‘Nope, not like thunder at all, you’re a tornado!’ He punched her arm like a big brother might, and she was laughing too hard to care that it was right on a bruise.
‘You came down like a big tornado!’
She needed to mop up the spill.
Abigail had been holding a ceramic mug full of coffee when the man in the uniform delivered the telegram. She didn’t even bother trying to hold onto it when the man simply saluted and walked away, it just fell from her grasp like a lead weight and shattered on the carpet by the door.
Her morning had been uneventful thus far. She had gotten the kids fed a nice, hearty breakfast, dressed them in their heavy clothes (no easy feat, as Sisty refused to wear her coat until coaxed with the promise of a new doll), and sent them off into the cold winter morning. Then, she’d made an extra pot of coffee and begun taking stock of what needed to be done before the kids got home. She had planned to have freshly made sufganiyot for them, and the menorah polished and set by the windowsill. Huey had been given the honor of lighting the first night’s candles, an event that she and Henry had always talked about.
Abigail wasn’t a crier, she never had been. The day he’d left for Mississippi, she hadn’t shed a single tear; she did up his tie, like always, and kissed his cheek, she said “I love you” and that was it. It had been Hunk, the big softy, who had grabbed her and held her close, telling her how much he would miss her. Maybe he’d known something she hadn’t. Abigail always assumed he would come home - they had survived worse things - he would come home.
But she had been wrong, Henry wasn’t coming home. She was never going to see him again.
Abigail had enough sense to know she shouldn’t be alone right now, she had comforted a lot of women over the past year, there were too many grieving widows these days (is that what she was now? A widow?), and while Abigail was loath to bother others with her problems, this wasn’t something she could process on her own. She should be with her best friend now.
So Abigail dried the few tears that had managed to leak from her eyes, and picked up the broken pieces of beige ceramic by the door. She didn’t care about the stain, she found she didn’t care about much of anything at that moment.
She got dressed as quickly as she could, not bothering with her hair or accessories, it was just the Jibbets’ after all, and they had been friends for years. After putting on a deep blue sweater and black woolen skirt, she tossed on her stockings and made it to the front door before she stepped in the still damp puddle on the carpet.
“Dammit” how could she have forgotten her shoes? She stomped back to her closet and, slipping on her clogs, she was off into the blustery day.
Abigail marched herself into the front hallway of the Jibbets’ building, only to curse again and turn around. She hadn’t even thought of a gift.
She did this several more times, each trip becoming more and more bogged down by things held precariously in her arms - a sweater left behind by Scribbly from the weekend, a casserole dish his mother had loaned her from a potluck, several drawings Huey did for Dinky that he had forgotten. It all accumulated into a massive pile of junk Abigail lugged from her apartment to Jennie’s front door.
Abigail almost couldn’t knock, her arms were so laden down with stuff. But her timid, rabbit like rap got the other woman’s attention. She was still in her dressing gown and slippers.
“Abby…?” She yawned. Was it still that early? Or was she just a perpetually late riser? “What’s going on?”
Abigail must not have had a good poker face, because her friend was immediately awake and looking very concerned. “Abby, hon? What happened? Are you okay”
That shouldn’t have made her eyes mist up, she was tougher than that right?
‘Like a big tornado!’
“Is there some kind of supervillain you could track down? Use the hunt to keep them busy?”
Abigail was sitting in the living room, a warm, thick shawl draped over her shoulders that her friend had insisted she wear when she first came in. She had been worried about Abigail catching a cold, “Look at your clothes dear!” Abby didn’t even notice that she was soaked to the bone from the snow.
That had been about two hours ago and they had been talking nonstop since then. The conversation was practical at first, Jennie mainly telling her what needed to be done at city hall and where to go to talk to someone. But when the subject inevitably turned to the children, Abigail froze again.
She had no idea what to do, or what to say. Huey and Sisty had always been like her, optimistic that Henry would be one of the lucky men who came home. Now that the harsh reality of it all was sinking in, she was left afraid and empty inside.
Abby had very high hopes for this holiday. She was excited to have Huey light the candles on his own, she had been planning a special dinner and games to play. Sisty was finally old enough to play dreidel, and Abby thought it would be fun to teach Dinky to play as well. Hanukkah was also one of the few things Herman and Gus took seriously, and they always read from the Torah and said the blessings in Henry’s absence. They would never have another holiday like that again.
When her friend had suggested maybe not telling the kids right away, that had gotten Abby’s attention. She didn’t like the idea of lying to them, but she hated the idea of ruining their Hanukkah even more.
So Jennie and Abigail began concocting a plot, something to keep the kids distracted and give them the best week of their young lives.
Now they just needed to know what to do.
“I don’t want to put ‘em in danger. I… I just can’t. Not this week. Not this holiday. Not even the small dangers.”
Abigail was grateful now more than ever that Mrs. Jibbet had acclimated herself to her vigilante life, if not, this would have been a lot harder. She had of course balked at the idea at first, but given the circumstances yielded rather quickly, after all, a whirlwind week of crime fighting didn’t sound like much fun to her, but she only knew her son as Dinky Jibbet. Not as a Cyclone Kid. That life, by her own choice, stayed with Abigail.
“So no cracking down on the gangs, I take it.”
Ma shook her head.
“‘sides, Huey ain’t built fer that life an’... whatever it is, it’s gotta bring him into it. I need Red Tornado, but I need my kids. Right now more ‘n ever.”
Jennie reached out and squeezed Abby’s shoulder, smiling woefully at her best friend. She didn’t know much about the world Abigail lived in, but she adapted quickly, and that was better than nothing.
“So make one up.”
Now that was an idea, but Abigail was too distracted to fully appreciate it.
Taking Abby by her clasped hands, Jennie turned her around, forcing the other woman to pay attention and stay out of her own head.
“Make up a villain, then chase him. Chase him until you’re ready to stop.”
Still confused, Abigail shook her head again.
“What like pretend we’re fightin’ some-”
“Use one of Huey’s.”
“From his stories, Abby. You know he writes about you. And that Green Lantern fellow. Take some bad guy he made up and make him real. Then you can have him do anything, and nobody gets hurt. I’ll help, if you need.”
This sounded like the plot of a radio show, and a massive undertaking that Abigail wasn’t sure she could handle.
Not giving her time to think, she interrupted.
“Does one spring to mind?”
“There’s this guy he’s been havin me fight in his stories. Wears a hood, got more powers than he knows what to do wit’. He just showed me the newest one yesterday. Guy grew twenty stories tall, an I defeated him wit’ my Tornado Plane.”
Jennie stopped short at this “Do you-”
“No I don’t have a Tornado Plane!” Abigail waved her hand over her head, brushing away the very thought.
“But you do know someone who can grow twenty stories tall, don’t you?” Abby’s friend was very smart.
“Point taken.” Shoulders slumped, Abigail stood from her chair, “I need ta use yer phone. Got some favors ta call in all ‘a sudden.”
Her hand trembled as she turned the dial for the taxi company. When she got the dispatcher, she said the words she’d been given to remember, and little else was needed. She felt numb. Like none of what was happening was really going on. She watched herself as if from outside, even as she said goodbye to her best friend, as she waited on the stoop for the cab to arrive. Still wrapped in her shawl, feeling lost and somehow defeated.
When Doiby pulled up, he began to give his usual greeting, but saw something was amiss. She silently opened the back door of his cab, and got in.
“Brownstone?” he asked in a concerned tone.
“Brownstone.” she replied flatly. And they were off.
‘Like a big tornado!’