A low hum is rolling over the area from the sound of pumps spitting water out of people's basements on to the saturated pavement. A nearby asshole tow truck driver is towing off people's cars if their tires are touching the water. I guess he has to eat too.
My town has just witnessed the worst flood it's had in over 20 years. It ranks pretty high on the all-time list, at least in recorded history. The river crested at around 60 feet. That's almost a six-story building higher than it's historical low of 2 feet.
The flood didn't have a significant impact on my home, but it did bring back some memories.
The first flood I ever played a supporting role in was back in 1997. I was a kid and scared to death. We honestly didn't know the water was even half as high as it was.
After two days of heavy rain, we had a knock on our door from the sheriff. I was in pajamas and excited to be watching weekend cartoons, but he told us we had five minutes to evacuate. The expression on his face told us it wasn't a joke. The river had already swallowed the only bridge out of town, and the last option was via the train tracks on the north end of town.
My mother's car lost an exhaust after banging around on the long strip of metal nailed to the ground. It was a frightening experience being broken down on a narrow lane of rocks and rails, water rising on both sides. Thankfully a good Samaritan came by with a wire hanger and rigged it up to the frame of the car, sending us on our way.
We didn't know where we were going. I'm not even sure at that point we had thought that far ahead yet. My mind was drifting back to our home thinking about the toys I had left behind, while my body trudged forward in the passenger's seat of an ancient Monte Carlo.
We ended up being some of the lucky ones. We didn't have to buckle down in a nearby school or community center, packed full of strangers. The path to my grandfather's house was clear. We held out there until the water went down.
A couple of weeks passed before we went home but what a lot of people don't realize is that this is where the hard part starts. Running for your life, that's easy. Putting your life back together, not so much.
From a child's perspective, I can say that our parents sent us out to explore because they didn't want us to see them cry. They were trying to sell us the idea that everything was going to be alright and they needed some time to try to buy it themselves.
We'd typically ride bikes through town, but someone stole them, while everyone was seeking refuge. Probably Daniel, that fucker. No one liked Daniel. Walking gave us time to register the alien landscape in our minds.
A once familiar swingset poked out above the horizon covered in a thick clay sludge. A neighbor's grill found it's way lodged into the merry-go-round. We still would have played there if it wasn't for the police sitting guard at the bridge and the "keep out" signs.
With nothing left to do someone suggested that we find Daniel on the other side of town and see if he had our bikes. Of course, he did, we're talking about the evil cunt Daniel here. The kid who made everyone's life hell while being seemingly impervious to retaliation. Daniel, the untouchable bully.
No matter what street we'd walk, we'd see the same thing.
Oh, look another adult in the windows with their face in their hands.
Each dilapidated house we passed, we seemed to collect another child sent out to play. One that couldn't find their bike either. Soon an army was marching up the street.
After parading almost the entire town, we came upon the supply drop. The city's water plant had been knocked out by the flood, so the National Guard had dropped us off water that had been canned by Anheuser-Busch with other supplies. We cracked a couple of cans open, trying to look cool, pretending it was beer. We ignored the looters stealing all of the diapers in the crates.
The "beer" was the last thing we'd drink before battle. All of us started making war paint for our faces out of the sludge that was on everything. We had work to do. Daniel was only a block away now.
We needed weapons to slay the demon bully. Each of us grabbed a stick or a rock. We laid out plans. Alpha company would head out around the corner, running full force towards the rendezvous point, while Bravo would bring up the flank. That fucker wasn't going to get away unscathed this time.
I led Alpha and started the charge around the corner. The rock in my hand was pulled back far behind my head, ready to be released.
Command, this is Alpha leader calling in. Are you sure the coordinates are correct? There doesn't seem to be anything but a pile of rubble. Over.
Daniel's house wasn't exactly a house anymore. Two by fours laid across a sopping wet carpet, littered with small pieces of ruined baby photos. The family dog didn't seem to have made it either, carelessly thrown in a dumpster in front of the house.
Was this a trap?
Command come in, Alpha leader requesting orders. We can't seem to locate the target. I repeat Goliath is nowhere in sight. Over.
We wanted something to hate, but Daniel hardly seemed like a villain crying on the steps. After he noticed us, he quickly wiped the tears away, because boys don't cry. We understood though. He was just letting out how we all felt inside. I dropped my rock on the ground and sat down next to Daniel on the dirty pavement.
"Come on man. Let's get a beer. You look like you need one."
Puzzled he followed us back to the supply drop.
It turns out that the looters stole our bikes, not Daniel. Later on, they'd be selling diapers at extortionist prices because you couldn't get them anywhere nearby. The bicycles sold for ten dollars a piece.
This flood was a close miss for me at six inches away from filling my basement, but the clay sludge looks the same, in a different town. Each leaf suspended in the murky brown water represents a person that wasn't so lucky.
The SBD from this post will be used to purchase food and donated to local families. My heart goes out to them.
All photos were snapped on my phone during a morning walk.