing between the change in subject. It didn’t matter. Andy was used to the way in which Carla would roll two or three subjects into one sentence.
“That’s a good idea Carla, although I don’t think I have as many chores today as I normally would since Luke and Russell are here today.”
Carla had come into the barn to stand beside her brother when she started talking. She’d left the barn door slightly ajar and a sudden gust of strong wind pushed the door open wider, causing it to creak even more loudly than when Carla had entered.
“That’s some breeze,” Andy says looking at the slice of yard that can be seen through the open wooden door. What appears to be a brown paper sack is wheeling crazily across the yard and the too long grass that Andy would be cutting the next day is rustling in the wind. Carla comes to look out the door, wondering what her brother is staring at so intently. Her thick, heavy plaits are lifted away from her shoulders by the wind and stand out from her head as if being held by an invisible being. Both she and Andy wear expressions of surprise and delight on their faces. They have never seen a wind so strong before. When they step out of the barn, they can see numerous other things being blown across the yard---someone’s lost white scarf, an old tennis shoe, and a red bicycle pump.
“Wow,” breathes Carla.
“Yea,” Andy agrees, all thoughts of feeding the animals forgotten in his fascination with how quickly the breeze had come up.
Andy can’t believe how dark and threatening the sky has become in the short time he’d been in the barn feeding the animals; earlier the sky had been a deep, cloudless blue with a temperature that felt like it was in the low 70s---even though it was barely morning---and a gentle breeze that had blown softly against the nape of his neck as he headed for the barn.
Suddenly he and Carla hear shouting coming from the direction of their grandparents’ farmhouse. They turn to see Russell coming towards them gesturing wildly with his arms and hands, but they can’t hear what he is saying even though it’s obvious he’s shouting. The only thing Andy can hear is the roar of the wind as it whips the dirt in all directions making the farm seem as unfamiliar to him as outer space.
Before Russell makes it all the way to the barn, Andy meets up with him; Carla is right behind him.
“Is something wrong?” Andy shouts.
“There’s been a tornado warning. We have to get in the cellar behind the farmhouse. You need to hurry. Your Grandmother is already there waiting for you. Nick--- your grandfather--- and I have to go find Luke. He was repairing a fence out back a ways when we heard about the tornado. It doesn’t happen often that a tornado springs up like this with no warning, but it has been known to happen from time to time. I guess this is one of those times.”
Although Andy is frightened, he remains calm not wanting to alarm Carla. Already he can see her brown eyes have widened in fear. In all the summers they’d been coming to Nebraska they’d never thought about being caught in the middle of a tornado, even though they had heard plenty of stories about them from their grandparents and other residents of Hastings. From the look of the sky, the strong wind and what Russell has just told them apparently that’s just what is happening.
Andy grabs Carla’s hand and walks her back to the farmhouse as quickly as he can, given how strongly the wind is blowing. When he enters his grandmother’s spacious kitchen where she prepares meals that always seem to include way too much food, he doesn’t see her. He then walks through the kitchen door that leads to the backyard. He doesn’t see her there either. He looks around the yard as if expecting her to materialize from behind one of the trees there.
Where is she?
He had been expecting her to be waiting for him and Carla. Then without warning he strikes the heel of his hand against his forehead, rolling his eyes in disgust at his forgetfulness. Russell had just told both of them that their grandmother would be waiting for them in the cellar beneath the house. Apparently the prospect of a tornado has upset him more than he realizes because he wouldn’t normally have forgotten something that simple so quickly.
Dragging Carla by the hand through the back yard he heads for the cellar. The wind has picked up considerably in the few minutes he’d been inside the farmhouse and now he can barely walk without almost being blown over. For a few seconds he loses his grip on Carla’s hand and grapples wildly for it before he is able to regain his hold on her. He wishes his grandmother was waiting for them at the cellar door; he could really use the reassurance seeing her would give him.
Somehow he and Carla manage to pull open the heavy, wooden cellar door. Climbing down the sturdy wooden steps leading underground, Andy looks around trying to see if his Grandmother is indeed in the basement. It is dimly lit in the cellar and he can’t make out more than the shape of things. He cautiously walks further into the cellar taking small, mincing steps until his eyes have adjusted to the darkness. Once his eyes have adjusted, he still doesn’t see their grandmother---he and Carla are alone in a big, lonely, dark cellar. Andy’s heart begins to beat faster and he is suddenly aware of how little spit he has in his mouth.
What is he going to do with no adults around? How will he keep Carla calm? But he wouldn’t really have to worry about that, he tells himself. After all, Grandpa would be there any minute once he and Russell found Luke. Grandma probably realized at the last second that she’d forgotten something they couldn’t do without while in the cellar; possibly some books for him and Carla or some knitting to keep her occupied while they were down here. She’d be back any second. He was sure of it.
“Carla? Andy? Are you down there?” their grandmother calls from the top of the cellar steps.
Andy breathes a sigh of relief. He had been right he thinks as he listens to his grandmother’s footsteps on the cellar stairs.
“Yes, Grandma we’re down here,” he answers loudly.
“Oh good. I was a little concerned about you and Carla getting to the cellar safely so I went to look for you. I got some extra flashlights, snacks and blankets too. Help me with this would you,” she said gesturing to Andy with her arms full.
He immediately gets up from the chair he’d been sitting in to help his grandmother with the supplies she is carrying down. She is a strong, sturdy woman who stands about 5’8. Her light brown hair has streaks of gray throughout it and almost reaches her shoulders.
Carla sits staring apprehensively at the two of them bringing down the extra supplies. She isn’t too fond of the dark and Andy had been unable to find any sort of artificial light while they were waiting for their grandmother to return.
As soon as she makes her way down the steps, their grandmother retrieves three electric lanterns from a wooden free-standing cupboard. She gives one to each of the children to plug into outlets she’s indicated the location of with a gesture of her thin, pale hands and keeps the third lantern to plug in herself. Once the lanterns are in place, the cellar is almost as well lit as their grandmother’s living room at night.
The cellar has been kept relatively clean so there is very little dust, although the air is a bit stale tasting. The cellar has all of the supplies a person would need when spending several days below ground---there are blankets, books, flashlights, food, bottled water, and puzzles. There are even two small thin-mattressed cots set up on both sides of the room. Carla hopes they won’t need those. Since the cellar is windowless, she imagines that it is even darker in the cellar than it is in her bedroom at night. On the other hand, Andy thinks the whole thing will be a great adventure. He is a child with a vivid imagination and he can easily envision himself as a hero a hundred times over in this neat, dark corner of the farm that has been previously unexplored.
“Grandma, do you really think there’ll be a tornado?” Andy asks.
“It wouldn’t surprise me at all, honey. It looks much the same way it did before the one we had here about two years ago. Thankfully it didn’t do very much damage, but it was a tornado nonetheless,” she replies.
“But I don’t remember a tornado,” Andy says.
“Well, that’s because it happened before you and Carla came for your yearly visit.”
“Oh,” Andy says, his voice somewhat distracted.
“You don’t have to worry Andy. We’re safe down here.”
“Where’s Grandpa?” Andy asks unexpectedly.
“Oh he’s on his way,” Grandma says looking over her shoulder as if expecting him to magically appear there.
“But he should have been here by now,” Andy insists. “The fence isn’t that far away and Grandpa is fast.”
“Yes, he is,” Grandma says slowly. “He’ll be here any minute so don’t worry so much Andy,” she says smiling a smile that doesn’t quite reach her eyes.
Although she has told Andy not to worry, she is a little worried herself.
“I’ll try not to,” Andy says quietly. “I’m sure you’re right and Grandpa is on his way.”
“Why don’t you and Carla read some of the books I brought or put together a puzzle? It’ll get your mind off of the tornado and help to pass the time more quickly. I’m going to sit over here in my second favorite rocker and do some knitting,” she says with another smile.
Grandma always seems to be knitting---no matter what the season. And it seems as if she is always working on the same thing; Andy remembers, when his family would come to visit before he and Carla started spending summers in Nebraska, his grandmother sitting in her huge wooden rocker and knitting, knitting, knitting. He supposed she did actually finish what she started since he saw numerous afghans, doilies and other things that she’d knitted that he had no idea the name of around the farmhouse. Apparently she did more than knit because there were also a variety of quilts, curtains and cloth napkins, which they used at special meals at the farmhouse.
Although she had some grandmotherly habits, she didn’t really remind Andy of a grandmother---at least not the kind they showed on the big screen TV in their den in Ohio. She actually did things with him and Carla. When there was time, after the chores were done, of course, she would throw a baseball around with them, they would go on nature hikes or she’d take them to the yearly carnival Hastings had every summer and would actually ride on some of the rides with them.
Fifteen minutes passed with Carla and Andy absorbed in their books and their Grandmother absorbed in her knitting. At least it appeared that she was, but every change in wind, every creak of the heavy oak wood of which the cellar was made she noticed and prayed that it was Nick returning with Luke and Russell.
Three years ago Nick had suffered a heart attack and she’d been worried ever since that he’d have another. She had changed the way she fixed a number of their regular dishes---decreasing the fat and calories---and they had starting taking walks together around Hastings at least once a week. Since he had never been a really large man anyway, he had dropped 15 pounds and the dietary changes and walks had helped keep him from having any other problems with his heart. He also found that he could work longer without getting quite as tired. The walks had had the added benefit of giving Nick and Caroline an opportunity to get reacquainted. It had been a while since she’d really worried about his heart---especially since they’d hired Luke and Russell, but now that familiar hollow that had been a constant part of her waking moments for the three weeks following his heart attack was back; the three of them really should have returned by now and she couldn’t imagine why they hadn’t.
Seconds after she thinks this, she hears banging on the cellar door and quickly puts aside her knitting knowing that it is Nick, Luke and Russell returning and that she can stop worrying. Opening the cellar door for the three men, Caroline looks them over with the keen eye of a long time nurse, checking for any injuries or anything else that might be out of place. Seeing nothing unusual, she sighs inwardly with relief. She then ushers them into the cellar and tells each of them where to sit. Once she has issued the orders, she looks Nick in the eye to make sure he isn’t hiding anything from her. Although the fence Luke had been working on isn’t far from the farm, it had been an effort to get there and back with the wind blowing the way it is. But other than looking a bit tired, Nick looks fine and she sighs again, this time not quite so inwardly. Rubbing her husband’s arm to reassure herself as much as to reassure him, she sits back in her rocker and continues her knitting.
When he feels the need, Nick is a lot better at hiding his true feelings from his wife than she realizes; he had felt pains shooting up his right arm on the return trip from getting Luke, but they had subsided to occasional twinges by the time the three men had reached the cellar so he hadn’t seen any reason to alarm his wife. Even though he’d been pretty out of it when he’d had his heart attack a few years back, he remembered how Caroline had looked when he did come around. She’d looked almost as bad as he’d felt---face drawn and gray, her mouth had almost disappeared into her face and there were shadows beneath her eyes that reminded him of a cartoon character named Sleepy Joe he’d watched when he was growing up. So he was not going to take the chance of making her worry if he didn’t need to. He’d just sit here and work on this darn puzzle that, if he had the time to devote to it would probably take him several months to put together, but since he didn’t, would take him close to a year.
He never did understand why Carrie had gotten it into his head that he liked puzzles. He supposed it was his own fault. He’d seen this puzzle of a car he’d dreamt of having when he was in high school and he’d bought it and put it together in record time and from then on she’d been buying puzzles for him to put together. He thought she would have realized by now that it wasn’t really the puzzle that had interested him, but sometimes women got things in their head that was hard to get out.
For the next hour or so everyone keeps themselves busy while the storm rages outside—Carla reads a book with one of her favorite characters (Ramona), Andy plays Solitaire, Grandma works on her knitting, her needles clacking away in such a way as to almost make a tune, Grandpa struggles to put together the puzzle while Russell and Luke entertain themselves playing Monopoly.
While everyone sits around busy at their respective tasks, Nick feels a twinge of pain in his arm from time to time. He has been experiencing an increase in arm and chest pains for the last 15 minutes or so, but has been resolutely ignoring it, praying and hoping it will go away. When it doesn’t go away, he tries to convince himself that it is only acid indigestion or anxiety due to the storm that is blowing furiously outside; he can hear it howling through the trees he’d planted the first year he and Caroline had owned the farm. As he thinks this, he glances at Carrie to see if she notices anything wrong. Apparently she doesn’t because the click clack of her knitting needles never change rhythm and her brow remains as smooth as a riverbed stone. When she worries, a pinched look comes into her face, not exactly a frown, but a tightening of all her features that give them a look as if she has just tasted something extremely bitter. Nick feels a mixture of relief and annoyance. Shouldn’t she realize that something isn’t quite right? By now he is pretty sure he is having another heart attack and knows he needs to let Carrie know that one of the farm hands have to go for Dr. Sorenson.
Just as he opens his mouth to tell his wife about the pain he is in, an enormous crash resounds in the air and the cellar door is tossed into the air as though it weighs no more than a wooden spoon instead of the solidly, heavy oak door that it is. Luke, who had been sitting at a table playing Monopoly with Russell, is sucked through the opening the missing cellar door has left. The table at which he and Russell had been sitting flies into the air, sending game pieces all over the cellar floor. As the table hurtles through the air, a corner clips the side of Russell’s head knocking him from his chair where he hits the back of his head hard against some large office-sized bottles of spring water making a sound much like the sound made when knocking on a cantaloupe to check for ripeness.
For several seconds there is shocked silence in the cellar and then Carla begins to cry softly. She is only eight and seeing Luke sucked out of the cellar and into a raging tornado and Russell lying unconscious on the floor is more than she can handle. Andy puts down the four of diamonds he’d been about to place on the five of clubs and quickly moves to his sister’s side, putting his arm around her shoulders to soothe her while talking to her quietly and looking directly into her eyes. This has frequently worked in the past when Carla is upset and it works this time too.
While Andy continues comforting his sister, Nick gestures to Carrie to get her attention. When she comes close enough to hear him he says quietly:
“Carrie, I think I’m having another heart attack.”
Immediately her face pales and her hand flutters to her own heart as if to hold it within her body. This is a gesture she frequently makes when she is agitated.
As Nick looks into his wife’s eyes, he tries not to see the pain and worry there, but it’s difficult for him not to see it when he can’t take his eyes away from hers; the spikes of pain traveling up his left arm to his chest are slowly getting worse and the only way in which he manages to deal with it, is to maintain eye contact with the woman he’d married almost 40 years ago. For several seconds the two lock eyes and the look on Carrie’s face changes as if she herself is experiencing Nick’s pain.
“Grandma,” Andy says, noticing the way the two of them are huddled together. “What’s wrong with Grandpa?”
Her grandson’s worried tone pulls her out of the almost hypnotic state she has fallen into when her and Nick’s eyes met moments ago.
Turning to Andy she says quietly and calmly, “Andy, Grandpa is very sick and he needs help.” She hesitates not sure of how to go on.
“Well, what do we have to do?” he asks glancing over his grandmother’s should at his grandfather.
“He needs help that we can’t give him here stuck in this cellar,” Grandma says looking at Andy steadily. “Somehow someone needs to get the doctor to come look at your Grandpa.”
“But……,” Andy begins.
“Andy, you’re going to have to be braver than you’ve ever been before. I have to stay here with Grandpa in case he…….gets worse and as you can see neither Luke nor Russell can go.”
Andy takes a deep breath and then asks, “What do I need to do exactly?”
“Do you remember Dr. Sorenson? You met at the picnic last week.”
Andy nods his head yes.
“He lives right beside George and Annabel Jensen. Do you remember where they live?”
Again Andy nods.
“You’ll have to go there and get the doctor and bring him back here. Do you think you can do that?”
“Yes, I can do that,” Andy says quietly looking his grandmother in the eye much the same way he did Carla earlier. “Don’t worry Grandpa’s going to be alright and I’ll be fine too,” Andy says with only a slight tremble in his voice.
“Here,” Grandma says handing Andy a large, high voltage battery-operated flashlight and taking a yellow, hooded poncho from a trunk that was in one of the corners of the cellar. After she places the poncho around Andy, she then quickly makes a covering from some rain scarves for his face that leaves only his eyes exposed.
Without a word from either of them, Andy resolutely walks out into the ash colored day. Both Carrie and Carla can see a portion of the sky clearly now that one of the cellar doors has been blown away. The dark gray color of the sky sends a spiral of fear through Carrie for her grandson. She wonders if she’ll ever see him alive again.
Unwilling to think about the possibility of her grandson’s death, she turns back to her husband to find his eyes closed. She looks at his face closely. He doesn’t seem to be any worse than when he’d first told her of his suspicions, but he doesn’t seem any better either.
She takes one of his hands in both of hers and begins praying. She prays for her husband, she prays for her grandson and she prays for herself and Carla. If anything were to happen to Nick before Andy returns (if he returns her mind cruelly insists), she and Carla will have enough food to last 3 or 4 days and enough water to last a week. She is pretty sure they won’t have to be in the cellar any more than a day or two, but the dark, cold lump of fear that has been growing inside of her since Nick told her he thought he was having another heart attack, continues to grow. It is the same feeling she’d had all those years ago when Nick had had his first heart attack.
Suddenly she remembers that there is another man injured down here that she may actually be able to help. Instead she is sitting on her duff thinking about something that happened so long ago that any opportunity she had to change things has long since passed. She gets up from her husband’s side, finds the first aid kit and begins to clean and dress the wound on Russell’s head. He moans softly while she does this, but does not regain consciousness. Afterward she places one of the pillows kept on one of the two cots in the cellar beneath his head and covers him with a blanket knowing that she’s not supposed to move him. The entire time she is taking care of Russell she continues to think of how frightened she’d been when Nick had had his previous heart attack.
With grim determination she turns her mind from that terrible time 3 years ago and concentrates on keeping Carla calm. By now she has returned to her husband’s side where she’d taken his hand in hers again. But now she lets Nick’s hand go and holds one of Carla’s hands loosely in her own. She can feel Carla trembling and knows that she must be very frightened. It’s no wonder—she is experiencing the first tornado of her life, she’s just seen a man she’s known for 3 summers sucked through a cellar door and now the brother she worships is out in that storm trying to get help for her sick grandfather while another man lies unconscious on the cellar floor. That’s a lot for an adult to digest let alone a little girl of eight.
Deciding to challenge Carla to a game of Chutes and Ladders to keep her mind off of their present situation, Carrie takes out the board game and begins to set it up at the table where Carla and Andy had been reading their books before Andy had started playing solitaire.
“Come on Carla. Let’s play Chutes and Ladders. It’ll be fun.”
“Ok, sure,” Carla responds.
Although not exactly excited, she does show more interest in playing the game than her grandmother expected, which causes an almost inaudible sigh to escape from Carrie. It’s been a long time since she’s raised her children and been in the position of having to keep them calm when she herself is so tense that the sound of the wind blowing the trees’ branches against the side of the building is as irritating to her as fingers being run across a chalk board.
As she and Carla play Chutes and Ladders, the minutes stretch out little by little until it’s been an hour since Andy left to get Dr. Sorenson. Carrie tries to remember how long it takes when the weather is clear to reach Dr. Sorenson’s home from the farm, but her mind can’t seem to grasp the information long enough to make sense of it. She knows that it’s not really important whether she recalls how long it takes, but she is desperate to keep her thoughts away from what has been troubling her since Nick told her of his condition and she realized she would have to send Andy out into a violent tornado; as much as she tries not to think of it, she can’t help but wonder if her husband is going to die down here in this dark, dusty cellar. The only person who can bring help for him in time to prevent that from happening is Andy. Andy who only visits in the summer so is not as familiar with the farm as Luke or Russell or herself even. Andy, who is only a 12-year old little boy. He might not ever make it off the farm let alone all the way to Dr. Sorenson’s.
She is brought back to the present by the intensity of her granddaughter’s gaze. Carla has been studying her grandmother for the last few minutes and she can tell her grandmother is worried; it must be about Grandpa, but it might be about Andy.
When Carrie looks up from moving her game piece forward several paces, her and Carla’s brown eyes lock much in the same way that Nick and her eyes had a short while earlier. Suddenly without any reason she can pinpoint Carrie feels calmer, less scared and not so hopeless about the outcome of her husband’s heart attack. Although still very worried about Nick, she no longer presumes he will die before Andy can return with help. Of course she doesn’t know for certain what will happen, but she feels a certain sense of peace she hasn’t felt since Nick’s first heart attack.
“Excuse me for a moment, Carla,” she says getting up from the table at which she’d been sitting.
“Grandma is Grandpa going to be alright?” Carla asks her in a soft voice before her grandmother makes it to Nick’s side. Her eyes are very serious as she waits for her grandmother’s response.
“I do believe he will be,” Carrie answers; truly meaning what she says. Something she had been unable to feel even several seconds earlier.
“Me too,” says Carla and smiles at her grandmother in such a way that Carrie feels tears moistening her eyes, causing her to impulsively hug Carla before she goes to Nick to again closely study his drawn face. She has to admit that he does seem to be doing worse than the last time she checked on him, but the peace she feels remains. She sits down beside him and takes one of his hands between both of hers. His fingers are cold and she rubs them gently with her much smaller fingers in an attempt to warm them.
“Please hurry, Andy,” she whispers to herself. “I’ve loved this man for more than half my life and I don’t want to know what it would be like not to have him around to love.”
For the next fifteen minutes or so she sits with her husband, kissing his hand and praying for Andy’s return. At some point Carla has come to sit beside her and the warmth of her body keeps Carrie from shivering because of the chill she is experiencing. Other than that she is completely unaware of her granddaughter or of her surroundings.
After the cellar door had been blown off, the howling of the wind had been able to be heard much clearer, but now the wind can only be heard blowing through the leaves of the trees that had been planted in several locations around the farm---Nick had wanted to insure that there was always a shaded place on the farm that anyone could get to easily. Carrie had just thought it made the farm look more welcoming and she knew that it helped to keep the air fresh smelling, which could be quite fragrant at certain times of the year---most notably during planting time.
As she sits and waits to see if she will live the rest of her life without the man she’d met almost 50 years ago when she was only 16 years old Carrie doesn’t notice that the wind has subsided quite a bit.
At the time she’d met Nick she had been out with some of her girlfriends and they had gone off with boys they had met at the beach party they’d been attending. She hadn’t been interested in pairing off with any of the boys at the party---especially since she knew what a lot of them expected from the girls when they did so. She wasn’t about to disgrace her parents or herself like that. Besides, she’d only been kissed by one other boy before she’d met Nick that first time. That had been 2 years earlier and he had kissed her on the cheek then. Both of them had been so embarrassed that they had never even talked about it although, they had remained friends throughout school until he met some city girl and had moved two states away. He had never tried anything other than that kiss with her and it was as if the kiss had never even taken place---for her it never had.
The only first kiss she ever remembered was the one Nick had given her and it had been the sweetest, most tender kiss imaginable. Her and Nick had not become boyfriend and girlfriend right away so she had experienced the kisses of other boys after they met and she was glad she had. She felt no one should marry the very first boy they had ever kissed; it wouldn’t be fair to either of the people in the marriage.
Of course none of that mattered right now. The important thing is whether Andy had been able to reach Dr. Sorensen and if they were on their way back to the farm so that he could treat Nick. She and this man had shared a lifetime of memories while raising their 5 children, but she realized she still hadn’t had enough time with him.
Carrie is so absorbed in her thoughts and prayers that she doesn’t hear Andy, Dr. Sorensen and Luke come into the cellar until Carla touches her arm and says:
“Grandma, Andy’s back”.
Her grandmother turns to look at her, but there is no real understanding of what Carla has said to her in her eyes. Then Andy steps to his grandmother’s side.
“Grandma, I’m back and I brought the doctor with me. Let him help Granddad,” he says gently as he helps to move her away from her husband’s side so Dr. Sorensen can examine him.
“Yes, of course,” she responds to Andy in a distracted voice. She then stands to the left of the doctor watching him as he checks Nick’s pulse and takes a small flashlight slightly thicker than a pencil and examines the pupils of Nick’s eyes. He then holds a stethoscope to Nick’s chest and listens intently.
During the examination Carrie holds her breath.
“Carrie,” Dr. Sorensen begins. “Nick has had a heart attack as your grandson told me he suspected, but it was a very mild one. He’s breathing and pulse is almost normal and his eyes reacted to the light, which is another good sign. He will need to go to the hospital, but we’ll have to wait for this tornado to die down some more before I can call for an ambulance. In the mean time I’ll give Nick something for the pain he may be experiencing. Any discomfort he feels should be minor, but I don’t want to chance him having another heart attack—no matter how mild it may be since I don’t know how long it will be before we can get him to a hospital.”
Upon hearing the doctor’s words, Carrie releases the breath she has been holding. Her entire body sags with relief and she looks at the doctor gratefully, thanking him with her eyes.
“I’m sure glad Nick is going to be ok,” Luke says to Carrie.
Carrie looks at him as if she’s not sure if she’s actually seeing him. Although Andy had told her that both Luke and Dr. Sorensen were with him, she apparently hadn’t heard him. She looks to the others in the room as if to confirm that she’s not hallucinating.
“Oh my,” she exclaims breathlessly, doing the fluttery thing she does with her hands when she gets agitated and sinking into the rocker she had exited when Nick had called her to his side earlier.
“Are you ok Carrie,” Dr. Sorensen asks looking at her worriedly.
“Well, yes. It’s just that……”, she says and then stops, unsure of how to delicately word that after Luke disappeared through the opening in the cellar she had been thinking that he was dead.
“Oh I know Carrie,” Luke says patting her hand reassuringly. “You thought that was the end of me when I went flying through that door. Well, I thought so too and I admit I’d never been so scared, but after tossing me around for a few seconds that tornado tossed me against the tree by the side of the house where Nick had put in a swing for your grandchildren. For a while I couldn’t remember anything. I guess I got knocked out. The next thing I know Andy is shaking me and asking if I’m alright.”
“Well apparently you were,” Carrie responds smiling faintly.
“I guess I was, but I sure didn’t feel alright. I was sore and bruised and I’ve gone and broken my right arm, but to be quite honest I’m glad to even be able to feel the pain,” Luke replies.
“Well that makes sense,” Carrie says. She turns to the doctor. “I’m sorry, but I completely forgot about our other farmhand. He was hit in the head by a table. He’s right over here under this blanket,” she says leading the doctor to where Russell is laying.
Dr. Sorensen goes through the same routine of examining Russell’s pulse, checking his pupils and listening to his heart as he did with Nick. During the examination Russell regains consciousness and finally opens his eyes. After the doctor completes his examination, he holds up 3 fingers.
“How many fingers am I holding up Russell?
“I know I bumped my head pretty hard, but I do know how to count doctor,” Russell says somewhat humorously.
The doctor looks at Russell unamused.
“Three fingers,” Russell responds after seeing the doctors face.
“What’s your name?”
“Russell Proctor,” Russell responds.
“What day is it?” the doctor continues.
Russell frowns and squints his lip trying to recall the date.
“Hmm….I’m not really sure. I don’t really keep track of the date too much. But I think it’s Thursday.”
“Is there any blurring or doubling of your vision?”
“No. Everything’s clear so far.”
“Good. Everything appears to be normal---pulse, the pupil’s reaction to light and heartbeat so I’m pretty sure you’ll be fine. However, I am going to have you go to the hospital for observation, as well once this storm abates,” Dr. Sorensen says to Russell and the group gathered around him.
“I guess there’s nothing more to do, but wait out the storm then,” Carrie says.
“Yes, Carrie that’s all we can do,” Dr. Sorensen responds sympathetically. “But the good news is that the wind had begun to die down by the time we got here and I anticipate that we should be on our way to the hospital within the hour---no longer than an hour and a half.”
Carrie turns to Andy. “I’m so glad you’re ok. You were so brave.”
“No I wasn’t brave at all. I was really scared.”
“Being scared of doing something and doing it anyway, is what makes it brave. You were scared and you still helped your grandfather. I’m very proud of and so grateful to you.”
“He’s a hero,” Carla says smiling at her brother, her brown eyes filled with the familiar light of adoration.
“Yes he is,” Dr. Sorensen says.
“But I’m not,” Andy insists. “If I hadn’t run across Luke, I’m not sure I could even have gotten off the farm. Everything was all changed around and I didn’t know where anything was. I was looking around trying to find something familiar and nothing was. Then I saw the swing Grandpa had built. I went over to it to think and that’s when I saw Luke.”
“He did a good job,” says Luke. “I was in a lot of pain when I woke up---mostly from my broken arm and I was kind of confused about the layout of the farm so I wasn’t as much help as he’s trying to make out. We got turned around a few times, but Andy always figured out how to get us turned back around. Not once did he panic.”
Andy could see that no one was going to believe that he wasn’t a hero so he decided to let the matter drop. He knew he wasn’t a hero; he’d just done what he had to do to try to help his grandfather. He was happy that he’d been able to do that and being able to help Luke too, did make him feel pretty proud, but it still didn’t make him a hero---he’d helped two people he loved. He had been scared, but determined to do his best. As much as he loved his grandfather, he knew that his grandmother loved and needed him more. He had been spurred on by this thought even when he had gotten so confused he wasn’t sure if he’d be able to find his way to the doctor’s house.
But now everything was going to be fine. His grandfather, Luke and Russell would all go to the hospital and get fixed up good as new. If he had to help out more on the farm so his grandfather wouldn’t have to work so hard, then that’s just what he’d do; he’d be 13 next year and that wasn’t too far from being a man. As he’d said, everything would get back to normal soon. And maybe by the time he got back to Ohio, he would have adjusted to the idea of being a hero. After all he did have friends who would be pretty impressed with what he had done. This thought brings a smile to his lips.