The Storm (an excerpt from chapter VI)

by Callum B. Downes

He’d survived another Monday, just. Now, he shuffled dismally home from school, shoulders slouched, kicking rocks into tyres of parked cars on the side of the road. Like some sickening horror movie, broken fragments of the day’s events played over and over in his memory. No matter how hard he tried to think about something else, like Django waiting for pats at home, or how hard he booted the rocks, the barrage of thoughts never relented. Not for a second.

A harsh wind kicked up a cloud of dust from the roadside, where kids built dirt ramps for their bikes, forcing him to shield his eyes with his arm. Once the dust settled, he folded his arms around himself tightly and walked more quickly in an attempt to warm himself, as the gusts had a cold bite in them. Raging trees bent over in half and the noise they made scrambled his thoughts into complete moosh. Giant drops of icy rain began belting his back. Before long, he was receiving a brutal lashing from the rain storm. The wind made the rain go sideways, into his face. Shivering and spluttering, he broke out into a full sprint. Somehow, the storm became worse, and by the time he had slammed the back gate behind him and sloshed through the back lake of his house, his white school shirt had gone completely see through and his shoes were squelchy. Django barked with confused fear at the sky, snapping his teeth together, chasing raindrops in big circles and catching some in his mouth.

Billy barged through the backdoor and stood dripping, bent over with hands on knees, in the dining room, trying to get his breath back. Astonishingly large puddles began forming at his feet, spreading into Mrs Baker’s favourite rug.

“Ahhh, not her rug, Bill!” Yelled Mr Baker. “You couldn’t take those shoes off at the door?”

“Good to see you too!” Hissed Billy.

He flung his shoes off in Mr Baker’s general direction, attempting to prove a point, but secretly hoped they didn’t hit him. The first shoe plummeted a few metres short. The second spiralled past Mr Baker at head height and crashed into the trophy cabinet behind him, knocking Livy’s latest prize to the floor with an all too obvious thud.

Billy looked at the trophy, then up at Mr Baker, who now appeared to be 10 foot taller than a second ago. Mr Baker looked at the trophy, which now lay in three separate pieces, and before he could turn around, Billy had fled the scene. Billy locked himself into his tiny room, wishing he could jump through his posters into another life. A life of professional surfing and endless victories. A life where he conquered the world’s biggest waves with trademark courage. A life where people admired him and his Dad had a reason to give up smoking and looking sad on the verandah.

“How do you plan on fixing this one?” Boomed Mr Baker’s voice from outside the door. “Because you need to put it back together before she gets back!” His voice was hoarse. Billy wondered if it was the smoking or all the shouting at Mum that had caused it. He couldn’t decide which reason he wished was true.

“Billy?” The croaky voice warned, signalling Billy’s final chance to respond. But Mr Baker gave him another chance. “Mate, you need to do something, or she’ll never forgive you.” He offered weakly.

“Oh, because she is so forgiving all of the time,” groaned Billy sarcastically.

“That’s it! I’m coming in!” Mr Baker waited a few seconds, like he always did in these moments, hoping that Billy would change his mind and come creeping out of his room for a hug. It never worked, but Mr Baker always tried.

He kicked the door in and marched purposefully toward Billy. “Billy?” He scanned the room in search of his only son. “Bill, where are you, son?” He dropped to his knees. Looked under the bed. “Billy Baker, you come out right now and face your Father like a man!” He bellowed. His voice was shaky and so were his hands. The wind screamed through the bedroom window, sending the curtains high into the air, so that they were lapping against the ceiling and sometimes blocking out the light, so it looked like a lighting storm inside. Mr Baker threw his head out the window into the pouring rain. “Billy!”

He struggled to hear his own voice above the bucketing downpour. But he didn’t stop. He yelled the name of his precious son out that rusty hole in the fibro shack wall of 58 Finders street, Barley Bay. He yelled it again and again, until he couldn’t hear himself, because his voice was gone, and until the tears rolled down his face faster than the raindrops pounding his skull.