Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Rattled (05/09/13)
TITLE: The Storm
By Michael Throne
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"It's going to rain soon," she says.
"Maybe not," I say.
"You can tell by the way the clouds are coming in from the west."
"The wind's been blowing my truck all over," the UPS driver says.
"It's always windy."
The door-chimes rattle as the UPS driver leaves. I pick up the box and look at the label.
"Who's it from?" Janet asks.
I hesitate, then read the label aloud. "Dorothy Daniels."
"I don't know any 'Dorothy Daniels.'"
I glance outside at the gathering clouds.
"Even if it does rain, I doubt that it'll last more than a few minutes."
"It's going to pour."
"I don't think so."
"So who's Dorothy Daniels?" she asks.
"She must be somebody. She sent you a package."
The wind continues to pick up. I see a newspaper flying.
"Is she returning something?"
We've been through plenty of storms since we moved to Tulsa. I don't get very excited about them anymore.
"I'm going to turn on the radio," she says. "See if anything's up."
"It's just a thunderstorm. It won't last."
"You never know."
She heads to the back of the store and I stare at the package.
I'd met Dorothy at a trade show in Dallas. She led a symposium on retailing cards and calendars and we talked afterward. I didn't mention that I was married.
"Maybe you should lock the door," she calls from the back.
"We'll be fine," I say.
The truth of the matter is that I'm not always as forthcoming with women as I should be.
"The radio says there's a tornado watch," Janis says, walking up front.
"It'll blow over," I say. "It always does."
A box tumbles down the street.
"Not always. Remember how one hit Luray last year? Destroyed six homes."
"Yeah. I remember."
The chimes rattle angrily as the downpour pushes the door open. I go to close the door and lock it.
"So who's Dorothy?" she asks again. I stare outside at the rain.
"She's nobody. Someone at the Dallas trade show."
Large hail balls bounce on the pavement. Several hit the windows as the temperature in the small store quickly drops.
"I think she gave some kind of presentation. On greeting cards, maybe."
I pick up the box.
The truth of the matter is that I never intended to lead Delores on. Just a nice, quiet dinner, maybe some wine....
"So are you going to open it?"
I hear the sirens going off at the elementary school. A tornado's been spotted nearby.
I glance at Janis.
The wind is howling and the front glass is rattling and Janis is staring at me hard.
I put the box on the counter.
"Is there something you need to tell me?" she asks.
"No," I say. "We had dinner."
That's the truth. We didn't do much more than that.
A police cruiser drives slowly down the street, lights blazing.
"So why didn't you tell me about it?"
I hesitate. "Because I know how jealous you get."
"It's not like you don't give me reason."
"It was just dinner. That's all."
"So open the box."
The rain's nearly vertical. It's coming in waves, pounding against windows, shaking the door, rattling the chimes.
I eye the box. I'm hoping it's not the bracelet I gave her.
"I don't have a knife."
"Here," she says, handing me one.
I take a breath, then slit the tape and slowly open the box, shielding the contents from Janis with the lid. Inside, I see an assortment of sample Mother's Day cards and a catalogue. Dorothy's card is on top.
I breathe easy and smile, setting the box on the table.
"It's just cards," I say. "They're just cards."
Janis isn't even looking at the box. She's staring at me.
The sirens stop blaring. The rains ease up. The winds blow a little less fiercely.
"They're just cards." I say again.
Janis walks to the door. The storm has blown over, just like all the others.
She unlocks the door as a ray of sunlight hits the street.
"It's over," I say.
She stares out the window as the birds fly about, as the clouds break up and the sunshine comes pouring through, just that fast.
The chimes rattle as she opens the door. She turns to me and starts to say something.
Then she shakes her head and walks away.
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