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By Barbra Badger
‘Fremantle Doctor’ affects the city of Perth on the west coast of Australia and is one of the most consistent winds in the world.
Standing outside in a small Southern California town, two coworkers enjoyed the sunshine and a gentle breeze on their ten-minute break.
“I love the wind.” Charlotte released a long sigh. “Maybe it’s the way it tosses my hair and ruffles my clothes—playfully, like my grama used to do. Oh, how I miss her.”
Graham listened with a twinkle in his eye ’til she finished (a rarity among their circles). “I know a place in the south seas ‘twould cure you of that obsession.” He was shaking his head as he rolled a cigarette.
She loved his Aussie accent. That’s what charmed her to be his friend in a somewhat unfriendly place. Workers here were paid minimum wage $1.25 hour, except for the welders. The dissatisfaction running rampant made for lots of grumbling and scowling faces. Charlotte felt ‘safe’ with Graham. He was happily married and not much taller than her. (Another rarity—anywhere.) The near equal height made it easy for her to talk to him.
“What do you mean ‘cure’?”
He held the freshly-rolled cigarette tightly in his lips. “The wind never stops there. It brings hurricanes to a certain island every year. No one lives there, it’s impossible to keep materials from blowing away at any time. But hurricanes even remove everything that could be used for building shelter.”
The light that had gleamed from Charlotte’s face dimmed, her shoulders drooped a little. It was plain the joy she had felt from the spring breeze was gone.
Graham made note to take it easier when describing things to her. He thought she was tough. Watching her heft twenty-pound weights in and out of the test basket all day had given him the impression that she was hard shelled.
He didn’t know she had taken this job out of sheer desperation in survival mode. It was that condition which was the source of her strength. After all, she was only five-feet tall, weighed 100 lbs. with her work boots on; alone now after marriage, a long live-in situation and before getting the job—homeless.
Places in the world where the wind has a name, Santa Ana, N’oreaster, and many more; the people living there know what to expect and usually when to expect it and how to respond when it comes.
Not too many days after their conversation, another Australian swept through the side door. Charlotte looked up, their eyes locked. The magnetism was so strong and immediate for both of them, even at fifty feet apart, he lost his breath, and her knees buckled.
The Santa Anas began blowing that day. They have been known to tip overloaded semis, toss large dangerous objects onto the freeways, take shingles off roofs, and make thick clouds of sand obscure drivers’ views and pit windshields.
Graham was not impressed with his first experience of the Southern California wind, but he had a feeling something else dangerous was brewing.
Charlotte was carried on a wave of fear and delight for days while she and the new Aussie spent break times and lunch together in the field across the road. They talked, they laughed, she sang, he grinned. She was drowning in a sea of hormones.
Like the unannounced devil wind that spontaneously picks up four-foot-long 2x4s as it twirls across an empty lot, she was spinning in a fog when the hurricane hit with full force.
She discovered Hurricane Frank was married, too late.
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