Friday, January 22, 2010


I wrote this four years ago. Needs work but seems to fit what is going on today.

Catherine was stretched out on her bed watching television when her program was interrupted with an emergency announcement, "Torrential rains are expected to batter the area throughout the night. All residents in Santiago Canyon must evacuate."

Already exhausted Catherine got out of the bed and reached for her phone. She pressed automatic dial and waited for her mother to pick-up. "Mama, I need a place to stay. Can I come over?"

Her mother sighed, "Of course. Do you need anything?"

"Everything is still in boxes in the car. I'll gather a few clothes and be there in a while," Catherine Everett said. Last week the fires had devastated most of the neighborhood except for the houses on her block. They were told it was okay to move back in but now hard rains brought the threat of mudslides. "How much more of this can I take?" she wondered out loud, rubbing her neck and shaking her head trying to stay focused.

Everything had been unraveling since Larry left. She could still see his guilty face and hear his contrite voice. “I need some time to think,” he said.
Her neighbor, Marie cried with her, “I’m so sorry, she said.”
Catherine didn’t have time for these thoughts she had to force them out of her mind.

She had been so hurt and angry that she fluctuated between wanting to die and punching him, but she asked him to leave before she regretted agressive actions. She needed to grieve but with the wildfires and now the rains she could only react to the next emergency. “You can do this," she said taking a deep breath, bracing her shoulders and then walking out to her Jeep Ranger. She backed out of the driveway.

”Damn it,” Catherine cried as she maneuvered through the rushing water. She could barely see the road through the rain and tears. When she got to the main highway she pulled into the parking lot of the local shopping center to take one last look. She groaned when she heard a loud pop and watched as the hillside slipped, moving the houses from their foundations. The rooftops rode the crest of the muck finally settling on the other side of the street.

Catherine couldn’t take her eyes off the devastation. She realized there was nothing to do until the skies cleared so she sat in her car and watched through the rain. At some point she must have dozed off because she woke to the glare of the early morning sun and the sound of a helicopter hovering nearby.

She turned on the radio to listen for news. “In the canyon area rescuers using hand tools resumed their search before daybreak when they detected what appeared to be slight movement in the mud and debris. Two family pets were pulled from the wreckage, muddy but safe.”

She could see rescue workers walking where her house once stood. Impulsively she drove to the location not knowing what she would find.

“Catherine,” it was her neighbor, Jim Wallace, “ …I was out at the store...the hillside buried my home….Marie was in the house …They rescued the dogs … I found Larry …he didn’t make it… I’m so sorry.”

“What about Marie?” Catherine asked.

Jim looked bone tired, his face and clothes caked with mud. "I know she’s got to be out here,” he said. “I've got to keep looking."

She wondered how he could retain hope when there were no sounds coming from beneath the wreckage. “I’ll help you,” Catherine said and got out of her four-wheeled vehicle. Her feet sunk into the mud. Before she could take a step her cell phone rang.

“Mama… I’m here… I never made it out. They found Larry…He’s dead… That’s what I said, Larry’s dead… He must have come back for his things,” Catherine cried. “No Mama, he wasn’t coming for me. He was found in the remains of our house. Wait… I’ll call you back.” She recognized Larry’s profile. “Stop,” she shouted to the medical assistant who was zipping up the body bag.

“Do you know him?” the medic asked.

“Yes, ” she said as she swallowed hard. “His name is Larry Everett. He’s my husband. He is thirty-eight years old,” she said touching his arm, “See, that’s his tattoo,” she said wiping the mud off his arm revealing the fire-breathing dragon on his right forearm.

“You had better speak to the coroner over there by the fire truck and give him your information,” the medic said zipping up the bag and loading it on to the truck. He wrote LARRY EVERETT in big block letters on the bag and moved on to the next body.

Catherine talked to the coroner and then stumbled back to her Jeep. Her tears seared her cheeks, she coughed and choked and pressed her head against the cool surface of the hood and then started laughing hysterically.

She had been worried about her marriage, her finances and a dismal future but with Larry gone she wouldn’t have to deal with an expensive divorce, she could collect his life insurance, and would even get his social security. Now with the house wiped out she could start her whole life over. She bent over and vomited. She wiped her mouth then stood up and walked over to help Jim search for Marie.

No comments:

Post a Comment