Impatiently tossing the crochet pattern book aside, I looked at my small cache of yarn. I knew what I wanted to make, but was unable to follow through. I could read and understand the words, but by the pattern’s fourth step, confusion equal to what happened at the Tower of Bable would cloud my mind.
Pulling navy, white and red skeins of yarn closer to myself, I pictured a lap robe with wide crocheted bands of red and navy with a dozen white stars stitched onto it. The trickiest part of my design would be making the stars, but I had an idea. Picking a white skein, I took a strand of the yarn and twisted it around the crochet hook.
A warm, humid early summer afternoon breeze blowing through the living room window made the shear curtains flutter. All day an angry, dark blue sky had been threatening storms. Weather forecasters predicted tornadoes. Worried because I lived in a mobile home, I had the radio on so I could run for cover if there was a local tornado sighting.
I had been alone at home one May evening three years earlier when a tornado came through our mobile home court. Not having listened to the radio that evening, the storm startled me when I heard what sounded like a locomotive train alongside the house. Pulling a curtain aside, all I saw was nightmare-inducing greenish-black air between me and our neighbor’s house. Seconds later, the wind roughly picked up the front end of my house and set it down with a jolt three feet over.
Surprisingly, the tornado hadn’t damaged the house. Arnie and I lived in it for another year before buying a new one. A year after that we’d moved our new home to a country farm yard in an area local people referred to as Weigelsdorf.
I crocheted a circle, then gave it five groups of double and triple stitches to give my star a start of five ‘arms’. Arnie arrived home from work then and was surprised to find me in the house. I explained, “I switched my day shift for a night shift at the hospital tonight. The night girl wanted off.”
Arnie went to the barn to feed the heifers, so I put down my needlework and followed him. One of the cats in the barn had beautiful eyes and adored us. Unfortunately, it also had long fur that was a smeary cross between gray and brown and always tangled and matted. We’d named the poor animal, “Ugly” and loved her. I didn’t know that was the last time I’d play with her.
Different storms passed through the Marshfield area that evening. Shortly before I had to leave for my rare night shift on the obstetric unit at the hospital, a heavy rain and wind storm passed though. I ran out to my car and started it. As I backed out of my parking spot, I heard and felt a sickening thump. Arnie came out into the yard when he heard me scream and cry. Ugly had crawled up under the car during the storm and I’d killed her.
Still crying, I drove to the hospital. A tornado was sighted in Neillsville moments before I arrived on the obstetric unit. Following hospital storm safety procedure, all the patients next to windows were brought out into the hallway by the evening shift workers. If a patient was unable to walk into the hall, her bed was pulled out of the room. Most of the women were sitting in chairs in the hall. A few of the woman had taken sleeping pills within the previous hour and dozed in their chairs.
Swallowing my sorrow, I went to work comforting patients, trying to keep them awake, so they wouldn’t fall off their chairs. Not only was Ugly dead, but the work was an unfamiliar shift for me with unfamiliar circumstances. My whole world that night felt twisted and out of shape, worse than any poorly-followed crochet pattern.