Will stood at the end of the driveway, and looked up and down the vacant street. The southerly winds bore the storm forward like a gift—not the storm, exactly, but premonitions of it—the sweet, faint smell of approaching rains, and an almost undetectable crispness in the air, an electricity, as if the atmosphere itself were excited and anxious. And there was an uncommon stillness in the charged air, too, a deep hush that the persistent winds seemed to push towards him from the woods just south of the trailer park, a collective, primordial pause that Will felt and could almost see, like a dead fog.
"I hope it comes," he thought. With his eyes closed he breathed in the fresh, foreign air.
"What you doin, William?" A little boy had walked up when Will wasn't paying attention. It was Russ, who lived in the trailer directly behind Will's. Russ was ten, eight years younger than Will.
"Jest lookin at things."
"Why aint you at work, then?" Russ was barefoot and he was wearing blue jeans, patched at the knees, which his legs had long outgrown. His pants were more like what Will called clam diggers than they were proper long pants. The t-shirt he wore was striped red, white and blue, and was short enough to show a sliver of his flat white stomach. Will could tell that Russ hadn't been to school at all that day, though his appearance would not have been that much different if he had. That is, his clothes would have been the same, but his face would have been very different; it would have been heavy with the familiar stress of a day at school—the taunts, the slaps on the back of the head, the cruel words, they all would have been there on Russ's face, like welts and gashes, like wounds. As it was, he looked too at ease to have been to school at all that day. Will decided he wouldn't bring it up.
"I aint feelin well, you nosey little bastard," Will said, pretending to be ticked off. "You can't even leave me alone with a hurricane comin, can ya?" He finally noticed that Russ had been scratching his sweaty arms the whole time he'd been standing next to him. "What ya diggin at yerself for?"
"There's a hurricane comin?" Russ put his arms straight to his sides and tried hard not to scratch at them.
"That's right. The news said it might be here early tomorrow mornin. You didn't answer my question, though. Let me see yer arm."
Russ lifted his left arm up to Will's face. Will grabbed it and pulled it closer and examined it, rotating it back and forth, so he could see Russ's whole forearm. There were a few quarter-sized red areas on each arm, and there were also some S-shaped bumpy areas that were scabbed up from Russ scratching at them. "It damn well itches," said Russ.
"You got scabies, Russ."
"Scabies . . . Is your mamma home?"
"No." Russ pulled back his arm and rubbed it with the palm of his hand.
"It needs attention. Does yer mamma know?"
"I reckon." He looked up at Will and then down at his own naked feet. In truth, Russ's mother hadn't been home for days and most likely hadn't looked at her son long enough, in the time that she had been home, to notice anything about him, beyond the fact that he was there, and maybe not even that much. Russ's mother was a dancer. On most nights, by the end of her shift, she'd already decided who she was going home with. She didn't care about what a man looked like, or what he drove. As long as he had his own place and connections to get enough crank to last a day or two, until she had to be back at work. She made decent money as a dancer and in some ways was very independent, but in other ways (motherhood, for example) she fell short. Every few days she'd come home and buy some groceries and watch some TV with her son and then, in a day or two, she'd be gone again. It was a routine that could not be sustained. Something was bound to happen.
The Department of Children and Families, on two occasions, had taken Russ away from his mother. The second time, he barely made it back home, and his mother was nearly incarcerated.
Some of the women at her place of employment, the Mouse Trap, had expressed concern over Tina's treatment of her son. It was no secret, the way she lived, and it was no secret that a person could not do the things she did and take care of a child at the same time. One of her colleagues had anonymously reported her to DCF and they had said that they'd send a social worker out to check on things.
When the social worker arrived, he found Russ in his usual squalid surroundings. Russ was sitting on a filthy cushionless couch watching cartoons on a tiny black-and-white TV set. There were clothes scattered here and there on the living room floor and beer cans and beer bottles on the couch's end tables and on top of the TV set. The man asked Russ a battery of questions, all of which were truthfully answered, and at the end, the man took Russ to McDonald's for lunch.
Tina was late for the court date and that alone nearly lost her her son, but she put on a convincing show to the judge and it was clear that Russ loved his mother and, despite her neglectful ways, did not want to be separated from her. The courts, it seemed, were not fond of tearing apart a family, even if there was an unhealthy dynamic at work within it. So Russ, well-fed and well-groomed from three weeks stay with a foster family, went back home with his mother. She sat with him on the couch for an hour and then left again. She was gone for four days this time, and when she returned, she was in a battered state—black eye, busted lip, and her left arm in a cast. Since she could not work ("No one is gonna pay to see a beat-up bitch," her boss had said to her, after she had pleaded with him to let her come back to work), she stayed home with her son for three whole weeks, until she could move her arm without terrible pain and her facial wounds were faint enough to be fully covered with a little makeup, and she was gone again.
Russ picked up a chalky white rock from the edge of the hard dirt road and examined it. "William, can I stay with you tonight? If there's a hurricane comin, I need to stay with you and yer dad tonight." He threw the rock into a thicket of small trees next to Will's trailer.
"As long as you don't get too close to me," said Will. "Them things is contagious. You give em to me and I'll kick yer narrow clamdiggin ass." He mussed Russ's hair a little and then gave him a playful slap on the back of his head.
"I won't give you none of em," said Russ.
Will took Russ inside and into his dad's bathroom where he found some lotion that his mother had left behind in the medicine cabinet. Will handed Russ the lotion and told him to rub it on his arms. Russ did and he said it made the itching go away some, and it made his arms feel cool.
They went into the living room and turned on the TV. Will wanted to see if the weatherman had anything new to say about the hurricane. His timing was perfect: just as the screen brightened the weather man pointed at a wall-sized map with a large radar image of a swirling mass of clouds on it. The swirling mass appeared to be headed right towards their part of Florida. Next, on a different map of the same area, there was a computer-generated image of the hurricane, a small iconic symbol, a circle with a hole in the middle of it, like a donut, with two tapered arms stabbing out from it in opposite directions. A widening yellow swath, a path, projected out from the small toy hurricane towards the slightly larger state of Florida. The weather man pointed at this sanitized version of the hurricane and then hovered his hand over the yellow projection, calling it the Cone of Possibility.
Russ scratched his left arm.
"You need to try not to scratch, Russ. Yer gunna make it worse."
"You think that storm is gunna hit us?"
"I don't know. Seems like Marshallsville is right in the middle of that cone, so I think we got a pretty good chance."
"I hope it does. I hope it comes and blows away this whole cruddy old stupid trailer park."
Will paused. "Well, it is excitin, aint it?"
"Yeah," Russ said. "When's yer daddy gittin home? I'm hungry."
"Not for a while, yet."
"That sucks." Russ left-hooked the air and tried to look quarrelsome. "I wish yer mom was still around. She'd make us up somethin real good and hot to eat."
To this, Will said nothing, but his saying nothing sent a message to Russ that he didn't want him bringing up his mother anymore. They both sat silent for a few minutes.
"We can go over to Scotty's," Will finally said, "and see what they got over there in their freezer."
"Yeah! Their mom buys enough food for months." Russ jumped up from the couch.
Will looked at the clock on the wood-paneled wall. "Scotty and Timmy should be home from school by now. Let's go."
Scotty, at sixteen, was short, but wiry and physically strong. He was a running back on the high school football team and was good at it, and despite coming from a poor family and living in a bad part of town, and despite being possessed of a somewhat cruel sense of humor, often playing overdone practical jokes on his teammates and friends, he was popular at school. And even though he was not handsome in the conventional ways, his sturdiness and ebullience deemphasized his less flattering features (a bulbous nose, too big for his face, and thick, tiny ears) and possibly made him appear more handsome than he actually was. In many ways, he was the sort of boy that other boys secretly wanted to be like, a rare figure in the trailer park he and his brother lived in. Will neither liked nor disliked Scotty, though at times he found himself leaning towards the latter.
Timmy, the kinder of the two, was twelve and already taller than his older brother. But he was thin and frail-looking and awkward, and when Will spent too much time around him, he began to feel awkward too. He had thin black hair that hung in slick-looking sheets around his head, unlike his brother's thick clumps of short blond hair. It was common knowledge at the trailer park that Scotty and Timmy had different fathers.
The brothers' trailer was a short walk up Will's street to the first intersecting road, then a right, and then all the way at the end, a cul-de-sac of some of the nicest yards in the neighborhood. When Will and Russ got to their lot, the brothers were already outside, in the front yard. Scotty was by the front door, pointing an air rifle at Timmy, who had a big red apple on his head. Just as Will and Russ got to the end of the driveway, a big chunk of the left side of the apple exploded and Timmy flinched the other way, and the rest of the apple fell to the ground.
"Sheeeeiiit," said Timmy, with a full-body shiver.
"See, I didn't hit ya," said Scotty. "Did I?" He turned to Will.
"I don't know, but you damn sure blowed the side of it off." Will walked over to the apple and picked it up and examined it.
"You hear about that hurricane?" said Timmy, picking apple shrapnel out of his greasy hair and off his shoulders. "They was talkin about it at school. They gave us tomorra offa school, because it's probly comin this way."
Yep," said Will. "I heard about it. Russ is gunna stay at our place tonight because of it."
"You aint leavin town?" said Scotty. He was pumping the lever of his air rifle.
"I don't think so," said Will. He looked down at Russ, who was picking at a scab on his arm. "We aint got nowhere to go anyway."
"Our mamma said that we was gunna leave if it got to where it looked like it was gunna hit. Our granny lives in South Georgia, in Valdosta, in a real house," said Scotty. He lifted the air rifle up and pointed it at his brother.
"Quit playin," said Timmy.
Scotty pulled the trigger.
There was a quick muffled-sounding pop and then Timmy hit the ground, holding his face.
They all ran over to Timmy, curled up on the ground, both his hands over his mouth. He was quiet, and his eyes were shut. The rest of the boys, huddled around Timmy, were quiet too. After a minute or so Timmy got up, and the boys backed away from him.
He stood there in the green yard with his right hand over his mouth. He was staring at Scotty with the concentration of a wild animal.
Scotty, looking more curious than concerned, moved closer to him. "Take yer hand away so I can see."
Timmy took his hand away. The pellet had hit just between his bottom lip and his chin. There was a little blood.
They were all standing in front of Timmy, in a line, as if he was choosing up sides for kickball.
"Scotty, you shot yer brother, man," said Will.
Scotty looked at Will and then back at Timmy. Russ was staring at Timmy, too.
"Shut up, Will," said Scotty.
"Well, you did. You shot him in the face." He pointed at Timmy. He wanted to get angry, but he didn't feel strongly enough about either of the brothers to get worked up. As it was, he only felt shocked. He'd known Scotty was mean, but it hadn't ever occurred to him that he was capable of intentionally shooting his own brother in the face, even if it was only with an air rifle.
"I didn't mean to," said Scotty.
"The hell you didn't mean to," said Will. "You pointed the damn thing right at him and aimed."
"Shut up, Will," said Scotty, again.
"No, you shut up!" said Timmy. Timmy rubbed a finger on the spot where Scotty had shot him. It was red and swollen already, and bled a little. "Oh shit," he said. "It's still in there!"
"No it aint," said Scotty.
"Bullshit it aint!" said Timmy. "Feel it."
Scotty put his hand out and felt the spot with his finger. He felt the perfect little thing under his brother's skin. He smirked and pressed on it.
"Shit, take it easy, asshole. It still hurts."
Scotty removed his hand and stepped back. "You can't tell mom about this."
"We got to. She'll be able to get it out."
"Yeah, and she'll beat hell outta both of us, too. She'll beat hell outta me for doin it, but she'll beat hell outta you for lettin me do it. Plus, she'll pour alcohol all over ya and take pliers out and dig around in yer face until she gets it out—only she'll do it extra long, just to be mean, to teach ya a lesson not to ever do it again, and yer whole face will turn red from the alcohol and digging around in it with pliers. Nope, we can't tell her."
"Don't you think your mom's gunna wonder what happen to Timmy's face?" said Will.
"We'll have to make somethin up," said Scotty. He turned to his brother with a mock look of sympathy. "Timmy, think of the pain she'll cause to yer face."
"How are we gunna get the pellet out without mom's help?" said Timmy.
"Hell, I can get it out of there for ya," said Scotty.
"Screw that," said Timmy. "I'd rather it stay in there than let you get near it again." He put his finger on the spot. "God, man."
Just then it started to rain a little and a quick breeze came out of the west and tumbled some of the crisp, brown leaves on the ground. It was late September and some of the trees had already lost all their leaves, despite the heat, or perhaps because of it, like taking off layers of clothing.
"That's the front of that storm comin," said Russ. "It's comin early."
"Naa," said Will, "It's just a little shower." He looked down at Russ, standing next to him like a little brother. "Scotty, you got any a them frozen dinners in yer freezer?"
Scotty came towards them. "You aint got nothin to eat yerselfs?" He looked down at the rifle on the ground and then over at his wounded brother.
"My dad aint home from work yet and there's no food in the house. I aint hungry, but poor old Russ here aint ate no breakfast or lunch."
Scotty went inside and found some frozen burritos in the freezer and grabbed a couple and gave them to Will and Russ.
The two boys started back towards Will's trailer. The wind was picking up, sweet and cool. Wind from someplace else, thought Will. A nicer place. Any place is a nicer place. He felt like dreaming up visions of places he could go to; he wanted to conjure up images of towns and scenarios of himself interacting with strange, new people, in new ways, but he couldn't. He only thought about the hurricane and poor old Timmy, having to live with such a shitty brother, and poor old Russ, with such a shitty mom. Plus, he didn't really know any other places. He only knew this place, these people. Sure, he knew the names of places and he'd been to a few other towns in Central Florida, but they were all more or less just like Marshallsville: trailer parks, truck stops, orange groves and packing houses. Anything he might have imagined would have only looked like Marshallsville and would have only included these people, the people in his life, and, of course, his mother, who was not physically in his life any more, but who was there, in his mind, and would have surely been in these longed-for images and scenarios had he the ability to imagine them. She'd have been there, walking down a street, or sitting at a table in the window of a diner, folding clothes in a Laundromat, somewhere. Only he couldn't quite picture any of it, so she just sort of floated there in his mind, like she was nowhere, a single thing in a field of nothing.
He unlocked the front door, opened it, and hurried Russ in, and then locked the door behind them. Inside, he put the frozen burritos in the microwave and got out plates and forks and a bottle of hot sauce from the fridge. Once the burritos were ready they ate them quickly, and were done in just a few minutes.
While they were eating Will thought about Russ's situation. There is no solution, he thought, and he got sad. He hated Russ's mom for what she did to him. He's got no one—just a useless mom and a stringer of potential father figures, like fish, coming in and out, who don't do nothing but hurt him in various ways. It aint right. And then he thought about his own mother, again, and he asked himself, is it better to have a mother like Russ's or to have no mother at all?
"I'm still hungry, Will. That burrito was little."
"I know. Me, too. My dad will be home soon though. He'll take us somewhere to get somethin." Will got up and looked out the kitchen window. It was raining steadily now. Every once in a while there was a flash of lightning followed by a low rumble. The thunder was soothing to Will. It made him feel good. It even comforted him a little, like reassuring words. From the window, he watched Scotty and Timmy's mom's blue LTD turn onto their street. She took the turn quickly, making the tires screech. He knew his dad would be pulling in soon, too.
He turned from the window and his disappointing thoughts to see what Russ was doing. He'd heard him in the background, clanking around the kitchen.
Russ was back at the small dinner table with a cereal bowl in front of him. He was slurping liquid from a spoon. Will walked over to Russ, who was now grinning and holding the spoon above the bowl with his left hand.
"There aint nothin in that bowl but ice and water."
Russ slurped a spoonful. "It's delicious."
"Have you lost your damn mind?"
"It's somethin I made. It's a special meal." He slurped again and closed his eyes and moaned. "It's so good."
"I guess if yer a big fan of ice water, it's good."
"This aint ice water."
"Well, what is it then?"
"This here's arctic soup."
"Yes. An Eskimo showed it to me."
He's lost it, thought Will. "Well, then. Can you make me up some too?" He figured that playing along would help pass the time.
"No. But you can make your own self up some. It's easy. It's basically just ice water in a bowl—but it's not. It's arctic soup."
Will heard a vehicle pull into the carport.
"Hey, boys," said Sam, Will's dad, as he climbed through the front door. Will's dad was a fuller version of Will, an older model. They looked just alike in most ways. They were the same height and had the same body structure, tall and thin. Their faces were even almost the same, except Will's was smother and thinner and younger. Also there was something in Will's face that was absent from his father's: an unlocatable wildness, one of his mother's few contributions to his physical appearance.
He sat down next to Russ and looked into his bowl. "Whatcha eatin there, Russ?"
"Arctic soup, or iceberg stew, whichever. A Eskimo told it to me."
"Oh, looks good." He glanced at Will. Will grinned.
Sam noticed Russ's arms and scooted his chair a couple of inches away from him. He looked at Will. Will nodded.
"Why didn't you go to work today, son?" He stood up and started unbuttoning his shirt. It had a patch on the right breast that read Sam.
"I wasn't feelin good."
"That's twiced in two weeks. They're gunna fire you if you keep it up." He threw his shirt on the back of the chair he'd been sitting in. He kept on his white undershirt.
"I know. I been thinkin of leavin, though."
"Yeah, where you goin?"
"I don't know." He paused and locked eyes with his dad. "Maybe wherever mom went."
"Well we don't know where that is, do we?" He grabbed the back of the chair, resting the weight of the top of his body on it. "Do we?"
"No, I reckon not. But I bet it's better than here, wherever it is." He looked at Russ who seemed to be listening to every word.
"I guess that wouldn't be too hard to manage," said Sam. He put his head down for a few seconds and then pushed himself away from the chair he'd been holding onto. "What do you say we go get something to eat and discuss this here storm?" He looked at Russ. "That is unless yer filled up on that Es-kee-mo soup."
"No," said Russ, "I'm hungry for some real food. Them Eskimos don't eat real fillin foods."
They piled into Sam's pickup truck and drove through the rain to Dan's Drive-in and got burgers and sat in the truck and ate and talked about what to do about the hurricane. They decided that they'd all three stay in the trailer and ride it out. "It's a category 3," said Will's dad, "but we won't get a direct hit. I'm pretty sure of that. If we stay out of the bedrooms and the kitchen, unless we really need to, and stay in the living room, in the middle of the trailer, we'll be okay. I've been through this kind of thing before. It's no big deal. Besides, It'll be like campin." He looked over at Russ and smiled. "We can even set up a tent in the living room." Russ jumped in the small back seat of the extended cab and said, "Yes! Let's set up a tent."
"Scotty and Timmy said that they'd be going to their granny's up in Georgia," said Will. "Nan and Pa, live over in the panhandle. We could drive over and stay with them for the night. We'd be a lot safer there."
"I'm glad them boys got somewhere to go, but we won't need to go nowhere. We'll be fine."
Will didn't want to argue. Ultimately, he trusted his father's assessment of the storm. Really, he'd just been interested in gauging his dad's reaction to the suggestion of staying at his mom's parent's house. Ever since his mother's disappearance, Nan and Pa had been antagonistic towards Will's dad. Naturally, they were worried about their only daughter, and didn't quite believe that Sam didn't know where she was. In the last few months, they'd called several times, and each time Sam had told them everything he knew, which was nothing, and each time they had not been satisfied. These calls had upset Will in a complicated way. He didn't like the way his grandparents treated his father, but he also shared their frustration. He wanted to know where his mother was, too—just as badly as his grandparents, he wanted to know, and it was all too easy for him—like his grandparents—to heap all the blame for his not knowing on his father. It hadn't occurred to any of them, it seemed, that Sam wanted to know where she was too.
They finished their food and then Will's dad drove them to the hardware store and bought a few things, a couple flashlights, batteries, and some candles and five jugs of water. They were lucky that there were any emergency supplies left at the store. They were lucky, in fact, said the cashier, that they'd made it before the store closed.
"You aint leavin town?" said the cashier, a boy, about sixteen, with braces on his teeth and thick red hair. He was wearing a red vest, with a name tag that read Jeffrey.
"Nope," said Will. "You leavin?"
"Naa, we don't live near no water. Plus, my dad says it aint gunna be a direct hit. He said were just gunna get some rain and wind from some of the bands. He said it'll be like gettin a tropical storm is all."
Will looked at his dad and they smiled at each other.
By the time they got back to their trailer it was raining hard. They pulled into the carport and found Scotty, Timmy, and their mom, standing next to the front door, wet and sad-faced.
"What you doin in the carport, Lydia?" said Will's dad.
The boys' mother explained in her South Georgia drawl: "Sam, that hurrikin's comin and it seems we aint gonna be able ta go to my mom's up 'ere in Valdosta and, shoot, I barely made it home, because my car was overheatin and I couldn't stop, so I was runnin red lights and stop signs and takin corners like Dale Earnhart. And I got home and them boys was up ta somethin." She took a moment to look at both of them. "I aint sure exactly what they's up ta, but Timmy has this here Band Aid on his face," she pointed over to Timmy, tall and soaked, black hair dangling down over his face, standing next to his shorter, sturdier brother. His bottom lip was swollen and there was a tiny Band Aid just under it, making it look like a patched tire. "They aint said what caused it, but it can't be good. So, anyways, Sam, I was hopin maybe we could come stay with y'all ta ride this thing out, just over night, till it's gone."
Sam smiled and laughed a little at the sight of the boys and their exasperated mother. "Yeah, that's fine, Lydia. We got the room. We'll just spread everbody out."
They all went inside and, while everyone stood in the kitchen, Will and Sam started setting things up. Will went through all the closets getting blankets and sheets and pillows, and towels for Lydia and her boys, and Sam set up the new candles in different areas of the trailer, and then put batteries into all the flashlights, and retrieved the candles left over from last hurricane season.
Tired of watching while Sam and Will worked, Lydia volunteered to go fill the bathtub with water. "You gotta have a tub a water, just in case. You never know how bad these things is gunna get. Good to have a bank of water."
"Yep," said Sam. "That's good thinkin. I forgot about that." He was now busy putting up the small tent in the middle if the living room. Russ helped.
Sam noticed that Russ was still scratching. Damn, he thought. We should have stopped and got Russ some medicine. "Russ," he said, "how you doin? You feelin all right?"
"It sure itches." He stopped and itched to prove his point.
"What's wrong with him?" said Lydia, who was back in the living room, after scrubbing the tub clean for the water they'd soon fill it with.
"He's got scabies," said Sam.
"Scabies?" She got down on her knees and pulled Russ toward her and looked at his arms. "Sure does. Poor thing. Yer mamma know?"
"I reckon," said Russ. He started to cry.
"I reckon not," said Lydia. She pulled Russ close to her and hugged him. "I got some cream to the house that'll help some. It won't make em go away but it'll cut down on the itchin until you can get some proper medicine."
"I'll go get it," said Will.
"The hell you will," said Lydia. "Scotty, get yer ass up and go get that cream. It's in my medicine cabinet. It's the only thing in there in a tube, other than the toothpaste."
"Why I gotta go? What's scabies?"
"Because I said so, and because you done somethin to yer little brother. I don't know what, but—"
"He shot him with a pellet gun," said Russ, still crying, still huddled close to Lydia.
Will sputtered with laughter.
"You what?" She stood and turned toward Scotty, keeping one hand on Russ's shoulder.
"No, I aint done it." He looked at Russ, astounded, pissed that he'd ratted him out.
"Yes he did," said Timmy, crying now, too. "He shot me just for the curiousness of it."
Lydia let go of Russ and walked towards Scotty, who was sitting at one of the dinner table chairs, slumped over just enough to properly pout. There was a hint of shame in his look. Despite being a total jerk, he knew he'd done something cruel, and he could see a large measure of his cruelty in the faces of everyone in the trailer. His mother stood over him. "You get yer ass up and go get that medicine, boy." Her hands were fists.
"Yessum." Scotty got up and walked out the door into the rain.
"That boy . . . I swear. Just like his daddy, cruel son of a bitch." She shook her head and turned around.
"He'll be all right. He'll come out of it," said Sam. "Especially with a mamma like his."
"Thanks, Sam . . . that's nice of you to say." Lydia smiled at Sam and he grinned back. "You feel like no one notices how hard you work sometimes. Can't rely on the kids ta notice. It's not their place to. They're just kids. But you notice, I reckon. Cause you aint got it real easy yerself, do you?"
Will looked out the window. "You want me to run and catch up with him, make sure he makes it all right?"
Sam started to say, yes, but Lydia said, "No, he'll be fine. A little rain never hurt nobody." Then she went over to Timmy. "Come here, son. Let me see your lip."
Timmy started crying again, thinking of pliers and having his face doused with alcohol. But there were no pliers, and the boy's mother, using eyelash tweezers, gently and with extreme care removed the pellet from her sons face before her other son had the chance to return with the cream for Russ's arms. And there was no alcohol either. But there was hydrogen peroxide, instead, which, to Timmy's delight, didn't burn nearly as much.
After things were settled and Lydia was through talking to her sons about how things were hard enough without them "behaving like little heathen bastards half the time," they all gathered in the living room to watch the TV, to see where the storm was, to see how close it had come during the last couple hours.
The storm had wound its way a few hundred miles closer, and the predicted path had been shifted a little north, so that the worst case scenario, to the extreme left of the cone, put the storm's eye right on Marshallsville. "Most likely," said Sam, "it'll pass a little north of us and we'll get some weather—some wind—It's a Cat 3 so we can expect for things to get beat up a bit and blown around. Rain, too. We'll get a few inches—but I don't think we're gunna see a lot of serious flooding, maybe just in some of the low lying areas."
Will, sitting on the couch, next to Russ, let his thoughts rest again on his own mother. He thought about the Cone of Possibility, applying it to his mother: the longer she was gone, the farther away she got, and the less likely she'd return. In his mind he created a scene like that of a TV station news room, a huge map of the southeastern states, longitude and latitude lines going through it. He pictured, instead of a little hurricane symbol, an icon of a woman (like the ones on restroom doors), facing north, positioned to stroll right out of Florida. In front of her, signifying her possible paths, was the Cone of Possibility. The further out it spread, the wider it got, until it became a wide yellow circle going completely around the little woman, until, finally, the circle got so wide it covered everything, every part of the map.
A bright flash of light brought him out of his daydreaming, then darkness, then a thunder clap so loud he couldn't hear for a few seconds after.
"There goes the power," said Sam. "Will, help me light all the candles."
Will and his dad went around the trailer lighting candles and moving them around. They put two in the kitchen, one in the hall bathroom, and three in the living room—one on the coffee table in front of the couch, one across the room, on top of the TV, and one by the window, on a small table. As Will put the one by the window he saw how bad it had got outside. "It sure is raining out there. Windy too."
The rest of the boys crowded around the window and looked out.
"Dang," said Russ. "The top of that scrubby pine in the back is just about touching the ground." He scratched his right arm for emphasis.
"Look at yer trailer!" said Scotty. He elbowed Russ.
The aluminum siding on Russ's trailer had peeled halfway off on the right side and was lashing in the wind. As they watched, it peeled more and eventually came completely off and flew away, almost hitting Will's trailer.
"Damn," said Scotty. His mom slapped him on the back of his head.
"At least no one's in there," said Lydia.
"Yeah." Sam looked at Russ. "You okay, boy?"
"I'm itchin," he said.
Russ looked tired. It had been a long day. "Let Ms. Lydia put some more cream on ya and then try goin to bed. Okay?"
Russ looked up at Sam with something like a look of gratitude.
"Yessir," he said and left the room with Lydia.
In an hour everyone was asleep but Will and Sam. Will sat watching the candle on the TV, and listening to the rain, that had by now become nothing more than an awkward drizzle.
"It's about passed," said Sam. "We've seen the worst of it." He smoothed his hand over the velvety couch cushion next to him.
"Have we?" said Will.
"Yes," said his dad. "I believe we have."
Will got up and walked over to the window. It was just a matter of time until it was quiet and still again, back to normal. But he wasn't sure he wanted that. In fact, the more he thought about it, the less he wanted it. But what else was there? He looked at Russ's trailer, battered but still there. He turned from the window and looked at his dad, sitting on the couch, with his head down now, asleep. He walked over and sat next to him. He grabbed a blanket from the arm of the couch, unfolded it and covered up with it. Within a few minutes he was asleep.