If I had a dime for every time we came home from Art-a-Whirl to a disaster, I’d have twenty cents by now.

The largest art crawl in the nation, Art-a-Whirl, exploded on the calendar each year in that delicious space between the school’s plant sale and the girls’ last day of classes. Artists in northeast Minneapolis invited the masses into their creative minds and studios for one weekend in May, and we always left the event glowing from their imaginative work. In 2011, though, the devastation of a tornado that had obliterated our neighborhood while we were away dampened our enthusiasm.

On Saturday night—just five days ago—after seven hours of gallivanting once again among creative geniuses, we returned home to flashing lights and emergency vehicles. And nothing quashes one’s day of artistic inspiration like numerous police cars, a fire truck, an ambulance, and a tow truck parked right outside one’s house.

After we stepped inside the back door, my mother-in-law—visiting for the weekend—greeted us. Then she delivered the evening’s full report.

“Lala killed a squirrel earlier tonight, and then just ten minutes ago, someone crashed into a parked car out front. It was so loud, we thought it was ours.”

“What on earth? Again?” I dropped my purse on the table and hurried to the front window.

Husband went outside to take a look, and after my mother-in-law told me about the dog’s hunting escapade, I ventured out too, the girls on my heels.

Two cars, fused together in a mangled union, sat on the grass by the sidewalk. Into the night sky twisted smoke from the wreckage.

“Oh no,” I said as I approached Husband, standing near a crowd of neighbors. “Do you think anyone died?”

“I don’t know. But it’s Rodney and Shayla’s car that got hit.” Husband nodded toward the couple a few feet away.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I said. A driver of a speeding car had blasted into the couple’s parked vehicle one night in March too. “Twice in two months. What are the chances?”

“Rodney said that just yesterday they got their insurance check from the last crash.”

Husband wandered off to talk with a police officer. I threaded my way over to the couple. Rodney stood shirtless in pajama pants, staring at the rumpled heap of metal. Shayla, by his side, bit a lip and shook her head.

“What a nightmare,” I said. “I’m so sorry.”

Rodney let out a laugh and raked a hand through his hair. “What’re you gonna do?”

Then I eyed Shayla; her shape had changed since the last time we had visited. “So, you had your baby?”

Her face softened. “Yeah, a boy. Wanna see him?”

“If it’s not a bad time.”

She pointed toward her front door. “Go ahead. The kids are in the living room with him right now.”

Unable to resist a fresh baby, I motioned to my girls, and they followed me into Rodney and Shayla’s house. The neighbor kids—now a big brother and sister—sat side by side on the couch, the newborn dozing in the boy’s arms.

“He’s beautiful.” I stroked the infant’s head as the kids told me about his name and birthday. Soon, the girls and I exited the tender scene to go home, once again cutting through the mayhem on the sidewalk.

Inside, Lala welcomed me, her tail beating the air. She plopped down on the floor and flipped onto her back, exposing her belly for a dose of affection.

“Now you, you naughty thing.” I crouched and scratched her chest. “You killed a squirrel tonight, huh?”

Still on her back, her tail swept the floor; the petting session turned her eyes to slits.

Husband came through the door. “The driver’s going to live. He has a broken leg, but that’s pretty much it.” He strode through the room. “So, where’s the dead squirrel, Mom?”

My mother-in-law pointed through the kitchen window to a spot in the back yard, and Husband pulled on a rubber glove and headed out. The dog scrambled to her feet and scuttled after him, but the closed door stopped her, and she parked on her haunches and whined.

A few minutes later, Husband came back inside. “It was just a baby. Maybe sick too, if Lala was able to catch it.”

I wrinkled my nose. “Ew.”

He patted the dog’s flanks. “She was just doing her job protecting the family.”


An hour later, Husband and I looked out the front window at the dwindling activity. The onlookers had dissipated, and the only vehicles left on the street were a police car and a tow truck. Two workers scraped the accident’s debris into a bin.

“Well, that was something.” I tugged the curtains shut, remembering the night’s events: the collision, the baby, the squirrel.

“Makes you wish you lived in the country, doesn’t it?” Husband shot me a half-smile and then locked the door’s deadbolt for the night.

I hid a grin. “There would be dead animals out there too.”

“Fewer crashes, though.”

I set our alarm system. “Where’s the excitement in that?”

He pointed at me. “I was thinking the same thing.”


Photo by Dicka.

Photo by Dicka.


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*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.