by Mary K. Grant
Jack has been gone for a long time to the grocery to get vittles and supplies. While he’s gone, I anxiously Watch the lake through the vertical venetians in the Florida room. It’s the same as before: grey and chinked with little white caps, all pushing to the north. While I look, I hear that mantle clock tick away. It’s the dog antique, has a little tail that wags back and forth with the minutes, while pup’s big black irises twist to and froe in a concurrent rhyme. One of the oldest antiques I brought into the marriage ten long years ago.
I push off my flip-flops on the gray shag rug on the floor. He might have informed me that he was going out, because I would have added some items in case of a flood. We need more rope to tie up the bushes. They’ve been blowing around terribly. It would have been good to have a few extra batteries for the flashlights. I expect the lights will go out when we lose power, if those high voltage lines come down on Serra Street. Well, too late now, I think, settling on sitting in a comfortable sling back chair near the windows. And, as the tick-tock continues, I drift off into a nice nap.
Jack came back yesterday, the rear of his station wagon filled with sandbags he got at the fire station in town. Together, for over two hours, he and Sam, our next-door neighbor, lifted, dragged and positioned them all along the edge of the embankment edging our back lawn. Afterwards, alone together again, we sat down to an impromptu dinner of take-out Kentucky Fried. Sam mentioned that he has a generator line long enough to allow us to piggyback.
Assuming the worst, today, in the afternoon, I’m prying apart the blinds once again to witness the fact that the water level has risen. Tuning in to Channel 8 WROC news, I’m flabbergasted to learn that it is now 148.72” above the low tide mark. It’s truly a new record for Lake Ontario. And the flood waters haven’t crested yet. Jack’s out in back, observing the far shore with his binoculars. He’s barely spoken to me all day.
Well, it’s a little past five a.m. and I can’t sleep. Yesterday evening, while I sat and watched the news with Jack, I fell into the old habit of biting my nails. Now, I notice, all the pink paint of that recent $15 manicure has been peeled partially off. Quickly, I tug my warm sweater cuffs over my hands, hoping Jack won’t notice. Not that he cares lately about anything else but property damage.
Oh, my God. It’s after noon and the water has risen to the top of the sandbags. Jack is sloshing around in his galoshes on the back lawn. I’ve got to take Tabby, our 12-year old Siamese, to the kennel for safe babysitting. No telling what this home will look like if the sandbags are breached.
It’s Friday. Is it the 13th? The water has crested, and the back yard is submerged. Jack is chains-smoking in the dining room, on the phone with his parents in Virginia. He’s telling them what’s happening blow-by-blow. Oh, no! He just told me to pack an overnight bag. As I try to go out on the back deck, he grabs me, pulling the sliding doors shut. In horror, I notice that there is now a new pond in our backyard. The Adirondack chairs are half submerged. Even the bird feeder is tilting over, pulled by deep currents.
And yet, after Friday night, our little home is intact and dry. Taking the clock off the mantle, I swath it in cloths, plastic bags, and place it up in the attic. There’s a stiff wind blowing waves across the patio.
Saturday. I arose myself from a fitful sleep. It’s to the sound of honking from the driveway. Sticking my head half out the window, I stare at my husband. He’s half out of our Ford Fiesta on the driver’s side. He’s gesturing, “come, come!” to me. As I notice at the same time, there are runnels of water creeping up our front lawn on either side of the driveway.
It takes just a moment to slip into some old clothes, my tennis sneakers, and a warm windbreaker. “Abandon ship!” I whisper, closing and locking the front door behind me. As I crawl into the “shotgun seat” of our car, I look for a long, desperate minute at what we both built together in a decade.
Jack says softly, “Let’s not waste any time being sentimental, Carrie.” And clicks the door locks closed. We’ve got to get to the bridge through a partially submerged one lane road. “We’re going to need some luck now.” He says, bravely smiling into his rear-view mirror.
“Hail, Britannia. Britannia rules the waves.” Jack tries to joke.
“Are we heading for Great Britain?” I ask, helplessly.
“This is our home now, sweetie.” He says.
Mary K. Grant is a local author and teacher. She has a background in communications, psychology, education and publishing. Before coming to Rochester she spent most of her life on Long Island.