Jamie Zack

The Storm

Why is patience a virtue?
Alice waits, and her heart taps rhythmically.
Like any teenage girl, ten minutes feels like an hour to her.
To an outsider, she could be waiting for a TV show she loves.
A friend could be supposed to call any minute with new gossip.

But so much more was riding on this day.
Her whole childhood, Alice had been daddy’s little girl.
They would walk together all day on Sundays.
Without pauses, they could talk over dinner for hours.

So Alice was justified in being impatient, right?

Alice sweeps her gaze across the room,
realizing the world is gray once more.
A cloak of clouds covers the horizon.
Though still setting, the sun is invisible.

In madness and in vain, her dog cries out, drowned
out by the drumming water on the roof.
Gazing through the stained glass,
tears slide down Alice’s face.

In an instant the sky lights up.
Sorrow and fear are washed away.
In their place, hope fills Alice’s eyes.
She is transported to a world of the past.

Lifting her into the air, Alice’s father twirls around.
They both fall to the ground, the world spinning too fast.
Giggling, Alice lists the shapes of the puffy, white clouds.
But the sky is teasing her. Darkness will fall again.

On cue, the clouds are smeared with gray,
like a child’s coloring book.
The trees vanish, and all light disappears.
Even her dog Max becomes a dull outline.

Slowly, Alice’s eyes readjust, returning her vision.
Her ears are the next victims,
shattered by thunder.

At the same, the doorbell rings.

A figure stands on the opposite side of the door.
Peaking from his trench coat, Alice spies a pair of vibrant scrubs.
He bears a hat reminding Alice of her favorite detective story.
After delivering his news, he promptly vanishes.

It is as if he had merely been a dream.

Alice wishes that he had been a dream, a dream that she would wake from.
That she would wake up to find her father standing over her.
That he could always be there for Alice, to cherish and protect her.
That the doctor had not told her that her father would never return.

As the clouds thicken, the darkness creeps in around Alice.
Her legs give in and she stumbles to the floor.
A cold, slobbering lick wipes away her salty tears.
Alice reaches out to pet her furry friend.

An hour passes. Although her tears are gone, Alice remains inanimate.
Mail is thrown against the front door as the wind picks up.
Alice stands, legs wobbling, and makes her way toward the door.
A sudden gust fills the room as she opens the door.

Forgotten and lost, a white envelope is blown
from underneath the closet door,
and tumbles toward Alice.
She tears the envelope, anxious for a distraction.

It’s a card from her last birthday,
with the words “I Love You Alice.”
Her eyes gleam, a hint of a smile crosses her face
as she reads her father’s handwriting.

Alice tells herself the sun will show its face again.
Growing flowers will emerge when the traces of winter disappear.
Sparrows will return, happily whistling a melody Alice knows by heart.
The storm will pass. The storm always passes.


Copyright © 2002-2011 Student Publishing Program (SPP). Poetry and prose © 2002-2011 by individual authors. Reprinted with permission.