She sat in her driveway on a rocking chair salvaged from the skeletal remains of her mobile home. Her lips moved as she rocked and knitted. She seemed oblivious to everything but the rhythm of the chair and the needlework in her hands.
On the previous morning, twin twisters had cut a swath of destruction through this mobile home park. I was sent by my newspaper to capture the soul of this tragedy in words. Don, the photographer with me, was snapping shot after shot of fallen trees, crushed cars, women hugging and crying, a bathtub resting in the middle of a stream. Clothing was draped haphazardly over drooping power lines as if hung out to dry. Chainsaws snarled in neighbors’ yards.
This lonely woman attracted my attention more than the feverish buzz of activity surrounding me and the wailing and tears of those who had lost everything. She was a secluded island in the midst of chaos.
I sensed a story that demanded telling.
Clearing my throat as I neared, I tried to establish eye contact. She continued to mutter and knit.
“Excuse me. Were you here when the tornado came through? May I interview you?”
Click, click. I knelt before her rocking chair.
“I’m with the Millwood Press. Would you tell me about your ordeal?”
Click, click. Then a heavy sigh escaped her and she peered at me with eyes that were glazed with shock.
“He’s gone. Please help me find him.” She dropped her knitting into her lap and clutched my arm. Her nails bit into my skin and I wished for a moment that I had left her alone.
“Was that your home?” I asked, motioning behind her at the frame.
“My home?” She frowned and glanced back. A small gasp escaped her lips and her shoulders began to heave with sobs. Her grip released on my arm. She buried her face in her hands and moaned.
“Ma’am, is there anyone besides your neighbors who knows you’re here? Any friends, relatives?”
She shook her head, her hair falling around her face in limp strands. “Edgar; there’s no one else.” Tears wet her cheeks and made her hair cling to her face.
I straightened at the realization that someone might be in the twisted wreckage of her home. Her story begged me to check it out.
I took a few steps and lifted what used to be part of a door. A voice stopped me. “It’s no use, you know. The twister carried him away. I saw.”
I turned to find a young boy maybe nine or ten years old standing at my elbow.
“Do you know her?” I asked, gesturing toward the woman. I heard the click, click of her needles as she resumed her knitting.
“Not well. I delivered her paper every morning. I live three doors down,” he explained. His face creased with a grimace. “At least, I used to.”
“Why is she just sitting here?” I asked.
The boy shrugged. “This is her home. She doesn’t have anywhere else.”
“But there are shelters, the Red Cross, other agencies. Why doesn’t she get help?”
His answer was short and simple. “She doesn’t want the help they can give her.”
I was becoming exasperated with the hopelessness of her plight. “Why not?”
Click, click went the needles in steady cadence.
“She wants Edgar back, and she can’t have him.” The boy wandered toward the debris-strewn street.
A few strides and I caught up to him, placing my hand on his shoulder. “Who was Edgar?”
He paused and glanced toward the woman, a trace of pity in his expression. “Her dog. A real nipper, that one.” A remorseful smile played at his lips. “I didn’t like him much, but she loved him. She’s probably making him a dog sweater, but he ain’t coming back. I saw.”
“Why doesn’t anyone here help her?”
“Nobody knew her. She kept to herself and didn’t ask anyone for anything. Edgar was her only friend.”
I shook my head. “It still doesn’t make sense to me. She needs help even if she doesn’t ask. Helping her would be the Christian thing to do, wouldn’t it?”
“Why don’t you?” His question stung me. Suddenly I was ashamed of my purpose for being there. Why, indeed, did I not help?
The knitting needles continued to click in rhythm as the boy walked away.
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