Calm yourself, kiddo. You’ll use up all the oxygen.
That’s what my Grandpa Joe would tell me if he were here right now. But he isn’t. Nobody is. I’m alone. Sitting here in a storm shelter in complete darkness, scrambling to find a light.
Not that I’m scared or anything. Cause I’m not. I can handle myself just fine, thank you.
No, it’s more the fact that I have to transfer my thoughts to paper. Immediately. Scratch that. I NEED to transfer my thoughts. Just in case something happens to me, people have to know what happened.
I found the matches. Now that I got the lighting situation taken care of, I can put my pen to pad. Must be the journalist in me. Well, let’s not go that far. I’m no Diane Sawyer, believe me. Maybe someday it’ll happen, but not right now. Not this instance. Not while I’m caught in this hell fire.
Goodness gracious, would you listen to me, I’m rambling. Grandpa Joe once told me that a mind that doesn’t shut up could drive a person insane. That’s why he bought me this journal. To keep me sane, I guess.
But enough of that already, let’s get to writing.
April 5, 2013. My name is Rose Daughtry, I am 12 years old, and I’m currently caught in the middle of the worst storm the great state of Oklahoma has ever seen.
In the backs woods – somewhere in Oklahoma – the morning dew drips off the tall blades of grass. A deer cautiously creeps through the tall, quiet field, searching for his morning breakfast.
He bows his head, and consumes a small blade of grass. His eyes still alert, as he scans his surroundings. The deer’s head quickly shoots up, as he hears a loud, distant crunch within the grass. He peers around, but comes up with nothing. Coast is clear.
The deer drops his guard and lowers his head once again, this time munching on a larger bite. The deer is at peace, as if this is the first meal he’s enjoyed in a long time.
Just then, a family of Orchard Orioles flutters from the trees, chirping and singing, as they soar together out of the woods, making their way to the next feeding ground.
Spooked, the deer attempts to high tail it out of there, but as he goes to step forward ⎯ BANG!
The deer’s body goes limp, as he collapses. Dead. A pool of blood flows from a large gunshot wound to the heart. His lifeless eyes stare off in the distance, as if asking his killers, “Why me?” But of course, there’s no response.
Fifty yards in the distance – low to the ground – is the scope of a Long Action Rifle. The scope lowers and the eye behind the kill belongs to Miss Rose Daughtry. She’s fully garbed from head-to-toe in camouflage.
Rose reveals a wide, satisfied smile, as if this was her first kill. That’s because it is. Rose has always been a bit hesitant when it comes to guns, but by the looks of it, it’s apparent that the kid’s a natural.
Lying next to her, also fully camouflaged, is Rose’s Grandpa Joe. This good looking older man of sixty-five, is as down to earth as they come. Extremely compassionate, and Rose’s biggest fan.
When Rose was only four years old, her parents were flying home from Chicago, when their plane was struck down in a heavy blizzard. One hundred and seventy passengers were killed that day, including both pilots and the entire crew.
The media referred to it as an “unfortunate accident.” But Grandpa Joe knew better. Being an active member of the church, he knew and understood that God has a plan for everyone. Nothing is ever an accident.
God took his son Charles and daughter-in-law Carol away from him because he needed them more in Heaven, than here on Earth.
God knew that Rose would be in good hands. Grandpa Joe was a loved and respected member of society. God knew he would provide a good home for Rose while his son carried out the Lord’s work.
So, that’s what Grandpa Joe did. He raised Rose as if she were his own ⎯ teaching her the importance of hard work, both physically and mentally.
“Nothing in this world will ever be handed to you,” he would tell her. “You have to go out and earn it.”
Like any child, Rose sometimes let advice pass through one ear and out the other, but not that piece. She did her best to always apply that bit of knowledge to everything she did. Everything.
“You’re gonna start putting me to shame here, kiddo,” Grandpa Joe said, smiling proud.
“I owe it all to you, Grandpa Joe,” replied Rose. “You’re a fantastic teacher.”
“It’s not hard to teach something, when it comes naturally. You got something real special inside you, kiddo. I just hope I’m around long enough to see it.”
Rose blushes, as she lowers her head, smiling.
“What do you say we go fetch the poor bugger?” Grandpa Joe said, motioning to the deer.
Like a kid on Christmas morning, Rose leaps up and rushes to retrieve her dead trophy.
That was such a great day. A day I will never forget. Grandpa Joe and I have always been close, but it was something about yesterday’s hunting trip that seemed to bring us closer together than ever before.
It was as if, in some strange way, Grandpa Joe was preparing me for this moment. Teaching me a sort of trade. A trade that would come in handy if I ever had to survive on my own. If that’s not coincidence, then I don’t know what is.
Crap, what was that? Pull yourself together, Rose. Stay focused. It was probably just a large branch, or a tire off of someone’s truck. Or maybe it was a truck. Who knows? Or maybe it was a person. What if they need help? Stop it, Rose!
Can’t think like that. This storm will eventually blow over and you have to maintain your strength and face whatever’s out there. The world will be a different place now. You have to be prepared ⎯ NEED to be prepared.
Again, that’ll have to wait. Need to get back to writing. It’s the only sane thing to do at the moment. And maintaining my sanity is the most important thing right now.
A faded green pickup truck drives leisurely along a quiet, two -lane road ⎯ passing various homes and cattle farms. Acres of land, two-story ranch homes, livestock, spread apart by a half-mile or so of separation from the next human being ⎯ the true definition of country living.
Inside the truck are Grandpa Joe and Rose. The radio plays softly as Grandpa Joe concentrates on the road ahead. Rose writes furiously in her leather bound notebook.
After a moment, she looks out the window, pondering her next thought. She turns to Grandpa Joe, brimming with curiosity.
“Is it wrong what we did? Killing that animal, I mean?”
“How do you figure, sweetheart?” Grandpa Joe slightly confused.
“Well, in the Bible it says that all living things are God’s creatures.”
“But it also says that killing is wrong.”
Rose looks out the back window into the bed of the truck, eyeing the dead deer that is now wrapped in a large tarp. Rose turns back to her Grandpa, a smidgen of pity in her eyes.
“So, isn’t it wrong that we hunt animals? I mean, aren’t we murdering one of God’s creations?”
Grandpa Joe chuckles, amused by Rose’s sudden curiosity.
“My granddaughter, the future of journalism. Always trying to get to the heart of the story.”
“That’s right, Grandpa Joe. Diane Sawyer, eat your heart out.”
The two share a laugh.
“There’s no doubt in my mind, kiddo. I do believe you’re destined for great things.”
If I knew that would be the last time I would see my Grandpa alive, I would have told him ‘thanks.’ But who could have predicted this was going to happen? Nobody could have.
He dropped me off at my friend Lisa’s house for dinner, and when I heard news of the storm, I rushed home to be with him. But I was too late.
The storm had wiped out Grandpa’s entire farm before I got there.
Fighting back the strong winds, I immediately ran down here, hoping to find Grandpa Joe safe and sound. But of course I didn’t.
Grandpa Joe had told me a thousand times before, ‘God has a plan for us all. Everything in this world ⎯ good or bad ⎯ happens for a reason.’
‘In some strange way, kiddo, that’s part of what makes life worth living. Not knowing what tomorrow’s going to bring.’
I wish I could believe that right now, but I’d be a liar if I said I did. The horror that waits for me up above, can’t be justified as ‘something worth living for.’ I know he would tell me to remain optimistic, and wipe the fallen tears from my eyes, but I can’t seem to muster up the strength at the moment.
But he’s right ⎯ I have to pull it together. I can’t feel sorry for myself right now. Now’s not the time to be weak. You have work to do, things to get done. A new life to start living. But how? How can I move forward all by myself? I’m only twelve for goodness sake.
It doesn’t matter ⎯ you’ll find a way. Stay strong. Stay positive. Remember everything you’ve learned thus far, and I’m sure all the other pieces will fall into place.
It’s been a while now since I last heard any loud noise from up above, so I think the worst is finally over. So, here I go, I’m off to face whatever world is left for me up there.
I have a few cans of food, a lantern, matches, and most importantly ⎯ my journal. I’m ready ⎯ let’s do this. Here we go. One. Two. Three.