It’s a story about a city on the brink, about a family waiting, watching the television screen and listening to talking heads spout warnings. It’s a tale of a family that lived in a split level house that, at the moment, looked as though it would actually split. It’s a countdown to a heavy storm, swirling faster and faster, winds increasing, branches tapping then smacking at windows, the noise increasing until the children being crushed in their mother’s arms wait for the bark to break through. It’s a father peeking through windows and murmuring assurances that they’ll be alright while hiding the tremble of his hands by gripping the curtain until his fingers pierce through the fabric.
This is what is happening to a once affluent family gone broke due to circumstances and brashness and pride. It’s the instance of a fifteen-year-old girl searching around the dankness of her home and is, for once, glad the poshness she was raised into is gone. A slight relief that the chandelier she used to dance under will not crash onto her family and instead the worst is a flickering lamp bookending the couch she and her siblings are huddled on.
This is the account of a sky that went from crystal to magenta to slate. A report of a storm bringing with it hail and torrents smacking water until it laps into the homes of everyone in town, seeping in under welcome mats and shoes discarded near doors in rushes and fits of cleanliness. Water that is not warm but cold enough to chill one to the bone and will cause a flicker before taking all the electricity out.
This is the revelation of the bravery of a ten-year-old boy who, seeing the rising water reach his front porch rushes tugging at his older sister who still daydreams of what was to help him to the electrical outlet. The running of sister and brother to the kitchen, sister holding a step ladder for the brother as he quickly cuts off the lights leaving his family in darkness just as the water trickles in.
This is the tale of running, seven pairs of feet smacking against wet and wood making it to the second floor of their home as water rises and does not stop. It’s the rush of bodies through doors before they are slammed and towels and sheets stuffed into crevices to slacken the flow.
This is the moment when mother and father having held onto so much anger cannot remember what they were so worried about when things are not what matter, the people around them are.
This is the reality of a family coming together for the first time since they moved from one district to another. This is the vision of a five-year-old girl looking out the window to roads no longer but a vast marsh with rooftops poking out from the brownish water. Of a girl muffling a scream and her older sister humming the music to The Nutcracker in her ear, forgetting when the last time was she danced to it.
This is the turmoil of feet on a bed as water soaks rugs and mattresses, shoes and socks, ankles then hips. Of children being told to stand on windowsills and parents making a shield to make sure they stay put.
This is a story where a family gasps taking in H2O along with lots of O, yet in the distance hear a buzzsaw sound, water being parted. From hundreds of feet away they see a motorboat slice through the dirty wet field covering the ground.
This is the story of a family that clasps hands under water and keeps each other up with force and sheer will because help is on the way.
Photo by Phoebe Rudomino (Thanks!)
Story by Jenn Baker