All my life, I’ve been afraid of storms, and growing up in Tornado Alley never helped any. When I was young, one year we were experiencing more storms than usual. I stayed on high alert every time clouds would cover the sky and was especially worried on this occasion because my aunt’s house had been devastated by a tornado the week before.
One evening, a storm was rapidly approaching and the alarms sounded. Mom hurried us to a shelter. A little girl there was clinging to her father, and I was sat down beside her. You could hear the wind rushing something terrible outside, and I became scared. As I was about to jump into my mother’s arms, a hand grabbed my wrist and went for my hand. It made me feel very calm. I looked to see whose hand I was holding, and it was the girl’s. I guess she sensed how afraid I was. She made me so calm that I quickly forgot about the noises coming from outside.
To this day, that little girl still keeps me calm during troubling times. She’s my wife now.
Second Prize ($150)
It’s October 3, 1986, a Friday. I’m 16 and have my heart set on an away football game. Predictions for the day are rain and fog. Accommodating my desire despite the precipitation forecast, my mother slips her stocking feet into my faux leather loafers and we push out the door.
At 5:08 p.m., Mom angles her brown Dodge Dart onto the highway. Soon, we’re driving through a liquid shroud. Even the wipers click-clacking on highest speed can’t eliminate the deluge smacking the windshield between their urgent swipes.
My mother keeps her eyes focused on the yellow line. We make it to the turnoff to the school and chug up the hill to the main entrance. Mom noses the automobile in close to the portico, where tarmac meets cement, so that not a drop of rain will touch me. “This is stupid,” I say, embarrassed by the coddling. I leap out, slam the door shut, and rush into the building. It is 5:28 p.m.
At 5:30 p.m., a drunk driver slams into my mother.
In Wales, they say, it rains old women and walking sticks. At 45, my mother died in the rain, never to become an old woman.
Third Prize ($100)
One snowy February day, when my mother was pregnant with me, she went down to the creek to get some butter. Had no electricity, so they kept the milk and butter in the creek. On the way down the bank of the creek, she got to sliding and landed in the icy water. My grandmother came running and got her back to the house. My mother went into labor. When I was born, she named me Icie. All my life I’ve heard, “Were you born in winter?” “Was it cold when you were born?” “Icy hot!” And on and on. Then I met my husband, love of my life. He made me Icie Winter. I said, “Lord, I’ll never live this one down!” He says, “We were meant to be.”
–Icie Winter, Sugar Tree, Tennessee
While canoeing on Chesapeake Bay in an aluminum canoe, my friend and I saw this storm approaching from the north. Not long after realizing that we had no rubber, a bolt of lightning hit a tree on the shoreline. The tree exploded into dust. A storm with explosive lightning! My friend and I began to paddle for our lives. By the time we had paddled the mile back to the dock, there was no place to land along the way, and we were getting pretty tired. I yelled to my friend to just beach the canoe, chuck the paddles, and run! He replied that we might as well pull the canoe in with us. I said, “Okay,” as we came around the dock. The canoe hit the beach, we grabbed the canoe, and just as we got to shore, a bolt of lightning split our wake coming around the dock. We were so close, we never heard thunder. Our hair was still sticking up on end an hour later when we were picked up to ride home.