5. Storm Wall
“Thank you again,” the stranger said, his eyes following Canna’s motion as she straightened. His smile shrank back to an upwards turned arc and he touched the tips of his fingers to the brim of his hat.
Dally didn’t know what to say. He was going to miss having Reduke around. Canna leaned into his side and sniffled quietly.
The stranger didn’t wait for a reply. One moment he was facing the couple, the next he was facing the street. Reduke pranced the first few steps away with him and then bounded back to get a final scratching from Dally and Canna. The man waited, still and silent, until the dog returned to his side and they set off beside the road together.
Dally and Canna watched them go, the oddness of the pair somehow matching together well. Neighbors watched them go as well. Almost everyone had been looking outside when the wind started, and they’d all seen the strange man come to collect his odd dog. The further the man and dog walked away, the harder the gusts of wind became.
The TV beeped out the news station’s warning sound and a live update interrupted the droning interview. Dally and Canna rushed in, slamming and locking the door behind them, and perched back on the couch in front of the TV. A gust of wind hit the house as the woman reporting the weather excitedly announced that the storm had started moving again. Dally and Canna whooped and jumped up to first check the living area window was shuttered tightly and then ran to the sleeping room to make sure the shutters in there were tightly closed. They crouched together in the middle of the house after confirming that everything electronic was turned off, and listened with relief as the noise of the eye wall drew closer.
“What do you think of this?” Canna asked. She’d been studying the old coin the stranger had given them in the glow of a flashlight.
“I think I liked having Reduke around more,” Dally said. Canna chuckled and then sniffled. She tucked the old coin into her pants pocket and snuggled closer under Dally’s arm.
“Maybe we should get a puppy after the storm passes?” she asked, her question loud in a sudden quiet outside. It was something they’d never talked about before, but now seemed like a really good idea.
“I think we should get at least one,” he agreed. He squeezed her tighter for a moment and then smiled up at the ceiling when a particularly strong gust shook the house. Thunder filled any quiet that Canna may have used to reply.
They huddled together for the night, dozing between watching the flashes of lightning until the worst the storm had to offer passed by and they could finally sleep. The pounding rain and the leaking roof were the sounds they woke up to, the main body of the storm seeming to be moving at the same pace that the first half had gone over the islands. If it was going the same speed, it would be a full two days from the eye to the outside of the hurricane.
The electricity was down for the house, so the TV and lamps didn’t work, but the radio ran on batteries. The weather forecasters estimated that the storm would be clear of the islands by tomorrow evening, leaving days of rain and cloud in its wake. It was the best news Dally had heard in weeks! He and Canna celebrated with cooking and eating a meal that filled them both. They talked easily about the stranger and Reduke, the coin, and included adopting puppies into their plans for what to do after the storm passed.
Canna wrapped up the leftovers in wax paper, and Dally put the package into a plastic bag that he hung from the knob for the front door. It was still too windy right now, but later today he should be able to go outside and take the extra food to Ida’s house. He and Canna fell asleep listening to the radio and the weather experts who were being interviewed now, waking a few hours later to the sounds of the storm diminishing like a proper hurricane should after the eye has passed. The batteries on the radio had died.
Dally held the food tightly and delivered it to his friend’s family as Canna replaced the batteries and found the spare flashlight. Dally was soaked through to the skin before he’d even reached the street on his way to Ida’s house. Ida barely cracked the door, only enough to accept the bag, and then Dally was on his way home again. Movement against the wind caught his attention.
Tucked behind garbage caught on a stone, two small, dark shapes huddled. They moved out of sync with the gusts. Dally unbuttoned the top half of his shirt and knelt in the mud, lifting the two puppies one at a time into his shirt. They were crying and shivering, their short fur soaked and spiked out with mud. He hurried home, cradling them one in each arm.
Canna tended to the puppies as Dally cleaned up, dried off and changed clothes. One puppy was brown and the other was grey, and both were drying to be almost impossibly fuzzy and soft. She had them wrapped together in a blanket in her lap, both of them yipping and playful, their sweet brown eyes crinkling at the corners as they smiled up at her. Dally joined her on the floor and took over crushing the rice and fish together. They laughed as the pups poured out of the blanket to wiggle around and around the bowl of food, spilling just as much as they lapped up.
“Should we make posters?” Canna asked. Both young dogs stopped eating and looked up at her, their soft eyes shifting to stare at Dally, their faces the same blunted triangle shape as Reduke’s.
Dally picked up the silver coin from the table and turned it to look at one side and then the other. He sighed. “I don’t think we’re meant to make posters,” he said.
Canna smiled at the coin and petted each of the puppies. “I think our neighbors won’t like our new puppies. They didn’t like Reduke.”
“We talked last year about moving off the island. Maybe we should now?”
Dally and Canna both smiled at the thought. There would be lots of work doing repairs wherever the hurricane made landfall on the mainland. That would be as good a place to start new as anywhere else might be. She leaned forward over the puppies and food bowl and kissed Dally, the moment interrupted by the pounding of helicopters. They broke off to smile and each cuddle a puppy. Tomorrow, supplies would return to the islands, and they could join the mass of people applying to leave. With their new dogs.
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