It was a dark and stormy night

Kay and Lizbet sat gazing at the clouds form at the crest of Grand Mountain several miles to the East. Both Kay and Lisbet were warming their hands on their first cups of coffee of the morning trying to ward off the under-chill of the first days of autumn. It was only August, for Pete’s sake, and the temperature overnight had dipped from twenty eight to four degrees Celsius, a sure sign that the summer days were slipping away.

Lizbet owned an incalculable number of blankets to ward off the mountain cold. Both Lizbet and Kay had one wrapped about their laps and legs.

“Look!” said Lizbet. “That cloud is just like a bear; or if you look at it the other way, it could be a small elephant with its trunk curled up.” Kay was facing the wrong way to easily see. She twisted her head about and looked. Eventually she could see the image that Lizbet had seen. Kay returned to her comfortable position looking north, facing Lizbet.

“Look!” said Lizbet. Kay bristled. She couldn’t turn her neck easily. She couldn’t keep turning around to see every cloud. She didn’t turn. But Lizbet insisted. With reluctance, Kay got up and turned about to see the cloud. With a sigh, she turned her whole chair around, her back now towards Lizbet.

The cloud had grown. Now it was like a donkey, Kay thought, with big ears, or a rabbit. The cloud was not going anywhere. It was simply growing and changing in place.

“What is it about Kootenay clouds that make them do that?” she asked rhetorically as she wondered at the physical, scientific properties that might engender these in situ cloud transformations. It wasn’t anything like the coast where the clouds rolled in, ready made, banked up against the Coast Mountains in towering masses of dark grey. These were fluffy white pillows. Cushions that grew. Grew into towering thunderheads like atomic bomb explosions.

The day heated up. Coffee was over and they went to their various tasks. Kay was painting the porch railing, the only paint failure that had occurred during the last winter. Paint was coming off in large flat flakes on the lower rail and this needed scraping, priming and painting. She also had some cedar siding to prime and paint. Slowly the house painting was getting under control. There was just the north side left to paint, but Lizbet would have to get a contractor in for that. The house was simply too high and she wasn’t about to climb up thirty feet on a ladder, no matter how stable anyone could make it.

Lizbet was going to cut the lawn. It was a large lawn with some hilly places. In her summer holiday absence, a young fellow had cut it once, but now it was long and it was going to be a big task. She brought out her new power mower and yanked on the cord. Once. Twice. Thrice. Finally the motor rumbled into action and snorted, ready for its grass eating exercise.

Kay stayed a little. She was considering if she could cut her own lawn with a power mower. If Lizbet could, surely Kay could. Lizbet ceded the grass eating monster and Kay held the trembling beast with both hands. The shuddering of it ran right through her.

“Good hand massage!” she declared over the noise of the beast, as her hand absorbed the vibration of the machine. “Good body massage!” shot back Lizbet, “It goes right through you.” Lizbet pulled dandelion heads while Kay mowed. After a bit, Kay gave the machine back and returned to her house painting.

Just before noon, the wind came up, rustling in the Lombardy poplars, brushing across the maple trees on the ravine hill in a gentle sh-sh-ing. In no time, the trees were swaying, whipping about. They were drowning out the roar of the lawn mower. Rain started to spatter, first in tiny drops, then in normal rain drops, then in big fat globs of water. Lizbet and Kay ran for cover, abandonning the machine in place as the sky dumped a proper deluge, but it was over in minutes and the wind died with it. It was a good time to break for lunch.

They sat on the porch, Lizbet with some reheated ribs she had left from the night before and Kay with a pair of fried eggs. It was a quick lunch. There was much to do.

“Look how black the clouds are to the North,” said Lizbet as they sat eating, both looking outwards this time.

“And look how the cloud on the crest is mushrooming like an atomic bomb,” said Kay. The cloud had started white and fluffy, the centre was darkening and expanding, the cloud rose in a matter of minutes from a small self contained pillow to a ginormous presence, growing out of the mountain crest like a mushroom, the light still pouring over and through it. It was white and beautiful with a full range of gray scale in between. Shafts of light came streaming through in some places. In others, there were form defining slate greys. And still, the sky between East and North was full of Dutchman Breeches, a pure sky blue.

Kay returned to her painting. Lizbet went inside to prepare for her first day back to school which was tomorrow. The School Board was downsizing the district. Drastic cuts had been made a few years previously, but she had seniority and had managed to stay on. This year, there were fewer students again. Although there were no more school closures – there had been ten of them two years ago, mostly one room schools – the downsizing continued. Instead of intermediate grades, she would have Grades Two and Three in a mixed class plus one of Grade Five French.

She knew she could do it, but she didn’t have the materials for the primary grades. She’d inherited piles of paper from a younger teacher who had been let go due to the downsizing, but she’d not had the heart to go through it. Now she had to prepare. Thirty youngsters would be facing her tomorrow, thirsty for knowledge, waiting to see the Fashion Queen of the Universe, as the Grade Threes had dubbed her last year. What she wore was of vital importance. But fashion wasn’t everything. Lizbet would need to be prepared to teach as well.

Kay was standing on a step ladder that had sunk into the garden soil just in front of the porch, scraping away loose paint and dust, priming as she went. Of a sudden, the lights went out. The black clouds from the North had blanketed the sun, had swept across half the sky – the half that Lizbet’s house was in.

Again, the warning wind, again a few random drops fell, then normal drops. Kay lidded the paint can. The drops were coming faster, were schooling together like tiny fish in the sea, massing, becoming big drops in a moving mass. Kay ran for cover. Lizbet came to the porch edge. The rain was pounding, The rain was pelting. Pea sized white pellets were driving forward. The gutters could not contain the onslaught. Water was gushing over their borders. The pellets were now the size of a dime. Slush was falling off the roof. Water was running down the driveway in sheets of brown slick mud, racing for the ravine edge.

Kay and Lizbet watched the phenomenon with wonder as rain and hail pelted, drove, dumped. And then it stopped.

Just stopped.

The driveway was slick with water; it began to form into muddy rivers, collecting, dispersing. The flower bed soil was black with damp. And then it was gone. The sun shone bravely as the cloud disappeared.

Gone.

The termperature had fallen from twenty five to fifteen in less than ten minutes.

Four hours later, Kay looked out the window to the north. A slushy pile of hailstones lay melting ever so slowly, the collected mass of what had fallen on the roof and then to the lawn.

It was a dark and stormy afternoon.

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