Knots. That’s what her stomach turned to when it rained. The flies did the same. Despite the lazy summer sounds of chirping birds and geared down transports passing through town, there were more flies than usual. They were drawn to the subtle stink now. Bred in the musty folds of corrugated ick. A week ago impotent as storage containers, boxes melted as lifted from the sediment. The flies had multiplied. Un-trusted dust settled in gardens. Nine or more filled industrial-sized garbage containers stood testament to the devastation and travesty of a flood. The flies were a horrid reminder.

How does one blame rain? The night before it had been springtime refreshment. Steady and seasonal the drops droned toward morning. The rinse that makes laundry lines welcome the folder. Yet the rain gauges held the hint. Four to five inches—not normal. Record-setting increments of that scale stir the conversation of any Farmer’s Almanac follower. But, the coffee shop was not a buzz that morning. Rather the simple street corner was creating its own landing point.

That morning the word “river” sat on her soul.

“Go to the river?” she asked Him? “Sit by the river?” “Check out the river?” “Hear You at the river?” “Meet You by the river?”

Dulled by her arrogance she soon forgot and returned to routine. Even hearing the frantic of the waterlogged reporter that shared office space had done nothing but remind her of how she loved this little town. We will take anything for excitement, she mused.

At 10:45 am routine was broken. Two able bodied fireman clad men invaded her space. Township letterhead notices and warnings of level three danger in a level two zone caught her like side bars of bad news at the doctor’s office. Jaded cynicism mocked them internally. Yet, assuredly she nodded that she could be out by noon.

The puddles were to be expected nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Gut reflexes to pass on due diligence of officialdom seem appropriate. The evacuation warnings were reiterated.

Back window peek. Like an omen from Dr Who’s “Blink,” the water had advanced across the yard as silent as a weeping angel. Water, just water. Instinct kicked in as product and floor footprint items were raised to table height. 10:00 am, could the day be redeemed by moving the work to home? Blink. Move the car. No, move the car further. Higher ground was a block and a half away.

Returning to pack up meant wading in chilly ankle deep puddles. Not the puddles of playful galoshes, not the jump and splash spring time teasers. This was the dark of dread, of urgency. Firetrucks stood guard at the corner. Reflective rain gear seemed out of order for such a sunny morning. Was there a drizzle yet? It mattered not the capri were soaked to the knee. Nervous internal laughter arose at the thought of her aptly picked flood pants for the day. Two more trips filled the trunk. Awkward phone conversations updated the client of the day and the redirection of plans.

“Yes, I can meet you at the coffee shop.”

“Yes, I can be there in minutes.”

“Yes, I am aware there is no parking.”

“Yes, I am ok.”

“No, there is nothing you can do to help.”

And so the stench started. Flow versus sump pump. Dirty, dark, mud mingled, the mirk of dank algae invaded our corner with the speed they had predicted. The chatter of perplexed onlookers surveyed the approach with worry and dumbfounded denial.

“No, there was nothing you can do to help.”

Freezers floated. Sumps pumped. Primitive watercraft explored. Even a jet ski took a spin off its moorings. And why, not? The power of water, it had seeped and spilt into the community’s lives beyond anyone’s control.

Nothing but the waiting, yet oddly the flood receded as quickly as it began.

“There’s got to be a morning afterIf we can hold on through the night...” it had been an iconic song of the 1970s, it invaded her personal head space without warning.

“Oh, can’t you see the morning after?It's waiting right outside the stormWhy don't we cross the bridge togetherAnd find a place that's safe and warm?” It became and earworm. (The Morning After, lyrics written for the Poseidon Adventure by Maureen McGovern)

The muck clean up had begun. Though there was no basement for the water to permeate at 24 Wood St. None, zero, zilch. Water and stink it had drenched entered every crevice for a block’s radius. She had never been so thankful.


Though a fish farmer’s daughter, the reek of aquaculture re-entered the nostrils with new memories. Ones that call out the work clothes but ones that would be mingled with deep thankfulness while tethered to the heart-wrenching loss.

“River.” The alerts of one-word prompts had more attention.

©Donna Hirtle
July 7, 2017
Short unfinished thoughts regarding the Drayton flood of June 23, 2017