Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: WEATHER (07/19/18)
TITLE: Two Boots
By Tracy Nunes
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We were under that low bridge for three days. We’d done like Mama told us.
“Cilla, Seth, look at Mama.” She never had to tell us twice. My sister and I turned to her; first Cilla, then me. Mama always said I was an obedient child, but that I liked to take the slow train to the station.
“If anything ever happens to me and I’ve gone to heaven, promise Mama you won’t hide under the house like you do when Daddy’s been down to Billy’s Tavern. Daddy will find you. Promise me you’ll run. Run like the dickens and don’t look back.”
The day came when Mama was gone. It’s a good thing she reminded us that she wouldn’t be in her body anymore. That she’d be with God. Cause her body didn’t look nothing like her when me and Cilla found her. The long walk from school on the back roads meant we’d get home when the sun had dipped below the hills of Sumner County. But even in the faint light, we could see her broken body crumpled on the kitchen floor. Daddy snored in the back room.
I knew Cilla’s soft cries were just a preview of the wailing that was coming. And that would wake Daddy. I didn’t stop to think. I had to do what Mama said to do. Run. I grabbed Cilla’s hand and pulled her out the door. We ran like the wind.
Was it one mile or two? Or did it just feel like forever? I don’t know. We just ran. But the hot, calm air we’d complained about on the way home from school turned into a stiff breeze, then driving rain. We kept running until the hail. You can’t fight hail.
As we’d run from home, I’d let go of Cilla’s hand, but I grabbed it again to pull her down off the road into the graveled gulley that ran underneath a bridge. We tumbled and slid down until we reached the bottom and dove for cover.
Exhausted, we sat panting as the sky unleashed its fury. Large hail pummeled the rickety wooden bridge above us. Cilla shivered, and I took off my jacket to cover her shoulders.
“What are we going to do, Seth? Mama said run but we got no place to go.”
Cilla knew that meant I didn’t know what we should do but this time she was either too tired or too scared to point it out. We sat there in silence as our breathing slowed down and our muscles uncoiled. Exhaustion took over. Cilla sunk into sleep. I sat looking out at the now drizzling rain and cried like I’d never cried before, or since. The weight of losing Mama and fear of being found by Daddy was more than I could bear.
A few hours later, I woke to Cilla’s soft whimpering. She lay fitfully sleeping, tossing her head from side to side, a look of heartbreak etched on her too-young-for-this face.
We stayed under the bridge for two days. The adrenaline that moved our legs was spent and fear had taken its place.
On the third morning, I woke to the sound of feet on gravel. Tapping Cilla, I put my hands over her mouth to keep her from crying out. We sat huddled, waiting, remembering when Daddy would scream for us when we hid under the house.
A pair of worn, dirty work boots came around the edge of the gulley where the underhang of the bridge was still only a couple feet tall. The boots paused just as four white paws came bounding passed them and straight to us. Three barks meant our cover was blown.
I didn’t know then, but those boots held a man that would change our life forever. Me and Cilla called him Papa. Our wounds didn’t heal fast, or completely. But in Papa’s house, we learned what life without fear was like. We learned that love didn’t only go by the name of Mama.
When Papa later died, Cilla had his boots mounted under a plaque that said,
“These boots held Love that walked its talk.”
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