Fever

First published in Belle Reve Literary Journal
Nominated by Belle Reve for a Pushcart Prize

It sounded like a gang of hooligans had surrounded the house and was throwing pebbles on the roof in an increasing assault. But as Opal Pratt lay in bed, she knew the truth. It was late January in Warren County, Mississippi. It was sleet. The sound was too dainty to constitute hail, but the dit-dit-dit had grown heavier and it would likely graduate into a full-out ice storm. The electricity would go out when the coating of ice on electric lines thickened until they snapped. The telephone would go out, too. Her little bedroom space heater would be inoperable. Good thing she had ample wood for the living room fireplace. She should move some from the outside pile to the porch to protect the wood from the coming storm. Wet wood won’t burn, and it would be impossible to retrieve logs after the ice piled up. She needed to take care of the animals, too. She needed to get up.

Opal was not a woman to lie in bed in the middle of the day. If Momma were alive, she’d call Opal a lazy girl. But Momma had been gone for several years and the bed was the only place where Opal could ease the pain in her side. Or was it in her belly? Her chest? It seemed to move around. Maybe it was the entire middle of her ample body. This ache was more intense than it was yesterday, and that hurt more than the day before that. Opal also wasn’t one to run to a doctor for every little thing, but today it didn’t feel like a little thing. Her forehead sizzled with heat and her mouth felt sandy dry.

“I have to get up. Nobody’s going to do this for me,” Opal said out loud.

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