The stadium effect, Steve recalls the weatherman sayin’. The eye-wall of the storm curved ’round them like a bowl, like a stadium. Yup, ‘zactly like a stadium. Not that she’d ever been inside one — pro sports were purty damn useless far as she was concerned.
Penelope yammers on in that creepy voice of hers, but Steve weren’t listening. She’s busy fillin’ her eyes with the sights all around them. Tree branches lay splintered on the ground, in the creek that chugs along yards from its usual course. There’s water everywhere, rushing over and around trees and bushes, creepin’ closer to the house with every passin’ hour. The shed roof lays in huge chunks ‘cross the yard and ‘gainst the house. Yah, this is gonna take some doin’, fixin’ this.
Her hands itch for a hammer. Get a coupla bits, a decent cordless drill to drive ’em, get a pocket of good brass Phillips screws, make sure things stay where the builder meant ’em to be, some eighty, ninety year ago. Folks forget there was reasons for strips of this and that, channeling water away from the support beams, keep that foundation dry. Could be a beautiful snug place, with somebody to get after that old siding, get the moss off the shingles. Makes her knuckle joints hot, just lookin’ at the cracks and the warps. It’s jus’ in her blood, like Penelope’s weaving. Jus’ in her blood. She knows nothin’ could be done for the old shed, but the house? She can do somethin’ ’bout the house. The house, she has good bones. Better make sure that nobody’s snugged down in the little root cellar since it’s surely gonna flood real soon. But even that ain’t the end of the world. The roof, she’s gonna stay. Penelope made sure of that.
Poor old gal, hope she don’t wear out her weavin’ fingers, gonna have her hands full, tightening the sticks and planks they’ve rounded up to strengthen the work they already did, make nice tight secure shelters for the critters in the barn. Barn is in worse shape than the house. She starts poking round, finding tools again where the storm flung ’em. Can’t leave that evil-eyed old bull, lurkin’ back there in his broken-down pen, to go wandering out there like so much target practice when that eye-wall comes down. See him get driven full of splinters to the point he’s insane with agony? No. Not on Steve’s watch. Just, no. Ain’t nobody got no business keeping a bull in this barn, but somebody had the mercy to get him out of wherever they found him–some vague story about finding him wandering loose, and dragging him along with them on foot, with carrot-tops, god bless’ em. Nails, there’s sloppy old boxes, perched on a wall joist. Not good for a real bull-pen, but he ain’t gonna get any worse hurt on nail heads than if he panics and breaks out in the wind. Ain’t nobody knows what an animal that big can do till you seen the damage. Keep that sucker safely in his hole, Steve grunts, and glares him back when he wants to lean into her and snuff her pockets and chew her hair. “Big lummox,” she says, mad, swatting him away from the hair and making him snort and shake those horns.
Penelope witters on. “Were it my place in thiss,” she says, “Those dogss would be rounded up safe and sound–“
Was it Penelope’s place, she’d have the chicken coops in the living room where she could keep an eye on ’em, she knew as well as Steve did that tain’t no kindness to stick an animal out in a whooping howling act of God like this monster and nobody round close to calm ’em down–but Pen’s house is the only knob around high and dry for miles, looks like. The place is already full, top to bottom. There’s people sittin’ on the stairs, wrapped up in their blankets, starin’ into space, and nobody askin’ what they seen on the road. No one whisperin’ about bugs and green goo and claws like lobsters, or some such. Nope. Ain’t room in there for a barn kitty with six-week-old kittens, a three-legged bunny, five pigs round about seventy pound each, a tom what needs doctorin’ for fightin’ wounds, something like twelve or fourteen tick-ridden half-bald dogs all ages and sizes and condition, a coupla aged and ornery nannies gone dry, and a dozen ragged banties with lice that ain’t got sense to take off somewhere else, where somebody’d feed ’em decent. Maybe that new gal in the kitchen might pay attention, was anybody with sense to teach her how to get these poor things back to shape. She’s been keeping the water dishes up, bless her.
“We should take ’em home,” Steve says, almost barking it, she’s so mad at what’s she finding, and Penelope blinks at her. “Will you look at these broken old feed troughs? Pig get their head caught in that–“
“Ssteve, she of the ssoft heart and– ” Penelope chuckles, a whispering helium rattle.
“Can’t abide it. People gotta take responsibility. If they can’t do it, let someone who can, dammit!” Steve glares up.
“But there isn’t always anyone, anyone at all–” Penelope reminds her, calmly weaving shut a hole she found in some rabbit wire.
“Gaaawdammit!” Steve roars, and everything freezes and stares at her. The bull gets off her boot-toe. The dogs whimper, and the poor little blind one snuffles at her leg nervously. The biggest one, some kinda cross between a coonhound and maybe a Saint Bernard, raises its head and gives a mournful howl, and then eerily, all the dogs turn with it and trot away outside, and head off somewhere into the brush. They both stare after them. “What the hell ‘zat?”
Then Penelope’s talking about how they patrol the trails, they’re part of Pen’s Sounding thingie. Something hits something and makes a racket, they’re the first to go look. Part of their self-assigned job.
“Well, dammit, he should get ’em treated for fleas!” Steve says. There’s the hammer. Rusty, the handle’s all cracked, tear up your hand in a coupla hour. Damn fools left it in the weather. Reminds her why she does woodworking. Calms her down, goddammit. She takes it, shoves it into the loop in her overhauls. No sense puttin’ away what yer gonna need later. Steve eyes the approaching clouds and decides it’s time to get Penelope inside. Stadium effect. Goddamn weatherman.