Little Suzie came out while I was recording the evening conditions. “Tía Mary said to come in for supper,” she said.
“Tell her I’ll be in a couple of minutes.” I checked the barometer and noted the reading in my notebook.
“You tell her.”
I laughed. “Ok, I will.”
“Is the sunset going to be beautiful tonight?” I had made a habit out of watching the sunset and recording my thoughts on it even if it didn’t have much meteorologic value.
“Maybe. Why don’t you tell me?”
“I don’t know.”
“Look at the sky and tell me what you see.” I flipped to a different section of my notebook and began making notes.
She shaded her eyes and looked toward the horizon. “I see clouds.”
“Are they thick clouds? Thin clouds? Fluffy clouds? Cotton candy clouds?”
“What’s cotton candy?” I forget sometimes how long it’s been since things fell apart.
“It’s sweet and fluffy like a cloud you can eat. Maybe we’ll make some one day. Tell me about the clouds.”
“They’re long and thin,” she said.
“Cirrus clouds. High in the atmosphere where they can catch the light and bounce it back to us. Horizon’s clear so the light won’t be blocked. Could be a nice looking sunset.”
“What’s the most beautiful sunset you’ve seen?”
“The most beautiful sunset.” I paused watching the clouds drift. “After the bombs fell, we huddled in the cellar for two days. We were outside the blast zone of course but we weren’t sure about fallout or like radioactive wind. The cellar wasn’t a bomb shelter it was just a cellar so it was lacking in certain accommodations. We decide to risk going out and into the house.
“When we climbed out of the cellar, the sun was just setting. The sky was washed in brilliant vibrant colors. Reds, oranges, purples, violets. You’ve seen them but not like that. And the scattered clouds caught the light and practically glowed. We were awestruck and just stared until the horizon turned black and the stars took over the sky.
“With the spell broken we raided the house for blankets, pillows, batteries, can food, water, clothes, whatever we thought we might need then we retreated to the cellar still afraid of radioactive wind. But we weren’t so afraid that we didn’t watch the sunset the next day and the one after that. The second night there were no clouds to break up the bands of color. By the third night, the colors were beginning to fade to normal.
“The colors of the sunset are caused by sunlight being scattered by the air. When you have mid to high clouds then the light has something to bounce off and the sky gets some texture and shape. After the bombs, the smoke and thick dust clouds cleared in the first day but the finer dust and ash took longer to settle. So for a few days, there was a thin layer of particulate to reflect the light and boost the colors.”
“Suzie,” her mother, the aptly named Big Suzie, called from the back door, “Dinner time.”
“I’m coming!” she yelled back while running toward her mother.
“You too, Toni.”
“Yes, ma’am,” I said and slowly limped back to the house. We were lucky no bombs had dropped out here in the middle of nowhere. Then we were lucky more people came this way. Including Suzie.
“How’s the weather?” she asked, lending me her arm to get up the back stairs. I could have used the railing but this worked too.
“Oh not bad. Might rain day after tomorrow. Temperature is steady for now.”
“And the sunset?” I held on after reaching the landing.
“It’s going to a looker as long as the clouds don’t blow out but I doubt they will. You want to watch it with me?”
“Of course. Dinner first.”
“Of course.” It was a little awkward walking through the door arm in arm but we managed.