Good morning and welcome to the September 1st edition of Tuesday Tales. This week’s word is hardy. Each week a few incredibly talented writers allow me to join them in presenting a snippet of a work in progress based on a specific word. I started Hello Again back in June. so feel free to go back through the posts if you want to refresh your memory or this is your first time visiting.
When I left you last, Shirley and Bill were riding otu the tornado inside her sod home.
“The woman in my vision,” Shirley answered, as she struggled to stand. “We have to get to her before the third twister. Hurry.”
Third twister? Mother of God what the hell kind of storm is this?
“If you saw a woman in trouble, why didn’t you tell me about her before the first tornado hit?” He couldn’t believe there’d been two in spite of what she said. He didn’t set a lot of store in psychics, but he’d heard rumors about some of the Nakota seers. Somethings were meant to be taken on faith, and as a medicine woman, Shirley Smoke’s visions fell into that category.
“I didn’t see her until a few minutes ago. The spirits don’t reveal everything at once,” she said, panting in her effort to get upright. “I’m theirs to command, not the other way around. Now, are you going to let that woman die while you flap your gums at me?”
The word die propelled Bill into action. Shirley had been right about the storm and his arrival, and since he hadn’t been the one scheduled to make the visit, even that aspect of her clairvoyant event made sense. He wouldn’t argue with her now. If she was right, someone’s life was in danger, and if she was wrong, he’d take the opportunity to run her into Regina and have someone look at her chest. The wheezing had worsened, and if the air was as full of dust as it had been after the last tornado…
Putting on his cap, he helped her up off the stool. Despite her size, the woman was frail, and he was afraid pulling her up like this might leave a mark on her arm.
“Which way do we go?” he asked, stepping out of the room, leading her through the house, and opening the front door.
Stunned, he stared at the destruction all around them. On the far right, a small section of the tin roof had been ripped away, proving how close the twister had come to them. They could easily have been killed, crushed under the weight of the sod walls.
As if Shirley could read his mind, she shook her head. “We weren’t in any danger. That’s just the corner over the drying porch, see?” She moved farther to her left to allow him to see the open area beyond the wall where various bundles of herbs hung. The incongruity of it hit him. How could they have been spared?
“I can get to it from my bedroom,” Shirley continued. “I like to sit out there at night, listening to the sounds and watching the stars. I feel close to my ancestors when I do.”
She shook her head and moved farther away from the house into the surprisingly thick, hot, humid air. After a storm like this, the humidity vanished, and the temperature usually dropped.
The old woman mumbled to herself as she walked slowly but steadily toward his car, parked exactly where he’d left it, covered in dirt and grass, but looking none the worse for the wear.
“I’ll have the boys come and fix it as soon as they have time. Lots of people have suffered far more damage than this.” She shook her head. “I knew the barn would go.”
There was nothing left of the structure, not even the rubble he’d have expected from a demolished building. Surprisingly, the old privy stood sentinel-like amid the chaos. Shirley reached the vehicle and got in on the passenger side.
“Hurry up, sergeant,” she called before closing the door. “We’ve only got an hour at best, and she’s a good ten miles down the road. That’s her car.”
Bill followed her pointing finger to a red mass of twisted metal he hadn’t noticed, sitting in what was left of the wheat field across the road from her house. If someone had been thrown from that car … Getting in behind the wheel, he started the engine, used the windshield wipers to clear the dirt off the glass so that he could see, and pulled onto the service road.
“Turn left at the highway,” Shirley said. “She’s in a ditch on your side. There’s a tree pinning her down, and the runoff will fill the trench with water at any minute.”
The conviction in her voice moved him as nothing else could. He stepped on the gas. Beside the road, a few hardy tufts of wheat had escaped the tornadoes’ paths, but there had to be thousands of dollars’ worth of damaged crops, ruined machinery, and broken utility poles.
In the distance, he saw a tree blocking the road. From here, he’d guess it was an Assiniboine poplar, but there weren’t any of those for miles around. Stopping the car, he turned to the woman beside him.
He hurried across the road. As soon as he stepped to the edge of the soft shoulder, he saw the bruised and bleeding hands holding the pillow over her head.
“Miss?” he asked, but got no response. Jumping into the ditch, he noted the water came up over his feet. He reached down, and lifted the pillow from her head.
She was lying on her stomach, but she’d turned her face to the right, no doubt to make it easier to breathe. He reached down and touched her throat, letting out the gush of air he’d been holding when he felt a strong, steady pulse there.
“Well, don’t just stand there,” Shirley said. “Get her out of there. We’ve got to get back to the house.”
“I thought I told you to stay in the car.”
“You did, but you’re going to need these.” Shirley reached into the voluminous pockets on the dress she wore and handed him a pair of garden sheers. “Now, get that off her so we can get out of here. And before you say something stupid about not moving her, she ain’t got anything broken. The cut on her leg will heal and she’ll be fine—as long as we get back to the house before the next twister.”
Bill reached for the sheers and moved to the woman’s feet, snipped away the branches, and lifted the surprisingly heavy log off her legs, moving it far enough aside to be able to lift her out of the ditch. Turning her on her side, he scooped her out of the mud and water.
Her eyes fluttered open. Glazed with shock and pain, the beautiful, gray orbs widened.
“Mike?” she whispered.
Her lids closed, and she was unconscious again.
Carrying her back to the vehicle, surprised to see Shirley seated there already, he gently placed his new passenger on the backseat, and then got behind the wheel once more.
“Quickly,” Shirley said. We’ve got no time to lose.”
Making a three-point turn, Bill stepped on the gas, hoping to outrun the storm.
That’s it for this week. Now, please drop by and visit all the Tuesday Tales