STORIES FROM HOME - Chapter Eight
They made it!
From the dry shelter of the hopeful little house’s weathered and worn front porch, the frightened little girls watched as the storm came closer!
The girl’s eyes grew big and round as rain stung their cheeks!
Their eyes grew even bigger as the wind howled harder and their dry shelter became drenched and soggy.
When the faded red front door blew open behind them, they all raced inside. Riley quickly slammed the door shut to keep the storm out.
The girls huddled together for a moment, feeling shaken and frightened from the angry weather. Although it was only mid-afternoon, the dark clouds outside made it seem much later.
Morgan’s lower lip trembled slightly, but before she could start crying Julia began to boss her sisters around!
“Riley! Run upstairs and get my backpack from the room we slept in last night. Morgan, you go with her!”
As soon as she heard her sister’s footsteps pounding up the stairs, Julia sank down onto the bottom step.
She was so frightened. She wanted to cry but she knew she had to be brave. She closed her blue eyes for just a few moments and leaned her forehead against the stairpost. And then, for some reason, she felt calmer. It was almost as if someone was saying, “Don’t worry, little girl. It will be OK. I will help you.”
Hearing some banging and shouting from her sisters in the room upstairs, she straightened her shoulders, jumped up, and went into the kitchen.
The chipped, white cupboards lining the wall seemed like a good place to start exploring. She began carefully and slowly opening each of the lower cabinets to peer inside. The first cabinet held a little pile of pans. The second cabinet had nothing in it except a bunch of old glass jars.
Julia had just started to open the third cabinet when she heard her sisters pounding down the stairs.
“Julia! Where are you?” they both yelled. And since the hopeful little house wasn’t very big, it only took them a moment to find her in the kitchen.
“Look what we found!” they shouted, showing Julia arms filled with what appeared to be old clothes and towels.
“Where did you find those?” Julia asked inquisitively.
Both of her sisters talked over each other, explaining that they had looked in the small dresser with the marble top and found them.
They started to pile their treasures onto the white metal table, but Julia stopped them. Taking one of the small towels from Morgan’s arms, she quickly wiped the dust off the white metal table. The pile of old clothes, towels, and the heavy purple backpack filled the tabletop.
The girls shared a faded yellow towel and quickly dried their hair, arms and faces.
The chatter and chaos soon filled up the small space and somehow made it feel warmer and cozier. The sound of the thunder crashing and the lightening cracking didn’t feel nearly as frightening now that the girls were safe inside the hopeful little house.
The third cabinet held some old lanterns and a big, round jar filled with matches. A bigger, square metal box held piles of white candles.
As the rain continued beating on the windows, it seemed like the kitchen was growing darker by the minute. Julia took the biggest lantern out of the cupboard and her sisters gathered around her. “We can use this for light,” she said, “If we can just figure out how to make it work.” A small metal knob on the side of the lantern made a flat piece of material unfurl inside a glass tube. Julia tipped her head one way then the other and realized the glass tube would have to come off so she could light the lantern. After carefully removing the glass, Julia used match after match but the material just seemed to catch fire for a second and then go out.
Riley looked into the cupboard with the lanterns again and found several square tins with handles. She carried one toward the window for better light and read, “K-E-R-O-S-E-N-E” on the side of the tin. A picture of a lantern like the one Julia was trying to light made her wonder if this is what was needed to make the lantern work. She showed it to her sister with excitement.
She tried twisting the small cap on the top of the can, but it was too hard. Julia tried, too, but it wouldn’t budge for her, either. Finally, Morgan tried turning the lid and it opened in her hand. The girls all looked at each other in surprise.
They saw that the lantern also had a small cap, so they opened that one, too. It turned easily, and since the smell coming from the lantern was the same as the smell coming from the can of K-E-R-O-S-E-N-E, Julia realized that the kerosene is what made the lantern work.
Morgan came running with a little funnel she had found in the same cupboard. Julia put the lantern in the sink, put the funnel in the opening of the lantern and very, very carefully poured some of the kerosene inside.
This time, when Julia held a match to the little piece of material, a flame flared up and the kitchen filled with a soft golden light.
She placed the lantern on the counter beside the dark red hand pump, and, in its soft glow, the little kitchen looked and felt like a safe and happy place to be.
Just as Julia was opening her backpack to get out some dinner, Riley opened the fourth cabinet.
A little streak of brown, black and white came running out of the opened door. The girls watched in amazement as a furry, little chipmunk sat on miniature back legs to chatter a scolding at them. The chipmunk darted under the table and disappeared through the doorway into the living room.
Riley carefully crouched down to look into the cupboard and there, almost hidden behind two jars, was a nest of tiny baby chipmunks.
“Ohhhh,” she said softly, “Look Julia. Look Morgan.” All three girls smiled in total delight as five tiny chipmunk babies looked at them in curiosity, little black eyes twinkling in the lantern light. The girls thought their soft golden fur with sweet dark brown and white stripes looked so soft.
Morgan seemed especially entranced with the tiny “chickmunks” and, just as she was reaching toward the babies, the mother chipmunk ran back from the living room, chattering at the top of her voice.
All the girls jumped back from the open door.
The mother chipmunk ran inside the cupboard and continued to scold and chatter until Riley slowly walked over and shut the door gently.
“Why is the chickmunk so mad?” Morgan asked.
Julia quietly answered, “She’s not mad, Morgan, she’s just trying to take care of her family. That’s what Moms do…” Her voice trailed off and the girls all looked down.
“Julia? Riley?” Morgan said.
“Not now Morgan, let’s eat something and go to bed. I’m tired.”
Julia handed out some apples and scooped out a few spoons of peanut butter from a half empty jar inside her backpack.
The girls, now subdued, went upstairs.
Their feet did not clatter on the stairs.
Their voices did not chatter in happy conversation.
They quietly climbed up into the big bed.
Riley reminded them to say their prayers and Morgan piped up, “But we didn’t say them last night, Riley.”
“But we will tonight,” Riley replied.
The two red heads and the little blonde head touched together as they recited,
“Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray dear God the angels keep
Me safe and warm all through the night
And wake me in the morning light.”
“Amen!” said Morgan.
“Amen!” said Julia.
Riley quietly whispered “Amen” and turned away from her sisters so they would not see the tears on her face.
And as she finally drifted off into slumber, a gentle breeze touched the tears on her cheeks and lovingly dried them.
To be continued on Tuesday, June 14.
(c) 2010 Jennifer R. Matlock
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