You remember the hurricane barreling toward the Connecticut coast when you were eight. And the rain pouring down the gutters, slamming the screens so you had to close all the windows. You remember the news updates, sirens at noon, and how the rain stopped, a muggy mist descended, and a quiet settled as the storm surge rose and pushed up the lower streets, climbed the hill and flooded your road. How glad you were that your house stood high on a hill, because all around you was water.
You remember the TV turning off, lights too, and your mother dashing around to fill pots and bathtubs and her empty wine bottles with fresh water because there was no telling how long tap water could stay clean. It was like you were camping, or a pioneer but you were in your own house, and outside everything looked strange. You were like a boat all alone out to sea, because your neighbors had boarded up their homes and left a day ago.
It was the most exciting thing that ever happened to you, because your mother was there, happy, breathless, dashing about, pulling open drawers and placing red Christmas candles in holders, filling the cooler with ice, and handing you your very own flashlight. “Battening down the hatches,” your mother called it. She was your very own Noah with her arc and you were her right-hand girl, her Hurricane Girl.
You had not yet dropped the plastic pitcher of her precious water so that it spilled all over the kitchen floor. She had not yet shrieked, “You idiot!” and sent you to the front porch, and locked the screen door so you couldn’t get back in, leaving you to feel her harsh words so they burrowed in and burned, while you watched the rain start up again and the water slowly rise, up first one and then another stair. A submerged grey garbage can bumped against the cement foundation, a large plastic bottle half-full with blue antifreeze bobbed, and a dead, black and white cat floated at the fourth stair.
You had not yet cried for your mother to save the cat or tried to reach the back door by way of the rear porch stairs, only to be met by more roiling, brown foamy water. You had not yet banged on the front door screen, yelled for her, “Mom!” or tapped on the windows, banged on the brown shingle siding, rung and rung the doorbell. You had not yet seen your mother’s scowling face as she finally unlocked the door without a word and turned her back on you.
Sometimes, years after you left that house, you imagine the sea water breaching the front porch, and then racing from the front stairs to the rear ones, the foam slicking your knees, the current sucking past trying to pull you under. Mostly you think of that dead cat. Such a small, beautiful creature. Its eyes open, blank.
“Hurricane Girl” was first published in Vestal Review, 2019.
IMAGE: John Constable – “Rainstorm Over the Sea” 1824-1828 – Oil on paper laid on canvas, 235 mm x 326 mm. Royal Academy of Arts, London
Andrea Marcusa's writings have appeared in Gettysburg Review, Cutbank, River Styx, River Teeth, Citron Review, and others. She’s received recognition in a range of competitions, including Glimmer Train, Raleigh Review, New Letters and Southampton Review. For more information, visit: andreamarcusa.com or see her on Twitter @d_marcusa.
Wow, Andrea. More than one storm going on that night.