This week’s free Free Fiction Friday story from UnWrecked Press is “After the Storm.”
This story introduces Ellie Simpson and her husband Chris — neighbors to Pop and Joey from “Peterson & Son Automotives” — in the midst of hurricane season in the south. It was first published in The Raleigh News & Observer’s Sunday Reader, November 2001.
UPDATE — this story and the three other connected stories that I ran at my site are now available as an ebook entitled What Was Left Standing: 4 Stories for just $2.99. You can download the ebook from Amazon or Smashwords and read the stories on your laptop, desktop, Kindle, iPad, Nook, iPhone, or whatever device you use to read ebooks. Enjoy!
After the Storm
When the wind knocked over the first tree with a crack like a bone snapping, Ellie was already awake to hear it. Peeling herself off the cushions of their vinyl couch, she pried open the screen door. Her bare arms, covered in sweat, prickled with goosebumps at the sound of hissing trees and the skittering bits of garbage being tossed across the front lawn. It could turn into a hurricane, she thought.
There had been warnings about the storm on the television, before the power went out, but nobody really expected the wind and rain to amount to much. Ellie wanted her boyfriend Chris to do something about it, like tighten the wires securing her trailer to the ground or stretch duct tape across the glass in their windows, or at least tell her that the trailer wouldn’t blow away like all the horror stories they always saw on the news. Not Chris. He just coughed his loose, rattling cough he’d had for the past week and washed some medicine down with a clinking of ice cubes in his drink.
Outside, the wind knocked something loose, kicking it noisily across the yard until it hit something solid, probably Mr. Peterson’s oak tree. July was fairly early in the hurricane season, but Ellie had seen the results of storms like Hugo and Bertha and Fran. She had lived her whole life in tiny Goldsboro, two hours west of the North Carolina coast. People who had lived through those hurricanes talked about the strangely-named storms like old friends, or old enemies, depending on the amount of damage they had done.
She rubbed her eyes and sat on the wooden steps in front of her trailer. Next door, the overgrown grass on Mr. Peterson’s patch of lawn swayed like a choppy ocean, and the tin sign for his auto shop rattled against his makeshift garage. The old fart never cleaned his place, and his boy Joey only cut the lawn once a month. Now it looked like the whole works – lawn, trailer, garage and tin sign – were going to take to the air and crash headlong into Ellie’s trailer.
A flashlight bobbed three trailers down, its line of light cutting the darkness in a wobbly line. It was Miss Rose, checking out the storm and waiting for what would come next. Ellie drew in a breath to call her over, but she worried that she would scare the old woman even worse than she probably already was. Miss Rose hadn’t been the same since her husband passed on last winter. Ellie hunched down on the steps, feeling like a kid playing hide and seek. She didn’t want to comfort someone else right now. She wanted someone to come to her for a change and tell her things were going to be fine.
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