A Storm Inside
Matthew made a noise through his nose which he hoped the boys around him would realize was a sigh. Sullenly he gazed at the black and white screen on the crackling box set up at the other end of the classroom. The DVD player seemed to taunt him, waiting for the video to end, and a chance to stick its tongue out at the boy. Images flitted past like the pages of a textbook, tables and charts appearing on the command of a fuzzy voiceover. Gears whirled and clicked, the last scene shrank out of existence and the DVD player’s wish was granted.
“I hope you all know the effects of a super-storm by now, and how to keep your body parts intact in a real-case scenario,” concluded Mr. Tanner, who to Matthew resembled Professor Snape from Hogwarts.
Someone snorted mockingly behind Matthew. Mr. Tanner’s brow creased.
“This is no laughing matter, Nathaniel. In fact, America has a history of such storms.”
The wizened old man paced about the front of the classroom. “I want you all to begin a project to do with this particular subject,” He continued. “Preferably something that the rest of the community can take part in. Oh and, Matthew Reynolds. Due to your unfortunate accident, you will not have to make an oral presentation.”
Matthew’s lips stayed still inside his protective casing, but a smile of relief glowed in his mind.
“Oh, a petition. How thoughtful!” Exclaimed Mrs. Reynolds.
Xander scoffed as he poured himself a glass of milk. “How’d you expect the council to move the entire city to higher ground, pipsqueak?”
“He’s only eleven, dear.” Said Mrs. Reynolds.
“Grammas always side with the younger ‘uns,” muttered Xander disdainfully.
Matthew quietly slipped away to his room. ‘Why are older brothers always like that?’ he thought.
The gridded paper fluttered noisily in the breeze. Matthew’s chest ached-he thought it was because he had a heavy heart at that moment. Writers always used that figure of speech.
Only three signatures. Gran’s, Mr. Tanner’s and his own. Class average was in his hands again.
A storm was brewing as the front door slammed behind him. So was Gramma’s tea. She’d left the kettle on again. Mum used to get blisters on her hands from turning it off, thought Matthew. Painful memories of the bus crash suddenly stabbed at his heart.
Gramma’s eyes flitted open. The wrinkles on her face formed a concerned frown.
“Is there something wrong with your casing, Matthew?” She asked.
He didn’t realize he was fingering the plaster over his mouth.
Matthew shook his head hastily, and made hand gestures at Gramma.
She smiled warmly. “So you’re hungry? We’ll sort that out soon enough.”
Watching her get up from the sofa, Matthew wondered-not for the first time-how on earth she could remember sign language for forty whole years.
Xander’s gaunt face accompanied his footsteps into the lounge room. “Did somebody say dinner?”
Thunder claps roared like the standing ovation of thousands of full school halls. Raindrops thudded against the roof and the gale tore at the curtains. Matthew threw his doona over his head.
He hated storms.
Just then, faint snores came in through the open window.
Matthew leapt from his bed. She must have fallen asleep while she was out emptying the rain tank.
He had to help her.
The weather slammed against his thin raincoat as Matthew tried to rouse his grandparent.
Something creaked above him.
Must be the rickety old roof beams, he thought.
Suddenly an agonized metallic groan erupted and something fell from the darkness.
Matthew pushed Gran to safety just in time.
But then, hundreds of needles poked at his spine and everything turned black.
Matthew’s eyes swam, trying to make sense of his pure white surroundings.
Was he in heaven?
He managed to make out a blurry shape beside where he lay.
A sniffing blurry shape.
His vision cleared, and Gramma appeared in front of him.
“Matthew! Thank goodness.” Her arms squeezed him so tightly he thought deflate like a balloon. Tears drizzled onto his unfamiliar garments.
“You were found unconscious outside the house. But your brother…” She choked through the tears. “He didn’t make it. The super-storm struck our home and…”
Gramma turned into a waterfall.
Matthew patted her back gently, feeling too numb to cry. There was a piece of gridded paper on the bedside table.
Hundreds of names must have filled it.
But one name caught his attention most of all.
As he led Gramma out of the hospital, he felt sure that his brother was safe with his mother, wherever they were.