This week’s Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Challenge is to give up to 2,000 words on finding Hope in the Face of Hopelessness. This one gave me a lot of trouble. All the ideas I came up with were all “Once more into the breach” or “We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be” or something like that. It’s hard to write this one without sounding like a cliché. I’m not sure I did a very good job at avoiding that. I thought about just writing a non-fiction essay on hope, but in the end I decided that was even more of a cop-out than writing a cliché so I started writing a story and came up with a story about a dog named Sadie.
It’s 1,504 words long. Please to enjoy and feel free to comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by.
I couldn’t find my dog.
The storm had barreled through the night before, wind howling like a freight train, trees falling, glass breaking, the neighborhood being ripped to shreds. I had taken shelter in my pantry. They always said to find an interior room with no windows. The pantry was the best I could do. I had considered going into the bathroom, but there is a big mirror in there that scared me to death. I could just see that thing shattering and sending shrapnel everywhere. The worst that could happen in the pantry was a few cans of soup falling on me from the top shelf. It might hurt, but at least I wouldn’t be bleeding.
I had brought my dog into the pantry with me, for companionship but also to keep her safe. She hated it. She’s never liked storms, anyway. Even the pitter-patter of a gentle rain has her cowering under my sheets as I try to sleep. This storm had her completely freaked, and being in the dark, confined space of the pantry didn’t help. She was wrestling and howling from the moment I shut the door.
I didn’t want to use my phone for light. I figured the power was going to go off eventually so I was trying to conserve the charge. I had found an old flashlight, but of course the batteries were half-dead and it didn’t last long. Sadie and I were eventually left in the dark.
She hated it. She wouldn’t stay still, thrashing about in my arms, scratching at the door, trying to get out. The rain pounding on the roof and the sound of constant thunder and the roar of the wind was making her crazy. Strangely, her own discomfort was helping me stay focused and sane. I couldn’t be afraid for myself because I was having to take care of her. I wonder if that’s how it feels to be a parent? I never had a kid but it must be something like that.
I used my phone to keep up with the time and occasionally checked the radar to see how much longer this was going last. Because of that I know exactly what time it was when the tree came through the roof of my house and tore the kitchen apart. The crash was audible over the din of the storm. Shock and awe. I didn’t know anything could be louder than that.
The whole house shook and the door of the pantry fell off. There must have been a bang when it hit the kitchen floor but I didn’t hear it. Rain was quickly soaking my kitchen, and it was louder than ever. Sadie completely lost it, scrabbling to get loose, digging her claws into my thighs as I sat in what had been a dark, cozy pantry. My hands involuntarily released her to rub at the sudden pain in my legs, and she was gone, shooting off into the darkness, up and over the fallen tree outside into the storm.
I started to jump up and run after her, but crashed into the shelf above me. Several of those cans of soup I mentioned earlier did exactly what I was afraid they might do. My world turned black as they all landed on my head at the same time.
When I woke up the rain had stopped and the sun was shining. Looking at my phone I could see that several hours had passed. I got to my feet and staggered toward the front of the house. At some point during the night another tree had come down into my living room, and looking down the hall I could see a third in my bedroom. Every tree in my yard must have fallen on the house. It’s a wonder I wasn’t crushed.
Most of my furniture was destroyed, and rain had soaked everything. I looked around and sighed. I had insurance, but this was going to be a total loss. I wondered where my dog was. I called her name a few times and listened. There was nothing. I was pretty sure she had gone outside when she ran off but I made a careful round of inside of the house first, calling her, looking amongst the ruin of my home. She wasn’t in the house as far as I could tell.
I went back up front to go outside, starting to worry a little. The front door wasn’t there. It had been crushed by the first tree that fell. I clambered up and over that tree and went outside. I stopped, staring. It was as if a bomb—several bombs, really—had gone off on my street. There wasn’t a house standing intact anywhere in sight. Some of them had trees through them, like mine did, others had been knocked to flinders.
Tornado, I thought. I had thought my problems were bad. I watched the Jacksons sifting through what had once been their garage, the flattened edge of their car sticking out from under the corner of some fallen beams. At least I still have a car. Or did I? I walked over and saw that, thankfully, my garage was intact, and the car inside. That was something at least.
I called for Sadie, walking around the house, checking the yard. She didn’t come. I was starting to worry more now. I could feel panic beginning to flutter its wings. There were trees and branches down all over the place. She wasn’t a large dog, and the woods behind the house were thick enough that if she had gotten hurt back in there I would likely never find her.
I started down the street, watching neighbors digging out, conducting a triage of sorts to figure out what had survived, what could be salvaged. I saw other pets, dogs and cats that I knew, but no sign of Sadie. I kept calling. Seeing the devastation all along the street and not being able to find my dog, I soon began to plow straight into a full-blown panic attack.
Soon I was running down the street, calling her name to both sides as I ran. I knew people were stopping what they were doing to watch me, but I was unable to stop myself. I needed my dog. Mr. Wesley Parsons stepped out of his driveway and caught my arm. Frantic, I tried to pull away, but he wouldn’t let me. I kept calling. “Sadie! Sadie!”
He pulled me around until I was looking at him. I kept trying to pull away, he kept redirecting me so that my eyes finally locked on his. “It’s okay,” he said. “We’ll find her.”
I over the edge now, crying, sobbing, snot mixing with my tears as they rolled unchecked. I’m a classic ugly crier. “I’ve lost my dog,” I said, barely comprehensible. “I’ve lost everything else. I can’t lose her too. I need my dog!”
“I know,” Mr. Parsons said. “She’s your normal, isn’t she? She’s your link to the way things were yesterday. We all need something to place our hope in.” He looked at his wife and smiled a bit. “I’ve got her. I’m all right. You need your Sadie.”
He started walking with me, still holding my arm, and the two of us called. I had calmed some, but I was edging beyond panic into despair. Where was my Sadie? As we made our way further down the street others joined us. Before long there were six or eight of us spread all over the neighborhood, calling her name.
The houses at the far end of the street had escaped Nature’s fury with just a few downed branches. One of those houses belonged to the Barnes family, and I found Sadie there. Mike Barnes was one of the kids who liked to play catch with her in the street when I took her for her walk.
Mike had found her when he was walking through the neighborhood that morning, huddled behind some bushes, scared and shivering in the rain. He saw that my house was in bad shape so he took Sadie home and fed her and kept her warm and safe until I could get to her. She heard her name and came running out to me now, barking joyfully and frolicking. I feel to my knees in the wet grass and hugged her tight and rolled around with her in the grass. I wasn’t the only one crying.
There were a lot of people who lost things possessions that day. Cars, homes, pictures, books, furniture, things. But as the rebuilding went on over the next few months, one by one they came up to me and they rubbed Sadie’s head, and they thanked us. They all told me that seeing our joy at being reunited that day had helped them keep the most precious thing that any of us possessed. More precious than any home or car or television set.
We helped them keep their hope.