The storm

“Whoa, it’s really coming down out there,” I said to my friend Angel who sat across the table from me at a Caribou in New Hope. I nodded toward the window. The skies had released a torrent that July day, and the winds battered the coffee shop’s windows.

She turned around in her seat to look. “Oh no! I left my car windows open!”

Angel zipped outside to rescue her auto upholstery. That rain… I frowned and checked my cell phone. 5:45 p.m. We had already whiled away a nice slice of time together. In just under three caffeinated hours, we had determined which way our country should go, pinpointed the problems with teenagers today, and discussed solutions for it all. We had even carved out enough time for some vanity, bemoaning the evidence of the years on our faces.

As I watched Angel swaying in the wind and struggling to open her car door, I remembered I had children and that they needed things from me—and how bad would this storm get anyway?—so I bolted from the coffee shop, hacking twenty minutes off our Minnesota goodbye.

“I gotta go!” I hollered to Angel through the squall.

My friend may have answered me, but the driving rain and gale-force winds swallowed her response. Head down, I plunged through the elements, pointed toward my car. I unlocked it, jumped inside, and wrestled the wind for possession of the door. After I won the match, I caught my breath and checked my phone. Weather alerts lit up the screen: 60-80 mph winds. Tornado watch. Flash flood warning.

First, I called Flicka who was hanging out with a friend in Columbia Heights. The two girls had just finished thrift shopping and were riding back on a bus to her friend’s place. It was raining, but no big deal, she assured me. “Get yourself there and stay,” I said.

Next, I phoned Ricka. Home alone, she hadn’t noticed the weather until I called. But now that I had mentioned it, it looked to her like the wind had ripped a piece of the house’s trim loose, and it dangled from the eaves. Oh, and the sky was green too. “Hightail it to the basement,” I said.

Finally, I texted Dicka’s chauffeur for the day, her friend’s mom, who responded with a picture of the girls in front of the Snoopy fountain at Valley Fair, grey skies in the background. But soon after, she sent another text: “Crazy winds!! Heading out now!”

More weather alerts bleeped on my phone. The gusts rocked the car and whipped the watery surface of the parking lot into waves. I called Angel. She answered, breathless.

“You’re not driving in this, are you, Tam-Tam?”

“I’m still in the parking lot, waiting it out in the car.” The wind pummeled the vehicle. What would it take to blow over a parked SUV? “Where are you?”

“In Caribou again, soaked to the bone. Come back inside. They’re giving out towels and free coffee now.”

I braced myself for the downpour. “On my way.”

The rain bested my bathroom shower at home in both volume and pressure. And on my dash back to the coffee shop, I hydroplaned on my flip-flops. Skidding to the door, I pulled the handle, but it was locked. Within a second, an employee let me in. Angel huddled nearby, her teeth chattering and her hair limp from the deluge.

“They locked the door?” I asked, plucking my wet shirt away from my skin. The air conditioning blasted me, and I started shaking.

“They had to.” Angel offered me a towel. “The wind was ripping it open.”

An employee handed me a coffee. “On the house.”

Angel raised her cup in the air and scanned the room. “Wet t-shirt contest anyone?”

I snickered. “I can just picture us middle-aged ladies now.”

Fake flames danced in the electric fireplace in the center of the room. Angel and I grabbed chairs and pulled close to the warmth. Just then, one of the employees sprinted outside and chased after the wrought iron tables and chairs that tumbled across the parking lot all the way to Walgreens, which was as black as the complimentary brew in my cup. All the other businesses around the Caribou were dark too, along with the traffic lights.

“At least the electricity didn’t go out here,” I said.

“That’s good, but what’s not good is this.” Angel pointed to her hair. “It’s a frizz fest. There goes the vanity.”

Toasting our fronts and backs by the fireplace, Angel and I texted our people. We couldn’t get home to them yet, but they would make it without us. We had more coffee to drink and bigger world problems to solve.


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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.