As the years progressed, her love for him never faded. This is a story that follows the trials and hardships of their lives.
Will life together for them ever be a reality?
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.76(d)|
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Raging Fire, Roaring Thunder
By A.A. Alexander
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013 A.A. Alexander
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Fire! Fire! A house is on fire!" someone yelled. All eyes in the neighborhood scanned the horizon to see where the smoke was coming from. Some were only curious, some really concerned, but at least one person had the presence of mind to call the fire department.
This 95° day in August, 1972, found the children playing baseball in the only vacant lot in the neighborhood. The ball, bat, and gloves were immediately dropped as the children began to run toward the billowing smoke a little less than two blocks away. Eleven and one-half-year-old Ryan Stewart led the pack because the smoke seemed to be in the area of his grandparents' house. It didn't take Ryan long to see that it was not only in that area, but it was indeed his grandparents' house. Ryan picked up his pace, arriving well ahead of the other kids.
* * *
Granny Eva Stewart had very little time to react. She knew she had to get to Amy, her little two-year-old granddaughter, who had been taking a nap in the small bedroom. Suddenly a small, terror-filled voice resonated from the bedroom as Granny rushed there, grabbed the young girl, and stumbled into the hallway, which was even now aglow from flames emerging from the kitchen. Billowing black smoke stung her already irritated eyes to the point of blocking her vision, but she knew she must make it to the door leading outside the house. She prayed as she never had before, "Oh, God! Help me get this child out of this." Never once did she think of herself as she stumbled and groped her way toward the door.
Suddenly she found herself reeling and swaying as she fell almost headlong down the front steps and into the yard. Instantly one of the neighbors grabbed Granny, and two of the stronger men carried her and Amy to the larger back yard, which was away from the wind and provided a safe area.
Gaining her composure, she was relieved and thanked God that she and, more particularly, the child were safe. That feeling soon vanished when it occurred to her that maybe Papa Stewart, who had been in the rear den, had not yet gotten out of the house.
By now the roof was caving in and soon the ceiling below would give way. As she watched, crying uncontrollably, Granny cried out, "Someone get Papa out of there!" Unbeknownst to her, Papa had emerged safely out the rear door and after finding out that Granny and Amy were out of danger, he very foolishly tried to re-enter in an effort to save some of his guns, particularly his rare Civil War rifle. The guns were racked just inside the rear door, less than ten feet inside the house, so he assumed he could get at least some of them and get back out safely. As Granny hugged Amy close to her and tried to reassure her, the smoke cleared enough for them to see Papa just inside the house with his rare rifle in hand. However, after only taking about two steps and before anyone could reach him, he fell prostrate on the floor. The same two husky neighbors pulled Mr. Stewart away from the now raging inferno while someone called an ambulance.
* * *
While all this was going on the children had begun to arrive on the scene, Ryan being the first.
Sensing that it was impossible for him to enter the house, Ryan instinctively picked up the water hose at the south end of the house—the hose that Papa always kept ready for watering the flower beds around the house and his small garden which he faithfully planted each year. Ryan turned the faucet on full force and began trying to put out the fire. The nervous tic which he had experienced for five years and had been desperately trying to overcome, now began to manifest itself in a rapid blinking of the eyes, which action has already earned him the nickname "Blinky". Ryan had lost his father in an automobile accident about five years ago when he was six. Immediately thereafter, the tic problem had set in, probably because of the insecurity experienced by the loss of his father and best pal.
Ten-year-old Betsy Miller arrived on the scene soon behind Ryan, saw the scenario and screamed to the other children, "Why isn't anybody helping him?" She immediately ran to the front faucet, picked up the hose that, fortunately, Papa had left connected and began trying to help Ryan put out the fire.
Of course, their actions were an exercise of futility. The water volume from the garden hoses had little or no effect against such a fire. The fire had engulfed the entire house by now. The ceiling was giving way under the weight of the crumbling roof structure. Then, while everyone watched in stunned silence, the walls began to fall inward into a huge heap of rubble, flames, smoke, and ashes.
Betsy could scarcely control herself. "Where are all the firemen?" she exclaimed. "Why aren't they here yet?"
It seemed like an eternity to all those gathered there, but indeed the fire department was on its way. The small town had a very good fire department for the town's size, and they came as quickly as anyone could have come. Soon after arriving they had the fire contained to the area of the small house itself, but by then everything was lost. The house that Granny and Papa had made home for 35 years was completely lost that day, along with everything they owned.
Granny was still beside herself, because Papa had not yet regained consciousness nor exhibited any movement. By now, in addition to holding and comforting Amy, she had to hold Ryan close. He had lost his father and best pal such a short time ago, and he was determined not to let anything happen to his grandfather.
Papa was still breathing when the ambulance arrived. As they began to work on him, putting him on a stretcher and heading for the ambulance, Granny tried to go with them, but they refused to let her.
"Regulations, you know," said one of the medics.
At that point, Jake Garrett, one of the older firefighters, known affectionately as Ol' Jake, stepped up and made known his opinion. Ol' Jake was truly a caring person, loved by all, having been an exemplary firefighter all these years. Not only for his firefighting prowess, but for his commitment to the community or any one of its people, he was a very respected figure in the small town. Jake was always the one who prepared the barbeque at the annual Fourth of July community outing.
Approaching the medics as they began to work on Papa Stewart, Jake quietly said to one of them, "I didn't know that her riding with you was against regulations. I don't know why it would hurt to let her go."
"Oh, it's not really against regulations, but I don't believe that he will ever make it to the hospital alive," whispered the medic softly to Jake.
"All the more reason to let her go with you," said Jake.
With that Jake assisted Granny into the vehicle.
Ryan, in the meantime, had slumped to a sitting position with his back against the backyard wood fence, his head lying on his arms across his knees. He was so young when he lost his father that he didn't remember much about him, but now all sorts of recollections flooded his mind. As his mind was prompted to reflect on the closeness that he and his father had enjoyed, his mind rankled over his father's death. For the last five years his grandfather "Papa" had basically taken his father's place. He was Ryan's fishing partner, his hunting partner, his gardening tutor, and the most ardent fan at all of Ryan's baseball games. Papa had to be ill or be out of town if he missed one of Ryan's games. Nobody except his mother had been so close to him. Now Ryan was facing losing a favorite pal once again.
In the excitement of the moment no one at the scene seemed to take notice of Ryan, not even the adults present. That is, no one except little ten-year-old Betsy Miller. Betsy found her way to Ryan, sat down beside him and instinctively placed his throbbing head on her shoulder with her arm around him. She didn't have to say a word. Ryan needed her desperately at that time, and responded by doing something he vowed earlier that he'd never do again. He was a big boy now, but he couldn't help it. He cried!
He tried to hold the tears back, especially here in front of a girl, but the grief was too much. He burst into tears as he groaned down deep inside and his nervous tic again mastered him.
"If only I could have been here, I might could have gotten Papa out, or maybe have put out the fire before it got so big. But it was big! Too big! I couldn't get close enough because it was too hot. I couldn't begin to put it out!"
Betsy felt his hurt, his pain, his sorrow. She ached with him and for him as she caressed the side of his face with her hand and gently kissed him on the forehead.
Chapter Two"Phone? Do I hear a phone?"
As he opened his car door he could hear a phone ringing. "I believe that's my office phone." Upon arriving at the church after attending a three day out-of-town conference, the pastor had just whizzed across the church parking lot, stopping his car at his office entrance.
"Who would be calling my office after five o'clock?" he wondered. "I had better answer that. It might be important."
As he sorted through his keys and fumbled to unlock the church door, the phone continued to ring. He raced down the short corridor to his office, again having to sort through his keys to open that door, but finally arriving at the telephone.
"Halloo!" he barked, puffing to catch his breath. No response from the other end. Hesitating a moment, he repeated, much more calmly this time, "Hello, this is Oak Hill Baptist Church. Can I help you?"
Finally what seemed to be a child's voice replies, "Oh, did I call at a bad time, Brother Davis? You sound like you're doing something important. I'm sorry, but—"
"Oh, no, I apologize. I was just out of breath getting to the phone. What can I do for you?"
"Brother Davis, I hate to bother you, but this is important."
"Ryan, is that you?"
"Yessir, all of us are at the hospital, Mama, Amy and Aunt Bonnie, Betsy and her mother, Granny Stewart and some other folks. A short pause, "and Papa Stewart," his voice trailing off. "We are very concerned about Granny Stewart. She is in a bad way. She says she is doing fine, but she ain't. Do you think that you could come?"
"What happened to Mrs. Stewart that she had to be taken to the hospital?"
"Oh, no! It's Papa Stewart. He's in the emergency room."
"But, you said Mrs. Stewart is in a bad way, didn't you? Slow down, Ryan, and tell me the whole story."
As Ryan proceeded to relate the houseburning to the pastor, he explained what had happened to Papa Stewart, and that the ambulance technician had inadvertently let it slip that he thought Mr. Stewart would not make it to the hospital alive. Granny Stewart just was not taking it well at all.
"So, could you please come?" asked Ryan.
* * *
Upon the pastor's arrival at the emergency waiting room, Granny Stewart was pacing up and down worse than a prospective father might, but she was nervous for a different reason. Even though there was another anxious family present, several chairs were still available, but Granny would not sit down. It was easy to perceive that the pastor's job of comforting her or even encouraging Granny would not be easy. All the others greeted him with a hug soon after he walked in the room, but Granny Stewart only nodded and said, "Hello, Pastor," and continued her pacing. She was not to be consoled.
Pastor Davis tried to stop Granny's pacing, extending his hand and saying, "Mrs. Stewart, would you let me share in your grief? Can we pray together?"
As she managed to touch his hand with just the tips of her fingers, she dropped her head, her eyes full of tears. She said nothing. The pastor took her hand and led her gently to a nearby chair.
Fully recognizing that all this was cataclysmic to her, that things she had depended on were suddenly not dependable, that all her relationships were vulnerable, that the outside world seemed unloving and unreasonable, and, most of all, that she was not in control of her life at this point, he again asked her to pray with him.
After the prayer, Granny was somewhat more settled and began to spill out her pent-up feelings. "He's only 65. It's far too early to see him go. We've been together 39 years. I don't think that I can go on without him. He's my rock and my best friend. I'd be so lost, living without him. It's like someone is ripping out my heart. We had so many plans, and now there seems like there's no point to anything anymore. Please, somebody, help me!"
Almost an hour passed. Granny had finally gotten somewhat of a hold on herself, or maybe it was just numbness and detachment. But, at least, the first wave of despair seemed to have abated. However, there was another tremendous wave to come. In about 15 minutes the doctor appeared in the waiting room doorway, the head nurse right beside him. Being a bearer of bad news must be a difficult thing for any doctor, but especially for this doctor, who was naturally very compassionate and, in this case, knew the family personally.
With all the sensitivity that he could muster Dr. Spencer announced, "We did all we could, but we couldn't save him." He managed to explain that it was Mr. Stewart's heart that gave way, and that his death was not directly attributable to smoke inhalation. The stress of the experience was just too much for his heart.
All the family gathered around Granny Stewart trying to comfort her which, of course, no one really could. Very few words were uttered, but the love and concern were felt. At times like this, life embodies needs too deep for words. For this family the period might be considered a "sacred silence", a brief interlude in which the living sort of join the dead, together in the mystery of life and death. Although it was a quiet time, Ryan's tic again manifested itself in a decided way.
While all this was going on with the family, Dr. Spencer's nurse remained in the room, giving them space but staying connected with the family. She remained highly alert, just on the edge of the family's space and their awareness, watching for a sign in case assistance was needed. Nobody seemed to notice this but little Betsy Miller. She watched intently every move of the nurse, especially noticing that when Ryan's mother, Beverly, wondered aloud about what do we do now, the nurse went to her immediately to help guide her through the business at hand. Betsy was fascinated with this and even at this early age she knew that she wanted to be a nurse.
Later, when the family along with the Millers took Granny Stewart to Beverly's home, everyone seemed to settle down relatively well except Granny, who sat in the stuffed chair with the tears flowing. Upon seeing Granny cry, Betsy climbed onto her lap and just sat there. Soon Granny had her tears under control.
When Beverly asked Betsy what she had said to Granny, she replied, "Nothing, I just helped her cry."
Chapter Three"Arson," everyone was saying. Nobody thought it was an accident. Nobody thought that it just happened.
Excerpted from Raging Fire, Roaring Thunder by A.A. Alexander Copyright © 2013 by A.A. Alexander. Excerpted by permission.
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