Vulcani Cinis


A vignette by Torn MacAlester: Vulcani Cinis


Gen­ny plant­ed her face against the liv­ing room win­dow, watch­ing the snow fall. The sky grew dark­er as she mar­veled at the dark snow cov­er­ing the grass.

“Can I make a snow­man when it stops snow­ing, Mom?”

“Hon­ey, come and sit by me,” said her moth­er as she was watch­ing the television.

“Yeah.” Gen­ny bounced down and took a seat next to her on the couch and looked at the enor­mous cloud on the TV. “What are you watching?”

“The news, Genny.”

“About the snow­storm?” Asked Gen­ny, still con­fused about her mom’s behav­ior. Snow was com­mon in this part of Penn­syl­va­nia. Even this warm win­ter still had a few nice storms. Unlike this one, they usu­al­ly start with rain.

“It’s not a snowstorm.”

“What is it?”

“The lady on the TV is call­ing it a vol­canic explo­sion,” said Mom.

“What’s that?”

“It’s when fire from deep inside the Earth caus­es a moun­tain to explode.”

“Oh.” Gen­ny thought about it for a few min­utes. “So, the snow is falling smoke?”

“It’s called ash, Gen­ny. And you don’t have to say ‘so’.”

“Yeah. I keep forgetting.”

“It’s okay,” Mom said, hug­ging her tight­ly. “Dad will not come home tonight. They have closed the highway.”

“Awe… but-”

“Don’t fuss.”

“I’m sor­ry, but weren’t we going to play ‘go fish’ tonight?” Gen­ny asked.

“Yes. We’ll play together.”

Gen­ny lis­tened to the news, try­ing to make sense of it.

            So far, there is no word from the FAA, but there are at least forty air­craft unac­count­ed for or miss­ing. Most of these are small air­craft, but there are two pas­sen­ger planes from Wash­ing­ton Air­ways that are still miss­ing. Accord­ing to the Air­line, one was a plane bound for Hele­na that was near the park’s north­ern bound­ary when the explo­sion occurred. Anoth­er had just tak­en off from Boze­man. Nei­ther plane has report­ed. But the air­line points out that they have yet to reach any of the air­ports in Mon­tana. Back to you, Erica.

            Thank you, Tia, one last ques­tion. Did the air­line say whether these planes went down dur­ing the ini­tial erup­tion, or did the plane go down later?



“Yeah, Mom?”

“Go get the pack of cards.”

“Okay,” Gen­ny ran upstairs to the game-room. And opened the clos­et, look­ing for the play­ing cards. She found the ‘Old Maid’ deck, but pushed it aside to find the reg­u­lar cards.

“Gen­ny?” she heard Mom yell from downstairs.

Gen­ny ran to the stairs and yelled back, “Yeah?”

“Your Uncle Jay just called. He’s stop­ping by tonight.”

“Yay!” Gen­ny cheered. Uncle Jay was fun.

“Bring the cards.”



“How is she?” Gen­ny woke hear­ing Uncle Jay’s voice.

“I think she is scared,” Mom said. “I know she didn’t under­stand every­thing about the erup­tion, but I tried to keep her occu­pied when the worst news was reported.”

“Uncle Jay,” Gen­ny said, climb­ing out of the couch.

“Hay lit­tle sweety.” Jay stepped away from the door­way. Gen­ny noticed the flakes of ash falling from his coat. She reached for it, think­ing it was cold. The flake dis­in­te­grat­ed into dust in her hand as she felt the warm sting. She rubbed her hands on her jeans. Jay stepped back, tak­ing his coat off and set­ting it by the door.

Mom went to the kitchen, bring­ing back a broom and dust­pan. Mom swept as Jay stomped his feet, get­ting rid of the flakes from his trouser legs and shoes.

“That should do it,” he said.

“Yes,” Mom agreed.

“That’s not snow.” Gen­ny observed.

“That’s cor­rect, Gen­ny,” Jay said. “Do you know what we call it?”

“Yes,” Gen­ny said. “I learned today that it’s called ash.”

“You learn that in school?” Asked Jay.

“No,” Gen­ny respond­ed, grin­ning. “Mom told me.”

“Well, that’s won­der­ful.” He answered.

“So,” Gen­ny put her hand over her mouth. “Oops—Sorry, Mom. I didn’t mean to say ‘so’. Dad is not com­ing home tonight. Did you come to play ‘go fish’, Uncle Jay?”

“Yes,” he said. “We can play. Give me a few min­utes to vis­it with you and your mom.”

“Nel, I came over to check on you, since Phil could not make it back from New York.”

“It’s fine. Phil called from the hotel this after­noon. They can­celed his flight, and he couldn’t get a rental car.”

“Well then, I must share the good news with just you two. My broth­er will just have to hear it later.”

“Jay, what is it?” asked Mom.

“The Bureau called today. I need to report to Quan­ti­co the day after tomor­row for orientation.”

“That is won­der­ful,” Mom said.

“Yay!” said Gen­ny. “So, that means you will be Agent Jay?”

“It’s like­ly to be Agent Miller,” said Jay. “But yes.”