Fiction Teens & Young Adult Christian

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.


 “Hasn’t it started already?” Randall teetered on the makeshift stand, and the protective glasses slid down his tiny nose. 

 “Don’t think so, Randy,” his older sister Jessie said, water dribbling from her watering can as she headed toward their mother’s vegetable garden. Intense sunlight dotted her forehead and neck with beads of perspiration. Jessie had abandoned her eyewear for the solar eclipse, dressing in a hurry to begin the morning chores, after their angry voices interrupted her sleep.

  “Look, Randy, the sun is so high. When it happens, the sky will look dark as night.” 

Jessie rubbed Randall’s back and pushed the cardboard handles over his ear lobes.

 “You hungry?”

  Randall nodded. “OK, keep an eye out here while I make some hotcakes.”

  A few minutes later, Jessie scooped coffee grounds into the ancient percolator when her mother called.

 “Coming down soon, Jessie.” their mother Carrie said.

 “Yes, ma’am.” She pulled a pair of bruised apples from the produce drawer and handed the more pristine one to Randall.

  He munched his fruit while Jessie grabbed her glove from under the porch swing, kneading it with oil. When he’d finished his apple, she caught Randall’s soft tosses for an hour. Jessie hadn’t thrown for more than a week since her mother’s schedule left little time to catch her.

  “Breakfast!” Carrie called. 

  Jessie followed Randall to wash their hands and helped him on the stool before they sat at the table across from Joseph, his head buried in the Farmer’s Almanac. 

 “If we don’t get any rain soon,” he muttered, ignoring the steaming plate of food.

 “Good morning, Daddy,” both children said.

 “Take off those damn glasses at this table, now!” 

 “Yes, Daddy,” Randall said, hiding them under the tattered placemat. 

 “Yes, sir.” Joseph tossed the book and sloshed coffee onto the cracked linoleum.

  Carrie wiped the floor, and Jessie set their plates on the table, her T-shirt catching on Joseph’s chair. “Sorry, Daddy.”

 “You're a bull in a China shop, no grace whatsoever, girl.”

 Jessie brushed a tear from her cheek. “Aren’t you gonna eat, Mama?”

 “Shift starts in 15 minutes, baby. Y’all leave the dishes, and stay outside.”

 “I know, Mama. But I’ll clean up for you, and me and Randy will come in after it’s over.’

 Carrie nodded. “OK, don’t forget to keep your eyes covered, and wash up when you come back to the house.”

  “Yes, ma’am,” Jessie and Randall chorused as they watched Carrie leave.

  Joseph shot them a heated glance, and gobbled his bacon and eggs. The children ate, moving their utensils with care to make as little noise as possible.

   After Joseph finished his meal and their plates were empty, Jessie cleaned up and filled and chilled the water pitcher for Joseph’s mid-morning break. 

  “I hope rain stays away 'til tomorrow,” Jessie said.

  “Daddy says we need the rain like our next breath.”

  She turned to Randall. ”Sometimes he’s not right about things, you know?”

  “He’s Daddy, Jessie. He says he always knows best.”

  “Yeah, well, clouds and rain means you won’t see it.”

   When the tractor’s engine roared to life, Jessie felt the tension in her neck subside. 

  “Jessie, can we go now?” Randall rocked the chair back and forth, swinging his arms, like a bouncing ball in a gymnasium.

    “Sure.” Jessie scampered to her bedroom, grabbing her shades and unread summer assignment. With everything inside in order, she perched on the last porch step. Randall picked the scuffed baseball to toss, while her weary eyes drifted across the landscape.

  “It’s taking sooo long, Jessie.” Randall chased after the ball, which had landed beside their mother’s rose bush. 

  “Shouldn’t be much longer, Lil Bit.” Brilliant beams had given way to clouds, and Jessie felt too tired to be excited. All she really wanted was to work on her windup, determined to make next year’s softball team. Maybe Mom would get off early to have a catch later and to view the eclipse. Maybe her father would take a break and go into Little Rock to meet his buddies.

 “Look, Jessie, it’s getting darker now!”

 “Come watch the sky with me, Randy.”

 Jessie wrapped an arm around Randall’s shoulder.

 “Don’t get scared, baby, when it happens. I’ll be right there with you.”

 Randall nodded. “I’m gonna be so brave, Jessie. I promise.”

  The wind tossed a few leaves, and the fertilizer wafted from the garden and wrinkled her nose. The elements worked together-sun, wind and rain-to create something tangible yet fleeting, a tiny miracle, like the eclipse they anticipated. A tomato for a salad they'd eat in July, a carrot for her mother’s mouth-watering soup or chicken dish sometime after that, nutrition crucial for survival, not unlike security and serenity for which she longed. Jessie soaked up the moment, the sun’s rays now dimmed, buffeted by a comforting breeze.

   Their father’s screams sent Jessie sprinting toward the fields, Randall on her heels. The tractor hummed a horrible whine. Jessie’s pulse sped up as she neared its upturned wheel, Joseph nowhere in sight.


 “Do you see him, Jessie?”

  She turned to her brother, grasping his shoulders. “Baby, you shouldn’t be here. Go back to the house and call for help. You remember how?”

  “Press 0 for the operator, and tell them our address. Farm Road 3 off Route 9.”

 “Yes, Randy, tell them to hurry, there’s a man who fell off his tractor.” Jessie kissed his forehead, watching him run as fast as his six year old legs could manage.

  “Keep going, Bit!” Jessie blinked away a tear. The eclipse was happening now, and Randy was missing it.

  “Where are you, Daddy?”

  “Here, Jessie,” Joseph’s weak voice barely audible under the whir of the tractor’s engine.

  Her father lay on his back beside the rear wheel of the tractor, and a forehead gash leaked blood onto flattened blades of grass.

   “Don’t move, Daddy. Randy’s getting help,” Jessie tore the bottom half of her shirt and put pressure on Joseph’s wound.

  “It’s OK, Jessie. Don’t look, baby.” Jessie gasped at the sight of bone protruding from his leg.

 “How did this happen, Daddy?” 

  “I’m not sure, Jessie. I was riding along, musta hit something and here I am.” Joseph’s breathing slowed, and Jessie cradled his head.

 “Close your eyes, Jessie. You don’t have those shades,” Joseph reached for her hand, his large brown one still felt warm.

 “It’s OK to look when it’s dark, Daddy. Don’t speak, try to rest.”

 “Thank you, baby girl. I’m so glad you’re here with me.”

  The eclipse had transformed the sky into a stunning array of oranges, purples, and pinks, the fields a carpet of rich honey, a beautiful gift in a terrifying moment. Jessie squeezed her eyes closed, and whispered, Thank you, God, for everything. Please keep our Daddy, Lord. Please heal my family

  After what seemed like hours, Mr. Johnson from the neighboring farm rushed through the field, trailed by a pair of men in white uniforms carrying a stretcher. Once they loaded Joseph, Jessie followed them back to the house where her family waited with Mrs. Johnson, her children, and other neighbors and strangers surrounding them, eyes covered to catch the partial eclipse. 

   “At least we won’t forget this one,” one of the mothers said.

   Carrie handed Jessie her pair of shades. “Stay here with him. You did so good, baby girl.” 

  “What about me?” Randall asked.

  Carrie kissed their foreheads before she climbed in the ambulance with her husband. 

  When their parents and neighbors were gone, Jessie sank onto the porch and held Randall’s hand, her heart rate returning to normal in slow stages.

  “You saw it, right?”

  “It was so cool, Jessie.”


  “Will Daddy be OK?” 

   Jessie shrugged. “I hope so, Lil Bit.” The sun retreated, and dark clouds reappeared. She planned to add rain to her prayer list that evening, and give thanks for all miracles, seen and unseen.

April 09, 2024 16:17

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

Yes, you! Write. Format. Export for ebook and print. 100% free, always.