ALL THE NEWS THAT'S FIT TO PRINT
AND SOME THAT AIN'T
Howdy folks! This here’s ol’ Pete and Rosebud comin’ at you again!
It was a dark and stormy night. I allus wanted to say that. That’s the way all of them scary stories start out, ain’t it? “It was a dark and stormy night and the wolf crawled out of his hole at the edge of the woods, lifted his head to the sky and let out a mournful cry that was swept away by the wind.” Or how ’bout this’un: “It was a dark and stormy night and the creature lying on the bottom of the creek was restless. He opened one baleful yellow eye and thrashed his forked tail in the mud, scattering the small fishes that were seeking shelter there.”
It was a dark and stormy night and Rosebud tossed and thrashed in her stable, disturbed by the crashing of the thunder as it rolled and echoed across the emptiness of the sky. In the house, Pete snored softly, sleeping soundly through the night as the mule fidgeted, casting anxious glances toward the sky and straining to hear the sounds of the storm.
She fancied she could hear voices among the storm sounds. Distant mutterings, she thought, covered by the sounds of the wind and the thunder as it rolled over the hills. She could not quite make them out, those voices, but she was sure they were there. She sat upright now, slowly, taking care not to disturb the bed of straw she had fluffed together the evening before, straining to hear the sounds outside that were always just too distant to make out. It was raining. That was some relief. Storms without rain were somehow more scary. It was as though they were more serious in their purpose if there was no rain. Still, she tried to hear the voices. They were there, but she could not make out what they were saying.
She got up now, moving quietly, as quietly as a mule can move, from the window to the barn door, waiting for a flash of lightening to split the darkness and reveal the barnyard outside. She was sure she could hear voices. She swiveled her ears, straining to pick out the voices from among the other sounds. She moved from window to window to door and back again, looking and listening and becoming more alarmed as she made the circuit. Something wasn’t right. She knew it.
There! She heard it! It was on the other side of the barn but it was there. If she had been at that window, she thought, she could have seen whatever it was. Or whoever. She wasn’t sure who or even what it was but wasn’t a fit night for decent people to be out. Whoever was had to be up to no good.
Maybe it was the storm people. She had heard of the storm people when she was a colt. They used to talk about them on dark nights back in the big barn she shared with her mother and the other horses and mules when she was little. That’s all they ever called them, the storm people. And they said they never came except in the middle of a storm. The animals in the barn spoke of them sparingly, as if too much conversation might encourage them. Nobody wanted to encourage the storm people. They said they were always around when something bad happened. Like the night the tornado came and swept away everything in its path. They said the storm people were muttering all night that night.
She thought about them sometimes. She wondered who they were, where they came from. Nobody ever claimed to see them. They were always just out of sight, lurking in the shadows. Where do they live? What do they look like? Do they have families and go on vacations and have jobs? Or were storms their jobs? She didn’t know. She didn’t think she really wanted to know. Some things were best left alone.
She stood it as long as she could. The quiet of the barn became oppressive. It was too quiet. She walked up the well worn path to the house. She could hear the man snoring. She would awaken him. He would not be good company, but any company was better than none. She would ‘accidentally’ make some noise and rouse him.
She bumped against the little table Pete kept beside the old rocker. His glasses were there, on top of the post card he had received earlier this week from his cousin in Iowa. Only he called it I-oh-way. He was not quite sure where I-oh-way was. “Somewheres up north. Or maybe out west.” That was as close as he ever came to locating it. But it didn’t matter. The two of them would never venture far from the shelter of their home here in Gump Holler. The sound made by the little table was surprisingly loud. More than enough to awaken the sleeping man. She heard a final loud snort in the bedroom and knew he was awake.
It was stormin’ purty good by the time I woke up. I slept through the most of it, but the mule got up and come in there and started her stompin’ around and starin’ out the winders. She’s afeared of them storms, y’know. She won’t admit it but she is. Just as shore as a little thunder cloud comes up, she starts her pacin’ and lookin’ out the winders and ends up in there in the livin’ room. But at least it didn’t last too long this time. I went back to bed and Rosebud settled down for the rest of the night over there in the corner.
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