On a day so muggy grasshoppers wilted in shadow and clothes refused to dry on the line, eight-year-old Carly Mae and her violin teacher, Mick Deely, paused on his front porch and watched tiny balls of hail fall to his lawn and melt. Her weekly lesson completed, she was eager to get home to practice the riff she’d just learned.
“Hail! Wow!” Carly Mae jumped onto the stairs and held out a hand, stretching to catch some.
Mick pointed upward. “Best not leave now, little one. The sky’s turning green, a sure sign of a twister. We should take shelter.”
Carly Mae regarded the sky with awe and leaped onto his front walk to get a better look. “It’s like a giant emerald!” She raised the violin case above her head. “Hear the hail hit, Mr. Deely? Isn’t it something?”
“Come back up here, dear,” he said. “It’s dangerous.”
She ran down the path instead. “Buster might be scared. I have to find him.”
“No it’s not safe! Your dog can take care of himself.” Mick lurched forward and winced. Earlier in the day, he’d pulled a muscle while trimming his boxwood hedge and could not give chase.
When she reached the sidewalk, Carly Mae called over her shoulder. “He’s my best friend in the world. I have to go.”
With instrument in hand, Carly Mae raced, sneakers barely hitting concrete. Tall oaks and elms, which had formed a placid canopy moments ago, thrashed in winds that slapped the perspiration off of her face, arms and legs. She hugged the violin to her chest and opted for a shortcut. Torn petals whirled as she zipped through a backyard edged with prize-winning roses on her way to an open field that, if crossed diagonally, would take her to the edge of her yard. A roof shingle landed at her feet as she bounded into the meadow and breathed in the scent of cut grass. A lone bike tire careened toward her, then veered away. A chopstick stabbed the grass. The world around her roared louder than thunder, which always made Buster cower under the dining room table. Where is he now? Carly Mae wondered. Her heart pounded hard against ribs that felt tighter by the second. At the far side of the field, a dark funnel bore down. A mess of objects flying toward her threatened: a pin-striped umbrella, saddle shoe, record turntable, garden hose, teddy bear, queen of diamonds, hula hoop, trash can lid, address book. She braced herself to blast through.
When she awakened in a hospital two months later, Carly Mae had no memory of what happened after the violin case, wrested from her grasp, snapped apart, releasing the old fiddle to soar up, up to the viridescent sky.
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