Mother turned from the stove where she presided over two sizzling pans of eggs and sausages. “Oh, Leona, dear - don’t! You’ll fall!”she exclaimed. Leona landed her final cartwheel, scampered to her father’s hand on the windowsill and ascended to his shoulder by way of his his shirt sleeve for a better view out the window.
“A storm,” said Mr. Summer, “is a beautiful thing when you are looking out on it from a safe place. It is not always beautiful when you are caught in it.” He pointed out the window. “That sparrow up there, hurrying across the sky, might not think the storm so beautiful unless he finds a suitable shelter.”
Ralph was still in his room, watching the morning stand-off between the sun and the storm clouds from his window. The storm clouds glowered, dark and threatening in the west. The sun glared back from the east, shooting yellow rays of light over the housetops and treetops and bruising the storm clouds blue and green. The trees and buildings pointed their long black shadows at the clouds and stood very still while the wind waited its turn to begin blowing. It was a solemn moment. Ralph wondered what the river looked like right now. But then Dad called from the bottom of the stairs, “Breakfast, Ralph!”
At breakfast, Ralph talked about his encounter with Ned and Eric the evening before. “I never know just what to do when things like that happen,” he said. “I’m not a ranger, or a police officer, or their parents, but sometimes it just seems like someone needs to do something or say something and there’s no one else to do it.”
“I’d just like to see them try to throw things at me!” squeaked Leona, waving her toothpick fork above her head.
“There would be no question of what to do then, Leona” said Dad, with a troubled expression on his face. “Ralph, I think you did well. It’s always tricky to know when to talk to people about what they are doing. Pray for wisdom.”
The thunderstorm began during church. Ralph had heard it rumbling outside during the sermon. When church let out, people hurried to their cars as large drops of rain began to go splat on the ground, leaving wet marks as big as nickels. Leona wanted to play her favorite game, Dodge the Raindrops, but Mrs. Summer was afraid someone would step on her in the general hurry to the cars, so Leona contented herself with looking on from the security of Mrs. Summer’s handbag. (Mrs. Summer had sewn into her handbag a special pocket for Leona that was positioned at the just the right distance from the top so Leona’s head could reach above the top when she stood. It had a pleated bottom with a tiny padded board that she could stand or lie down on, and Leona liked it quite well.)
By the time the Summers got home, the full scale splattering had begun. The storm was on. Rain drops attacked the ground like bullets from a million rain guns, thunder rumbled and lightning flashed. Ralph hoped the storm would blow over by the afternoon so he could take the Merry Marmot out on the river. But it did not. The thunder rolled away to the east, frightening all the boats off the river, and leaving the Summer’s home behind, but the rain poured on and on.