Calm Before the Storm

This is my response to Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge #18: Lost, with the painting by Olav Johan Andreassen, Stormnatten (Storm Night). I guess I should be glad to be under 400 words (392), but it’s nowhere near the requested 200 word count. I suppose you could call this another one of my cliffhangers. As always, Jane’s critique is welcome.

Calm Before the Storm.jpg

Calm Before the Storm

Heading to the shore may not sound wise during a possible evacuation, but that’s where our cottage sits, fifty feet from the beach, and it needed to be secured. Since my husband’s death, it had become a haven for our family. It always had been a place of happiness that held many warm memories, and, after Michael was gone, the calm beauty of the surroundings had a healing effect on the children and me.

This was not one of those calm days. The wind had picked up, and there was a good chop out on the water. We got to work, right away. The windows were boarded up by noon, and all seemed secure, but we couldn’t leave yet, in spite of the evacuation broadcast going out on the radio. Stronger now, the wind had shifted, and the angle of the breakers was such that it soon would drive the waves past the beach, in the direction of the cottage.

Several large boulders were strewn across the edge of the yard, just short of the sand. I have memories of the children scrambling over them, many years ago, but now it was time to put those rocks to work. Jason, my eldest, brought the Jeep around to the beach, stopping first to grab some chains from the shed. They probably hadn’t seen the light of day since his father used them to drag large pieces of driftwood onto the last bonfire he shared with us.

With the chains attached, I drove while Mary and Todd helped their brother heave the rocks from a standstill. Some were sunken so far into the soil that I was out there with them, digging and leveraging each of them out of the ground.

I don’t have anywhere near the stamina of my teenagers, and, with the wind raging around us, I collapsed as we tried to dislodge the final boulder. They moved me aside for a moment, and with Jason behind the wheel, and with tires spinning and tossing grass and sandy soil, he dragged that last rock over to our makeshift wall.

It was too late to join the evacuation, so the three of them carried me to the cottage, where we now sit in candlelight, satisfied that we’ve done just as Michael would have to preserve our haven. Listening to the howling wind of the storm battering the coast, I know there can’t help but be calmer days ahead.

** The text above in bold is an edit I made, in an attempt to follow a suggestion from Jane to find a sort of resolution to this story.  The original text was:

candlelight, listening to the howling wind, as the storm batters the coast. There

(bringing the word count to 407)

Image source: Wikimedia Commons


20 thoughts on “Calm Before the Storm

  1. You’re right, there is something unfinished about it. You build a really vivid picture of the sea, the storm, the kids dragging the rocks up to make a wall, then we sit in the candle light. I wonder if something to do with the rocks wouldn’t bring back a crucial memory about the dead husband, maybe he was crushed by one or he put them there with a purpose. Something to round the story off. This is definitely your style though, leaving us holding our breath and wondering what happens next. Maybe nothing very interesting, that’s why you stopped there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Daniel. I should note here that, with the micro-fiction challenges, Jane has offered to critique for those who request it, in a way that she may have received from editors, albeit in a friendlier manner.


  2. I really liked this. And I think your original irresolute ending is great. I felt that it gave a sense of things not all being settled and safe despite their precautions. A bit of tension? Just my opinion. I was very absorbed by your words.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you!
      It’s true, there’s a bit of uncertainty when it comes to surviving a hurricane. This does diminish that with the bit of satisfaction I’ve added at the end, but it also serves to bring the husband back into the story, if only as a memory.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Microfiction challenge Lost: the entries – Jane Dougherty Writes

    • Thank you.
      I respect Jane’s opinions. Sometimes her suggestions point in directions I might see my scenes taking, but I resist because I still want the suspense that she wants answered. I think I was able to keep that here, while rounding out a detail I had not fleshed out.

      Liked by 1 person

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