The house shot on up, and when I looked up to see, there wasn't nothing but whirling blackness with little chunks of wood and junk disappearing into it.

'Mama,' I said, and I must have said it a lot of times, cause that's what brought me to. The sound of my own voice calling Mama.

I tried to stand, but my ankle wasn't having it. It hurt like hell, and when I looked down, I saw my boot and sock had been ripped off by the blow, and the ankle was as big as a coiled cottonmouth snake.

I put a hand on the edge of the ditch, dug my fingers through the ice, and pulled myself up, taking some of the skin off my naked foot as I did. It was so cold the flesh had frozen to the ground and it had peeled off like sweet-gum bark.

Once I was out of the ditch, I started crawling across the ice dragging my useless foot behind me. Little chunks of skin came off my palms, so I had to pull myself forward on my coat-sleeved forearms.

I hadn't gone far before I found Papa. He was sitting in his rocking chair, and in one hand he held his pipe and it was still smoking. The porch the chair had been sitting on was gone, but Papa was rocking gently in what was left of the wind. And the pitchfork I'd tossed aside before diving into the sled was sticking out of his chest like it had growed there. I didn't see a drop of blood. His eyes were open and staring, and every time that chair rocked forward, he seemed to look and nod at me.

Behind Papa, where the house ought to have been, wasn't nothing. It was like it hadn't never been built. I quit crawling and started crying. Did that till there wasn't nothing in me to cry, and the cold started making me so numb I just wanted to lay there and freeze at Papa's feet like an old dog. I felt like if I wasn't his killer, I was at least a helper in the murder, having tossed down the very pitchfork the twister had thrown at him.

It started to rain little ice pellets, and somehow the pain of those things pounding on me gave me the will to crawl toward a heap of hay that had been chunked there by the wind. By the time I got to the pile and looked back, Papa wasn't rocking no more. Those runners had froze to the ground and his black hair had turned white from the ice that had stuck to it.

I worked my way into the hay and tried to pull as much of it over me as I could. Doing that wore me completely out, and I fell asleep wondering about what had happened to Mama, hoping she was still alive.

The wind picked up again, took most of the hay away, but by then I didn't give a damn. I awoke remembering that I'd had that dream about Mama and the house again. Even though I didn't have much hay on me, it didn't seem so cold anymore. I figured it was either warming up, or I was getting used to it. Course, wasn't neither of them things. I was freezing to death, and would have too, if not for Mr. Parks and his boys.

Mr. Parks was our nearest neighbor, about three miles east. Turned out he had been chopping wood when the sky went yellow. Later he told me about it, and he said it was as strange as a blue-eyed hound dog, and unlike any twister he'd ever seen. Said the yellow sky went black, then this dark cloud grew a tail and came a-waggin' out of the heavens like a happy dog, getting thicker as it dipped. When it touched down, he figured the place it hit was right close to our farm, so he hitched up a wagon and came on out.

It was slow go for him and his two boys, on account of the ice and them having to stop now and then to clear the road of blown-over trees and a dead deer once. But they made it to our place about dark, and Mr. Parks said first thing he jaw was Papa in that rocker. He said it was like the stem of papa's pipe was pointing to where I lay, partly in, partly out that hay.

They figured me for croaked at first, I looked so bad. But then they saw I hadn't gone under, they loaded me in the wagon, covered me in some old feed sacks and a couple of half-wet blankets, and started out of there.

That foot of mine was broke bad. The doctor came out to the Parks' place, set it, and didn't charge me a cent. He said that was on account of he owed Papa for a bushel of taters from last fall, but I knew that was just one of them friendly white lies. Doc Ryan hadn't never owed nobody nothing.

Mr. and Mrs. Parks offered me a place to stay after the funeral, but I told them I'd go back to our place and try and make a go of it there.

Johnny Parks, who used to whip the hell out of me twice a week on them weeks we both managed to go a full week to school, made me a pair of solid crutches out of hickory, and I went to Papas funeral on them.

Mama, as if there was something to my dream, wasn't never found, and for that matter, they couldn't hardly find no pieces of the house. There was plenty of barn siding around, but of the house there was only a few floorboards, some wood shingles, and some broken glass. Maybe it's silly, but I like to think that old storm just come and got her and hauled her off to a better place, like that little gal in that book The Wizard of Oz.


Beneath that were some dates on when they was born and died, and a line about them being survived by one son, Buster Fogg, meaning me, of course.

Over the protests of Mr. and Mrs. Parks, I had them take me out to our place and I set up a tent there. They left me a lot of food and some hand-me-down clothes from their boys, then they went off saying they'd be back to check on me right regular. Mrs. Parks cried some and Mr. Parks offered me some money and the loan of his mule, but I said I had to think on it.

This tent Mr. Parks gave me was a good one, and I managed to get around well enough on my crutches to gather barn siding and what tools and nails I could find, and I built a floor in it. I could have got Mr. Parks and his boys to do that for me, but I couldn't bring myself to it, not after all they'd done. And besides, I had my pride. Matter of fact, now that I think on it, that was about all I had. That and the place.

Well, it took me a couple of days to do what should have taken a few hours on account of having to pull nails out of boards and reuse them, but I got the tent fixed up real good and cozy finally. It wasn't no replacement for the house and Mama and Papa, but it was better than stepping on a tack or getting jabbed in the eye with a pointed stick.

I wished I could have turned back time some, been in our house. I'd even have liked to have heard Mama fussing over how much firewood Papa should have laid in, which was one of the few things he was always a little lazy on, and was finally glad to pass most of the job along to me. I could hear Mama telling him as she looked at the last few sticks of stove wood, 'I told you so.'

On the morning after I'd spent my first night on my finished floor, I got up to take a good look at things, and see at what I could manage on crutches.

There were dead chickens lying about, like feather dusters, pieces of wood and one mule lying on his back, legs sticking up in the air like a table blowed over. Didn't see a sign of the other mule or the cows.

Wasn't none of this something I hadn't already seen, but now with the flooring in, and my immediate comfort taken care of, I found I just couldn't face picking up dead chickens and burning a mule carcass.

I went back inside the tent and felt sorry for myself as that's all there was to do, besides eat, and I'd done that till I was about to pop. I wasn't such a great reader, but right then I wished I had me a book of some kind, but what books we'd had had been blowed away with the house.

About a week went by, and I'd maybe got half the chickens picked up and tossed off in the ditch by the woodlot, and gotten the mule burned to nothing besides bones, when this slick-looking fella in a buckboard showed up.

'Howdy there young feller,' he said, climbing down from his rig. 'You must be Buster Fogg.'

I admitted I was, and up close I seen that snazzy black suit and narrow brim hat he had on were even snappier than they'd looked at a distance. The hat and suit were dark as fresh charcoal, and the pants had creases in them sharp enough to cut your throat. And he was all smiles. He looked to have more teeth than Main Street had bricks.

'Glad to catch you home,' he said, and he took off his hat and held it over his chest as if in silent prayer.

'Whatsit I can do for you?' I asked. 'Maybe you'd like to come in the tent, get out of this cold?'

'No, no. What I have to say won't take but a moment. My name is Purdue. Jack Purdue. I'm the banker from town.'

Well, right off I knew what it was and I didn't want to hear it, but I knew I was going to anyhow.

'Your father's bill has come due, son, and I hate it something awful, and I know it's a bad time and all, but I'm going to need that money by about'-he stopped for a moment to look generous-'say noon tomorrow. Least half.'

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