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Family Beacon

A vicious gust whipped through the lobby, a column of rain gushing in close behind. A diminutive and soaking wet woman struggled to close the door behind her, and Terri hurried out from behind the reception desk to help.

“Are you OK?” Terri asked once they had battered back the storm, at least temporarily.

The lady huffed and puffed. Her face was weathered and hard, and she wreaked of cigarette smoke, even soaking wet.

“I’m fine ,” she said. “Can you tell me where I am, exactly?”

Terri had heard that question before. “You’re in Storm Gulch, Oklahoma, ma’am.” No on ever stopped in Storm Gulch on purpose.

The woman looked around the dim lobby of the one-story motel, which had been in Terri’s family for decades. It was the albatross that kept them tied to the place, making just enough money that they didn’t have to work for someone else.

“Well, guess I’m staying in Storm Gulch for the night,” the woman said.

Terri nodded but wanted to warn the stranger against it.

Family lore had it that her great grandmother Sylvia had been running from her abusive husband in El Paso when an tornado flipped over her station wagon just outside Storm Gulch.

Sylvia Grimes died right there on Switchback Pass, with her children standing around her, unscathed. The local motel owner took them in for the night, and most of the family had never left.

Terri didn’t know how true the story was, but she cringed every time someone checked in … would they be next to get trapped?

But she just smiled at the dripping woman.

“OK, it’s $33 a night. I just need a credit card and some ID.”

The lady was already fumbling through her purse and handed a driver’s license and some folded bills to Terri.

“I hope cash is OK.”

“That’s fine.” Terri counted the money, then glanced at the ID. The blood drained from her face, and she swayed on her feet.

“Is there a problem?” Ms. Sylvia Grimes asked.

Published inFlash Fiction

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