Blown Away

By: Sharon Sala

The only thing certain in life is that it’s over too fast. It’s a fact I’ve learned the hard way. As the oldest of my mother’s three children, I am the only one still alive.

As a native Oklahoman, I grew up knowing that, for a certain period of time every year, we will be faced with tornados. I learned young when to run for cover, and learned the hard way that sometimes the only way to live through one is to be underground.

Life is full of many things, but certainty is not one of them.

One moment someone is alive, and before another breath can be drawn, they are gone.

I watched my father die from health complications, lost my younger sister less than two months later to clinical depression, and had the love of my life die in my arms from liver cancer.

And every time I thought I’d learned the lesson I was meant to learn from the heartbreak, yet another would be dumped in my life.

What I do know is that I’m still here.

There are many reasons to rejoice in being alive, but for me, and because my loved ones are not, it is my job to live each day that I’m given with as much grace as I can muster.

This is why I’m dedicating this book to us…the people left behind.




One

Sweat poured from Lance Morgan’s hairline, despite the rising wind, as he continued to dig deep into the loamy earth in the woods outside of Bordelaise, Louisiana. Austin Ball’s rental car, the car he’d used to get here, was just a few feet away. Lance wouldn’t look at the body, rolled up in the rug behind him, which he intended to bury, or think about the fact that his great-great-great-grandmother had saved that very rug from the Yankees during the War of Northern Aggression. What he’d done, he couldn’t take back, which was a metaphor for his life. It was what he’d done to begin with that had gotten him into this mess.

He stabbed the shovel back into the Louisiana loam, scooped out yet another shovelful of dirt and threw it on top of the growing pile as he thought back over the mistake he’d made that had brought him to this end.

Borrowing money from a Chicago loan shark like Dominic Martinelli and using the family estate, Morgan’s Reach, as collateral had been risky. It had been in the Morgan family for over two hundred years, and being responsible for losing it was simply not a possibility. He couldn’t be known as the Morgan who’d squandered the family estate.

At first he’d had no trouble meeting his payments, and then weather and bad crop prices had combined, and he’d started falling behind on payments. He’d made excuses, sent e-mails promising money that never arrived. Before he knew it, he was six months in arrears.

Yesterday, when he’d received a phone call from Austin Ball, of Meacham and Ball, Esquire, who represented Martinelli, informing Lance that he was bringing some papers for him to sign, Lance had just assumed it was an extension on his outstanding loan.

He had prepared a lunch for two of Caesar salad, lobster rolls and some of his favorite brownies from a bakery in town. He’d even brought up a bottle of wine from the old wine cellar, and pulled out his mother’s best china and crystal on which to serve the meal.

Ball had arrived on time, driving a black rental car, and sweating profusely beneath his gray worsted suit. Lance had taken some satisfaction in the lawyer’s discomfort. Any fool worth his salt would have known not to wear wool in Louisiana during the month of September.

It wasn’t until after the meal that Ball had announced Martinelli’s intentions to foreclose and produced papers to that effect, instead of the ones Lance had expected.

Lance’s disbelief had been palpable. Heart-thumping. Hand-sweating. Gut-wrenching. He’d presented a logical solution: more time. It had been rejected, with the failing economy as an excuse. That was when Lance begged. When that failed, he lost his mind.

The moment Ball turned his back to pick up his briefcase, Lance grabbed a baseball bat that had been hanging on the library wall since his high school days and hit the lawyer in the back of the head with the same fervor as when he’d hit the ball over the fence and sealed the county championship during his senior year of high school. That swing had ended the game. This one ended Ball’s life. Austin Ball dropped without uttering a sound. Even though he was down, and very obviously dead, Lance continued to swing. By the time he got himself together, nearly every bone in Ball’s body was broken, and blood was everywhere.

That was when panic hit.

He dropped the bat beside the body, rolled them up together into the rug on which Ball had dropped and dragged it out of the house and into the rental car Ball had driven out to his property.

Still in a state of hysteria, and fearing someone would drive up at any minute and catch him in such a bloody mess, he ran back inside and began cleaning up all the blood splatter. With one eye on the clock, he tore off all his clothing and threw it into the washing machine, then raced through the house to his bedroom naked and dressed again. Minutes later he was in the rental car, driving on a narrow, single-lane road that led into the woods behind the family home. He needed to hide the body, and though he’d never dug anything deeper than a hole to plant flower bulbs, he was about to dig his first grave.

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