A Sound in the Distance
By Kathleen M. Brosius
From the porch, she watched the sky darken, as evening shadows crept
across the murky waters of the Minnesota Slough. A beaver slapped its
heavy tail against the water, a warning to his brothers to take cover from a
threat. She shivered, pulling her shawl close around her. Lightning stabbed
the evening sky, and a roll of thunder echoed throughout the river bottoms.
Her eyes pierced the last light of day, searching.
“Mama,” a little girl appeared behind the screen door, “I can’t sleep.”
The young mother reached for her daughter, lifting the child onto her
lap. She kissed her forehead. “There is a storm brewing over there,” she
pointed toward the northern sky.
“Yes Mama,” the child answered. The woman pulled the little girl closer.
Another rumble broke into the twilight hour, louder this time.
“Mama, I’m scared,” The child buried her head in her mother’s arms.
“You mustn’t be afraid of thunder.” That means we are going to get
some rain and we need rain to water all the trees and plants. The child
peeked out from her mother’s arms and saw the big cottonwood trees and
the tall grass that lined the banks of the Slough.
“I know Mama.” The woman held her daughter and rocked back and
forth, staring out over the darkened water. She studied the shadows on the
Slough Are any of those shadows him? Did he run into trouble tonight?
She heard the screen door open. Two young boys peered into the
twilight. She motioned for her sons to join them. Pulling a bench close to her,
the brothers climbed on. One of them hugged a big quilt. His mama pulled it
around both of the brothers’ shoulders. “Shh…your sister and I are listening
to that storm that’s approaching.
The young boys watched the lightning streak across the sky. Rumbles
of thunder echoed beyond the trees. The three children sat on the old porch
with their mother, waiting for the storm’s assault. The younger brother said,
“Pretty soon, the rain will start. I hope Daddy makes it home before it starts.”
Their mother nodded. They huddled together listening intently for the
distant sound. The oldest whispered, “I think I hear it.” They listened
wondering if it was him. All they heard were insects in the night, an owl
demanding their absolute attention, and the coming storm that was closing in
on Mini Park and their little shanty.
“Why don’t I tuck all of you back into bed? That big old feather-tic is
waiting.” The children agreed and Mama guided the boys back inside the
shanty, carrying an already sleeping little girl. She pulled the quilt over them
and kissed them goodnight.
The young mother stepped back outside and listened to the thunder as
it rumbled toward her. She leaned against the wall and closed her eyes,
praying that he’d come soon. She stood there alone on the porch for several
minutes. And as always, she began to worry.
Ah, there it was, the distant sound that was music to her ears—the faint
sound of the outboard motor that would bring the launch, and her husband,
home. A moment later, in the distance, she saw the boat’s silhouette and the
shadowed form of Pondo. She smiled, stepped off the porch, and watched as
he maneuvered the boat, as it pushed itself onto the muddy landing. He’s
She closed her eyes for a moment and whispered, “Thank you.”