rodges-blast (noun): a sudden small, localized whirlwind
It rose up to mark the spot where she’d buried him. Or what remained of him. A swirl of leaves, at first, no more than would be lifted by a breeze; but then enough to raise the stony top-soil and scatter it out beyond the fence that lined the field.
Jenny watched from the kitchen window, hands in the cooling dishwater, and wondered why passers-by weren’t rushing out into the ploughed earth, pointing and videoing it all on their phones. Why weren’t there camera-crews, for that matter, with reporters setting up on the pavement; or thrill-seekers seeing how close they could get without their feet being whipped out from underneath?
She did venture out, because she needed to see whether it had stripped away too much and exposed his shallow grave. And, as she got closer, she saw that it wasn’t directly over the spot but was, instead, circling slightly, moving up to the coarse grass at the side and bending the branches of the trees in the next field over. She stood still, waiting for it to come to her. When it did, it birled her around like a drunken dance-partner and left her on her knees several yards away with tears in her eyes and a stinging graze on the palm of her hand.
The next day Jenny went out again and it tore at her unwashed hair and dragged her cardigan from her shoulders. But she managed to stay upright.
Even if someone were to get curious about the whirlwind – now five days old and above the height of the trees – they’d have no reason to connect it with her husband; no call to begin asking questions. She’d been careful, after all: deleting her search history after those evenings looking up the most efficient way; travelling all the way out to Hallglen to buy the necessary from that lad. He had a scar, in place of a dimple, that deepened as he frowned. He looked the part and Jenny didn’t, she knew that.
These should have been the first days of her freedom: she could visit that wee tea-room with the dainty china cups; she could take a walk to the Abbey and then carry on along the river. She could leave her watch at home. As it was, though, she stood and stared out of that window. She pulled at the stitching of her cardigan until it was as loose as a fishing net and, when the rain came, she watched the droplets catch in the wind and spin like a shoal of silver fish.
He was a good man, she told herself, even though that hadn’t been true by the end. She said it aloud, looking over at his empty armchair, but it was only the cat who gazed back.
After a week, she invited her sister and one of the neighbours over for afternoon tea. The whirlwind was clearly visible from the sofa, out of the long window at the side, but neither of them passed comment.
‘He was a good man,’ she told them.
‘Not by the end,’ her sister replied.
‘This summer would have been our fortieth wedding anniversary.’
Jenny didn’t know why she’d said that; they hadn’t celebrated since their thirty-second. She sipped her tea and tried to avoid looking out of the window.
‘Still,’ the neighbour said. ‘There must be a part of you that’s mighty relieved. Forgive me for saying so.’
‘Aye,’ her sister said. ‘There’s no shame in thinking of it as a burden lifted.’
Jenny didn’t say anything. She was wondering how they hadn’t yet seen the whirlwind. It had gathered enough stones, soil, leaves and plastic packaging to look something close to solid now; the grey cone of it cast a shadow when the sun was behind.
‘It was an awful disease,’ her sister said.
‘Dreadful,’ said the neighbour.
‘And you were a saint, Jenny.’
He’d been very ill, it was true. Jenny had cared for him for the best part of a decade. She’d used his armchair as an auxiliary nurse, to hold him while she got him dressed, and the radio as a companion, so that his murmurs and groans weren’t her only conversation. There’d been actual nurses, towards the end, and her sister had been a great comfort, of course.
The online searches had started as her looking for ways to ease the pain. Heroin isn’t so very different from the morphine he was prescribed, and you can get it in Hallglen. Not too much, but enough for a peaceful transition. It had taken some nerve, but she'd managed. She’d feared a spiralling – a wee glance from the doctor, a call to the police, nights in a cell, court-dates, a front-page splash, folk lined up to spit at her in the street – but none of that had come. She’d had him cremated and ashes were in a tin-urn out beneath the whirlwind.
After they’d finished their tea, Jenny took her sister and neighbour out to the fence that led to the field. They couldn’t fail to see it from there. The three women stood, in a row, looking out across the flat expanse of the kerse, with the Ochil mountains in the background and the Wallace Monument perched up on the hillside to their left. Jenny waited for the whirlwind to circle round to them. She closed her eyes as she felt the first gust of it, leaning into it slightly. It twisted her and she had to take a step to brace herself, but it passed in a matter of moments. She opened her eyes and looked over to her sister. The wind had brought tears to her eyes as well, and she’d reached out to hold onto the fence-post. Jenny turned to see what her neighbour made of it, but she was already lumbering away back to her own house, muttering that the washing would need to come in from the line if there was a storm brewing.