A Shelter in the Time of Storm
“Mr. Scott, what are you doing out in this terrible weather?” Mama’s voice had a soothing effect on Isabel.
“I came to check on you folks. This is a bad storm. Trees are down everywhere. I have a white pine half way into my house and it isn’t even Christmas,” he added with a nervous chuckle.
“Hello Mr. Greene,” Mr. Scott said as he stomped mud from his boots.
“Oh, don’t worry about the mud,” Mama said, “There’s no way to avoid mud this time. There are leaks everywhere. Come into the kitchen. I’ll fix you two a cup of hot coffee.”
“That would be wonderful Ma’am. I’m afraid we need to get you all to the cellar immediately. The storm has gotten worse and I’m afraid that black cloud from the west could be a tornado. I’ve never seen one but I know they come in the shape of an upside down funnel.”
“Oh, mercy!” Papa said as he, Mama and Mr. Scott quickly walked to the kitchen. “I don’t see how we will be able to get into the cellar because a tree fell on the back porch roof and part of the tree is covering the door.”
“There’s another way,” Mr. Scott said and loudly slurped his coffee Mama had quickly poured into a mug for him. “My grandparents built this house before the war and had a second cellar no one knew about. I discovered it when I was a lad. Let’s see now, there should be a trap door under the table. Grandma always covered it with a rug but even without the rug it is hard to see.”
Curtis crawled out from under the table with Isabel close behind. Mama reached to take sleeping Maggie from Eugene. “Mister, can we help?”
“Yes you may,” Mr. Scott said and smiled at each one as he pulled three peppermint sticks from his pocket. “Now if I remember right, the door is part of the wood planks. There should be a little more space between the wood – the hinges to the door are underneath. He pulled an ivory jack knife from his pocket and got down on his knees, knocking on the floor, easing the knife between each plank. Papa pulled out his knife and followed suit as the brothers started knocking too.
“Papa,” Eugene said, “why are we knocking?”
“There will be a different sound when we hit the door.”
“Eureka!” Mr. Scott indicated a section of floor and both men loosened the boards with their knives. “We should be able to lift the door in one piece. Time may have caused the boards to swell but we’ll pry it open.”
Isabel’s eyes grew enormous at the sight. The rumble of thunder caused Isabel to jump and everyone laughed nervously. “Come dear and help me pack some things we may need in the cellar. We have shelves filled with canned fruit, vegetables, apples and potatoes so we won’t starve.”
“I’m sorry Ma’am but we might not be able to get to your root cellar. I’ll tell you all about it when we are safe underground.
Dust and a musty smell filled the kitchen as the door opened with a loud squeak.
“I’ll test out the ladder,” Mr. Scott said as he tentatively placed his foot on the first step into the dark, mysterious hideaway. “So far, so good; if it holds my weight, we will be okay. Mrs. Greene, why don’t you come first with the little one. We will bring the cradle and a couple of those quilts the boys were using.”
Isabel watched with wide eyes as the large man with red hair helped Mama down the ladder. Eugene passed the quilts and a sack of bread to Mr. Scott before stepping into his new adventure followed by Curtis bearing a lantern. Papa picked up Isabel and kissed her on the forehead. “You’re next, Princess.”
Isabel held tight onto Papa’s neck when two large hands of a stranger reached for her.
“It’s alright, Isabel. Let Mr. Scott help you down,” Mama said firmly. “We must hurry. Papa needs to come down so that we can close the door against the storm.” Isabel nodded slightly as she let go of Papa’s neck.
“That’s a good girl,” the man said in a soothing voice. “I know you’re afraid. We’re going somewhere safe so that no one will get hurt in this storm. It’s not like a regular storm. It’s a mean storm.”
“Like the time it rained on Noah’s Ark?”
“It won’t last that long,” he said with a chuckle, “We should be safe down here just like Noah and his family were safe from the storm. Now, that climb down wasn’t too bad was it? There’s your Mama over there by the lantern.”
Isabel turned and ran to Mama and watched as Papa stepped on the first rung of the ladder. “Well I’ll be!” Papa chuckled, picked up Mama cat and the white kitten and passed them to the astonished landlord. “Mama Cat and her kittens need shelter from the storm too.”
Mr. Scott passed the cats to Eugene who set Mama Cat on the ground. “Better hold her, Son. She may try to go after the other kittens.” While he was speaking, Papa returned to the ladder with the basket of kittens, passed it to Mr. Scott, reached for two jugs of water and then closed the door and attached the rope handle to a hook on the wall.
“Wind’s whipping around the house and whistling a tune,” Papa said as he stepped onto the dirt floor. “Mighty fine shelter you have here.”
Isabel followed Papa’s gaze around the room. One side of the shelter was lined with shelves and vegetable bins. Empty barrels with lids askew sat at the far end of the room. Next to the barrels was a large trunk. I wonder what’s in there? Isabel wanted to ask Mr. Scott but when he looked in her direction, she felt shy and hid her face in Mama’s apron.
Papa began praying aloud for each person in the room and for those who did not have a shelter in the time of storm.
Little Isabel leaned close to Mama as Papa prayed and sighed with contentment. We will be safe, just like Noah and his family. Mama Cat started purring as if she had read the child’s thoughts. Isabel opened one eye to peek at Mama who gently stroked her hair and whispered in Isabel’s ear. “We will be fine. Jesus is with us.”