Samuel Alexander’s Storm Angel
by Karen Bovenmyer
Rain tickled through trees, slipped down trunks, and tumbled through mud. Samuel Alexander stood half-naked, arms outstretched, his feet in the stream, and welcomed God from the sky.
If it rains hard enough, he thought, it just might wash the pain away.
Sarah Jezebel’s arms were full of ears of corn from Nanna’s back forty and it was raining harder than piss on a stone. Sloppy masses of corn silk washed away, down her legs, into her socks, slipped around in the too-big shoes she had from her Nanna.
“Nanna? Nanny!” she called for the hundredth time. There still weren’t any answer.
She pushed through brambles anyway, shuffling forward because she’d lose the shoes if she lifted her feet. She came out of the trees and found herself in another deep valley, one she didn’t recognize at all. She looked left, right. No, nobody was there.
“Damn it,” she said softly, then threw her corn down.
Samuel Alexander heard the voice of God through the trees.
“Yessir, lord. You speak and I obey.” He got up out of the stream bed, never mind the brambles that scratched at his chest and arms, and squelched up the bank. God swore through the trees, in the valley, and he knew he had to come to that voice.
A white shape streaked toward her across the valley-bottom, partially obscured by trees, but coming her way fast. Nearby rested a forlorn lean-to, barely a tarp with two sticks to hold it up, pummeled by the rain. She made for it double quick. Best to be out of sight and out of mind of whatever dashed near. But she didn’t make it inside.
A young man, wearing a pair of ragged pants and not a stitch more, stepped out of the woods.
Sarah Jezebel blinked. He couldn’t be much older than she was. His arms and neck were tanned dark as any working boy, his hair burned blonde by the sun, but the rest had never seen light of day. His skin was so pale the freckles across him stood out like mud splats, but maybe that was what they were—he was brown slop from the knees down. Knees up, well… She averted her eyes like a good Christian.
“Boy, what in Sam Hell are you doing half-naked in a rain storm? You lost your mind?”
The angel was speaking to him. “I’m Samuel Alexander,” he said, not having a good enough answer for her question.
“Sam Hell. And don’t you wander no closer.”
Lightning split the sky and thunder shook his heart. The angel was dark, curly black hair holding the rain like glittering gems, dress clinging to her slight curves. He stepped toward her.
Sarah Jezebel shook her shoe at the crazy hill boy. “Git! You hear me?”
He lifted his hands in supplication.
A crack of thunder made her ears sting. Rain came down so hard it pounded her into the earth like she was a nail. Like God coming to collect all the sinners.
She ran for the lean-to.
It wasn’t much dryer inside, but the rain stopped beating her on the head. She wrapped her hands around her knees and huddled.
A white shape appeared in the doorway. The lean-to wasn’t much higher than a man’s waist. Sarah Jezebel covered her eyes.
“Don’t run away from me, angel!” he said. He crawled into the lean-to and knelt by her. “I’m ready for you to take me.”
“I ain’t taking you anywhere!” Sarah Jezebel yelled. “Get off!”
Samuel Alexander wrapped his arms around his angel’s knees, closed his eyes and rocked back and forth.
Sarah Jezebel found herself in quite a fix. Both shoes had come off. A half-naked hill boy had wrapped himself around her, and God was fixing to wash them both off the mountain.
“Listen,” she said, not wanting to touch him as he shuddered, nuzzling her shins. “Listen.”
“Just calm down now.” Her words didn’t do no good. She looked him over, what she could see in the dim light. He was skinny as a rail, must not have eaten in a week. No wonder he thought she had come to collect him. Fool had been trying to starve himself.
There was a satchel in the lean-to, and Sarah Jezebel could just reach it. A corner of a blanket peaked out. She wrapped it around her shoulders, catching as much of him under it as she could. He was hiccupping now.
They sat there like that until God sent the rain away.
“There now,” Sarah Jezebel said in her voice reserved for wild dogs. “It’s all right. Storm gone now.”
“Take me, angel, I’m ready.”
“I ain’t taking you nowhere, boy. I’m no angel.”
He turned his eyes up to her. Blue as the sky. “You are,” he said stubbornly.
Sarah Jezebel never had anyone look at her like that before. Such honesty. Such… devotion.
“All right. Tell me your sins, then.”
“I let her die, angel.”
The hair on Sarah Jezebel’s arms prickled.
“My wife.” His weeping came fresh. “I let the fever take her.”
“Now, son.” Sarah Jezebel patted him awkwardly on the shoulder, thinking he was hardly old enough to get married. She’d heard hill people married young, so that was true, whatever else. “Fever’s not your fault. God takes who he will.”
“But I sinned with her!” he said. “We fornicated too often, sometimes ten times a day, angel of the lord!”
“Lord have mercy!” Sarah Jezebel gasped. No wonder she died. He done wore her out!
“Lord have mercy!” he shouted. “Take me!”
“I ain’t gonna take you, boy,” she said, patting him on the shoulder again. “I ain’t.”
He started crying again. “I’m not worthy. My life’s done.”
“It’s not.” She got up, stepping around him and into the sunshine. The storm was over like it had never happened. The trees looked clean. This boy needed some direction and Nanna always said God had given Sarah Jezebel plenty.
He moved behind her and stepped out, the blanket wrapped around his thin hips. “Are you going?” he asked.
“Yup.” She found the shoes and pushed them on over her socks. “And you’re coming with me. Nanna’s corn needs gathering.”
Samuel Alexander picked up his satchel, dropped his sorrows, and followed his angel.
About the Author:
Karen Bovenmyer earned an MFA in Creative Writing: Popular Fiction from the University of Southern Maine. She teaches and mentors students at Iowa State University. Her short stories and poems appear in more than 30 publications and her first novel will be available from Dreamspinner Press in Spring 2017. http://karenbovenmyer.com/
Purchase link: “The Beaded Slipper” fairytale romance in the Maidens and Magic anthology, Crimson Edge Press http://www.crimsonedgepress.com/
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