Tag Archives: Place

This Too Shall Pass (rough draft)

We seldom remember the beginning of any storm
Those first few drops of rain so inconsequential, the whispering sound of their community falling and gathering all around
Nor does the water ever seem too high or strong or dangerous
Until it is

On the day my Uncle was found dead just such a storm had been building all around my family and I
Each drop piling high, singing the creek out behind the house into a rage
Until finally the water could hold back no more and all its chocolate milk fury came at us with a thunder and command befitting the gods of long before
We were overcome

This was the day I watched the road buckle and like a blister, popped and exploded its tar memory into the all consuming water
And the day I watched my car get filled mere feet beyond my reach
And above all, the day my uncle, homeless and undesired, found dead in a Colorado street.
Momma wailed, not cried, and the water no matter how loud couldn’t drown her out
First she thought she was losing the house and then she found out she had lost her brother
Was there no good left to God?

My mother and father stacked their valuables as high as they could, hoping the water’s reach would not compete
And all the while I thought of Bay Saint Louis down in Mississippi where I had dug just such valuables out of strangers homes
Mad Lady Katrina had a higher reach than any shelf or even roof
But I stacked my stuff too and let my family hold to their belief

We were trapped
The water was all around, there seemed no hope, out back a river, out front a river, all around the rain gathered their community and sang deaths ugly tune
Dad and I ventured out, we had only one chance, “how high is the water papa?”, old man Cash once sang
Too damn high

Momma had a distant look on her face, her brother’s death had stained her soul, and the water that should wash away dirt was instead carrying it and threatening to stain her even more
Dad gave me an ax and a look I’ll never forget
We started chopping down the fence he had built some summers ago, and somewhere between the swings, I had become a man to my father and an equal
And somewhere between the swings, I asked God why and even prayed, and all the while I thought of what I’d done to help others

I had done more than watched, I went down to dig out the buried lives of those drowned poor souls of the south
When Katrina tried our nation, and found us wanting, hadn’t I gone? Hadn’t I done something more than most?

And somewhere in the swinging the rain slowed and the waters went down
We seldom remember when the storm comes and seldom see it’s recline but no truer joy had I felt than when the creek of my childhood had lost its bite
And left me with its gritty hard lesson
There will always be rain and floods but we can weather any storm if we pick up the ax
And no better boat than the family that rows together

Like all great rushing waters, and floods, and all storms along life’s way, the waters shall run their course and in due time, this too shall pass



Modeling Monday – Write like Steinbeck

Not even a full mile down the road, maybe a smidge more, the Kentucky river rolls through a low laying flood plain. When it’s the summer the fields there are wild and untamed, a happy lively wild place, a garden for the animals to come and eat. But there are other times when the river runs a deep ugly brown, painting the air with a muddy scent, and roaring its mighty voice as the damn is overtaken and the waters rage on. At first the water stays in its domain, the banks holding the brown majesty of the flood to its confines, but soon enough the water spills over and fills the little valley with a hungry need for expansion. When I was a boy, there were two old houses in the valley, never lived in, not for times longer than my short life can remember have those houses seen real habitation. But for those of us that lived near the river, we’d go to the high place the road took you and look down on that valley and measure the rising river’s fury against how far the waters had risen against the house. One time, I saw the waters go so high as the roof.

We were somewhat fortunate where I grew up, the river was far enough away to never reach us, and the hills provided a safety net enough to guarantee the water there would never come so far. Fortunate enough, which is not the same as saying I never saw a flood around the house. I saw several when the little creek that wound out behind and below my family home could take no more rain. Sometimes the bridge up the road would get clogged with debris. The water would back up and finally push over top and come down the road, which was a terrifying sight. Or, the water would simply rise and rise and soon enough poor over the rock fence out back and fill the yard. Flash floods are speedy demons, sometimes giving very little warning, and in no time, a family can be completely shut off from all the civilized world beyond, left looking to one another wondering, will this be the one to take our little home?

Swamp Rats (an exercise in setting)

A scene: Setting Building (An exercise):


It was a hot Louisiana night fresh from the swamps, stagnant as a dead stream and as lively as a bed of ‘skeeters singling in on the trail of a blood feast. The two figures in their tiny boat sat as silent as the night would let them be, their eyes communicating all their fears back and forth like a saggy slow ping pong ball.

“Listen now,” the one man said to the other, “you hear that?”

Their ears seemed to wiggle as they both leaned over the edge of the boat and studied the cricket ridden breath of the night. There was life all around them, and yet there seemed to be absolutely nothing but competing shades of darkness and silence on all sides of them. Somewhere, through the thick heavy tones of the steamy night there was one thing, just one thing, it could have been caused by any number of things. One ugly loud commanding thing.

“Goddammit Joe, how’d he find us?” the other man said, his voice ribbetted high then low bobbing his Adams apple as he threatened the sturdiness of the boat.

“Don’t know it’s him,” the other said. His eyes bugged out in fright no matter his words.

Another stick broke.

“Just row Stevie, row!” Joe said, looking half ready to leap in the dark abysmal unknowns of the swamp and run for his life.

“I ain’t the kind of man you be bossing about now,” Stevie said, and yet he was readying the oars and paddling hard. Somewhere in the inky black depths of the night one lone hound warbled out its lonesome call, and the two men in the boat trudged down the waterway as fast and stealthily as they could summon.

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