Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Suggestion Box, Vol. 3: "One Thousand Words" List #12

Suggested by: Amy Hopkins

The List:
-the era of Technicolor
-a chainsaw

The Result:
"No Place Like Home"

On a little farm in Wichita, a middle-aged woman enjoyed a quiet, hazy afternoon from the comfort of her porch. The weather had been prime of late, and the storm season was coming, so these opportunities should be treasured as long as they lasted.
Emily Brown sighed to herself as she watched the fat yellow bees buzzing around her baskets overflowing with brilliant fuchsia. Bright orange and yellow zinnias beckoned from the center of the arrangement, nodding in the light breeze. The really was no place like their lovely little farmhouse. Televisions and movies introducing this newfangled phenomenon dubbed “Technicolor” had nothing on the vivid hues of real life! She could see the green grass of the front yard; off to the left, the small patch of volunteer wheat that had managed to sprout this year. It was hard work to maintain, but the young newlyweds of Wichita didn’t move out here, “eighteen miles from anywhere” to sit on their laurels and have everything delivered to their front door!

Just then, a figure emerged from the wheat. Emily waved to her husband, Henry as he came up from working in the fields. She laughed to see his dark curls all full of hay. His long, lanky frame was gaunt enough for a specter on a good day; the additional vegetation he sported made him look nearly like a scarecrow.
He grinned shyly when she let out a hearty laugh for his benefit.
“What do you find so funny, Em?” He ambled toward the porch as if nothing were out of the ordinary.
“Nothing at all, Hank,” she replied, throwing her arms around his neck and knocking out a few straws as she did so. “Or if you like, I was laughing at the thought of what the crows’ faces must have looked like when they saw a big, living scarecrow lumbering through their breakfast.”
Henry shook his head, sending chaff to be carried by the warm summer breeze. “A man’s gotta do something to keep those flying, thieving monkeys out of our crops!”
“My hero!” and Emily laughed again.
Henry left his wife with a kiss and moved into the house.
It was a small two-story farmhouse, with a kitchen and dining room on one side of the ground floor, and the rest devoted to a spacious sitting room. In this room, Henry paused, sinking onto the sofa with a sigh.
“Ah, that feels better,” he murmured. The stately wooden radio caught his attention. He reached over to the tuning dial.
“Say, Ems,” he asked as she came in behind him, “Have you heard the latest from the BBC yet?”
“No, I haven’t touched the radio all day,” Emily replied.
She joined her husband on the sofa as the clipped accent warbled through the speakers.

“… just in, passengers on an aeroplane flight from Lisbon, en route to London, shot down by German military. This is the state and the nature of Hitler’s ‘total war,’ ladies and gentlemen: a civilian aeroplane, in a non-combat zone, completely destroyed… Innocent lives lost, bearing the brunt of German brutality…”

As quickly as he had turned it on, Henry switched the radio off again. Emily cuddled against his shoulder even closer.
“So awful,” she murmured. “Hitler must be a horrible, horrible man for letting such things happen!”
Henry wrapped his arms around her curled-up body. “I’m just glad I married you and moved out to Kansas to be a homesteader right at the perfect time. Saved me from having to go down to the nearest USO. Now, nobody can bother us, not even the government.”
Emily gave him a little shove. “You coward,” she chided softly. “I always thought you were as brave as a lion! What would you risk to keep me safe?” She stuck her lip out in a pout as her pretty blue eyes pegged him accusingly.
He held her gaze as he responded, “That’s just it; I care so much about keeping you safe that I never wanted to leave your side, not for a day, not for a moment. Giving one’s life for one’s country is one thing; offering myself as a human shield, should any danger threaten you, my darling—well, that is a horse of a different color entirely.”

Emily only just noticed that it was getting almost too dark to see—but according to the grandfather clock standing next to the wall, it was only three in the afternoon. She glanced outside.
“Speaking of a different color…” she muttered.

The world outside seemed bathed in a brilliant green hue. It was as if the Technicolor television had leaked out into the real world, and somehow the colors weren’t quite what they should have been. The light summer breeze had quickened into gale-force winds, and the shutters flapped hard against the latches holding them open.

Henry and Emily raced around, pulling shutters closed and latching them.
Emily grabbed the last pair and slid the window shut after them, but something at the edge of the wide, green plain caught her attention.
“Henry… what is it?” she asked.

The clouds seemed to take on a life of their own. They danced and shifted, building and swirling and reaching down in a long column. A streak of lightning obscured their view, and the immediate report of thunder cracked like a cannon standing right beside the house. When Henry and Emily looked again, an enormous twister had formed overhead, a dark, swirling mass of cloud that seemed as if the storm was trying to inhale the ground beneath it.
Emily felt Henry’s grip on her shoulder tighten.

“Get to the storm cellar, Ems,” he said quickly, shoving her toward the door.
In that instant, the door suddenly blasted open, and a powerful wind swept into the house, knocking dishes off the walls and sending the knickknacks flying from their shelves. Emily nearly tumbled backward at the velocity of the air heading for her. She cringed and threw an arm around her face in terror.
“Henry!” she squealed. “Henry!”
She felt his hand grasp hers, and the two made for the front door again.
A flash and a bang, and suddenly Henry was pulling her backwards as branches scratched at her outstretched hands. Emily clutched at him and tried to see what had happened.
An enormous tree had fallen right onto their porch. The mass of foliage completely blocked the front of the house—which had been their only route to safety. Their storm cellar was safely hemmed in by concrete, situated right on the edge of the foundation—but what good was it if they couldn’t reach it?
Emily’s knees buckled and Henry gently guided her into a sitting position. They cowered on the floor, listening to the ominous roar of the massive tornado getting closer and closer, watching as one by one the windows shattered. Soon the glass would be spraying right toward them…

A roar of a quite different sort soon interjected itself in the midst of the roar of the tornado. The Browns could only stare in astonishment as the thick, weathered blade of a chainsaw protruded from the mass of branches. A few more thrusts and jabs, and a pair of hands poked through, parting the bracken to allow the appearance of a head, followed by the rest of a body. A lithe young woman wearing sturdy trousers and a leather jacket scrambled into the house. Her brown hair was swept back into a ponytail, and her brown eyes were ablaze with a determined and fearless light. She nodded to the traumatized couple.
“Looks like you folks could use a hand getting to the cellar!” she said brightly.
“Who are you?” Henry demanded.
The young woman smiled. “They call us storm-chasers, see. People like me read the sky like most people read the newspaper; it tells us what’s coming. We watch the wind like most people watch the moving pictures; we get to know what different signs mean and watch what the weather does. Now I had word of a tornado that was due here, so I happened to be watching when you two went into the house, and when the storm kicked up and you hadn’t come out, and then the tree fell—well, I figured you might be needing my help.” She picked up her compact, portable chainsaw and started it up again. “Care to follow me?”
Emily and Henry Brown stood up and instinctively huddled close to this strange, dauntless woman.
“What’s your name?” Emily asked in a quavering voice.
The woman smiled at her. “I’m called Dorothy,” she said. “Stick with me, and we’ll make it through all right.”

Previously in This Series: