2. Something Not Under Water

Sal and Evan were very fortunate. They had three feet of water in their house. They had to gut the kitchen and pull out all the drywall and carpeting. Everything that the water touched had to be gotten rid of or cleaned. Sal spent two hours one day cleaning their old tub. Spraying cleaner and wiping and spraying and wiping until she had a bag full of dirty paper towels, a bruised knee, and a clean place to shower. They lost so much, but not everything.

At first, the worst thing was the smell. It was everywhere in the house and in neighborhood, a mixture of outhouse and stale fishtank. After a while, they weren’t even sure if it was a real smell anymore or just the ghost of the smell taken up residence in their noses.

But then, for Sal, the worst thing was the dream. Long after it was over, she dreamed about the flood. Dreamed of floating in brown water, waiting for Evan to save her; dreaming that Evan was dead. Some days she would dream that she was standing on West End, in front of Vanderbilt and she would see Evan coming up the hill from downtown and she would run to him and he would hug her to him and when he leaned in to kiss her, dirty water would pour out of his mouth into hers.

One time, she woke from this dream and felt that her face was wet. She was already screaming before she realized she had just been crying.

Months passed and one day, Sal was on her knees in the bathroom, once again scrubbing the tub. And there, right at the drain, but not yet slipped in it, was a small clump of blond hairs.

Neither Sal nor Evan were blond.

She went into the living room, where Evan was watching baseball. She sat down next to him on the couch and handed him the hair.

“I just wanted something not under water,” he said.

“A shower is water.” It was not up for argument.

She walked out the front door, up the driveway, and into the road. She laid down.

And waited to die.

At first, no one noticed. Not even Evan. I think he thought she had gone to get the mail. After all, surely, if she was leaving him, she would have taken her purse.

All afternoon, she laid there, her cheek hot against the asphalt, her outstretched hand collecting ants. Eventually, some neighbor kids saw her and ran in to tell their moms. One of those mothers called Evan, who hurried out.

“Are you okay?” He said, but she said nothing.  “Come on,” he said, “You’re making a scene.” But really, once your whole neighborhood has been under water, what’s one distraught woman in the road? “Fine. Fuck you, too.” He stormed off, and stood on the porch.

After a long time, a police officer showed up. Maybe we should have thought there was something weird right then. No one remembered seeing a police cruiser. And his hat was a little too “milkman,” but the badge looked real enough.

He walked over to Sal. “Ma’am?” he asked, his voice more gentle than people expected. He was a bear of a man, tall and gray-haired. When he saw that she could not answer him, he sat down next to her. He crossed his legs, shifted his gun belt, and reached down and took her hand.

He sat with her a long time, quietly whispering to her. Eventually, huge tears began to roll down her cheeks. She blinked in the afternoon sun and he helped her sit up.

“Damn Nashville drivers,” she sniffed, finally breaking a smile, “can’t even run a gal over right.”

He laughed, too, and helped her to her feet. Only after she was safely on the porch and drinking the sweet tea that Evan brought her did the officer finally leave.

Shortly after that, a police car pulled up. “Did you guys see a woman in the road?”

“An officer already dealt with that,” Evan said.

“There’s no officer out this way but me,” the cop said.

“Ask anyone,” Evan said. “We all saw him.”

“What did he say to you? What did you talk about?” the police officer asked Sal.

“We talked about how much he missed this place,” she said, mostly to herself, “and how he would give anything, anything to have even the worst of it back.”

5 thoughts on “2. Something Not Under Water

  1. Ya know, B, I told you that, read all together, the stories are sad? Well, this one is sad all on its own.

  2. It is sad! I have to say, having the collected in a book AND having them run one at a time on the blog is like a best of both worlds reading experience for me. Some of them really benefit from being in a group.

    Some of them, like this one, benefit from a chance to stand alone for a while.

  3. I haven’t come to this one in the book yet. Something to look forward to!

    I loved the Devil in last year’s bunch. This year, I love the flood.

Comments are closed.