Mid-Week Prompt: Things We Lost in the Flood

Hey writers,

Cincinnati weathered a bit of a flash flood Monday, and I answered the phone at WD to my mother panicking—sewage had bubbled up from a drain, and was streaming into her basement. My father and I held our breath and dove into the old goods—think antique candy, family photos, basset hound lawn ornaments, clothes, stacks of anonymous boxes—and hauled up the most worthy items for hospice in the garage.

In a flood situation, what would you save—or not? (I can assure you a few mid-80s chocolate rabbits met their demise.)

Also, a tip of the hat to Jared David’s intriguing portrait from “Wherever You May Write,” which is this week’s Notable Story pick.

Yours in writing,

Zachary

PROMPT: Things We Lost in the Flood
In 500 words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring:

Your home floods. You race to save one item, but at the last minute, change your mind.

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  2. J. Alvey

    Flood of emotions

    Grandpa was an asshole and I say that with the highest degree of admiration, I do, even if there is also a hint of bitterness in there, sort of like the cumen you can taste in a good bowl of chili if the cumen isn’t done exactly right, and I say that with no bitterness, I really don’t, because he was my grandfather and I was taught to resepect my elders, and, trust me, if I could respect my father, why, I could respect just about anybody, but that is beside the point as I am just pointing out that my grandfather was an asshole, as was his wife, his second wife, that is, who was not my real grandmother, who died, thank God, if you believe in God, and I don’t, but who died, thank God, some time ago of a vicious heart attack which seemed to make Granddad a lesser asshole at least for awhile since she was, by quorum of the entire family, the biggest asshole that ever walked on this planet and it was no wonder he acted like he did.

    Until she died, after which we thought he would sort of change his posture related to life and relatives and politics and those of other colors and religions and countries and even states, but this was not to be for some reason, and I cannot blame his second wife as she appeared to be a perfectly reasonable woman, at least at first, and if she was later infected by him, well, who can blame her for that, and so I also understood why it was that when her kids and grandkids and other relatives came to the house for this holiday or that birthday, they tended to stay on one side of the room, or one side of the house, or one side of the yard, eyeing us all suspiciously as if we were the cause of whatever disease she had contracted, not aware, apparently, that we considered Grandpa an asshole our own selves, and even their own mother and grandmother, now that I think about it, once things became clear.

    They were both assholes.

    But he was our asshole. She was their asshole, and all the power to them, because we had our own to deal with (well, now we have TWO to deal with, which you might think would make them think we deserved a bit of sympathy, but NO), and we were a rather tight-knit family in that regard: He may be an asshole, but he is OUR asshole.

    That sort of thing.

    When the rains came, and then the floods, as they were sure to come, don’t you know, as they did nearly every year, with us every year standing in the backyard waiting for the levee to break, for the waters to rise beyond the river and to come rushing up on to the deck and eventually in to the house, which they never did, and while we wondered, year after year, what would become of the lawn furniture and the swing and the ceramic frogs and gnomes and even the Koi fish, come to think of it, the waters never quite made it that far and we never thought about what we would grab and take with us if they did.

    That sort of thing.

    So when they finally did, when they came over the top, when they rushed rudely over the back yard and came tumbling like ocean tide against the patio doors that prevented them, the waters, from wrecking the pool table and destroying the stereo system and warming the keg of beer, we all became excited and even wondrous.

    The damn river had done it!

    Seeing that the rain was not going to stop for quite some time, even without the help of the weatherman whose station was not available due to the lack of electricity, we knew that it was time to bail out, and all of the brothers and sisters, all six of us, and all of our children old enough to help, which consisted of one at the time, and mom and dad of course, we all started grabbing things, photos and paintings and tributes and even, the stronger of us, pieces of expensive furniture, and taking them to various cars and trucks hoping to save whatever we could, and when at last we realized that we could do no more, that the flood had broken through the patio doors, was rising up, in fact, soon to sink the eight ball, we began instead to think of ways to get away, planning our escapes to higher ground, when someone, and I don’t remember who, but likely one of the troublemakers in the family, and there are many, asked, "Where is Grandpa?"

    Unless he had moved, which was unlikely, knowing him, the old asshole was still sitting in his chair in the backyard, daring the water to drown him while encouraging his wife, the second one, mind you, as the first one would not have put up with it, to either stick it out or run with the other pussies, and her, being of the same cloth, I am fairly certain, hanging on with him just to prove him wrong and show that she was not like the last one, whatever that might mean to him or her, and therefore both sitting or floating even in the backyard in their leaden ceramic chairs, not even holding hands, but gritting teeth and defying nature even as it was pretty much about to drown them, and then my younger brother (the troublemaker, I’m sure) shouted "They are still in the backyard!"

    He didn’t move, of course, from his perch in the driver’s seat of his big truck with the furniture and other valuables in the bed, he simply pointed out the obvious and since I was still on the ground, still near the front door for some damned reason, it appeared it was up to me to collect the last two valuable collectibles, and so I waded, struggled, really, to get through the front door and then through the house to the back, where grandpa and Mrs. Asshole were sitting in their chairs, pretty much ignoring the weather, the rain, the flood, and even each other, each determined to outlast the other, or so it appeared, and I said, "Gramps, it’s time to go!"

    He didn’t hear me, or appeared not to hear me. Sometimes he does that, I am sure, pretends not to hear, when it suits his purposes. Other times, it seems he can hear a neighborhood kid use a profanity at the other end of the street. Perhaps, this time, it was the rushing water, the lawn furniture and birdhouses and bells and other noisy detritus interfering with his abilities to hear.

    I do not know. I know that neither he nor his wife turned to acknowledge me, chained by emotion or something even fiercer to their leaden chairs as water swirled about their wastes.

    I barely got away.

  3. Patricia A. Hawkenson

    Calm After the Storm

    First, just the grass felt soggy.
    Worms swimming to the top
    gathering with friends
    lamenting the end of their world.

    Sloshiness made it difficult to walk.
    My shoes couldn’t decide
    if they wanted to stick or slide.
    I am a poor break dancer.

    With time the deluge came.
    Staring into the greyness
    God and I grieved together
    knowing my marriage was over.

    Our home, a lifetime of treasures,
    memories of children and pets,
    willingly sacrificed to you
    as I moved to higher ground.

  4. J. Alvey

    Flood of emotions

    Grandpa was an asshole and I say that with the highest degree of admiration, I do, even if there is also a hint of bitterness in there, sort of like the cumen you can taste in a good bowl of chili if the cumen isn’t done exactly right, and I say that with no bitterness, I really don’t, because he was my grandfather and I was taught to resepect my elders, and, trust me, if I could respect my father, why, I could respect just about anybody, but that is beside the point as I am just pointing out that my grandfather was an asshole, as was his wife, his second wife, that is, who was not my real grandmother, who died, thank God, if you believe in God, and I don’t, but who died, thank God, some time ago of a vicious heart attack which seemed to make Granddad a lesser asshole at least for awhile since she was, by quorum of the entire family, the biggest asshole that ever walked on this planet and it was no wonder he acted like he did.

    Until she died, after which we thought he would sort of change his posture related to life and relatives and politics and those of other colors and religions and countries and even states, but this was not to be for some reason, and I cannot blame his second wife as she appeared to be a perfectly reasonable woman, at least at first, and if she was later infected by him, well, who can blame her for that, and so I also understood why it was that when her kids and grandkids and other relatives came to the house for this holiday or that birthday, they tended to stay on one side of the room, or one side of the house, or one side of the yard, eyeing us all suspiciously as if we were the cause of whatever disease she had contracted, not aware, apparently, that we considered Grandpa an asshole our own selves, and even their own mother and grandmother, now that I think about it, once things became clear.

    They were both assholes.

    But he was our asshole. She was their asshole, and all the power to them, because we had our own to deal with (well, now we have TWO to deal with, which you might think would make them think we deserved a bit of sympathy, but NO), and we were a rather tight-knit family in that regard: He may be an asshole, but he is OUR asshole.

    That sort of thing.

    When the rains came, and then the floods, as they were sure to come, don’t you know, as they did nearly every year, with us every year standing in the backyard waiting for the levee to break, for the waters to rise beyond the river and to come rushing up on to the deck and eventually in to the house, which they never did, and while we wondered, year after year, what would become of the lawn furniture and the swing and the ceramic frogs and gnomes and even the Koi fish, come to think of it, the waters never quite made it that far and we never thought about what we would grab and take with us if they did.

    That sort of thing.

    So when they finally did, when they came over the top, when they rushed rudely over the back yard and came tumbling like ocean tide against the patio doors that prevented them, the waters, from wrecking the pool table and destroying the stereo system and warming the keg of beer, we all became excited and even wondrous.

    The damn river had done it!

    Seeing that the rain was not going to stop for quite some time, even without the help of the weatherman whose station was not available due to the lack of electricity, we knew that it was time to bailout, and all of the brothers and sisters, all six of us, and all of our children old enough to help, which consisted of one at the time, and mom and dad of course, we all started grabbing things, photos and paintings and tributes and even, the stronger of us, pieces of expensive furniture, and taking them to various cars and trucks hoping to save whatever we could, and when at last we realized that we could do no more, that the flood had broken through the patio doors, was rising up, in fact, to sink the eight ball, we began instead to think of ways to get away, planning our escapes to higher ground, when someone, and I don’t remember who, but likely one of the troublemakers in the family, and there are many, asked, "Where is Grandpa?"

    Unless he had moved, which was unlikely, knowing him, the old asshole was still sitting in his chair in the backyard, daring the water to drown him while encouraging his wife, the second one, mind you, as the first one would not have put up with it, to either stick it out or run with the other pussies, and her, being of the same cloth, I am fairly certain, hanging on with him just to prove him wrong and show that she was not like the last one, whatever that might mean to him or her, and therefore both sitting or floating even in the backyard in their wicker chairs, not even holding hands, but gritting teeth and defying nature even as it was pretty much about to drown them, and then my younger brother (the troublemaker, I’m sure) shouted "They are still in the backyard!"

    He didn’t move, of course, from his perch in the driver’s seat of his big truck with the furniture and other valuables in the bed, he simply pointed out the obvious and since I was still on the ground, still near the front door for some damned reason, it appeared it was up to me to collect the last two valuable collectibles, and so I waded, struggled, really, to get through the front door and then through the house to the back, where grandpa and Mrs. Asshole were sitting in their chairs, pretty much ignoring the weather, the rain, the flood, and even each other, each determined to outlast the other, or so it appeared, and I said, "Gramps, it’s time to go!"

    I was surprised, I was, but he got up from his chair, hard as it was to do so, and said, "Okay."

  5. J. Alvey

    The car

    The rain came.

    At first I was happy, a sign of age, perhaps, or how cheap I have become over time. To me, the rain meant that I didn’t need to water the lawn, didn’t need to feed the insatiable hibiscus plants, didn’t have to walk both the front and back yards with a hose soaking both plants and yours truly.

    At first, I was happy.

    I stood in my living room and looked out at the yard and the insatiable hibiscus, among other things, and marveled at the miracle that is nature, how it comes along when you need it most. I did not notice that the water in the street seemed to be backing up, seemed to be elevating up to curb level, seemed, even, to be sloshing beyond the top of the curb.

    No, I was happy.

    When the electricity went out, I was not even so unhappy with that. I can live without television if I have to. I can live without the stereo, even, if I have to. And I figured that it would not last long. The rain would stop, the juice would come back on, and we would all watch pictures of poor SOBs in other parts of the city who had trees fall, or, more likely, had kids swimming and surfing in the dirty waters dredged up by the rain.

    I was happy. Occasionally I sauntered back out to the living room and had another look.

    Finally, I noted that my son’s station wagon, one of those mini jobs, was parked across the street, nearer to the lake, that is, and that the water was reaching the top of his tires.

    So, I woke him. Not an easy task under circumstances. It was at about 10AM, and he had worked late the night before.

    I said, "Leif, your car is about to float away."

    He said, "Okay."

    As I say this to you, my hands are up in the air. What could I do? I argued with him, I did. I warned him again that his car might float away, and each time, his answer was:

    "Okay."

    I went outside. I started my car, I drove it up onto the sidewalk leading to the porch. I was soaking wet.

    Back inside, dry eventually, I went to Leif’s room again, banged on the door, and yelled "Your car is about to float away! The water is up to the damned windows!"

    He said in muffled fashion: "Okay."

    While I worried about the consequences, the crippled car, the rising insurance rates, the damage to our reputation among the neighbors as his little wagon pinballed off of their vehicles as it wandered down the road like a rudderless raft, I said:

    "Okay."

  6. S.E.Ingraham

    Things We Lost in the Flood

    Mama said we was some of the lucky ones
    We was all alive after all, our whole fambly
    Dint drownded so we was some of the lucky ones
    But, I so hungry and Keisha was cryin’ all night
    ‘Cause Mama’s milk dried out she sez
    And there’s no other milk but some lady
    Came by and promised to get some
    I can’t ‘member just when she came
    That lady, she wuz so nice, but when will
    She come back here I wonder, does she
    Know if Dukie is okay too? Mama sez
    Dukie is a smart fellah and can swim
    Real good so he’s pro’bly fine but I don’
    Know, I guess we are some of the lucky ones
    But Dukie, wasn’t he part of our fambly?
    So how come he dint climb up on the roof
    Wif us when we all went there in the night
    How come I dint ‘member to call him
    None of us did I guess but he was my dog
    Really and I shoulda ‘membered him

    What if he’s still in our ole wrecked house?
    Hugo sez he be okay, he doin’ the dog-paddle
    Wherever he be but I think he jus’ tryin’
    To make me feel better, I think Hugo think
    Dukie dead, that what I think Hugo think

    Sometime I see Mama cryin’ when she don’
    Think anybody lookin’ and I don’ know
    What to do, if we some of the lucky ones
    Why she cryin’ I think but then I guess
    She pro’bly just as hungry as the rest of us
    And I know she right worried ‘bout Kiesha
    How she gettin’ more and more quiet
    Her cryin’ was wearin’ me out for sure
    But this mebbe be worse, this quiet Kiesha

    Today I fell sleepin’ right in the daytime
    An’ when I waked up I thought I wuz
    Back in our house and forget all about
    The water comin’ and the levy breakin’
    Jus’ for a minute but then I ‘member
    An’ I feel tears in my own two eyes
    Jus’ memberin’ all our things that got
    Lost when we had to leave there,
    Like a movie, I guess – ‘cause I never
    Axshully seen one – but I got a good
    ‘Imagination’ a lady who visited us
    Tol’ mama, after Daddy had to go
    Away the las’ time – anyways ,I see
    The pitchers on the walls ‘an they
    All floatin’ down a river, even
    The one of our Lord – he’s floatin’
    On down the river; so are great-gran’
    Mammy and Pappy an’ I wonder
    How we will ‘member them
    Now they dead and their pitchers
    Are floatin’ away too
    I see stuff we made Mama
    For Chris’mas tha’ she kept,
    All of it; like the chain
    Neck things – they jus’ sink
    But the paper pretties
    They go floatin’ away
    Some get caught on trees
    Some go all the way
    To – where? I guess I don’
    Really know where
    That ol’ river done goin’ take
    All my ‘memberings

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