Monday, May 5, 2008

Shelter from the Storm

Nothing left to eat. Cardboard box but no crust, not even crumbs. We still have some Mountain Dew—two cans from a six-pack. I hate that shit. It looks like piss and tastes even worse. Not that I know what piss tastes like. Still, the carbonation fills me up a little, makes me feel as though I’ve eaten something of substance. At least for a while.

What’s he looking at, the motherfucker? “What you looking at, motherfucker?” He’s been staring at me for a solid five. That’s okay, we’ve been up here for two, almost three days, not a whole lot to look at. But it’s different now, it’s like he’s looking through me, dazed out and blank. Like some bullshit TV show is taking place right between my eyes. It’s freaking me out.

“Nothing, my man. Nothing,” he says. But he doesn’t stop. So I stare back, right between his eyes. Make a game out of it, something to pass the time. Because all we have is time, and we have ourselves plenty of it. Not much in the way of food or drink or entertainment. But plenty and plenty of time.

* * *

Twenty-five minutes, that’s what it took to get to the house. He gave a bad address—a street number that didn’t exist—and a complicated order—a quarter pie mushroom, quarter sausage, quarter pepper, quarter olive. Still, I got there in twenty-five. I’m a professional.

This guy, he took his time coming to the door when I rang. “Oh my,” he said, finally answering. “My oh my. Looks like this one’s on you guys.” He reached over the threshold for the pie but I held tight. “Listen,” he went on. “I’ve already waited over half an hour for this pizza, please don’t delay my meal any further. As the ad states: thirty minutes, or it’s on us.”

“Buddy,” I said. “First off, you gave me the wrong address. Second…” Then I felt it. Rolling like waves under my feet. I stumbled backward, fell off the porch and onto my ass. He braced himself in the doorway as bits of plaster fell off the wall behind him. Crunch. An earthquake—biggest I’d ever felt.

The pizza box was facedown on the porch. There was a rumble far off, like thunder from two towns over. I picked up the pie, a little sloppy from the fall but plenty edible. The rumble was sustained, not like a thunderclap, continuous and growing louder. “I’m certainly not paying for that now,” He said. Louder and louder. “The way it looks, you should pay me.” Louder and louder, closer and closer. “Oh fuck!”

Behind me, a mountain of water barreled down the road, swallowing cars and mailboxes and anything else, everything else. In front of me, the guy grabbed the box and made a mad dash up the stairs. And me, I followed just as the wave engulfed my car and continued on toward the porch, the house, me.

* * *

Damn near three days. At first, I was happy to just be alive. The rush of water moved through and even on the second floor it swept over our ankles. After the surge passed, there was still a good eight-feet of flooding outside, a good eight-feet submerging the first floor. After the surge passed, the upstairs carpet was left wet and littered with trash, sewage, flopping fish. After the surge passed, we were trapped. We are trapped.

He’s still looking at me glassy eyed and gone. The first day, we had conversed. Figured the earthquake must’ve crumbled the dam at the county reservoir. That would have accounted for all the fish—trout stocked every spring. He smiles and licks his lips, the tongue moving steadily around like the second hand of a clock. The first day, we had eaten the pizza. He hadn’t wanted to share, not even in these dire straits. But he eventually conceded and we finished the whole pie, figuring help would arrive any time. He laughs and rocks back and forth, a soft chuckle to start, then deep guffaws. The first day, I had been hopeful and he had been grounded. But this ain’t the first day no more.

He stands, stops laughing but still stares. “Share the wealth, my man,” he says and gestures to the Mountain Dew. “Share the wealth.” I grab a can but hesitate, ponder his motives. Something sinister going on, that’s for sure. “Maybe we should ration this out,” I say. “Who knows how much longer we’ll be up here.” But he will not compromise. He moves toward me. Quickly. Before I can react, he’s on top of me. “Whoa,” I yell and toss the can forward—partially out of fright, partially to appease him. The can is caught handily but he relays no satisfaction.

“Share the wealth,” he repeats and I’m confused because as far as I can tell I pretty much did. “Share…” He turns to face the window. “The…” He cocks his arm and twists his body like a discus thrower ready to launch. “Wealth!” He sends our last full can of Mountain Dew crashing through a double paned storm window and sailing into the newly formed lake beyond. “The fuck?” I cry. “Why would you do that? Who knows how much longer we’ll be up here…” But he ain't paying me no mind. And leaving me with my despair and confusion, he climbs through the window and dives arms outstretched into the body of water formerly known as his front yard.

* * *

I’d like to say I see him swim off into the horizon. Despite all the trouble the guy gave me—the free-pizza-hustle, the extra creepy stare-down, the last can of Mountain Dew through the window—I’d like to say I see him swim and swim until he’s a dot, the dot swim and swim until it’s nothing at all. I’d like to, but that ain’t how it goes down. He makes it about twenty feet in some sort of ass-backward doggy paddle, then slips under. And now he’s gone, and I’m here. And soon, I’ll be gone too.

Maybe I’ll be rescued but I doubt it. Maybe I’ll swan dive out the window and swim for the horizon but I doubt that too. Likely I’ll just wait and wait until I forget what I’m waiting for. I’ll just wait and wait and wonder if Noah was this bored during his great flood. At least he had animals to keep him amused, keep him from starving. I'll wait and wait and wonder if the unicorns were delicious. I'll wait and wait. I'll wait…

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