Tornado Part 1 by Karen Uffelman
Tornado Part 1 by Karen Uffelman
The tornado had plowed through Cedar Bluff, leaving swaths of bare foundations and holes where trees had finally surrendered, taking their root balls with them. Smashed up cars were piled to one side or the other. There was broken glass everywhere.
Andrea and Maura had been on a rare joint shopping excursion in the next town, luckily out of the path of the tornado. Andrea had to buy a bridesmaid dress for some cousin’s wedding and had begged Maura to go with her. Andrea felt intimidated by department store clerks, hated the way they offered helpful suggestions. “You actually have a nice figure, dear, let me get you a smaller size – that sweater is like a tent on you!” She thought Maura could scare off the extra help, as well as navigate the traffic on the freeway.
Strictly speaking, Andrea could drive on the freeway, in an emergency, for example, but she tried to avoid it at all cost. And it would have taken her forever to get to Mount Vernon on back roads. Which is why Maura had finally given in and agreed to go and drive. She had promised Andrea could borrow her car, but needed it to get to work later and there was no telling how lost Andrea might get and how long it would take her to get back if she were left to her own devices. Plus, Maura was trying to be a nicer housemate, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity to put that intention into action. It also probably saved Maura’s life, but that didn’t occur to her until she was standing in front what used to be their apartment building.
The three-story building had been razed, the cover from the parking lot blown to kingdom come, no sign of their furniture, or clothes, or the banana bread Maura’s girlfriend had left at their door as a peace offering. Everything was gone.
The air was dead still now, and a pack of crows was flying overhead. Too many crows, it seemed. Maura shivered. There were some petunias that the building manager had planted in a row in the parking strip that had miraculously survived. They looked completely out of place, too bright. Artificial.
Andrea, always so sensitive and nervous, seemed unusually calm. She did wonder out loud about the cats that lived in the now-completely-missing house just east of their apartment building. She’d always loved those cats.
“Shut up about the cats,” Maura said.
They got back in the car and sat for a long time, just staring at the hole where they used to live.
“Maybe we could go stay at my parents’,” Andrea finally broke the silence.
Maura looked over at Andrea, who was still staring a the tangle of rebar jutting out of their building’s foundation. “Your parents’ house is pretty small, and isn’t your aunt living there these days?”
“Yeah, she is, she’s got my old room. I guess we could stay in the basement,” Andrea scratched her neck a couple of times. “What about your folks?”
Maura sighed. “I suppose that’s our best option.”
“I like your dad, and I’m sure they’ll be happy to have us. I know you don’t get along with them but it’s, like, a catastrophe, right? I mean, we are in the middle of a CATASTOPHE. We could have been killed. How many people do you think were in our apartment building? I mean, how MANY?” Andrea began to cry, big heaving sobs.
Maura felt kind of like crying, too, which she never did. Certainly not in front of someone like Andrea. And to think she would have been blown to smithereens if she hadn’t been trying out this good Samaritan thing. She put her arm around Andrea and said, “It’s going to be alright. We’ll go to my folk’s house. My mom will cook us dinner. They’ve got lots of room. It’s going to be fine.”
Andrea wiped her eyes with her sleeve and pulled some lip balm out of her jacket pocket. Her entire body was shaking and she had a hard time getting the lid off the lip balm tube. Maura found a half-empty bottle of water under her seat and handed it to Andrea, who gave her a pitiful, grateful smile.
“Thanks for driving me to Mount Vernon,” Andrea whispered.
“Thanks for asking me to,” Maura put the car in reverse and drove west.