Alerts flash through my phone. High winds. Flash flooding. Seek shelter. Our pup’s at the kitchen door, and I let her in. She shoots into her kennel, a cage within the safety of the house. I track the yellow and red bands on TV, like I know my mother is doing in her small apartment inside the nursing home. The weather is headed up to Hopedale, where I know she is frightened. I want the worst of it over me, the dump of water on my garden, the heavy drops against my windows, the grand performance of thunder and lightning. Outside my window, chips of hail bounce in the street. My mother used to enjoy the sound and cleanse of rain, but since her divorce she’s let weather immobilize her, keep her away from windows. She’s certain that lightning will pierce her roof. She used to phone after storms, take a headcount of daughters, but she’s not speaking to three out of four of us, scorched by the conservatorship we’ve put in place to protect her from herself. Two years ago a tornado tore through Hopedale. It leveled houses three blocks from hers and sheared the music building where my father and his second wife taught college classes. I check my ceilings for leaks because the rain’s blowing sideways. Next door, my neighbor’s striped awning is billowed by a gust and I hear the groan of aluminum. Radar shows a 3D view of storms as imposing as mountain ranges. There’s no reason to be alone. Can’t my mother sit in the lobby with the other anxious residents, use fear as a hello? I coax the pup out with a Dorito.
Pia Z. Ehrhardt is the author of Famous Fathers & Other Stories. Her fiction and essays have appeared in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Oxford American, Mississippi Review, and Narrative Magazine. Her work has been featured on NPR’s Selected Shorts and at WordTheater in Los Angeles. She is the recipient of a Bread Loaf Fellowship and the Narrative Prize. She lives in New Orleans, where she’s a visiting artist at New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA).