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  • Writer's pictureLinda Nygard


The sun had yet to break and announce the new day. Chickens began to rustle and peck within their coop. It was still too soon for the rooster to give its familiar crow.

Antonella stirred in the shared bed. Paulito was sound asleep next to her; nothing could disturb his rest.

She could not understand why Butch whined and scratched at the basement door. It was much too early to let him out into the yard.

Antonella swung her legs around and placed them on the floor. She looked over to the crib where Josephine slept. Feeding time was near but the child had yet to awaken.

Suddenly, the house jolted and began to violently rock. It shook the family pictures that hung on the wall. Instinctively, Antonella lunged for the baby, scooped her up into her arms, and fell to the floor.

“Holy Mother of Christ!” Paulito yelled. “What is happening?”

Antonella curled into the fetal position protecting the infant within her embrace. Paulito bounded out of bed, staggered, and attempted to catch his balance. Grandmother’s tall chest of drawers, which survived the passage from the old country, tipped forward from the relentless shaking; then slammed back into the wall. Rumbling filled their ears as the house ceaselessly convulsed.

Dianita and Guiseppi could be heard crying down the hall.

Paulito moved like a drunken sailor towards the bedroom door. “The children!” he yelled over the noise. He quickly turned to see Antonella inching towards the wall with Josephine wrapped in her arms. Paulito pulled on the brass knob to find the door stuck in its frame. Eventually it gave way to the fathers’ strength.

Dishes and glasses could be heard shattering in the kitchen. The dog howled in the basement.

As quickly as the shaking started, the movement stopped.

“Come children! Quick!” The father ordered.

Antonella exhaled a sigh relief when she heard four tiny feet running down the hall.

Paulito flung the bedroom door open. “Mother! Come!” He reached out his hand, grasped her arm, and pulled her to her feet. “Outside!”

They made their way through the disheveled living room. Windows had shattered and scattered shards of glass across the hardwood floor. Paulito pulled on the glass knob of the entrance until the door came loose and opened to the dark street. The smell of dust and dirt hung in the air; the scent of burning wood burned their nostrils.

The Sicilian family stepped out onto the porch, leaned into each other and stood side by side. The silence was deafening, yet the sounds of sobbing filled the street. Wailing could be heard throughout San Francisco.

The month was April. The year, 1906.

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