By Sally Madison
Eleanor was frozen, awestruck, at the sound and fury coming from the west. Hurricanes were a whisper compared to the huge roaring phantom locomotive that was barreling across the plains. The thirty-foot wake of dirt, gradated from near-black at the ground to a tan in the giant curl of dirt and dust rolling across the fields, gobbling the sparse trees along the country lane.
The alarm in her soul finally awoke when the dust stung her eyes, and she quickly covered her mouth and nose with her apron, to block out the dirt as the dust storm ripped at her hair and skirt. Fear struck Eleanor’s heart as she quickly shepherded the children into the house. They each grabbed their favorite toy – a book of Robin Hood, a cornhusk doll and a little wooden tractor – and then hid under the bed. Eleanor grabbed her Bible and began to search. ‘Where in Genesis was it? No, Exodus. Moses told the pharaoh of the torments he would suffer when the sand turned to gnats. This certainly is the end of the world, why was she being tortured like this? Surely, God was not this angry with her.
She peaked out the door, wondering what was keeping Joseph so long. The chickens were scurrying to the coupe, she could see some were squawking while being lifted by the wind, but she couldn’t hear the squawking through the din of the phantom locomotive of wind. Terror struck her heart, as she saw the barn roof and wall crack, for fear that the barn would collapse on Joseph. She slammed the door shut at the possibility and turned her attention to the present.
Grabbing a piece of wood to stoke the stove, she opened the stove door just as the wind caught the chimney, forcing a downdraft. The flames burst out the opened stove door, Eleanor screamed, raising her arm quickly, as the flames attacked her, and she fell backward onto the floor.
In a flash, two pairs of feet dashed across the floor. James slammed the stove door shut, grabbed the braided rag rug and wrapped Eleanor in it, suffocating the flames. Olivia ran to the sink and started pumping for the water deep under the house. James placed Eleanor’s good arm around his neck and, with his arm around her waist, helped her to her feet and to the kitchen sink.
Tommy, not to be left behind, came toddling out from under the bed and grabbed his mother’s skirt. Olivia gently pulled Tommy away and hugged him, while coaxing him to the rocking chair. Tommy, confused by all the screaming, was hesitant until he was promised a story.
Just then, the door, caught by the wind, crashed open and Joseph struggled in and barred the door shut. He heard the crying, and was shocked that it was Eleanor crying, not the children.