High Water from Issue 89
The water brought quiet, heaviness, a strained peace. We were never so kind to one another, my mother, sister, and I. Yes, please, we said in hushed voices, I will have a cup of tea. Thank you, yes, sugar.
All day we took turns checking the windows. What do you see now? How close is it?
It’s up the tree.
It’s past the tree.
All day we knew he would drive home well after sunset; he would crest the hill and not be able to judge, with only the illumination of his headlights, how high the water had come. He would think it was a typical flood year and he would try to drive through the water and he would fail.
Maybe he’ll see better than we think. No he won’t. Maybe he will. No.
It’s up to the woodpile.
It’s past the woodpile.
If only there was some way to reach him, my mother said over and over, before tea, after tea, before lunch, after lunch, if only there was some way to reach him. What do you see now?
As the time drew near, my sister and I set up watch at our bedroom window upstairs, where we would see his headlights. There was a sliver of moon and that usual sprinkling of stars. The landscape was inked out almost completely, but we imagined we saw ripples in the water that had spilled from the pond across the road, from the river cutting through the woods behind the house, from the creek between the two.
I think it’s up to the shed. It is. Imagine the mud. I know. It’s going to wash away half the gravel we put down. Yep. Maybe he’ll stop. No.
Headlights. Two shafts of milky light atop the hill, sitting. The headlights shift to brighter high beams. We know he is leaning forward, growling, cussing, trying to see. Judging, guessing. The beams of light begin to move, slowly, slowly. He is Moses, his lime-green truck will split the Red Sea, all our worry, our polite, whispered, pretty-please, no-thank-you worry, is for nothing. Slowly, slowly. And then the beams go slanted to careen to the left. Disappear.
Leaving us to wonder: What good does it ever do, knowing exactly what’s going to happen? By 10:00 in the morning we had already solved for X: When this act of nature meets that personality, the green truck will…float. And then sink. By 10:00 in the morning we had predicted exactly that two-beamed arc of light slashing the night. But my sister held her breath when she first saw the headlights. I grabbed the windowsill so hard flaked paint slipped under my fingernails. We knew. And still we hoped he would stop. Still we hoped he wouldn’t.