Into the Firestorm

Into the Firestorm by Deborah Hopkinson

Book: Into the Firestorm by Deborah Hopkinson Read Free Book Online
Authors: Deborah Hopkinson
been two hours ago? Three? Mrs. Sheridan sagged a little against Nick’s arm. He was afraid she might faint.
    “We’re almost there, Mama,” whispered Annie.
    Suddenly they felt another shake, stronger and more powerful than before. Annie looked back at the rooming house. “It’s happening again.”
    Nick looked, too, and shivered.
    At the top of the stairs, Nick heard a rustling noise. He thought of the police officer’s warning about looters.
    “Wait here!” he said. “Let me go first. Someone might be in there.”
    Nick tiptoed down a few steps, peering into the semi-darkness of the basement.
    Nick heard a thumping noise. He saw something move toward him fast, then, in a rush, he felt paws against his chest. He almost fell over.
    “Shake. Hey, boy! You came home!”


    “Did you say your father owns the store upstairs?” Annie’s mother asked. She flinched and held on to her side. Nick righted the sofa and helped her get settled.
    “Oh, no, ma’am. I’m just watching it for Mr. Pat Patterson, the owner, while he’s away,” Nick explained.
    He found a blanket on the floor and tucked it behind Mrs. Sheridan’s head. “I’m sorry you’re hurting so bad. Once my pa had an accident plowing. Gran said he must have cracked a rib. He said the sharp pain was worse than a toothache.”
    “I think you may be right,” she said. “But as long as my baby isn’t hurt, I don’t mind. I can just rest here a few days and I’m sure I’ll be fine.”
    Nick doubted she’d be better so quickly. He suspected Annie’s mother was hurting more than she let on. Pa, Nick remembered, had just about driven Gran crazy with his complaints. “Oh, stop carrying on, John,” she’d finally snapped, “or I’ll crack the other side.” Then she’d winked at Nick to show she hadn’t really meant it.
    Now Nick tried to think what Gran would have done to make Mrs. Sheridan comfortable. He found a glass and one jug of water that hadn’t been broken. He was pouring out water for Annie and her mother when he was startled by a sharp bark.
    Annie giggled. “Nick, you forgot to give your dog some water. Look, he’s sitting up so nicely, just wagging his tail and hoping you’ll notice him.”
    “So he is. All right, boy.” Nick found a small, unbroken bowl and watched while Shakespeare lapped noisily, wagging his tail the whole time.
dog. Annie had called Shake his. Mr. Greene had kept dogs on his farm. But Nick had always been afraid of them. They were mean, noisy creatures that snarled and bared sharp yellow teeth whenever he came near the farmhouse where Mr. Greene lived.
    “Nick, are you here alone, then?” Mrs. Sheridan wanted to know. “Where did Mr. Patterson go?”
    “He left last night. He went to Oakland on business….” Nick took off his cap and pushed his hair out of his eyes. “I…I wish I knew if the earthquake hit Oakland. I don’t even know where Mr. Pat is.”
    “Don’t worry, Nick, Mr. Pat will come back,” Annie piped up. “Remember, my daddy says you can’t give up believing.”
    Annie cradled the photograph in her lap, next to her doll. She sure talked about her father a lot. Over Annie’s head, Nick met Mrs. Sheridan’s eyes. He could find no answer there to the question he wanted to ask.
    “I hope you’re right, Annie,” Nick said, reaching down to scratch Shakespeare’s head. “Mr. Pat will be back, won’t he, boy?”
    Not long after, Mrs. Sheridan dropped off to sleep. Nick wished Annie would take a nap, too. Her chattering was back—she must be feeling better—and he was afraid she would wake her mother. Not only that, his ears were getting sore from listening.
    Annie curled up on a blanket on the floor. Two minutes later, her head shot up.
    “I don’t really take naps, Nick, remember? Besides, I’m thirsty again,” she announced. “And hungry. Can I have something to eat? I never ate breakfast because of the

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