No room at the inn
We're among the first to arrive this afternoon at the local drug store, our haven from this storm of storms. Bedecked in our "emergency" ponchos (mine with Mickey Mouse on the back), we tromp in, rain beads sliding off onto the floor. A short while later, a lady bursts in by herself, animated, rattled. She briefly describes, to anyone and everyone, her harrowing experience on a nearby flooded road: "I asked myself, did I want to be one of those people they show on TV who has to be rescued?" She immediately answers her own question, "No!"
Others trickle in little by little. A soft-spoken woman relays to us how her grown son, who tried to drive into town to pick her up, did have to be saved from the waters, his car lost to them. And a thin man who must be nearly seven feet tall commands attention. "This is the fifth time in the past year, the fifth time, I've been flooded out of my place." I begin to feel as if I'm part of a classic Christie whodunit—disparate guests gathered here, unable to leave, all roads out, both big and small, impassable.
It's amazing how we manage to whittle away the hours, alternately cruising the aisles, curling up in cold faux-leather chairs in the pharmacy waiting area, and stepping outside to check out the scene: the lights, the clouds, the rescue boats carried on trailers. From time to time, one of the store workers shows us updated radar maps on his smart phone. (We have no smart phone ourselves, and our shared old-style phone has run out of juice.) My husband keeps talking about finding a clean room for the night. That is, until someone new bolts in and announces there are no more rooms to be had in this town—even if we could get to one.
a see-through case
with travel toothbrush
and tube of paste—
for a dollar or two
While it makes no sense to us, the store shuts down at its usual time, 10 p.m, forcing all of us to move to our vehicles in the near-packed parking lot. Just before then, a line forms in front of the women's restroom. I feel possibly more concerned about having to suddenly relieve myself at 2 or 3 in the morning than I do about threats of tornadoes not so very far away. Even the employees station themselves outside, one of them leaning against the building, guzzling wine from a bottle half concealed in a brown paper bag.
Sometime after midnight, through the window of her large black Cadillac SUV parked next to us, a woman we'd chatted with bids us kind farewell as though we are longtime friends. She has decided to try her luck at leaving, hoping a road or two have reopened since the earlier police warning—but she does live a little closer than we do. Over the course of the night, three more rounds of rain, even a little hail, beat down on us, the last starting at approximately 3:45 a.m. My husband manages to snooze through the heaviest of it; not so me, however.
Come 5:30 or so, the lot is only a third full. (Did others know something we didn't?) I'm oddly glad to still see the white pickup truck two spaces over. A flicker of brightness, I assume from a cigarette lighter, lets me know there's life inside. A short while later, the occupant hops out and disappears round to the back of the building. I believe I know what he's about to do there.
of our Kia Soul
this storm-drenched night
with other travelers
we share the restless sky
—Atlas Poetica, Summer 2017
For part one to this story, read "Deluge."