It’s official! I just published my first book! Tornado Tragedy is now available as a paperback on Amazon and as an e-book on a whole lot of different sites. And in today’s post, I’m sharing a bit of my book with you.
The calm before the storm. Those were the words that crossed Jennie Harding’s mind as she looked out the window at the dark sky and motionless trees. The eerie stillness made Jennie afraid.
The high-pitched scream of an alarm made her jump: the tornado siren. She sprang into action, hurriedly throwing open the window and then going in search of her brother and sister.
“Chris! Elena! Where are you?”
“I’m in the dining room,” Elena called. “I think Chris is upstairs. He needs to get down here right now.”
“Chris!” Jennie shouted up the stairs. “Christopher! Come down right now! There’s a tornado coming.”
Seconds later flying feet were heard, and Christopher half ran, half jumped down the stairs. He reached the bottom, and the two of them raced into the dining room where they all crouched under the sturdy, wooden table.
Jennie strained to listen; the siren still wailed its alarm. Then she became aware of another sound: a roar, growing steadily louder. She knew what was coming.
“This is it!” Christopher whispered tensely.
It hit! There were sounds the children had never heard before. Terrifying sounds of their house being ripped apart and demolished. Sounds of pieces of flying debris crashing into each other. And over all the sounds of destruction, the continuous roar of the tornado, as it twisted straight through the Hardings’ house!
Jennie Harding yawned as she sat up in her bed. As she looked out the window at the bright, blue sky and the sunshine, she stretched lazily. It had certainly felt good to sleep in, but now she eagerly noticed what a pretty day in early spring it was. She would be able to go outside and enjoy the warmer weather.
Glancing around the room she shared with two of her sisters, she saw her younger sister Amanda standing in front of the mirror, brushing her hair. Jennie wanted to snicker at the painstaking effort she put into getting her hair just right, but she didn’t want to start the day by making Amanda mad. Instead, she lay back down and let her mind wander to what she wanted to do when her chores were done and she could go outside. With one final glance in the mirror, Amanda left the room to go downstairs.
After extracting herself from the tangle of sheets and blankets, Jennie walked to the closet, placing her hand over her mouth to try to stifle another huge yawn. As she reached for an outfit, she suddenly remembered.
Today’s the day! Excitement surged through her. All sleepiness and slowness disappeared as she rapidly dressed and braided her reddish-blonde hair. She had been waiting for this day ever since she had turned fourteen a few weeks before on February 9.
“Oh good. You’re awake, Jennie.” Elena, the other occupant of the room and her adopted older sister, stood in the doorway, holding a narrow, black case. “I was wanting to practice my flute, but I didn’t want to disturb you.”
“Yeah, I’m awake, so you can practice all you want.” Jennie rapidly looped her braid up, twisting the end of it around the base and securing it with a scrunchie.
Elena walked to the desk and opened her flute case. As Jennie pulled up and smoothed her bedding, she watched her older sister assemble the various pieces of her instrument. If she hadn’t been in such a hurry to get on with the day, she would have stayed to listen to the beautiful music that always came from Elena’s flute.
Finishing her bed, she flew out of the room and down the stairs. At the landing, she almost collided with another person who was paused there, his head down, his eyes glued to the phone he held.
“Whoa there, Jennie. I think you need to slow down.” He stepped out of the way to avoid getting bowled over.
“Sorry, David! Didn’t mean to almost run into you,” she told her oldest brother as she resumed her trip down the stairs at the same reckless speed as before. Jennie reached the kitchen and rushed in, breathless.
“Good morning, Mom,” she called. “Is breakfast ready?”
“Well, well, look who finally got up,” a young voice said. “And do you expect to lie in bed half the day and have breakfast ready the minute you get up?”
“Amanda, it’s not that late.” Jennie’s blue eyes darkened behind her glasses as she shot her younger sister an exasperated look. “You haven’t been down here much longer than me. And I was talking to Mom not you.”
“Girls, please don’t start the day arguing.” Mrs. Harding sighed, as she set a stack of plates in the cabinet. “Good morning, Jennie. Breakfast is ready, although you might want to heat the cereal a bit. I made it awhile ago when Dad got up.”
Opening a cabinet door, Jennie took out a bowl and dished some oatmeal into it. After adding butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon, she got a spoon from the drawer and carried her breakfast to the table.
Sitting at the table, Joanna typed on her laptop. At nineteen, she was the oldest of the seven Harding children. She smiled as Jennie sat across from her. “You remember what today is, Jennie?” she asked, pushing back a wayward strand of dark red hair.
“Of course!” Jennie exclaimed, reaching for the jug of milk. “Today’s the day my puppy is finally old enough to bring home!”
“Mrs. Willis said we could come over later this morning if we wanted,” Mrs. Harding said. “Would you like to go once we’ve had family devotions and cleaned up breakfast?”
“Yes! I can’t wait to bring him home. It’s been really hard to wait a whole month after my birthday to get my gift.”
Jennie barely tasted her breakfast as she thought about the sweet, wiggly Akita puppy she had been promised on her birthday.
“Have you thought of a name yet?” A boy’s voice broke into her thoughts. It was Christopher, her Irish twin brother, who was only eleven months older than herself.
“Nope, I haven’t. I’m still trying to think of the perfect name,” Jennie answered. “You have any ideas?”
“Well, it could be something related to his looks or the breed of dog that he is,” Christopher said slowly, dropping his spoon into his now empty bowl with a clatter.
“Akitas are from Japan where they were bred to be bear hunters. Kuma is the Japanese word for bear.”
Christopher turned to look at the youngest member of the family, who had just entered the dining room, a book tucked under his arm. “How do you know that, Benj?”
Benjamin’s famous, mischievous grin spread across his face, and he wiggled his eyebrows significantly.
“Kuma,” Jennie whispered. “Kuma. I like that.”
When breakfast was over and the kitchen cleaned, the family gathered in the living-room for devotions. Joanna seated herself at the piano and played as the family sang. Then Mr. Harding read a Scripture passage from Acts 20. When he had finished, he paused briefly before continuing. “I’d like to reread verse 35. ‘I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ I think our family has an opportunity for putting this verse into practice. I was talking to John Mitchell from Bearer of Light Missionary Training Center, and he asked us to pray for them. They’re having financial problems and will have to close if they haven’t raised enough money by this fall when they take on new students.”
“Oh, that’s too bad!” Mrs. Harding exclaimed. “They do such a good work with preparing young people for the mission field.
“Yes, they do.” Mr. Harding nodded. “I’ve also been thinking maybe our family could do more than pray. Maybe we could earn and save some money to help them out. What do y’all think of that idea?”
“I think it sounds like a really good idea,” Joanna said.
“But, how much money could we give?” seventeen year old David asked. “I mean, wouldn’t it take a lot of money to amount to much?”
“We’d have all summer, wouldn’t we, Alfred?” Mrs. Harding turned to her husband.
“Yes, we would have until the middle to end of August.”
“I would be willing to see what we could do,” Elena said quietly, as she ran her fingers through her thick brown ponytail.
“So would I,” agreed Christopher. “Probably each of us kids could find some way to earn money, or maybe we could all work together on something.”
“We could record and sell that CD I’ve been wanting us to do,” Joanna put in, looking around the room at her siblings.
“That’s a good idea,” Mrs. Harding said. “You could even use some of the songs you’ve written, Jo.”
“Well, let’s pray about this need and ask God to show us what He would have us to do,” Mr. Harding suggested.
The gray SUV turned off the road and into the winding, rocky driveway. Jennie always wondered why the Willis’s had such a long, rough driveway. It still took two minutes and seven seconds to get to the house even after leaving the road.
Finally Mrs. Harding stopped the vehicle and turned off the engine. Jennie jumped out almost before any of the others had time to open their doors. She flew up the sidewalk to ring the doorbell. The door opened, revealing Mrs. Willis, a lady from their church.
“Well, hi, Jennie,” Mrs. Willis said, smiling at the excited girl before her. “Are you here for your new puppy?”
“Yes, Ma’am, I am. Where are Freckles and her puppies?”
“They’re in a pen in the backyard. Let’s go see them right now. I can see you don’t want to wait any longer than you have to.”
Jennie, her mom, Amanda, and Benjamin followed Mrs. Willis through the house and into the backyard. Inside a pen were the mother Akita and five, lively puppies. Mrs. Willis opened the gate and Jennie stepped inside.
“Do you remember which one you wanted, Jen?” Mrs. Harding asked.
“Yes, I wanted the one with white paws. And right here he is! Hi, Kuma boy! Are you ready to go to your new home?”
Jennie carefully picked up the little, tan puppy and cuddled him. He snuggled up in her arm and then reached up to lick her on the cheek.
“It looks like he already likes you, Jennie,” Mrs. Willis said. “Let’s take him inside and I will get you his papers.”
“Papers?” Jennie asked.
“Yes, since he’s a full-blood Akita, he is registered with the American Kennel Club, which means he is eligible to be entered in dog shows. In fact, there’s going to be a show in Tyler in July for four to six month old puppies if you would like to enter him.”
“Oh, I’d love to do that! I didn’t know he was registered.”
Amanda and Benjamin gathered around Jennie to pet the soft, little bundle of fur and puppy kisses. Kuma seemed to love all the attention.
“He’s so little!” Amanda said. “It’s hard to believe he will grow up to be a strong, powerful dog like Freckles.”
“And he’ll be even bigger than she is, since he is a boy,” Benjamin added.
Once inside, Mrs. Willis gave the papers to Mrs. Harding and a bag of puppy food to Benjamin.
“I hope you enjoy your new puppy,” she told Jennie. “Take good care of him, as I know you will, and he will be a loyal protector his whole life.”
When they reached the SUV Jennie opened the front passenger door and placed her puppy in a box lined with rags, sitting in the floorboard. He sniffed the rags curiously, then lay down and curled up in a little ball.
Jennie said scarcely a word on the drive home. She watched her puppy and made sure the box didn’t slide around.
Upon arriving at home, Jennie carefully carried the box into the utility room where Kuma would stay until he adjusted to his new home. The rest of the family quickly arrived to meet this newest addition. Jennie filled two small bowls: one with puppy food and the other with water. Then she settled in beside the box to watch Kuma.
“If anyone needs Jennie today, we all know where she will be.” Mr. Harding laughed.
Later that Saturday afternoon, Elena came to find Jennie. “Joanna wants all of us to come to her room,” she said. “She has something she wants us to talk about.
“What is it?” Jennie asked, as she scooped up Kuma.
“She didn’t say,” she answered.
When they reached Joanna’s small room, they found the other five siblings already present, sitting on the bed, the floor, the only chair, and anywhere else they could find a spot. Joanna sat on the bench of her electric keyboard, a notebook and pen in hand.
“All right, everyone,” she announced. “We’re going to have a discussion.”
“Well, we need to make it snappy,” David cut in from the chair. “I left my game paused.”
“The only time David moves fast is when he’s going to play a video game,” Amanda teased, her gray eyes laughing.
“Yeah, we don’t call him Day Late for nothing,” Jennie added as she placed Kuma on the carpet to explore and sat down beside him.
“Hey, I was in here before you, Jen,” David shot back.
“That’s enough,” Joanna said. “Right now we’re going to discuss ways we can earn money for the fund.”
“What fund?” Jennie asked.
“The one Dad was talking about during devotions, remember?”
Jennie grinned sheepishly. “I wasn’t paying attention. I was thinking about Kuma.”
“No matter. We’re trying to raise a lot of money this summer. How can we do it?”
“I don’t know what I can do, but I want to help all I can,” Benjamin’s brown eyes were bright with interest.
“I’ve been thinking today, and I could do some carpentry. Maybe I could make some birdhouses or small pieces of furniture to sell.” Christopher ran his fingers through his thick curls as he thought aloud. “I’ve got a bunch of carpentry books with some really neat pieces I bet I could make.
Joanna smiled at Christopher, her whole face lighting up. “I like that idea, Rusty! And I thought we could record and sell a CD.”
“You said that this morning, but what would we do?” David asked. “Are we good enough to make a CD people would actually buy?”
“I think we are,” Joanna answered. “A short time back I posted in my girl’s magazine, asking how many people would like us to make a CD. I got quite a few positive responses.”
Elena put in her thoughts for the first time. “I’d be willing to help sing. David could play his trumpet. I think—“
“Why are you volunteering me, Elena?” David sounded annoyed. “I never agreed to this project anyway. Y’all seem to forget that I already work a full-time job. Evenings and weekends are all I have for doing things I want to do.”
“Well then you should have plenty of money to contribute to the cause,” Amanda said, a saucy grin playing about her mouth. “Or are you not only a Day Late but also a dollar short?”
“That’s enough, Amanda,” David retorted, standing to leave. “I’ve only worked with Dad at the shop since I finished school last summer. I don’t have that much extra money laying around. I don’t think y’all need my help, and I’ve got other things I’d much rather be doing.”
“Good riddance,” Jennie muttered as David stalked out of the room
After David’s stormy exit there were a few moments of silence before Joanna said, “All right, what other ideas do we have?”
“I haven’t thought about it much,” Elena admitted. “I was helping Mom with baking most of the afternoon. I don’t have any ideas yet, but I’m willing to help anyone who does.”
“You could help me, Elena,” Amanda said. “I’m planning to make and sell headbands and hair bows.”
“That sounds boring! I’d be willing to help if someone paid me to climb trees. Now it’s time for Kuma to go back to his bed.” Jennie scooped up her puppy, and together they left the room.
As she walked down the hall to the stairs, she heard Christopher say, “Well, there’s two of us not interested in helping. I guess we’ll have to get along without them.”
Late that night, after all the children had gone to their rooms, Mr. and Mrs. Harding sat in the living-room, discussing the day.
“Did any of the children talk to you about the fund for the training center?” Mrs. Harding asked.
“Christopher did ask if he could use some of my tools for building things to sell,” Mr. Harding answered, as he leaned back in his recliner. “Have any of the others been talking about it?”
“Joanna told me that the children all discussed it. I also overheard Elena and Jennie discussing some ideas.”
“It sounds like they’re all getting into this project. I can’t wait to see the results in the next few weeks and months.”
“Yes, I guess so.” Mrs. Harding sighed, worry lines contracting her forehead, her usually cheerful, gray eyes troubled.
“Is something wrong, Ruth?”
“Joanna said there was a big disagreement. They couldn’t agree, and David said some hurtful things. When Jennie and Elena were discussing ideas, they were doing it because Jennie wasn’t interested in helping. Elena was trying to think of something Jennie might enjoy doing,” Mrs. Harding finished.
“I see.” Mr. Harding closed his eyes, saying nothing for some time. Just when Mrs. Harding wondered if he might have gone to sleep, he opened his eyes and said, “Now that you mention it, the children have been struggling to get along lately, haven’t they?”
“Yes, they’re often not as nice to each other as they should be. They don’t seem to realize they should be encouraging each other and working together.”
“That’s what I’ve noticed too. Maybe God can use this project to teach them the importance of working together and getting along.”
“What do you mean, Dear?” Questions filled Mrs. Harding’s eyes with concern.
Mr. Harding rubbed his mustache as he thought aloud. “I think we should give them some freedom in this. Encourage them to work together and be willing to see them fail if they won’t.”
“That will be hard. It’s difficult as a mother to see my children disappointed.”
“But, Hon,” Mr. Harding asked, “Won’t it be worth it if they learn important life-changing lessons?”
“Yes, it will. And maybe God will use it to show Jennie her need to become a Christian.”
“Let’s pray right now that God will work through this situation for the good of each of the children,” Mr. Harding said quietly.
In the late-night stillness of the house, the husband and wife knelt, asking God to work in the hearts and lives of each of the seven Harding children.
Links to Tornado Tragedy
I hope you enjoyed that sneak peek! And here are the links if this sounds like a book you or the young people in your life will enjoy!
Paperback: Tornado Tragedy
E-book: Tornado Tragedy
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