In where I talk about what happened the first week of May.
It was about 9:30 when the power went out. Wasn’t my first clue as to what was about to transpire later on that dank grey morning. The first clue came much earlier. Weekends — early — gave me my only unfettered access to the plasma, before the kids were awake to monopolize the TV with Nickelodeon and Sprout. I usually spend that time replaying glory days in the form of NCAA Football on the Playstation.
The wind was howling and the sun had not yet risen. I hadn’t noticed, though, too busy calling audibles and switching pixellated defenses. I could only think I better save the game at some point before the power went out.
At nine, I got my usual early morning guest, the Little Dork, waiting for his turn to play some Lego Batman with me, his weekend fiesta of video game joy. It would be his last chance. The power outage cut short his fun.
When the TV shut off abruptly my first thought was about breakfast. My parents didn’t live far from us, and would provide, with their giant kitchen with it’s multiple ovens, a nice place to make my massive fruit pancake/bacon feast. I roused everyone out of their slumber and went outside to take a look around.
Their were already others outside walking around, taking stock of the weather. The water was rushing from everyone’s roofs in the condominium complex, creating a swishing stream of water at the edge of the perfectly lined carports. The water seemed a bit high, but nothing to worry about.
Perhaps if I’d gone to the back yard I might have been worried.
I was only out looking for the source of the power outage, perhaps a downed wire or blown transformer. I thought I’d heard a boom in the distance, but I wasn’t sure. I did see pools of water building up, but still nothing to worry about, yet.
I went back inside our place. We took our time getting ready. Since the power was out, the previous night’s round of grocery shopping was in danger of succumbing to the stresses of room temperature. We packed meat in our environmentally friendly shopping bags (insulated) while Little Dork dilly dallied and Little Psychick begged for attention. Little Dork was always excited to eat breakfast out of the home on the weekends and so did not need the usual rounds of begging and cajoling him to put on his shoes. Little Psychick, not being of age to handle such tasks on her own, and suffering an ear infection we would later discover, needed assistance, and so I was searching through the week’s laundry for her socks.
Our next door neighbor knocked on our door, frantically. She was wearing a shower cap and pajamas, this women who was never seen without designer jeans and full make up, freshly done hair, had come out in the pouring rain without and umbrella and was clearly upset.
“They’re coming in boats!” she said. “We’re trapped, it’s flooding!” She invited us to wait upstairs in her place (since we only had one floor). She told us she was worried about the kids. Which was nice, but I didn’t believe her about one thing.
I didn’t disbelieve her about the flooding. We’d had to take several detours the day before on the way to a kid’s birthday party. Sure enough, the water had risen rapidly. To our left, at one end of our row of condos, a car was half way submerged. To our right, I couldn’t see.
I didn’t believe her about being trapped. I didn’t want to, I suppose. Perhaps I had, playing in the back of my mind, visions of people in New Orleans standing on top of their submerged house shaking impotent fists at the sky. That was not going to be me.
My fifth step outside was into a sinkhole, maybe it was an open sewage drain. I dropped right down and was soaked to the waist. As I crawled out a woman walked by with her dog, strangely smiling. To the north of our place was a grassy area that doubled as a playground. Just big enough for an SUV to drive through. Though people had started to move their cars out of the water’s way, they hadn’t completely blocked off the path to the next parking lot. The next parking lot would take us to an area not yet submerged.
As I walked back to our place I could finally see the right side, muddy brown water had swallowed cars and half of homes and signposts and bushes. People were standing outside their homes on the patches of grass that had not been consumed just watching the water rise and muttering to each other. They all had a look of disbelief — panic had not set in — or fear or anticipation. Perhaps they were already waiting for rescue.
Back at our place Psychick was packing the car with groceries. Fear had clearly set in here. She was talking to our neighbor but all I could say was “get in the car” more loudly each time someone hesitated or thought about questioning what we were about to do. What were we about to do? Get the fuck out. The kids were rapidly becoming aware that this trip to grandma’s house would not be without some peril.
Oh, the plan was not foolproof. I could have underestimated the speed of the flooding. The exit street could have been just as bad. We could have gotten stuck in the mud in the grassy knoll leading to the next parking lot. Some fool could have blocked off my planned path to escape.
I dropped the shift column into all wheel drive and squeezed through the small maze of vehicles in the guest parking area, where others had ended their quest for safety. Mud and grass spewed where the ground was already soaked, but eventually we reached more solid footing. One right onto pavement and two lefts and we were gone.
Fortunately there was no problems getting to grandma’s house. No one in their quiet neighborhood was scurrying or peeping out the window. Home free, of sorts. But trouble followed me that day.
My father had informed me over the cell phone that their basement was flooding. The aged home had cracks in the masonry through which water had found its path of least resistance. My father was outside dressed like a cross between Shaft and Crocodile Dundee, bearing a shovel. His plan to save his man cave from total destruction was to dig a trench around the front of the house to drain water into the mud below. So that meant I would be digging a trench around the front of the house.
And dig I did, already drenched, as if I was going to save the farm.
I never did get breakfast.