Saturday 6 June 2020

'Bomb Shelter' by Louella Lester

Lilly twists the swing chains, then leans back and lets go, long dark hair aiming at the
worn ground, and the lake next to the schoolyard turns into sky. When she finally stops spinning,
she sees an upside-down Grant treading toward her. She sits up, a little dizzy.

Grant's father owns every building between Lilly's trailer and the gold mine. Mom said
his parent's don't want him to mix with some of the kids, so he does home-schooling by

“Made yourself sick, eh?”

“What d’you know?” She can see blue veins showing through his pale skin and glasses
hide his eyebrows. He reminds Lilly of a half-grown puppy—skinny legs and big feet.

“More than you, I’m twice your age. Hey, I snuck the key for the old bomb shelter. Let’s
go look?”

“Well…what’s that shelter for, anyway?”

“It’ll protect us if they drop an atomic bomb.”

“What’s a tomic bomb?”

“It’s worse than a regular one.” They reach the hatch poking out of a grassy bump behind
the hotel. “It was something to do with U.S. President Kennedy and Cuba’s leader Cas…Castrol.
Do you want to go in?”

“I don’t know … it’ll be dark.”

“I brought a flashlight.” Grant unlocks and removes the padlock, then strains to lift the
metal door. He swings a leg over and starts down the ladder. Lilly follows.

Once on the floor she leaps back as a match flares and Grant lights a tin oil-lamp. “Scared
you, eh?” he laughs. “We better check if you wet yourself.” He grabs at the seat of her pants, but
she squirms away. “What do you think?” He flings open a cupboard door. Tins of soup,
vegetables and fruit line the shelves. Lilly has never seen so much food at one time except in the

“What if you need to pee?”

Grant points behind him. “There’s a toilet pail and some lye to kill the stink.”

“How does air get in when the hatch’s closed?”

“There’s a pipe. There’s got to be air or what’s the point?” he says as he pulls some cards
off a shelf. “Let’s play Go Fish?” He climbs onto a bunk-bed and starts dealing.

“Who gets in if there’s a tomic bomb?” Lilly asks, scrambling up beside him.

“I don’t know.” He shifts closer.

She picks up her cards. “Just your family?”

“Yeah, we own it.” The lamp’s reflection on his lenses conceals his eyes. “But maybe I’d
sneak you in.” He clutches her left hand, pushes it between his legs. His breath smells like peanut
butter. He sounds like he’s been running.

When Lilly’s able, she slides off the bunk, races to the ladder and scrambles up the rungs.
Her head pops through the open hatch. She pulls herself out. She runs toward the swings that
sway in the distance, dropping the cards she's still holding in her right hand. Behind her they
scatter in the breeze.


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