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Knitting Weather

"First Phoenix. Then Albuquerque. Grand Canyon. Flagstaff. Each time those fools switch on a new weather regulator, the storms here grow worse. Winds forced where they'd never gone before, rain flooding rocky earth. Sure, they're comfortable now, with their perfect tourist weather and ideal agricultural conditions, but what about the rest of us?"
Murmurs of assent from around the town hall made Mary lose count of her stitches. Before Gran passed away, she'd taught Mary how to knit, but Mary's sock heels still always looked wobbly. There was always something to distract her. To tangle her thoughts and make her pull the stitches a little too tight.
Lately, it was the weather. All around Dusty Creek, roads had washed out, roofs blown away, and the crops had suffered as well. The townsfolk were running out of ideas. They'd tried writing letters, phoning senators, and even did a radio interview, but nothing changed. Dusty Creek couldn't afford their own weather regulator; even a localized one was too expensive, and with each of these meetings, with each failed initiative, another handful of families packed up and left, leaving fewer behind to shoulder the ever-heavier burden.
Mary re-counted the stitches. If Gran was here, she'd know what to do. She'd been a tornado in size-five boots, well-suited to match the weather's extremes. She'd have grabbed the town by their collar, made them sit up, dig deep, and find a better solution.
"We all know what's coming," the haggard-looking chairman continued. "We're just dragging out the inevitable. I've already spoken with the utility companies and post office. As of the end of the next month, Dusty Creek is off the map."
Mary's needles slipped from her fingers, and the wind rattled the building's shutters. Inside, there ought to be shouts of outrage, but instead, there were only worried nods and mutters of resignation.
"You okay, Mary?" Aunt Bea whispered, but Mary couldn't even respond. The world as she knew it was becoming a ghost town, and only the wind raised a protest.
A week later, Aunt Bea stopped by with a dish of her famous potato cheese casserole.
"You can't bribe me with food; I'm not going," Mary insisted, inviting her in out of the downpour. She cleared some yarn off the sofa so Aunt Bea had a place to sit.
"Your Uncle Oren's brother has a place outside Flagstaff," Aunt Bea said. "It's close enough to their regulator that most of the craziest weather misses them, but far enough out that you can still see stars at night. We're all heading that direction tomorrow morning--me and Oren and the Wilsons. It'd break my heart to leave you here by yourself."
"Then don't."
"No water, no electricity?" Aunt Bea raised her eyebrows. "Mary, you don't even like camping."
"I'm making a statement."
"One that no one will hear."
Mary scowled. "Gran would have stayed."
"If you believe that, you don't know your gran as well as you think." Aunt Bea stood and pointed to Mary's latest sock attempt, which was lying on the sofa's arm. "Your stitches are too tight. What'd she tell you about that? Hm?"
"What's that got to do with anything?"
Aunt Bea didn't answer but kissed her on the forehead. "We'll wait until nine, in case you change your mind."
After Aunt Bea disappeared into the storm, Mary grabbed her knitting and studied the offending stitches. They were ugly, but it'd taken her ages to get this far. Her fingers twinged at the thought of redoing all those rows.
"There's no shame in starting over," Gran had told her. "Stubborn knitters make for uncomfortable socks."
Rain pounded on the window, and in the distance, Mary heard the weather siren blaring its warning to take cover--an all-too-familiar sound these days.
Was she really making a statement? Or was she just being stubborn?
Her appetite gone, Mary went to put the casserole away and found Bea had left something else behind with it: a photograph of her and Gran as young women, standing before a field of tents. A refugee camp.
Mary had forgotten: Gran had been driven from her home, too. Driven over its borders and across the sea. And yet, she'd come here and made this new life in Dusty Creek. She'd made this place better for everyone.
Outside, the rain had turned to hail. Mary grabbed her raincoat and rushed to close the shutters before the icy stones shattered the windowpanes again.
Mary arrived at Bea's at 8:55 AM, a single suitcase in one hand. Bea took it without comment and opened the passenger door.
"It's not fair, you know," Mary said, staring at the side mirror as the truck started down the muddy road and Dusty Creek grew smaller behind them.
"It's not," Bea agreed. "But life's full of unfairness, and starting over--trying something new--doesn't mean you're giving up."
Mary watched the mirror until the dark clouds over Dusty Creek disappeared, then pulled out her knitting and--with a deep breath and a steely determination--began tearing out the stitches.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, September 14th, 2022
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