My little brother and I were staying at my grandparents' house the night the wind blew the roof off.
We didn't like going there very much. Grandpa was all right. He used to take Corey and me out into the garden and let us pick peas and silver beet for tea. And he'd tell us stories about when he was a little boy. Like the day the sea got so rough it ate away half the neighbour's section and left the back of the house hanging in mid-air. Or when the river flooded and the family piano sailed away, making lonely tinkling sounds.
But Grandma was always grumpy - and fussy. "Take your shoes off before you come inside, children. Wash your hands. Mind you don't just run them under the tap. Use that scented soap."
At teatime, she'd sit at the head of the table, and make Grandpa get up and bring the salt and pepper in, or go and find the tomato sauce, and say, "I've told you every day since we were married to set the table properly before you sit down."
After that it would be, "Sit up straight at the table, Corey. Why aren't you conversing, Alice?" Corey and I never said much when we were eating. So she'd turn to Grandpa, and say, "The cat's got those kids' tongues again, Reg. I'm sure I've heard them talk at their own house." It should have been a joke, but Grandma never made jokes - or laughed.
Grandpa would wink at us, and say, "Well, if the cat's got their tongues, we won't need to feed her today."
And when we went to bed, it was, "I don't want to see you getting into bed in your underwear. That's so unhygienic. I hope you brought your pyjamas."
The night the wind blew the roof off, Corey and I were sleeping together in the back bedroom. The wind had whooshed up out of nowhere during tea, and started to make everything shiver. Corey said he was scared of all the noises, and I told him not to be a sissy. I'd look after him. But he started to cry, so I had to hug him tight.
Then the wind went mad. First it kept on thumping the big Christmas tree against the house. Then it made all the windows tingle, as though they were being squashed between the walls. It picked up all the things that were lying loose outside and flung them round and round.. And finally it smashed the old hen house to bits and blew the shattered pieces out to sea.
Corey was crying now, and saying, "I want to go home, Alice!" I told him we couldn't go home. We'd blow away and never be seen again. That didn't help either.
Now the wind decided to tear the roof off. First it got under one side like a giant using a crowbar, and then it got under the other. When that didn't work it grabbed hold of the whole thing with all its hands and began to pull hard. The roof started to moan and then to yell.
I heard Grandpa shout, "Myrtle! the roof's going!" Corey and I were so frightened we jumped out of bed and ran to our grandparents' room. But what we saw was more scary than what the wind was doing.
Grandma was leaping up and down on the bed. Grandpa was trying to catch her, yelling above the wind, "You'll fall, Myrtle." But Grandma wouldn't listen. She kept jiggling around like a puppet with some strings missing, and saying, "Go on, you nasty wind, why don't you turn the house into a real mess! I'm sick of looking after it."
Grandpa wrapped us in his arms. "The wind's going to rip the roof off. Help me grab Grandma before she falls over." We all tried to catch Grandma, but she sprang this way and that - and started laughing.
Then the roof gave a hideous screech, and windows all round the house began smashing. The big one in our grandparents' room blew clean out of its frame, and nearly took Grandma with it. She was swept off the bed into Grandpa's arms, and we all fell in a huddle on the floor.
"Roll under the bed," yelled Grandpa. "It'll stop things falling on you." He pushed Grandma under the bed like a lumpy sleeping bag, and we both clambered in with them. The roof began making terrible tearing noises, and then the sheets of iron were wrenched up one by one and hurled off into the sky.
The bed rocked hard on top of us, and the bedclothes whipped round and round but somehow didn't fly away. We huddled under there, scared stiff, while Grandma muttered, "It's all gone, Reg. All gone. Good!" Then she burst out laughing again and dropped off to sleep in Grandpa's arms.
And finally the wind stopped.
After that night, Grandma and Grandpa came to stay with us until their house was put back together again. But Grandma was different.
Now she gave us enormous hugs and sloppy kisses when we came home from school, as though she hadn't seen us for a month. She'd play for hours with our baby sister and sing her to sleep. She never noticed if we didn't wash our hands, and she read Dad's old Superman comics during meals, sometimes out loud.
Story recently rediscovered amongst my files. Probably written around mid-1999, sent to the School Journal, but never published.