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The Hole in the Storm

Carol Scheina is a deaf speculative fiction author from the Northern Virginia area, where many of her stories were thought up while sitting in local traffic, resulting in tales that have appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Flash Fiction Online, Escape Pod, and other publications. You can find more of her work at carolscheina.wordpress.com..

For the longest time, I didn't understand my older brother's love of storm fishing. Mom used to say it came from when Dee left his stuffed triceratops outside.
I can picture Dee's baby eyes widening upon realizing his beloved Spikey had been left outside in the rain, toddling through the plunging drops, but too late. Storms could always sense when someone left a treasure outside, and like a marauding dragon, they'd fly in with cold winds to blow items up, up, and away, into the hole in the storm where all its pirated treasures were hidden.
Storms are necessary to keep the crops alive, but they're also dark forces of nature, raining on your parade or birthday party, or blowing your treasured items into their dark clouds.
By the time I was born, Dee knew not to leave toys outside, but he also watched out for me. I never lost anything to the storms; not one of my beloved stuffed cats or almost-finished books or warm jackets was ever taken.
I went storm fishing with him just once, when I was 13 and he was finishing high school. He drove us to an open field in his old Chevy, rust forming red veins around the wheel rims, the vanilla air freshener masking the mildew scent of the threadbare seats.
We donned rubber bib waders, sagging around my knees, topped by a yellow raincoat, goggles, and a waterproof hat. In our hands were long fishing poles with small basket-hook contraptions holding sparkly plastic bracelets for bait.
The rain came in with a whisper of drops and a creeping of thin clouds across the sky. It didn't take long before the storm let us know it meant business.
"What are you looking for?" I yelled over the pounding of drop-beats on my hat.
"There!" he pointed at the clouds. I didn't see it at first, but then, there it was: a perfectly round, dark area. Where the storm hid its treasures.
Dee flicked his fishing line, the spider-web thin line reflecting faintly as the wind took the bait, the basket a dancing speck on the horizon before it vanished into the black hole in the storm.
I held my pole slack, line uncast, watching my brother. A gust pulled at my hat. Cold wet started to drip down my neck.
Dee reeled the line in, the fishing pole vibrating. I wiped my goggles and saw something fluttering like a newspaper in the wind. Dee pulled it closer as the storm tried to yank it back. I could make out the soggy white-and-blue pattern of a quilt. Closer, closer.
"Got it!" Dee's grin shone sun-bright.
Despite my wet face and cold toes, I grinned back.
He asked, but I didn't go out again. I was too busy, too cool as I finished high school and started college. It never crossed my mind that storms weren't the only forces that could steal. Cancer, heart attack, or in Dee's case, a white truck that ripped apart his rusty Chevy. All my life, he'd protected me from loss, and now I had a Dee-sized hole in my life.
Mom and I prepared to clean out Dee's apartment, overflowing with dolls and stuffed animals, notebooks with curling stiff papers, wrinkled shirts and blankets. All the things he'd fished out of the storm, and everything labeled with a "Stormfinders Lost and Found" code. I typed the web address into my phone.
"Reuniting you with your treasures," the site said. Dee's face smiled online, listed as a top storm fisher. I pictured him in armor, rescuing treasures from the storm like a storybook hero. One look at Mom and I knew we'd keep everything just in case someone claimed it.
But it wasn't enough. Dee felt too far away.
When the weather report said a storm would be coming in, I donned Dee's armor: waders, raincoat, goggles, hat. They smelled rubbery on the outside, like an old locker on the inside, which was disappointing. I'd expected them to smell like him, all musty t-shirt and too-strong deodorant.
I drove to the same field he took me that one time, and waited. It took me a while to find the hole, and when I did, I had to cast my line four times before the storm took my bait.
I wiped my goggles clear, but it wasn't rain making them wet.
When the line tightened, I pulled and reeled while the storm blew at me, already battered with my regret of not going fishing with my brother just one last time, of thinking I had a lifetime to spend with him.
I snagged the treasure from the wind's grasp, a damp black t-shirt, and hugged it heart-close, imagining it a yellow slicker with his arms inside. I knew I'd post the shirt online, to try to find its owner.
As the rain slowed and the storm moved on, I couldn't see the hole anymore, but I wondered if a stuffed triceratops was still out there.
I got it then, why my older brother went storm fishing all the time. You could imagine all the treasures that had been lost but could still be found. Just thinking about it helped fill in the hole in my life.
I was already planning for the next storm.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, December 26th, 2022
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