Sunshine & the Storm Cloud (For Mélaine)
For those of you in my praying community (and for those of you who don’t pray but are fans of Karma and positive thought energy), a dear friend and co-worker of mine is fighting through a rather nasty bit of cancer and will shortly be undergoing a bone marrow transplant in effort to secure a cure for that blight that has found itself lodged in her body.
A few months back I wrote a short story for SlanderousTongue.com and shared it with her as a source of encouragement when the world seems gray. So as I sit here looking out at the pouring rain and praying for her upcoming procedure, I thought I would share that small snippet of her story that so that you might include her in your prayers and positive thoughts. In exchange, I’ll share a little bit of my encouragement with you in hopes that you might find something in there for yourself as well.
It has a title that still needs work, and this is simply a rough draft, but enjoy none the less.
The sky outside was a listless grey… and wet; drenched in fact. It was as if the entire whole of the world’s rooftop were drowning in water. That coalesced moisture, cold and overflowing, was spilling down onto the upturned ground saturating it like a soiled dish cloth.
“What a horrible, muddy, grey, dreary, cheerless,” the girl stopped a moment to wring her brain out for another slew of synonyms, “blah, depressing, humdrum day.” She tried to smile at her clear mastery of “the adjective,” but little could bring happiness on a day such as today.
Though, upon closer consideration, it was really more than just today that was causing her such distress. A single day of sunless mirth could be endured; two or three could be overcome with some effort, but an entire week? Surely in the whole history of the world, no one had ever had to suffer through seven long melancholy bleak days like she had. She didn’t wish to alarm anyone, but she was beginning to fear that the color would be stolen from the earth for forever.
In the back of her mind she had begun to suspect that some thief had crept to the top of the highest mountain and waited for the sun to pass overhead and when it did, he (she knew it was a boy because boys were, by their very natures, bad and mischievous) jumped up with a great sack and caught the sun before it even knew what was happening. With the sun out of the way, he took out a giant straw, plunked it right into the great soda-popped sky and started sucking away all the color.
But it wasn’t just from the world that he was stealing the color, it was from her face too. She could see it; she could feel it. Every day she went to the mirror and looked upon her face, and each day the sunshine of her hair, the glow of her eyes and the sparkle of her teeth started to fade away. The corners of her mouth started to fall too, that’s how powerful the suction was.
Today she had decided to fight the thief by standing on her head and looking back into the mirror so that she could see her face smile once again (she couldn’t remember what a smile looked like), and mother said “her knickers were showing” and that “she should sit like a lady” and “to stop that right away before all the blood rushed to her head and she got dizzy” (which it did, and she had). But mother didn’t understand. The sun was gone, the world was flooding (she was worried that the world was flooding too), and someone was stealing all the color and no one seemed to be doing anything about it.
The little girl sat cross-legged on the floor of her room watching the puddle in the back yard achieve lake status. She couldn’t take it anymore. Something simply had to be done. She decided that she had to tell Mother. Mothers may be the thorn in the sides of little girls, but they get things done; mothers have super secret powers. This determined decision had brought her to her feet and she had screwed upon her face the most serious and stern look that she could muster for one of her age. She had folded her arms across the front of her dress and straddled the floor boards as if bracing herself for a mighty wind to come and try to carry her away (the wind was a boy too, why else would it mess up her hair, kick dirt into her eyes and try to peek under her skirt?).
It was at that very moment, with that very face, that those very arms crossed upon that very dress, and in that very stance that mother happened past her bedroom door.
“Well, don’t you have quite the little storm cloud brewing over your head,” mother intoned, carrying a basket of laundry down the hall.
And it was at those words tossed like a smelly sock into the corner of an already messy room that her world began to tumble. The little girl tumbled with them right onto her bed. She was stunned. Did she really just hear her mother say what it was that she thought that she had said? “Quite the little storm cloud brewing over your head,” those were the words weren’t they?
They couldn’t possibly be.
No, surely not truly. She must be mistaken. Yes, that was it, perhaps her mother had misspoke.
But they still rang like the lunch bell in the canopy of her head. “Quite the little storm cloud”.
Suddenly it all made sense now and the room began to twirl with the reality of her discovery. What was it that daddy always called her? How did he put it when he returned from the day and sat her down upon his lap and held her close, so close that she could smell the breeze and heat in his shirt?
“How is my little sunshine today?”
And there it was, the answer to the entire mystery. Some snot nose boy hadn’t found a way to snag the sun and steal the color (no boy could be that smart, that brave, or that clever). The key was her and the secret of her understanding had shattered all that she thought she knew to be true.
Simply put, that unbeknownst to her, she was the sun. The world was grey, cold and empty because she was covered by a storm cloud, and if she could not find a way to rid herself of this harbinger of doom, all could be lost. The room began to spin about once more. And on that last and final spin she at long last saw her nemesis, the little storm cloud.
It was a boil of melancholy: dark greys, light greys, and a twizel of medium greys. Tiny sparks of electricity and heat erupted from all sides of the dancing little mass. One of the fingers of light reached out and touched the ends of her hair and caused them to stand upright like the children in her Sunday School class waiting to be dismissed. Shortly thereafter the rain began to fall.
The little storm cloud hovered above the girl’s head and dumped pails of water upon her in steady gushes. Like standing in the shower when you first turn the handles, the cold brought a wave of astonished disbelief. More than anything though, the little girl was appalled at the audacity of the storm cloud to treat her in such a matter. However the shock quickly passed as she noticed the pooling water that started to gather about her pink painted toes.
“Oh no,” thought the little girl, “mother will work herself into a lather over this mess.” So she grabbed the remains from her exploded drawers and closet that were cast about her room and attempted to mop up the now raging river that she found herself in the middle of. Yet try as she might, the water would not and could not be cleaned up. Despair seemed to open it’s mighty maw and began to encircle her with it’s toothy teeth. And then she began to cry.
She really could not help herself. She had tried to fight back the salty rivulets that had begun to mix with the cold soggy drops of rain that pa-looped from the ends of her hair, but they came on none the less. Once the logjam of her resistance had given way, they flowed more readily and deeply, her chest dancing up and down of it’s own accord. For many moments she sat like Jonah inside the belly of sorrow and gave into her defeat.
There is a darkness that lives in that hole inside the stomach of despair that can be found in no other place in the world. All the candles in all the windows cannot pierce the hide of that beast. There is but one fire that can light the way up from that pit and it is the flames of wrath. It is that blaze that wells from inside our guts and breaks forth on it’s own legs to rampage around. If there is one thing that little girls are especially skilled at, it is anger and so the little girl got mad.
“Just like a boy,” the little girl thought. For the storm cloud too must be a boy. Surely. Who else would make a mess like this and leave it for someone else to clean up? Who, but a boy, would allow a little girl to cry like that and not come to her aid? Well, she for one was not about to be beaten by a boy. Already at school she proved that she was faster than the boys, smarter than the boys, and her dresses were certainly prettier than the stupid short pants and stained t-shirts they always wore.
The little girl had cataloged in her mind a list of effective ways to rid oneself of a boy. She thought of Lucy and how little Bobby Henry had pulled on her hair trying to get her attention. She had spun around with such a wonderful flourish and smacked him soundly on his goofily grinning cheek. Shawack! What a wonderful sound it had made. He had fled in terror and some of the other boys had whispered that Lucy had made him cry. With that in mind her first course of action must be swift and sound if she was to drive away this cloud and save the world.
With a mighty leap driven with the power that only the legs of a little girl could produce, she took a giant swing at the storm cloud, hoping that the ferocity of her attack would send the little cumulus fleeing. Her initial efforts did not produce the desired effect so she rained her own storm of fists down upon the cloud screaming with the fury of a spring tempest. A hurricane of blows rose and fell; a rushing torrent of hate filled words of the clouds stupidity, ignorance, and get-away-from-me’s buffeted the storm on all sides. All the little girl achieved with a small bolt of lightning returning her once again to the floor in stunned confusion.
She mentally leafed through her list of tactics. Ah, this one always worked on daddy. What is a daddy other than a little boy all grown up (how mother could stand living with a boy was beyond her capacity to fathom – once she had asked mother that very question and mother had told her that when she was older she would understand, but if getting older meant understanding boys, then she never wanted to get older)?
So with much effort the little girl folded her water slicked arms across her damp dress and shoved her lower lip out farther than any little girl in all of living memory had pushed it out. She began to pout. Pouting always worked on daddy. After a few moments of this certainly the little storm cloud would give into all of her demands and leave the world for good.
But the little storm cloud did not leave. It just continued to linger above her head and pour its miserable water all over her.
“Hrumph!” said the little girl.
“Hrumph!” said the little storm cloud.
“Go away! I hate you!” the little girl shouted.
But the little storm cloud just stormed, and thundered, and rained.
“This is impossible (just like boys),” thought the little girl. “I don’t know what to do. I’ve hit it. I’ve told it to go away. I’ve pouted and still the little storm cloud won’t go away. If I don’t think of something soon, the world will be lost.” The little girl was quickly running out of ways to deal with a pestering boy (violence, the tantrum, and the pout were the primary weapons of the little girl – later on she would learn the wink, the smile, the flirt, and feigned helplessness, but for now, those would have to wait). There was one method that she had considered, but hadn’t had the chance to field test it to know if it was effective.
“Oh just ignore him,” mother had said at church. Could ignoring really work? Were boys really so stupid that if you just pretended that they weren’t really there that they would simply go away? The little girl thought that they would just try all the harder to get your attention, but perhaps mother knew best. She was quickly finding herself with few other avenues to explore. So the little girl pretended that the storm cloud wasn’t there and did her best to focus on ignoring him.
And just like that the little storm cloud vanished…
…well that is until the rain drops fell into her eyes, the sparks messed up her hair again, and the puddles soaked her dress. It was in that very moment, in that very puddle, under that very storm cloud that the little girl snapped.
She stomped. She cried. She flailed. She fell into a heap on the floor. She resigned herself to a world of grey. She prayed (but God must not have heard her over the storm). She hollered at the top of her lungs, “GO AWAY! I HATE YOU!”
But the little storm cloud did not go away and the little girl had run out of options. Run out of options that is, save one. The little girl ran.
With the feet of youth she fled her room. Perhaps if she could just outrun the little storm cloud she could loose him. She could hide and it would never find her and the world would be all right once again. Down the hall, into the living room, and out the front door into the grey sea. And still she ran, her lungs blazing with heat, her cheeks steaming, her ears thump, thump, thumping.
And with a great sur-plop, the little girl slipped,
and crashed into the muddy ground.
The world was quiet. Perhaps, just perhaps she had done it at last.
With a “shalucky” pull she lifted her face from the mushy ground and splashed onto her back.
The little storm cloud washed the mud from her eyes. It had found her. She had lost. The world had lost. The little storm cloud had won and the world was doomed to forever grey.
She struggled and wrestled herself to her feet. Mother was most positively going to kill her now. As the little girl pulled tigs and leaves from her tangled locks she looked down at her once white – now brown dress. It was wet, torn and covered with more dirt than a sow might collect on a good day. Her life was over.
But it was in that very moment, in that very storm, in that very once white – now brown dress, on that very spot that she looked down and saw the angel that she had made in the mud. And as she looked up, past the storm cloud and into the greater greyer sky, she laughed.
And then she laughed some more.
And then she laughed, and laughed, and laughed still more. She laughed so hard that her knees gave away and once again she found herself on the muddy mucky earth. But this time it didn’t matter. She wallowed, she ran, she dove, she slid, she splashed, and still she laughed. She made pies, she danced, she cried, and hugged the rain as it washed over it. But more than that she glowed. She soared, she shown.
When the laughter finally let her go, she looked about and noticed that the storm cloud was gone, and that the sky wasn’t quite so grey any more. In fact, yes, it was, the sky was growing blue. Blue. Color! The little girl ran back towards the house to find mother standing on the porch and little girl skidded to a halt. She had forgotten about her hair. She had forgotten about her dress. She had forgotten about the mess inside the house. She braced for her mother’s harsh words, and the world felt a little colder, a little greyer, and a little darker.
Mother looked at her sternly. Her hands placed her hips. The little girls breath caught. And then mother laughed and held open her arms and the little girl rushed into them and mother held her close, so close that she could smell the clean laundry and the love.
“Well, aren’t you my little muddy little sunbeam.” And she was.
The little girl knew in that one hug that the world was going to be okay, and that no matter what little storm clouds brewed about her heard and tried to steal away the color and the warmth, that sunshine was always right there, just inside her. All she had to do was shine. And so she did.
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