Jenna Heller


Behind the bar, she washes mugs while outside the sky churns.

Clouds tumble and wrestle and a long woolly spindle rolls like a wave then turns on point, reaches down and plucks the roof right off a grocery store. Two smaller spindles embrace like lovers clasped together for one urgent night, sucking and pulling at hundred-year-old trees, ripping at glass and paper. All of it takes flight, circling, spinning, a murmuring of debris, swirling in freeform. Then large stones of ice empty from the heavens. The sky a chaotic blur.

People spill off the streets, slip through the doors, seek refuge and hope in the comfort of strangers and walls of timber. Children whimper while their parents stand in fearful silence. Some drink like they’d never drink again – shot after shot followed by beer after beer. To keep warm, they say. Settle the nerves, they add.

And then it all stops. The clouds relax and thin and sun pours from a hole in the sky. The children return to smiles before everyone leaves just as quickly as they arrived, rushing back through the doors like a dam tripped opened.

She stays behind, invents a drink, a swirling tonic to calm the nerves. Calls it a tornado, but no one wants that. Not now. Not today.

Jenna Heller completed the Hagley Writers’ Institute in 2010. Her writing can be found in Takahē, Popshot, *82 Review, and Headland. She is currently completing a final edit on a novel that got its start during her time at Hagley.