Clemmie sat up from a sleep, rubbed her eyes. The wind had awakened her. She’d never heard wind sound that way. A great beast like in her fairy tale books rushed through the woods, stepping on trees, throwing aside rocks, its hollering pushing up and out from deep inside its belly with the fury of forty-thousand crazed-up mad hornets. Over the angry monster-wind, came Momma’s screaming. Clemmie threw back her quilt and ran from her room, met her daddy as he ran to her. He held Momma in his arms, and she was tiny there, like a little child, but her mouth was open wide, her eyes staring at something Clemmie couldn’t see, her screams tearing out of her as if to rip wide open her insides, crack her lips, swell her tongue as it flopped and worked.
Daddy pushed into Clemmie with his body, forcing her to the back door, yelling in her ear, “Clemmie! Git to the tater house. Now!”
“Grandma?” She turned to go back, but Daddy grabbed her, pulled her outside, one arm holding fast to Momma, the other to Clemmie. They burst right out into one of Clemmie’s strange dreams. The dirt was swirling, limbs were scattered, the clothes Momma forgot on the line were thrown willy nilly—one of Daddy’s shirts was wrapped around the fence post and the sleeves reached out to her, as if begging her to come save it. The wind entered her ears, nose, mouth, grabbed her breath away. The sky was green-black, and boiled and hissed and fumed. Daddy held on to Momma, he held onto Clemmie, as they ran to the little underground room.
The door was already open and Clemmie made her way down the ladder, Daddy still pushing at her, still holding on to Momma with one arm. When Clemmie turned round, she almost cried, if that was her way and it was not so she did not cry, no sir. Grandma was already there, her mouth in a tight lined of worry. Daddy quick put Momma down on the floor next to a mound of potatoes and onions, and hurried to help Grandma fasten up the door tight. The door bucked like one of Aaron’s wildest stallions.
The strongest man in the world was jerked and pulled as he strained to keep the door shut. Grandma held onto Daddy, and Clemmie held onto Daddy, too. When Clemmie thought things couldn’t get any wilder, any louder, the monster stomped and threw a fit right on top of the tater-house. The door bowed up and looked as if it might break into a million pieces, the wind rushed in, weaved and spat around them, knocked over the tomatoes Clemmie had stacked just so where they rolled like little lost heads. Clemmie felt her daddy as he came off the floor, taking Grandma and her up with him. Her ears popped and then stopped up and then popped again. The monster was trying to suck them all out, suck them out and into its mouth where he’d chew them up and spit them out.
Grandma screamed into her ear, “Done let go! I’ma say a prayer…” and the rest was lost, but Clemmie knew Grandma was praying and praying. Clemmie sure hoped Grandma’s God was listening.
Daddy’s face turn red, then purple, the veins in his neck pushed out and throbbed, his arms jerked and strained. The monster pulled and pushed and bellowed—it wanted them bad, it did.
And then, just when Clemmie was about to go insane, the monster ran off, right into the woods, stomping down the trees away from them. Her daddy fell to the floor, sweat running off him, his breath coming fast and hard. Grandma leaned into him, patted him, told him he done good, he done protected his family.
Clemmie turned in a circle, took in the vegatables they’d picked and stored, took in Grandma’s canning from last summer, took in the tomatos scattered, took in her momma curled up on the floor rocking like a baby, took in her daddy taking in air like a fish out the water, took in her grandma patting her daddy and telling him God saved us and maybe he saved the house, too. She took it all in and a guilty rock settled inside her stomach, for Clemmie realized what she felt right then was a wicked and jittery excitement. She knew the earth and the sky had showed her something wild that she’d never forget as long as she lived. She shivered with a pleasure she knew was wrong, but couldn’t help. The wind had entered her and tossed her insides about and she’d liked it. She’d liked it good.
She stepped on the ladder, unlatched the door, opened it, and climbed out. The early morning light slipped through, pointing at the mess—there, the light said, look there and there, and look over there! She turned to the right to see if the monster had swallowed her house. It was still standing in the dirt. Except, something was wrong. Clemmie wiped wet and dirt from her eyes, looked again, and there, yes, the monster had torn the roof clean off the house, as if it wanted to peek inside to see what all they had, then got bored and went to find something else to tear up.
Behind her, she heard Daddy sigh, then say, “Wale, best get to work.”
Grandma said, “Yep. I’ll get Rachel settled down. She’ll be fine in that there tater-house for a spell. I reckon to start up the cleaning after I give her a potion.” Grandma looked at Clemmie. “Git busy, girl.”
“And, whachoo all bugger-eyed about? I tol’ you a ternader was coming.” She winked at Clemmie then, and Clemmie knew her Grandma felt just like she did.
While Clemmie swept, mopped, wiped, her tired pulling at her til she almost pulled down, a little thought started up her back, worked its way wiggling to her brain, what about Aaron? Did his insides get swirled about, too? Was his house still there? Was all his animals crazy with scared? Did he feel shivery ? She wanted to run down the mountain to find out, but there was work to be done, and that was just how it had to be…