It’s pretty clear that Carter thinks he is the shit. He’s been dancing around, all four years of him, in that jersey for two days straight. Won’t take the damn thing off. He won’t stop playing with the new basketball Ma got him either. His constant dribbling against the basement floor is giving me a headache. He wants to be outside, and I wish he could be. But as much as I want him to have fun, normal childhood, I like him alive better.
It was early in the afternoon when the alarm sounded.
I sat up quickly, shoving off the blanket and throwing my legs off the bed. I jammed my feet into shoes and raced down the hall.
Carter was ready, waiting with a flashlight and a book clutched to his tiny chest.
I scooped him up and sprinted out of his room and down the stairs.
Ma was at the bottom of the stairs. Kama, Junie, and Marcie were already in school, so they would already be there.
Outside, everyone was running. They were panicked — of course. But there was something else there too, something mundane.
Then again, this was the third time this had happened this week.
We made it to the shelter just moments before it hit. I ran faster than Ma, even with Carter, and had just enough time to pull her inside and slam the door before the aftershocks came.
I grabbed a shelf on the wall to steady myself and tightened my grip on Carter as the entire building shook.
When it subsided, I set him down. He was squirming.
I chuckled. “Go play, little man.”
And he did.
He knows what’s happening.
He just doesn’t know any difference.
“Ash, you look like hell.”
I frowned at my fifteen year old sister.
“Don’t talk like that, Kama.”
“It’s true,” she points out.
I close my eyes and rub my rough jaw. She was right, of course. Damn her.
“I know,” I sighed. “I had watch duty last night.”
“I know where you were. I’m just saying you look like hell.”
“Thanks for the concern, sis.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Where were you last night?”
Her whole face sort of squished up. She narrowed her eyes and her lips pressed into a white line. She looks like Ma when she is angry.
“You missed curfew again.”
She said nothing.
“Mom gave me an earful about it when I got home.”
Kama just glared and walked away.
You gotta love sisters.
Hours later, we were released.
I turned to see my high school buddy, Ray Sampson, jogging towards me. His face was grim.
I said nothing, but waited for him to tell me what had been hit.
I nodded. I located Ma and Carter in the growing crowd.
“I’m going to help.”
She knew what to do.
This happened every time.
I joined up with Ray. Ray’s dad worked for the county and he always found out everything first.
“Damage?” I asked.
“Nothing worse than Winstontown last week.”
I nodded. That hadn’t taken any longer than sundown, which was good, because I needed to study.
We jogged the ten minutes to Greensburg. It looked....well, like a bomb had gone off. The irony struck me in the gut for the umpteenth time.
I hated cleanup.