Narrative Nudge ~ September 12, 2017

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Photo by Ryan McGuire, source Gratisography

9.12.2017: After the storm…

2 Replies to “Narrative Nudge ~ September 12, 2017”

  1. After the storm

    ‘So in the absence of anger or revenge or blame, we resort to that in us which is perhaps most primal, most fundamental: compassion, love, service. That’s why the response of so many in times of natural disasters reaffirms my faith that people are fundamentally good. So many act not because they expect to be valorized on the news, or be tweeted about, but simply because it is unthinkable to not act when we see others suffering. We act through direct compassion, refusing to leave the saving of another life to the next person. There is hope for us humans yet, if we make this compassion an everyday ethic.’
    –From Omid Safi, “Seeking the Spirit in the Midst of a Hurricane.” Posted in On Being, 9-16-2017, edited by Krista Tippett.

    All of those standing in line at the liquor store all could hear the endless chatter of the CNN announcers blaring the word from their perch on the wall: “everyone is warned to evacuate. It will be too dangerous for anyone to stay behind.”
    They said the hurricane would last for days. Days they said. Harriet did the only sensible thing: stash up on booze and gather her friends. The liquor store was just around the corner, and was already packed when she got there.
    A guy ahead of her wearing a torn Marlins t-shirt said “I just don’t see it. Last time they had us all leave and the storm turned and went out into the Atlantic.” “Yeah,” said another in soaking wet jeans, “I got back home last time, and all my stuff was gone.”
    The TV voice of authority continued “Emergency personnel will not be able to help you after 10:00 pm tonight. They will not be able to respond to 9-1-1 calls, as they will be helping with the evacuation. You must leave your homes immediately.”
    A white haired woman chimed in “I’m more afraid to leave than to stay. My kids in Ohio keep calling me. But I just feel safer keeping an eye on my own place.”
    Everyone was there to grab a last purchase of smokes, alcohol and snack food. And maybe toilet paper and bottled water. No one wanted to leave home. And they all knew that the storm could be several days, or maybe a week. The shelves were quickly emptying so Harriet tossed as much as she could into shopping cart.
    “Jennie lets call this a woman’s retreat, a pajama party for grownups,” pushing the shopping cart out the door and calling Jennie from her cell. “I’m not sure I have enough food to go around. I have some frozen burgers and pork in the fridge and just picked up chips and dip. If everyone can think pot-luck and BYOB we can make this work.”
    Jennie was her closest buddy, the one who got her home when she’d had too much and couldn’t think straight. Jennie’s place was close to the water, and she was happy to come to higher ground. Harriet and her old house had been through hurricanes before.
    Harriet and Jennie quickly agreed that they would each call two friends who needed help, and get there as quick as they could. As the afternoon wore on they began straggling in one by one. Nancy and Margo needed emergency shelter: their places were filling up with water but they were afraid to take any of the roads out of town. Jenny’s friend Mary tried to get out but couldn’t get her car started in the rain, and her other friend Joyce decided to join the rescue party when she got the call. Each brought something along: groceries, a bottle of Jim Bean, a box of chips. The wind had already blown all the lawn furniture across the street, and knocked over a patio screen. And the rain was starting to come down hard.
    By the time Mary got there the street was starting to fill up. “Oh my God it looks like the car next door is starting to float away,” she cried as the door pushed shut behind her. They all gathered by the small window in the living room. As a tree came down in the neighbor’s front lawn they all pulled back, and quickly closed the drapes.
    Nancy always the hopeful one volunteered: “well at least we have power.” They all got their last glimpse on the TV of a final warning “if you are still at home it is now too late to leave.” And then the screen flickered and was gone.
    In the darkness of the evening, the lights out and curtains pulled, their aloneness began to sink in. Margo sobbed, “No one will be able to help us.”
    Harriet stumbled around and found some candles. She set them on the old coffee table that would serve as their meeting place. The candlelight flickered eerily on the frightened faces surrounding the room.
    “I heard that the storm surge could wipe out everything,” Margo continued.
    “Shut your face we don’t need that now,” countered Nancy. “We have to think positive. Positive. We are going to make it. We can’t go anywhere. We might as well party.”
    “My kind of girl,” Harriet thought. She started counting the bottles. We had at least 20, some new, many already opened, brought in like emergency rations. There was enough to last us, please God she said under her breath.
    With the wind screaming across the roof and the rain rattling the siding, they all sat in a circle with their little paper Dixie cups. Harriet found a couple bottles of whisky in the stash and was able to give everyone a shot. “Cheers,” sounded a little odd, Harriet thought. “How about we drink to our meeting again next year, same time, maybe someplace else?” Cries of “Yeah, yeah,” came up, and they stood there in the middle of the howling storm shoulder to shoulder in the dark room, and drank down the first of what would be many toasts to their friendships.
    With the Dixie cup shot glass in her hand, Harriet became philosophical. Huddled in front of her assembled friends she placed her hand on the coffee table as if for emphasis: “This is like all the other storms I’ve ever seen. A hurricane don’t worry about time. It don’t respect any of us here in this room. It don’t even worry if you like it or not. I say to hell with the hurricane. I want you all to make yourselves comfortable. Try to relax. Let’s enjoy each other’s company. It might be a long few days.”
    Someone had dragged in a couple cases of Bud, the real stuff with calories. It proved a good chaser for the whiskey. They were on their way.
    Joyce spoke up in the dark circle: “well since we all are here now, we might as well have fun with it. Harriet you have some of those old board games, I know. We can play cards by candlelight.”
    Jennie chimed in at this point: “Harriet’s right: we are all old friends here. We have lots of food and you brought the drink. We should be able to get through this together. At least we have running water. And the main thing is that we have fun and take care of each other.”
    The night was frightening with the sounds of the house groaning with the strain of 100 mile an hour winds, and straight line rain hitting the sides of the house. Harriet and Nancy feel asleep slantwise on the couch. Margo stayed up most of the night whimpering. The others found a chair or a spot on the floor to rest with a pillow. They awoke tired but aware they had made it through the night.
    Another day, more board games. They dined on chips and cut up veggies, bread and peanut butter, a little jelly. And as the day wore on, wine and beer. Night fell, and as the wind was not as harsh it was easier to sleep, a sense that the worst was over.
    The morning of the second day they awoke to see the sun breaking through the drapes. Joyce woke them all up with a shout: “It’s over, it’s over.” The harsh winds and rain were gone.
    Nancy tearing open the drapes gasped: “Oh it’s a total mess out there. Whose car is that up against the apartment across the street.” Rushing to the windows they could see pieces of siding and roofing in the middle of the street. Joyce wondered aloud how long it would be before they could ever get out.
    But they were alive. They had survived, and were safe. Harriet’s little bungalow had withstood another storm. “We made it, we made it,” Margo cried, and they held hands and danced around the little coffee table littered with napkins and coffee cups.
    Harriet picked up another Dixie cup as the dancing wore down, and announced “another toast, another toast.” This time they all knew: “Let’s drink to getting back in our own homes,” Joyce spoke for them all. There were more cheers, and high fives, and embraces, as their minds finally turned from the terror of the storm to the prospect of getting home.
    It was a matter of days later when the power was restored. As the streets were cleared the friends went their separate ways, with hugs and thankyous and lets get together agains. Harriet decided it was time to clean up her little place. Many trash bags later and after a nice hot shower, she threw her fluffy pink bathrobe over her pajamas and gathered all the empties into the shopping cart.
    Walking back into the liquor store no one even gave her a second look. “It looks like you made it,” the counter clerk shouted her way. “Glad to see you back.”
    She was alive, and grateful for all the dear friends who had helped her.

    A fun piece. Definitely after the storm!–DR

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