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Week #45: Creative Writing Challenge – Earthquake Surprise

December 17, 2021

You thought he was dead, but there he is, right in front of you on the street, smiling at you.

It started while I was making chicken salad in the kitchen. A deep rumbling spread under my feet, like the Earth was purring in a baritone. The rumbling shifted to an undulating tango. The dance dipped pictures off walls and then dropped them instead of pulling them back into an embrace. The tango then shifted to a staccato tap dance, vibrating my empty bowl and chicken can onto the floor. The dance lasted for 33 seconds. I’d checked my watch from the kitchen doorway where I’d dashed from the purring baritone. Everyone who’s ever owned a cat knows that purring can quickly turn to blood, so there I stood clutching the doorjamb and hoping it was indeed the strongest part of the room.

When the tap dance finally stilled, I stumbled over debris and fell out my kitchen door into the garden. I sank to my knees and smelled the grass. Grass would always survive a dance of the Earth, but our manmade structures were no match.

Between the sweaty strands of my brown hair I caught a glimpse of the grill.


He’d popped his head in the kitchen and said, “We can’t have a summer grill-out without corn!”, then promptly started walking down the street to our local market. I’d waved him off.

I popped to my feet and started running. I hopped over cracks in the street and had to make a detour through Marie’s yard to avoid the limb of an old maple that had come down across the power lines and was sparking. I’d tripped on Marie’s son’s bike while I was deciding whether to call 911 about the power line. Blood dripped down my right knee and my cell phone was in pieces. I left the pieces and kept moving.

The parking lot was full when I arrived at the market, but there was no market. There was a pile of rubble, slabs of concrete with rebar jutting into the cloudless sky. The neon sign that lived above the door was now a melting jumble of tubing, sparks spewing into the sky like it was the Fourth of July and kids were lighting every last sparkler.

I sprinted toward the pile, but a solid set of arms wrapped around my stomach, halting my progress.

“Can’t let you go over there ma’am,” a clear voice said. The arms loosened and I spun around, ready to make another break for it, but the voice had been from our fire chief, a friend of ours. “It’s Calvin. He’s in there. Corn. He went to get corn. I have to get him,” I sputtered, but he grabbed my arm gently to keep me facing him.

“Hey Imani. If Calvin’s in there, we’ll find him, I promise. But you know it’s probably going to take a while. Is your house still in one piece?” he asked.

“I think so. I rushed out before checking anything.” I took a step back to regain my personal space and he let go of my arm.

“Okay, well, I suggest you go back home and wait. I’ll personally give you a call if we find anything,” he said. I nodded in return.

The chief was right. I would just be in the way, but…

And then I was sprinting toward the rubble. “Calvin”, “Calvin”, “Calvin”. I yelled his name as loud as I could until I smacked my knees against the rubble and flung pieces of concrete away with my hands. That solid set of arms encircled my stomach again, but this time they lifted me away. I kicked and flailed my arms, trying to turn myself around so I could push off the chief, my friend, and attack the pile again. He didn’t let me go. He carried me to an SUV that said “Fire Support” across the open passenger door and pushed me into the seat.

“Trudy here is going to make sure that you stay right there until you can calm down. If you can’t do that, I’ll call Jimmy over at the station to come and get you. Got it?” He enunciated each word.

“Yessir,” I said and hung my head. My face was wet. I hadn’t realized I’d been crying.

Trudy gifted me with a smile and then closed the door without making a noise. She stood directly in front of the door. I’d have to hit her if I wanted to get out.

Thirty minutes later my friend Lizzie showed up. I guess someone had gotten her to fetch me. I was still sitting in the SUV, and after a short conversation with Trudy, I was liberated.

“You okay?” Lizzie asked after putting an arm around my shoulder.

“I don’t know where Calvin is. He said he was coming to the store to get corn. I broke my phone and I got put in time-out.” I hiccuped and then admitted, “I’ve been better.”

Lizzie squeezed my shoulder and guided me toward home. Lizzie tried to call Calvin, but she couldn’t get through.

The branch was still down across the power lines, so we skirted through Marie’s yard again. I avoided the bike this time and picked up the pieces of my phone to dispose of properly. We walked down the middle of the street. Most of the houses were still in one piece. Some had broken windows or shutters that had fallen into the grass. One had a collapsed greenhouse, and I silently mourned all the fresh vegetables. Most of the houses had cracks in the siding.

We turned onto my street and I squeaked. There was Calvin walking along the dashed yellow line toward me with a huge smile. Lizzie released my shoulder and I ran to him. He swept me up in a big hug and twirled me.

“Where have you been?” He said into my neck.

He put me down and I looked up into his face, confused. Where had I been? “Well, I was at the market. I thought you were dead,” I told him.

He quirked an eyebrow at me and then started laughing. I frowned and started crying. “What’s wrong, honey? I don’t understand. Talk to me.”

Lizzie had caught up to us by then. I guess she’d heard our conversation because she opened her phone and showed Calvin a photo she’d taken.

“Is that the market?” Calvin asked, squinting at the image.

“Yeah it is, asshole.” Lizzie pursed her lips.

“Oh shit.” He hugged me tighter after that and whispered “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” over and over again into my ear.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Yael Kisel permalink
    December 17, 2021 3:58 pm

    Excellent capture of emotions without mentioning them directly!!


  1. Week #3 (2023): Creative Writing Challenge – Space Station Surprise | A Cup of Creative

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