From The Day You’re Born

Michael saw it first. The bolt of lightning cracked the sky in the west, and for an instant made the otherwise dusk-hazy silhouette of Snake Range clear and sharp as if it was day.

“Look, Em!” Michael cried. “Did you see that?!”

“It’s just lightning,” his big sister said and tried to suppress a shudder. She was 10 years old and the eldest by two whole years, so there was no question of the indifference in her voice, as she awaited what she knew must follow lightning.

The thunder rolled over the desert and reached them after several long heartbeats.

“Oh – wooow!!” Michael blurted and pulled a shadow-punch with his fist, as if he was cheering the thunderstorm to pull an even bigger punch next time.

The storm obliged. Only minutes after the first rift had been torn in the sky, new ones opened up over the mountains. It was odd, though, Emma thought, that they could be sitting here, under the big truck and there was still no rain out on the parking lot or anywhere near the Border Inn. But she knew it must be pouring over the mountains now, like a flood.

“Thunder is cool,” Michael said, a big grin on his 8-year old face.

“It’s very natural,” Emma said. “There’s el-electricity in the sky. It comes out when the clouds clash together, like sparks.” She tried hard to remember what Ms. Peregrine had said in class and at the same time not to think about how loud the next rumble of thunder would be.

Or when it would reach the Inn.

It was already late and the desert was a carpet of shadows, the occasional bump of a stone or bush no longer visible; it was all slowly being absorbed in the grey, chilly dusk. Emma strained and tried to see more, but she knew it would only be possible when the next bolt of lightning shot through the distant sky, and then only for a little while, near the mountains.

Where they were, everything would soon be shadows.

“I’m hungry,” Michael suddenly said. “Do you still have the Snickers?”

“Yes,” Emma said and fished the chocolate bar from her small rucksack. “There’s only one, so we have to share.”

Normally she would have insisted they eat dinner first, as she knew mom would say. But right now Emma Sawyer Reese felt okay about letting her little brother eat that chocolate bar. Then at least they wouldn’t just sit – and wait for … something. Continue reading

Like Grace From The Earth (III)

“Jon is gonna be so pissed.”

“Have you tried calling him again?”

“I’m working on that part.”

“I’m sure he’ll understand.”

“I know he will. But he is gonna be pissed at first.”

The new bus had come to Salton City and apparently it was not going on from there the next 2 hours.

“Gotta have my scheduled break,” was all the new driver had said. He was a big black man with a left eye that looked like it once had met a boxer’s fist. Ernest H – ‘Your God’ had gone back to Bakersfield, when the new bus came to pick them up at the parking lot outside Palm Springs. All the passengers were weary, but some were not too weary to complain loudly over this new, unexpected stop.

“And I’m due in Mexicali for a meeting,” a pale-looking, freckled woman of about Carrie’s age snorted, but didn’t say anymore as if inviting everyone to guess how important the meeting was but not why someone who were due for an important meeting had to go to it in a Greyhound bus.

A fat Texan man in a crisp white shirt and tie argued for a long time with the new driver until he, too, had to give up to the imperatives of regulation.

“Look here,” the driver said with finality, “I’ve been going on for 10 hours until I had to pick up you lot up in Palm. Do you want to be in Mexicali 2 hours later, or do you want to be in a ditch somewhere because I feel asleep behind the wheel?” Continue reading

Like Grace From The Earth (II)

The bus was going nowhere – again. Another problem with the engine, Ernest growled from his driver’s throne. Carrie went out the bus and over the parking lot for more water.

There was a McDonalds at the other end. Most of the others went out, too. But Carrie came back in again. It was like entering an oven. She tapped the air condition. It was as dead as the engine. The old woman – Anne – didn’t seem affected, though. Not yet.

“Sorry if it’s not too cold,” Carrie said and handed Anne her plastic bottle. “It looked as if the fridge in there wasn’t working properly.”

“Thank you, honey,” Anne said and drank.

“Damn,” Carrie muttered under her breath. “Jon’s not gonna think the world of me if I come late back to Yuma again. He’s drowning in work these days and first Emma had the flu and Michael – “

“The bus will probably be going again soon,” Anne says quietly. “I don’t think you will be too badly delayed. Was he very upset when you called?”

“No … in fact he sounded very calm about it. But that’s usually a sign … that he is biting on something.”

“He has a temper, your Jon? Some men do.”

“You know,” Carrie said, very still, as she sat down again “ – he is so controlled, at home – usually. But then there are these small eruptions … like he’s holding something back. God, it would be easier if I had a job … then the bargaining would be more equal, if you know what I mean?”

Anne nodded, while looking out the window. The carpark off the highway was almost empty. “It is important to feel equal,” she then said. “Even if you’re not. Hans and I used to fight a lot.”

“What did you fight about?” Continue reading

Like Grace From The Earth (I)

A blond woman in her early 30s scrambled to make the bus before the door closed. She wore old jeans, t-shirt, short jacket, and carried a rucksack. Her hair was slightly messy and thin lines were showing under her eyes. It was a desolate Greyhound station in Bakersfield, California.

She got into the bus and thought that she had to hold on to something, because they would be driving any time now. The bus did not move. So the woman began looking for her seat instead. All the time checking her ticket which, it seemed, she had great difficulty in reading.

She found an empty seat – it was one of two in the entire bus. On the seat beside it an old lady was seated already. She had completely white-gray hair and was dressed in a blue nylon dress that looked at least 30 years old.

The dress also looked noble in a strange kind of way, the young woman thought. Then she thought about her troubles again:

“ … this ticket is unreadable,” the young woman mumbled. “Is … is this seat taken?”

“No, it is not,” the old lady answered. She had a faint accent.

The young woman sighed deeply: “Oh, thank god … I’ll just have to move if somebody comes around. But there should be at least one seat for me in this bus.”

“Of course there is,” the old lady said. I have taken the bus many times. So many never show up. You will be fine.”

“With my luck,” the younger woman said, “it’s probably Mr. Texas Ranger down there.” She nodded at a red-haired Chuck Norris-type, slouched in his seat a little further down the aisle, seemingly guarding the only other remaining empty seat in the bus. “But I’m not gonna go and ask him… not until I have to.” She smiled hesitantly. Continue reading