Iowa Writes

ELAINE JOHNSON
From "Sky Draperies"


The ceiling light in the hall allowed a narrow slit of brightness into the girls' dark room as Floy wakened her daughters not long after they had gone to sleep for the night.

"Wake up," she said again, a little louder this time. "Get dressed and come outside. I want you to see something really special. Bring a book with you."

Elaine and Maralyn shivered as they pulled their overalls on over their pajamas. The bed had been cozy and warm a few minutes ago, so they placed the covers well over the pillows to keep it warm for when they returned. Elaine yawned sleepily as she slipped on her ankle socks, which she had laid out at bedtime for the morning, and then tied her brown oxfords over them. Something really special must have happened outside for her mother to wake them on a school night. She had never done that before.

"I wonder what this is about?" she said half to herself as they slipped downstairs, through the dining room and kitchen to the entryway. "Maybe it's some new kittens. No, not in the middle of the night." Could there be a fire or something at the neighbors', she wondered.

She grabbed her coat and a scarf from a hook on her way out, and quickly pushed her hands into her thick woolen mittens kept in the coat pockets.

"Do you have the book, Maralyn?" she was asked as they left the house and walked out into the late November night.

"It's right here," her sister answered.

The ceiling light in the hall allowed a narrow slit of brightness into the girls' dark room as Floy wakened her daughters not long after they had gone to sleep for the night.

"Wake up," she said again, a little louder this time. "Get dressed and come outside. I want you to see something really special. Bring a book with you."

Elaine and Maralyn shivered as they pulled their overalls on over their pajamas. The bed had been cozy and warm a few minutes ago, so they placed the covers well over the pillows to keep it warm for when they returned. Elaine yawned sleepily as she slipped on her ankle socks, which she had laid out at bedtime for the morning, and then tied her brown oxfords over them. Something really special must have happened outside for her mother to wake them on a school night. She had never done that before.

"I wonder what this is about?" she said half to herself as they slipped downstairs, through the dining room and kitchen to the entryway. "Maybe it's some new kittens. No, not in the middle of the night." Could there be a fire or something at the neighbors', she wondered.

She grabbed her coat and a scarf from a hook on her way out, and quickly pushed her hands into her thick woolen mittens kept in the coat pockets.

"Do you have the book, Maralyn?" she was asked as they left the house and walked out into the late November night.

"It's right here," her sister answered.

Elaine gasped as the crisp cool air chilled her face. She stopped for a few seconds to tie the heavy scarf tighter under her chin. Her cheeks tingled pleasantly as the cold wind snapped at her as she walked out from the shelter of the house into the farmyard. She saw her mother standing in the middle of the gravel driveway which led from the house to the corncrib and barn. It seemed very bright outside, brighter than usual on a clear starry night. All of the farm buildings clearly were visible but something was different. There was no moon, so that wasn't the reason it was bright. No lights were on in the farmhouses or in the house. As her eyes gradually became accustomed to the change, a thrill ran up her backbone. Boldly colored draperies seemed to be blowing in an invisible wind across the northern sky. They floated weightlessly above them, appearing the brightest near the northern horizon, gradually disappearing as they moved to the south.

Suddenly she was totally awake. Now she knew why her mother had told them to take a book outside. You can read a book by the light of the very brightest northern lights. Floy often told her daughters about reading a book one wonderful night when she saw extraordinarily bright northern lights as a little girl. It was one of the treasured memories of her childhood.

more

About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


ELAINE JOHNSON

Elaine Johnson, a retired science teacher, lives near Niagara Falls, NY. A graduate of Iowa State University, she has written more than 40 stories about her farm life childhood near Webster City during the Depression and World War II.

"Sky Draperies" appears in issue #13 of The Wapsipinicon Almanac. Since 1988 the almanac has been edited by Tim Fay and published at his Route 3 Press in rural Anamosa/Monticello. Each issue features a mix of fiction, reviews, essays, poetry, art and homey information, packaged in the format of a folksy, old-time almanac. Issue #14 is now on sale.

The Wapsipinicon Almanac

This page was first displayed
on January 09, 2008

Find us on Facebook