Storm Warning – 12/20

Abigail sat at her desk, twirling her pencil in one hand, a long strand of her raven hair in the other. Out her bedroom window she watched the rain streak out of the steel gray sky and the wind rattle the bare oak. Drops smacked into the panes and raced toward the sill in sheets. Branches scraped against the glass like claws.

With a sigh, she turned back to the coloring book between her elbows. Scrubbing the dull, pale blue pencil she colored in the sky above an ocean cluttered with fish and whales. Trading blue for yellow, she filled in the sun.

“Abigail!”

Abigail stared at the coloring book as she heard her name said again. The multicolored critters on the page stared up with wide, friendly eyes and still mouths.

“Abigail!”

Glancing away from the book, Abigail looked over her shoulder. Her mussed bed lay empty and a scatter of stuffed animals lay strewn across the flower shaped rug on the floor. Her bedroom door hadn’t opened and not even the drawings taped to the wall rustled. Downstairs she heard the floor creak as her mom bustled in the kitchen, washing dishes and making dinner.

“Hello?”

“Here in the window.”

Abigail swiveled slowly. Through the glass and rain she spotted a damp chipmunk perched on his back haunches on one of the thicker oak branches. His short tail and ears twitched and his head cocked to one side as his paws kneaded at one another. Abigail leaned over her desk, nearly pressing her nose to the panes.

“Hi Abigail.” The chipmunk shook one paw as if waving in greeting.

“Hi…” Abigail frowned and scrubbed away the fog her breath left on the window. “Are you talking to me?”

“Yes, Abigail, I am.” The chipmunk cocked his head to the other side.

“How do you know my name?”

“From your pictures.” The chipmunk’s nose aimed toward the cluster of drawings and homework assignments taped to the wall. Abigail passed her gaze over the array where she had written her name in large, angular letters.

“Oh…”

“I need your help.”

“My help?” asked Abigail, turning back toward the window, her eyes widening.

“Yes.”

The storm let out a rumble of thunder. Abigail cringed and the chipmunk ran a small circle on the branch.

“This storm has knocked down a tree by the Nelson River. The Anderson’s car has slipped into the flooding waters and they can’t get out.”

“Oh no,” said Abigail, jolting upright. “Julia!”

“And her dog Bernie,” the chipmunk added with a flick of his ears. “Can you tell your mom? Have her call for help?”

“Of course.” Abigail hopped out of her chair and raced toward the door. Flying down the hallway, she tromped down the stairs, taking two or three at time while she gripped the railing.

“Mom!”

“Abigail,” said her mom from the sink, “don’t shout.”

“But mom.” Abigail threw herself against the counter, panting from the sprint. “Julia’s in trouble.”

“Julia? Julia Anderson?”

“Yes. She and Bernie and her mom and dad are trapped in their car.”

Abigail’s mom frowned and stared down as she continued washing out the dishes from breakfast. “What are you talking about?”

“The storm knocked down a tree by the river and their car is stuck.”

“Have you been watching TV?” Her soapy hands paused mid-scrub. “I told you no TV until after dinner.”

“I wasn’t watching TV, mom.”

“Then where did you get this idea?”

Abigail thrust her finger at the window where the bushes threatened to overrun the sill. “A chipmunk outside told me.”

“A chipmunk?” Shaking her head, Abigail’s mom resumed cleaning.

“Yes, please mom.” Abigail tugged at her mom’s sweater. “Julia’s in trouble.”

“Abigail, don’t be ridiculous. This is a scary storm but I’m sure Julia and her parents are fine.”

“Then why would the chipmunk have told me they were in trouble?”

Abigail’s mom stowed the last dish into the washer and turned off the faucet. Plucking a towel from the oven handle, she dried off her hands. “The chipmunk didn’t tell you anything, Abby.” Her mom squatted down and laid her hands on Abigail’s shoulders. The worried frown on her mom’s face blurred as tears started to pool in Abigail’s eyes. “Oh honey, I’m sure they’re just fine.”

“But…” Abigail wiped her running nose on her sleeve. “What if…what if…” She jumped as another round of thunder and lightning rattled the windows and sought out the chipmunk.

“How about we give them a call?” asked her mom. “Would that make you feel better?”

Abigail sniffed and bobbed her head.

“Ok.” Her mom gave Abigail’s loose curls a gentle pat as she stood and collected the phone from its recharging stand. Sitting in one of the kitchen chairs, Abigail’s mom flicked over the buttons and put the phone to her ear. Abigail hovered by the arm rest, clutching the wood with her stubby fingers.

“Mom…”

Her mom held up a silencing finger as the phone rang and rang and rang. Abigail heard Julia’s dad on the answering machine asking them to leave a message.

“Hi Mike. This is Rhonda. Abby was just worried Julia might have been caught in the storm and wanted to make sure she was ok. Give us a call back when you have a chance? Thanks.”

“Mom,” said Abigail as Rhonda clicked off the phone.

“Honey, I’m sure they’re ok.”

“Please? Julia’s mom always answers her phone…”

“Alright.” Rhonda let out a sigh and dialed a second number from her phone’s list.

Abigail squeezed the arm rest as again the phone rang and rang and rang.

“Any luck Abigail?”

Abigail squeaked and looked out the kitchen window. The chipmunk scurried forward and sat on the sill right by the panes.

“She’s calling them,” Abigail said and received a wave from her mom as a timid voice murmured on the other end of the line.

“Lelia?” Rhonda said into the phone.

Abigail wheeled around and found her mom’s face wrinkled with a worried scowl, like when she had gotten so sick last winter.

“Are you ok Lelia?”

Abigail heard more low murmurs coming through the phone.

“No, it’s Rhonda.” Rhonda stood, her other hand tense against the table. “Where are you?” More mumbling rumbled and Abigail clutched her mom’s stiff arm. “Water? In the car?” Rhonda scooped up a crayon from the table. “Where are you?”

Abigail stared as her mom scrawled Pine and Meridian onto the back of an envelope.

“I’m going to call the police, Lelia.”

Silence filled the phone.

“Lelia?!”

Abigail backpedaled as Rhonda flung down the crayon and frantically dialed 911.

“Yes, this is Rhonda Berkeley. I think the Anderson family is hurt and possibly caught in the Nelson River by Pine and Meridian.”

Abigail squeezed against to her mom’s hip. Rhonda wrapped an arm around her, pressing her close.

“It’s 332-4492. Please hurry, she sounded terrible.”

The calm voice on the other end rattled off a long string of steady words.

“Thank you,” said Rhonda and then she turned off the phone.

“Mommy…”

Rhonda sank back down into the chair and set the phone aside before wrapping Abigail into a hug.

“The police are going to go get them, Abby. They’re going to be ok.”

Abigail clutched her mom in a tight hug, her head on her mom’s soft sweater.

Through the window Abigail spotted the chipmunk and managed a grin. “They’re going to be ok.”

“Yes, they are,” said Rhonda, rocking them both slightly and pressing her ear against the top of Abigail’s head.

Spotting the chipmunk in the window, Abigail gave him a weak smile and a thumbs up.

“Thank you, Abigail,” the chipmunk said with a little bounce. He flicked his ears and then leapt off the sill, vanishing into the rain.

“See you later,” whispered Abigail, nuzzling back into her mom’s embrace.

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