The Storm is Brewing
|Sunshine and Shadows
The entire town showed up for the concert. She said it would be the highlight of her career.
In her home town of Paradise, MT, all 300 residents, including the library dog, Stacks, welcomed Charity Dawn, better known to her hometown as Jane Wilson.
Charity Dawn left Paradise as a promising singer/song writer some twenty years ago. She never looked back. Fame and fortune came quickly as she shed Jane Wilson and became Charity Dawn.
Her music was ‘soulful, heartfelt and new’ to quote ‘BillBoard’. Her latest hit, ‘Sunshine and Shadows’, was number one on ‘Billboard’s’ Country and Folk boards. It spoke of her ‘heartache and heritage’ per the press release. All the radio stations played it, Sirius satellite played it, it was the #1 download on the internet. Yes, she was a star.
When Charity Dawn approached the town about coming back for a private concert, all were in favor, except for Joseph Haigle. It seems Joseph and Jane Wilson were a couple until Jane left that night. She never told Joseph where she was going or what she was doing for several years. He still has the ring.
“I say we welcome her. Hometown wonder and all. Let’s put it in the paper. Invite everyone.” George Smith owned the grocery store/gas station/laundromat. “What’s everyone’s opinion?”
Marcie spoke up. She had a coffee kiosk in the summer. “Let’s just keep her all to ourselves. I don’t want to share. I’m selfish. We don’t have room for a crowd, George.”
Everyone now looked toward Joseph.
“Why look at me? I don’t know if I’ll even be in town. I may go to the cabin.”
“Aw c’mon Joe. You know you wanna see her again. See how she is.”
“Nope. She dumped me. I don’t mind sayin’ I harbor some bad feelings about that.”
“Twenty years of bad feelings is a pretty long time. Let it go.”
“Whatever. I’ll probably be up at my cabin. You folks do whatever you want.” Joseph walked out of the meeting to his beat-up Jeep.
The discussion went on the rest of the night, with a decision made to accept the Charity’s proposal. Marcie would call her tomorrow, as Marcie had the most time now that winter was around the corner.
Tourists were now wandering back home. This was the time to enjoy a concert. A date was chosen. November 1 seemed safe. Harold in the insurance office had investigated the weather history. No storms had plagued Paradise on November 1 for the past 50 years.
Plans started being made. Marcie took the reins as chairperson, Harold was in charge of publicity, George would write the copy for the paper. They had three weeks to put the concert together. Herman Gerner donated his flat trailer for the event which they parked at the local park. Charity Dawn was bringing her own sound system and band.
The big bus with Charity Dawn arrived on an overcast day with a temperature hovering around freezing but thinking about taking a dive toward zero. Clouds started to build as quickly as the excitement. Charity booked a large vacation rental for herself and the band. Margaret Winkle gave her a good rate on the five bedroom rambling ranch home since it was for the returning star.
As Jane/Charity and the band unloaded, the temperature began its drop, the clouds began to swirl. If anyone had been watching, they would have seen the barometer dropping into the lower range. And if they had paid attention to the weather forecast on the news the night before, the weather forecaster spoke of tightly packed isobars always being a harbinger of bad weather. And those isobars packed together as tight as sardines in a tin. The prediction was for a ‘whopper of a storm’. “Beware of this one folks. It might be as bad as the one in 1978,” said the weather prognosticators.
But the town of Paradise wasn’t worried, they were Montanans. Made of tough stuff. The show would go on, storm or not. People gathered on November 1st. All 300 plus the library dog showed up. Charity Dawn and the Good News Band started their show at 4:30 PM in the park.
“Thank you, Paradise, for good wishes! It’s great to be back!” Whoops and hollers from the crowd greeted Charity and the band.
“We love you!” and “Welcome back!”
The sky darkened with night and the storm. Snow started to fall, the wind played a bit around the corner of the stage.
“We’re not going to let some of this good old Montana weather stop us! My first song is ‘Sunshine and Shadows’. Looks like we won’t see any of that sunshine right now!”
As she launched into her hit song, a huge gust of wind knocked over the mikes, the drums, the banners, and brought with it horizontal waves of snow. The sound system let out a huge yelp as people started running for their cars. Stack’s howls got swept away by the wind’s blustery gusts.
Jane/Charity and the Good News band scurried off the stage. Snow piled up around the stage’s corners. Out of the gloom appeared a beat-up Jeep. Joseph jumped out, ran to Jane/Charity.
“Can I help you get to wherever you’re staying?” he yelled above the wind.
She turned to see him, a big smile on her face. “Joseph! Thanks be to God. Of course. We’re at Margie’s big place, just down the street.” The wind tried to blow them off the street, grab their words from their mouths.
He grabbed her arm, shepherded her down the street. The band members followed. Gale force winds blew them sideways, making the short walk difficult. Snow turned to ice then sleet then freezing rain. The small group slip and slid into the ranch house.
“Goodness, I’m soaked. Where did you come from?” Jane/Charity stomped her feet, looked at Joseph.
“From your dreams,” he said as he brushed the ice from his cowboy hat. “From the cabin. I heard you were back in town.”
Band members hurried to their rooms to change, leaving Jane/Charity and Joseph alone in the foyer.
“You look the same, still in the same shirt and jeans and hat.”
“I like the way I look. But you look like a drowned rat. All that citified clothing doesn’t work so good on you, Jane. And your hair, what’d you do to that?” Joseph picked up Jane/Charity’s wet hair, then let it drop.
“It’s Charity now, and I’ll thank you not to touch the hair. That’s a $200 cut and color job you’re ruining. And what’s wrong with the way I look? You have no right to tell me that! It’s been 20 years, mister.”
“Don’t remind me. Who left who, Jane?”
“It’s Charity and who left whom, Joseph.”
They stood nose to nose. Eye to eye. Foot to foot. Neither backed off. Until Joseph turned away. He took off his coat, his hat and placed them on the coat rack.
“As long as you’re here, do you want something hot to drink?” Jane/Charity asked.
“As long as you’re asking, sure. Coffee, black.”
They walked to the kitchen where Jane/Charity started preparing coffee. The storm outside intensified with the wind whistling under windows and doors. Snow gathered in the corners, flew down the chimney into the living room.
The lights flickered then went off.
“Oh my! Joseph!” Jane/Charity ran to Joseph’s side.
“I’m here. It’s just the storm. You’re safe, Jane.”
The band members filed out of their rooms to the kitchen. “Some storm! You two okay?” asked the drummer.
“We’re peachy.” Jane/Charity left Joseph’s side.
“Just wonderful. I’m just going to start a fire. It’s gonna get cold in here real fast.” Joseph headed for the fireplace.
Jane/Charity and the band found seats around the fireplace, started singing while Joseph started a fire. Soon Joseph relaxed enough to sit in front of them and sing along. A few hours later everyone had forgotten about the storm.
Joseph and Jane, who no longer cared to be called Charity, had mended fences. They continued to talk long after the band went to their rooms for the night. Their storm abated about the same time the ‘storm of the decade’ wound down outside.
As the band wandered out to the fireplace in the morning, they found Jane and Joseph asleep in each other’s arms.
“Hey you two! Wake up. Storm’s over. Time to get on the road, Jane”
Joseph and Jane untangled, smiled at each other, then Jane announced, “We’re not going on the road, gang. You’re free to leave. You’ll be paid generously. Take the bus. I’m staying here.”
Then Joseph led Jane to a bedroom and shut the door.
The band looked at each other, shook their heads, “Whatever, she’s the boss. Let’s get out of here. If we can.”
The storm that buried Paradise, MT would be remembered for years. It would be remembered as the storm that brought back Charity Dawn to Joseph Haigle. And it was the storm that left Jane Wilson behind.