The weather was dust more than anything else. On this hot Thursday in August, there was a searing sun and clear skies but if anyone in town mentioned anything about the weather, it was that the dryness was making a haze of dirt and it exhausted everyone.
Deputy Reese thought it a waste of his time to be sent on an errand to pick up the young lady at the airport. Now returning to the dismal town, he wished there would be more excuses to leave soon.
“Ma’am? Ma’am,” Deputy Reese wondered what was up with her. The entire encounter from the airport until then, she had been miles away. At first he thought she was sad but when he looked in her eyes and saw her blank stare, holding herself still with an envelope clutched in her hand, he spent the rest of the drive creeped out by her. He couldn’t wait to hand her off to the mayor. “Ma’am, we’re at Mayor James Patterson’s office now. Let’s go in.”
A nod was the only indication that she heard him. She had no emotion on her face, no recognition of the name. If he didn’t have his orders, Reese would have thought that he accidentally kidnapped the woman.
They entered the office while the sheriff argued with Mayor Patterson, “The town is desperate, farms are dying, and your Hail Mary pass is flying in some woman! Is she a scientist, does she understand agriculture? What the Hell Jim?”
Deputy Reese cleared his throat and caught the men’s attention.
“She’s a kid!” the sheriff protested, “What are you, twenty-five? This just keeps getting better and better.”
Reese swung around to look at the woman. The sheriff's reaction had to evoke some sort of reaction from her but she remained stoic. Reese was beginning to worry about her.
“Is she in shock?” Sheriff Larson asked.
“I don’t…” Reese started.
Mayor Patterson smiled and walked toward her, taking her in, “You haven’t changed. Ten years later and you look just the same.”
“The flight attendant said that she was like this the entire trip and she was like this the entire drive here. She has an envelope in her hand, addressed to you, Jim,” Reese indicated.
Mayor Patterson took the envelope without resistance and read the letter. Then he put his hands on her shoulders, squeezed and consoled, “You’re done now. You made it here and you’re safe.”
The woman’s eyes came into focus, “Jim.”
“You’re here. Thank you so much for coming.”
“This is insane,” Sheriff Larson protested, “You do your little experiment. I’m going to get back to doing some real work.”
“Dorothy, this is Deputy Reese.”
“I told her when I picked her up,” Reese stated.
After an entire afternoon of distance, when Dorothy looked at Reese and finally smiled, his breath caught. “Reese?” she asked.
“Yes, I told you at the airport.”
“I’m sorry. I couldn’t hear you yet,” she explained.
“Let’s get you settled and we’ll go over what I need you to do,” the mayor suggested.
“Not too much,” Dorothy warned, “If you want me to be successful, you can’t tell me too much.”
“Of course,” Mayor Patterson agreed.
“Oh, and my note,” Dorothy pointed out, “My precautions are not for my safety. I’ve survived three plane crashes so far. My concerns are for everyone else's safety.”
Deputy Reese picked up Dorothy at the motel for dinner. He was informed to flash his flashlight in the window when he got there which seemed insane, so he knocked.
He knocked louder and still no answer. Finally, he did as he was told and flashed his light in her window. She answered the door wearing a lovely black dress that looked like the type that was meant to go from work to evening with the change of some jewelry. Her style was gorgeous except for the large, red, noise-canceling headphones she was wearing on her ears.
This added to the confusion for the day, "Why?" Deputy Reese made sure to exaggerate the question since she could not hear him.
Dorothy handed him a note that read, "I cannot talk about why I am here and YOU cannot talk to me about why I am here."
"Okay," he exaggerated the word again.
She lifted up the headphones for a moment, "It is best if I cannot hear what is going on around town. No concerns, no news, no gossip. The headphones make sure that all I hear are my own thoughts."
"But why," Deputy Reese insisted.
"I can't tell you that," she resigned and put the headphones back on.
They went to a private dinner with the mayor at his home. Deputy Reese and Dorothy pulled up to find Mayor Patterson saying good-bye to his wife and two little girls.
"Can we wait until they go?" Dorothy asked while she traced her finger along the headphones.
Deputy made sure she could see him nod yes.
As the family drove away, Dorothy sighed, "Let's go," as she made her way to the house.
The mayor smiled as he pointed out her ears, "Good idea, we're alone now," and showed her the empty house.
Dorothy smiled and took off the headphones. "I saw your family leave before we came up. So lovely, I wish I could have met them but..." she nodded in a "you know" gesture.
"Maybe when everything is done. I would love for them to meet you and tell you everything that's happened since I've seen you," Mayor Jim suggested.
"I would like that," Dorothy agreed, "So, you have figured out a way to tell me exactly what you want me to do without giving away too much."
"Yes, I think I have," Jim answered and then turned to Deputy Reese, "I need you to just listen to our conversation. Please don't ask any questions or talk about anything going on with the town. You are here to help Dorothy complete her task, nothing more. Do you understand?"
Reese paused, studying the mayor and Dorothy. Why so secretive? How was she supposed to be able to help anyway? They needed rain and she didn't look like the answer. She didn't bring any science equipment, no books or notes. Maybe the Sheriff was right, but the town needed a miracle. And what else was there to do if he didn't help? No one else had any answers.
She was sweet and kind and seemed determined to help, being so dedicated to these weird precautions she was taking. How could he say no when she was trying so hard.
"I understand Sir. I will help by doing exactly what you say."
Dorothy and Jim gave a sigh of relief. "Great," Jim said, "let me get the plans."
Mayor Jim came out with a list of schools. "These are five schools that have summer camps when school is not in session. There are about 50 - 80 kids in each camp. Next week is supposed to be the highlight of the summer with huge picnics and outdoor activities at each camp, one each day of the week starting on Monday."
"Okay?" Dorothy was waiting for how she fit into this.
"I need you to be our Event Organizer," Jim explained, "I want you to make this the best summer for those kids to remember. Please make these picnics amazing, with great food, games, activities, something from a child's dream of the best day ever. I want you to make the most amazing plans, get excited about it, put your heart into it."
Dorothy took a deep breath, as if she was trying hard to keep her composure, took the list and stated, "I can do this."
Monday was three days away and Dorothy would have to work fast to get everything they needed. Dorothy had asked Deputy Reese to take her a couple of towns over to look for her supplies. It had served to give her privacy in her venture as well as giving her a bigger selection to choose from.
Reese was taken aback by her cheery nature. She was wandering through aisles, cooing over balloons and games. She often held up different colors of tablecloths, plates, and napkins for his opinion and then opted for most of the colors anyway. Gone was the stoic woman from yesterday.
"You certainly seem better than last night," Reese had commented, "Why were you so somber when you agreed to the mayor's request?"
Dorothy paused and chose her words carefully, "It was important for me to concentrate on what Jim wanted and not let my mind wander. I want this to be perfect for the children."
Reese watched Dorothy become giddy about choosing prizes for the games. He was concerned that she would be let down by the fact that the children were probably too worried about the drought to have much fun at all. "Look, Dorothy, there's something you should probably know about..."
She spun around and gently placed her fingers on his lips. He was stunned by how quick she was and how serious her face had become. "You promised," her words seared through him.
She watched him, willing him to drop whatever he was about to say. Her face softened as he expressed his compliance and she continued, "The most important thing right now is these next few days. We are going to have fun and plan the best summer picnics for these children. Our only goal, the only thing we will think about, is giving them a fantastic week to enjoy."
Realizing he was holding his breath, Reese gasped and took a moment to admire her beauty and determination as he agreed, "Of course."
The rest of the weekend, he stuck to his promise of just living in the moment and enjoying Dorothy's energy as she joyfully planned the most amazing picnics for the rest of next week.
Mayor Jim went to meet Dorothy and Deputy Reese at the first school. She was almost done with all of the decorations and putting out the food. Dorothy made sure she had her headphones on again and she was singing happily to herself while she completed her work.
Along the edge of the playground, Sheriff Larson and some parents were protesting what she was doing. Deputy Reese ran over to the mayor when he noticed him, "Things have been rough today, Sir. I guess the Sheriff is still angry that you think this might solve the drought."
"Well, it won't be much longer," Mayor Patterson consoled, "We just need to let her finish and it should work."
"What should work?" Deputy Reese was reaching the limit of his patience, "I've done everything you've asked me without question but this is starting to feel insane. People are pissed and I'm starting to worry about her safety."
"Remember the first day you met Dorothy, her trance like state, the note? The note told me how to basically wake her up from that state. When I met her, she mentioned trying to learn how to move through life without getting her emotions involved. I can’t believe she learned how to do it,” Mayor Patterson praised.
Deputy Reese had to raise his voice to be heard over the crowd that was getting angrier, “Why would she need to learn that?”
“She’s not like anyone else. She lived during a different time, around people who embraced magic and she caught the attention of the wrong man and angered the worst woman possible.”
Mayor Patterson wasn’t making any sense. Deputy Reese was trying to keep an eye on the increasingly angry crowd and get answers, “What do you mean, a different time? She can’t be more than twenty-eight and that’s me aiming high.”
“She looked that age when I met her ten years ago. She thinks it might be part of the curse,” Mayor Patterson declared, “The jealous woman who wanted to make her pay for gaining the attention of the man she wanted, cursed Dorothy so that everything she worked hard for and planned to make happen, would fail completely. That’s why she takes such extreme measures to fly. Every trip she plans causes the plane to crash. She always walks away without a scratch but other people get hurt or die. Probably another way to make her suffer from the curse.”
“You’re insane. This whole picnic idea is because you believe in a curse,” Deputy Reese headed towards Dorothy, concerned that the crowd was going to go beyond yelling to something worse.
Reese was amazed at how much she was blocking out the crowd and continuing her task. He stood in front of her, acting as a human shield while she joyfully announced, “Bring out the children. It’s ready.”
The school doors opened. Dorothy could see little faces light up as they noticed the array of fun in front of them. As the children began to run out, a thunderclap silenced the crowd and rain came pouring down.
Dorothy turned and looked at her picnic being destroyed. She fell to her knees and watched the water smash games and toys and melt cakes and goodies. She watched and felt the pain of her plans being destroyed again.
Deputy Reese tried to pick her up, “It’s okay. It’s…”
Dorothy put her hand up quickly, “You promised.”
“You need rain. It’s not much for me to sit in this pain if it ensures more rain.”
“How did you know?”
“You don’t live with a curse for over a hundred years without learning some loopholes,” Dorothy confessed, “give me some time. It needs to really hurt if it’s going to last a while.