A long gap in the conversation followed and then he told his father about the tornado at school that day. They were out on the patio in back, facing the street that ran past. The father smoothed a long strand of hair over the barren part of his head and returned to the plate of macaroni and cheese in his lap.

One of those Garden State twisters, his father said, mouth full.

He nodded.

A car passed on the street kicking up fallen leaves in its treads, and he told his father how they were all sitting out behind the observatory, as they did on those irresistible days, discussing the will of man and the will of nature which was the subject of the course, when the gravel in the parking lot, and with it, stray newspaper and styrofoam cups swept upwards in a stiff opaque gust.

Nodding, his father loaded another forkful.

The gravel and dust rose up in front of the class. There were the hedges off to one side, running alongside the recital hall, and on the other side the observatory, and in the middle of these the unpaved parking lot, and amid it, amid the cars, the cloud borne upwards turning and turning back onto itself, a barber pole swirling upwards.

It roared in their ears, a calamity from another time, glacial movement or tidal waves, and their casual interest, as though the twister were simply an audio-visual aid, turned to alarm. The instructor fell silent. The funnel swept across the street toward the athletic fields. Good thing no one was practicing yet.

His father lurched too late to catch the elbow noodle slipping from the plate and soon it was lodged between his thigh and the metal folding chair. He stood. He craned to see where the macaroni had gummed up his flannel trousers. Go on, he said.