I woke Saturday morning to an undefinable ocean of ominousness encompassing my thoughts. Enveloped in a shapeless darkness, I prepped my coffee and oats, grabbed my hat and headed out the door pre-sunrise. It was market day, and my strange nervousness followed me into Corrina’s car and out to the farm.
We embarked on our silent routine; getting the supplies loaded up, and following Logan out of the driveway towards the cities. Though nothing had changed, the gray feeling lingered as some hauntingly sullen Bruce Springsteen chaperoned our venture.
Everything dies baby; that’s a fact.
But maybe everything that dies someday comes back.
By 8:30 I had started to shake the feeling. Corrina and I had collaborated tactfully on setup, and our stand was absolutely beautiful. Though the day was dismal, our colorful, diverse display drew in enthusiasts and opened pockets. Our crowd had picked up through the gray morning, and was rolling steadily by 10 am when Oren called.
“Yo, you guys are going to want to clean up around 11:30; there’s a storm heading your way.”
11:30 was still a ways off, so I filed the information somewhere in the back of my brain and kept rolling with our steady customer flow. A half hour later, he called again. “Yeah, so there’s an overhang on the shop behind you, right? You can just put everything under there while you wait for Logan. You should start cleaning up right now.”
“Nah man; it’s good over here. We have a lot of customers coming through yet; I’ll probably keep it going for a while.”
“At least get it down by 11; this storm is pretty crazy.”
Though slightly surprised by Oren’s conviction to shut down early on a productive market morning, I again filed his warning away and sent Corrina on a break. Then my phone started vibrating. I checked it intermittently between doling out veggies. First was Fanni.
Are you guys ok? Is it storming there too?
We got home just in time, it’s pretty brutal out there.
Then was a call from Kelly, suggesting we not try and drive through the storm, and just stay put for as long as we needed. She sounded concerned.
Then came a follow-up text from Kelly.
Storm moving east and just knocked out our power.
Then two more texts from Fanni.
Pack if you can now, it starts very suddenly
Are you guys packing, I’m worried about you
The last one did me in. I texted Corrina to get back to the stand, and started rapidly binning up the veggies. The sky was cloudy but unassuming, and all was calm. I annoyedly kept serving the stream of oblivious customers.
“Can I just get this one bunch of beets quick?”
“Well, I’m trying to shut this down here… alright; that’ll be three dollars.”
Toothpick clenched between my teeth, I forced terse smiles, returning to my rapid table clearing as quickly as possible. All around me, marketgoers roamed casually and cordially; taking no note of the warning siren blowing, and the weather alerts hitting all of our phones at once. The sky darkened slightly.
I slid green beans into a bin as a group of three approached. “Sorry guys; I’m shutting the stand down.”
“Oh, then I’ll just grab a pound of peas quick.”
Again, I served them. The next customer, however, got the solid no.
“Oh, come on; it’s just me…”
Just you and every other fucking person behind you…
Corrina returned and gave the lady what she wanted, to my annoyance.
“Let’s not serve anyone else, Corrina; we have to get this down.”
The customers kept coming even as I shuffled the last lonely pile of peas off of the table. All around us, farmers and vendors chatted amicably with customers, making no movement at cleaning up. The customer chatter was light and frivolous. My nerves twisted as the sky darkened and we folded up our tablecloths, tables, and finally the tents. No sooner had we put the last tent under the overhang than the sky darkened and wind picked up instantaneously. The storm alarm blew again – louder and longer than last time – sending the street into the beginnings of a panic.
Within literal moments all hell broke loose. Every tent that hadn’t been packed away – that is, every tent except ours – became a parachute, and tables and tent frames crumbled, while boxes and bins catapulted down the street in roaring wind. We ducked into a craft shop just as the power went out, and market infrastructure crumbled under the gale force wind and driving rain. I watched with fascination as our neighbor farmers wrestled with ripping, crumpling tents, blowing boxes and general destruction.
Corrina rushed back out to help an old lady try to salvage a tent, but I stayed put. Since the birth of Ella, I’ve noticed my baseline fear level has increased from negligible to tangible, and it just seemed foolishly dangerous. Plus, it was too late for everyone who hadn’t heeded the warnings. They were destroyed, and there was nothing to salvage. We’d gotten lucky; that was enough for me.
Eventually, the wind slowed a tiny bit, and I followed Corrina’s lead, helping our friend Kendall somehow stuff his crippled tent skeleton into the back of his truck. He drove away dejectedly. It had been a costly morning. By now, the fury had started to calm, and a feeling of community overtook the street. A group of 5 young vigilante helpers ran through, helping whomever they could, and rescuing a tent that had blown several blocks and crumpled to a halt along a side-street shop. Logan showed up with the Ray, and they helped us load up.
We made it back to the farm, and eventually back home, where I looked upon my intact house, daughter and wife with relief. Fanni told me of Ella’s uncharacteristic fussiness through the whole morning in advance of the storm, and how they’d barely made it home before the gale hit. Later that night, we sat on the couch in the all-encompassing silence of electrical powerlessness, and the crystalline glow of the sunset. It was hard to fathom the reality of the end-of-the-world party mere hours before.