Thanks to everyone for the feedback
And no I would never make light of the devastations that have hit the Gulf Coast, which happens to be my home. We’ve been having flood problems for several years now, due to over development and these new uber-storms. I write about what happens around me, as well as things I pull out of me imagination. So chill.
Ain’t it heavy?
Ain’t the night heavy?
-Ain’t it Heavy-
Chapter Five: Surge
She should have taken Dr. Greene up on her offer. They could have been high and dry in Austin by now. So they would not have had their little shower session when the good doctor left, making Vonne feel like she could take on a thousand floods, a fucking tsunami.
“Tisha,” she screamed over the boat motor and the pouring rain, scanning the flashlight across the dark expanse before her.
She was out there somewhere, and Vonne vowed not to rest until she found her wife, alive or dead. Standing there at the helm of her boat, steering through the flood she could not fight the frantic tears. She would end it out there herself if she found her wife drowned, colorless and lifeless among debris. There was no one who would miss her, the team, that was about it, there was no family and she had pushed away her friends over the past years.
None of them mattered anyway, not without Tisha, the only person who had actually nurtured Vonne. Yeah, after her childhood fraught with neglect, and the war that was her teenage and young adult years, she needed a bit of nurturing.
She called her name again; a sob choked back her shout.
She straightened behind the wheel, wiped furiously at her eyes, and passed her light across the horizon. Coolwood High was up ahead. She wondered if Hink’s shelter was still there, or if everyone had fled.
She gave the boat a bit more forward power.
It had been a long time since she hurried to those doors, in fact, she did not think she ever hurried to get to Coolwood High. She was suspended the very first day of her ninth grade year for fighting. She dumped a boy right out of his desk and stomped his stomach when he identified her as that bull-dagger.
Coolwood High did not look like a school here in the dark of the flood, it looked like a fortress, suddenly just as intimidating as it did back in the ninth grade.
The current could have carried Tisha there, it was only a few miles from the spot where she had gone overboard.
Vonne tied her boat to the school’s flag poles, the water was lower in front of the school, but would not remain so shallow for long. The rain was relentless as if it meant to cover the entire world starting with this little backwater.
She waded to the front door, which was ajar. There were signs that a mass of people had been there, trash, and umbrellas, other coverings people used to keep dry and discarded. They were gone, ushered out led by Hink and her lackey Sheriff Quitney, a retired cop who owned the local lesbian waterhole. The town would call them heroes in the end, the two dykes that saved the day.
Vonne would be the dumbass who slept in her woman’s arms as the flood crept over her truck, who ultimately lost her wife and nearly died herself-
It was stupid to think of that now when Tisha was out there, probably lonely and scared…probably.
She entered the school calling for her wife, waded past the front desk waving the spotlight back and forth, illuminating a trophy case, and the windowed main hallway that led to the cafeteria, poster advertising a cookie dough fundraiser, how the Buffaloes were going to stampede the cougars Friday night.
Her boots squeaked against the linoleum floor as she walked, and she suddenly hated people for whom high school had been a breeze, who fit in. If she had been a proper girl in the first place she would not be in such a predicament, by now she would be someone’s Mrs., her man would protect her and her kids from the elements.
“Get it together, Shavonne,” she told her self, “Tisha? Are you in here?”
She shined her light into the cafeteria, the tables were unfolded, lined up in a way different than she remembered. There were a lot more than she remembered.
She turned suddenly the beam of the flashlight a spinning horizon.
Vonne thought she had heard voices just than, but upon searching the darkness she found nothing. She walked towards the other side of the school, another set of doors that led to the Coolwood Public Library.
As she neared the gym she heard a distinct, monotonous sound that echoed through the closed door. Someone was in there bouncing a ball. She wondered who Hink and the sheriff left behind, perhaps they would be coming back for them.
“Hey,” she announced herself, because it sure as hell was not Tisha, “I’m looking for my wi-…friend.”
There was no answer, only the bounce of the ball, a slow pound like the beating heart of some sleeping giant curled up in the gym.
“Shit,” she whispered to her self and reached inside of her jacket where a holster held a .38 Special. She bought the gun last winter at the urging of Tisha’s cousin Keisha a weapons enthusiast who gave Vonne a few lessons at the firing range outside of town. They both agreed that it was not a good idea to tell Tisha about the gun. Vonne kept the .38 hidden among some of her personal sports memorabilia.
She pressed her back against the wall, slid towards the double doors of the gym, there was a narrow window just above the push latch on the right.
“It’s not safe around here, you know,” she said, slipping off the safety, “That water’s rising even still.”
The ball continued to bounce, she leaned over, cocking the hammer until it clicked in place.
“Lord, don’t let me have to shoot nobody tonight,” she muttered to herself as she peered through the darkness at the figure dribbling away. The first thing she noticed was that they had bad form, even in the dark.
She shined the light at the dribbler’s feet; skinny ankles in those big bootish basketball sneakers that were so expensive and popular, except they were bloated and filthy with water.
“Who else is here?” she asked sternly stepping inside the gym, holding the door open behind her with her gun toting hand, the other she used to light the place.
The dribbler made no answer just continued his business.
“Listen, I don’t care what ya’ll think is of value in this school, but it ain’t worth drowning for,” she informed him, “You and your friends should get.”
“My friends ain’t here,” he replied, in a croaky voice she recognized faintly.
She frowned and stepped forward, heard the door close behind her as she shinned the flashlight higher, past the kid’s ankles, sodden over-sized blue jean shorts, to the Bull’s jersey he wore with Micheal Jordan’s classic 23, what the young folks called a throw-back.
She did not want to shine the light in his face so she stopped at his neck hoping the light’s glow would illuminate the rest. It did not for some reason and the kid’s face remained shrouded in darkness.
“My friends are out there, waitin’ for you, Vonne, you goddamned pussy-biter,” he growled.
“You little bastard,” she sneered, feeling her anger rise; she decided to fuck courtesy and cruelly sent the light into the kid’s eyes.
The gun in her hand swung up as if by reflex, surprising her, then her mind registered that the young man she was seeing had been dead since 1989. His name was Al, she did not remember the rest of it, she had put it out of her mind, just like the accident that killed him.
She was sure than that she had lost her mind, somewhere between the house and the high school her sanity abandoned her, because here stood a dead school mate, his skin no longer brown but a dead gray, the color of his eyes washed away, pupil-less was the muddy color of the bayou in which he drowned.
“Oh hell no,” Vonne said, stepping backwards, she heard the splash of water, she turned to exit and saw the flood pressing against the little window in the gym door, covering it save an inch at the top.
She looked down at her feet saw that water was pooling beneath the door, it groaned as hair-line streams squeezed through the sides at the hinges.
“You remember me?” Al asked behind her, closer.
She turned and fired, as the recoil thundered through her arm, she hoped she was not hallucinating, though she doubted she could kill a kid who had already been dead for eighteen years.
“Stupid dyke,” he told her, “We got you where we want you, we overflowed Legacy just to get to you, so we could take you back down there with us.”
Behind her the water began to gush over the top of the door, she could feel drops spatter the back of her drying clothes hear it fall to the floor. In less than a minute, the gym was filled to her ankles. She flashed the light past Al, saw that it was running down the walls in sheets, turning the wooden bleachers into a waterfall.
She rushed past Al, there were two other exits if she remembered correctly. She sloshed across the gym, kicking up water, the light in her hand bouncing. She bowled into the back door of the gym in a tiny alcove that led to the locker rooms upstairs.
It was locked.
She tried the door to the locker room, it pushed open followed by white water that knocked her off her feet. She grunted, clutching the gun and flashlight in one hand. Vonne scrambled out of the alcove, across the back wall of the gym, to the second back exit, an emergency door.
It would not budge.
The flood had poured in and now reached past her knees.
She turned frantically waving the flashlight. She was alone in the gym, Al was gone. The basketball floated alone on top of the water. She turned, sloshed through the water, there was no way out, hallucination, or not, unless she woke soon in bed with Tisha the morning sun rolling across from them, this was the fucking end.
The windows. Above the bleachers.
There were windows above the bleachers, just big enough for her to squeeze through and plummet one full story.
“Oh shit,” she said and sloshed towards the stacked wooden benches, climbing them two at a time in her rubber-fishing boots.
Something snagged her ankle and she fell on her belly across the bleachers, banging her chin on one of the benches. She felt a tug and rolled over kicking. Tasted blood in her mouth. The beam of her spot light revealed her captor, it was all, of course, but his legs were gone, in their place was a tail, like a gator’s, ridged and tapering to a point, but blacker than the night that surrounded them.
Vonne screamed, managed to kick away.
“Hey,” he hissed, “We got your woman. Didn’t she give you the message? After we fucked her, we told her to tell you, that we were coming.”
The water rose as he spoke covering his black tail, Vonne could only scramble away, up to the top bleacher. She stood back, shot at it, shattering the glass. She used the flashlight to clean away the bits of glass clinging to the frame.
The water had climbed the bleachers now, she felt it around her waist, rising rapidly. Vonne lifted a leg, realized it could not reach the window ledge unless she grew a few feet in the next few seconds. She reached up, pushed the flashlight out, hoping it did not break.
She would have to go headfirst. She jumped, grabbing at the ledge. Her fingers slipped off the smooth, wet, brick. Vonne tried again, managed to grab hold, and pulled her self up walking the wall as she did.
Grunting with effort she snaked through the tight pane dusted with tiny bits of broken glass. She tasted rain as she birthed her body through the window. She felt the water inside the gym rising behind her trying to squeeze through with her.
“Goddamnit,” she shouted into the rain as her ribs creaked under the strain, she gripped the outside of the wall with the palms of her hands, there was nothing to hold on to, and a one-story drop below. Her blood pounded in her ears, a blip of pain began to count in her head.
“Just let me get my fat ass through this window,” she prayed, “I won’t grumble about turkey bacon no more.”
Then, she could no longer brace herself, her hands slipped and she fell forward. Some soggy shrubbery broke her fall. She rolled onto the wet ground, dazed, feeling like she could not draw breath into her body. The flash light was not too far away, its glow comforted her,
Rain splattered her face carelessly; she blinked it away furiously, stared up at the night sky not able to even will her self to breathe.
Her tiny form stood over her suddenly, she squinted, saw a little girl about four or five, a face she had not seen in what seemed a lifetime, but she knew her.
“Shay,” she said, and she could breathe again. It hurt.
“Stinky bum,” the girl said in a sing-song voice and grinned revealing a tiny smile with a gap between the two front teeth, “Ya can’t sleep here.”
Vonne sat up, clutching her chest, the air burned her lungs it felt so cold, she stood on her knees snatching at the wet foliage next to her.
She looked around for the little girl.
She was gone.
Vonne sighed steadying her breathing, she figured then she should feel pretty special, Legacy had overflowed just so her ghosts could easily come back to haunt her. The Coolwood Posse was back, once they were the most notorious gang in the town’s history. Vonne had inadvertently put an end to them one summer night. Now they were back. And they had Tisha.
The next thing she was aware of was the rushing darkness. Something rough and scratchy against her cheek startled a breath from her, and she sucked in frothy water as well as air. Tisha choked and sputtered raising her head, realized there were thin leaves and branches crowning her head, and veiling her face.
She reached out with her hand touching a wet tree, kicked her legs beneath the rushing water and felt the tight course bark of a willow tree. She retrieved her other arm from the water, looked beyond into the darkness beyond the cage of the tree. She could see nothing of course. No light. No boat. No Vonne.
Panic claimed her instantly.
“Vonne,” she tried to scream but only whimpered, “Shavonne.”
She was out there alone in the flood, up to her neck in tree, down to her feet in rapids. Tisha remembered the car, Vonne had not been able to avoid it, and the impact sent her overboard. The last thing she could recall was the crash of the water.
The torrents had moved so quickly, there was no telling how far it carried her, and how soon. The life jacket had kept her from sinking but not from becoming tangled in the willow, she could feel a branch down the back of her neck, another under her arm.
She shifted to remove them, another lashed her across her face leaving a sting that brought hot tears to Tisha’s eyes. She searched with her hands for a steady limb to hold on to, found one that was not so wispy, ducked her head to avoid getting poked in the eyes and pulled herself away from the offending branches.
She clung to the tree, shivering, miserable in the flood. There was nothing worse than being alone.
She began to sob at the thought of never seeing Vonne again. She taught Tisha how to live, how to laugh. After Vonne, all the guilt that she had betrayed her parents by not being able to shake what they called a perversion, dissipated. Her love redeemed Tisha’s self worth. And Vonne did love her, Tisha never thought she was fooling herself to believe that.
Who else had loved her without condition? Not her father. She was never perfect enough for Dr. Pembry. Not her mother. It seemed Linda Pembry got control mixed up with love and nothing her only child did pleased her.
The best day of her life was deciding not to try to please them anymore, Vonne held her hand through it all, was brave when Tisha was lacking courage.
“You have your own life, Babe,” she said once, “You have your students, they look up to you and depend on you, and you have me, I will always love you.”
“Oh God, Vonne,” she shouted at the memory, but her wife did not come.
She had always been so strong, Tisha remembered that was her first impression of Vonne, she carried herself erect with confidence, and strength. It intimidated people, she made most men bitter, and there were certain kinds of women who threw themselves at her.
“Coolwood trash,” Dr. Pembry always said of Vonne.
“What a thing to forsake us for,” Linda said once in her cool, cruel tone.
“I never told them they were wrong,” Tisha said aloud caged in that willow by the flood, her teeth chattered, “I never told them that I love you.”
She was speaking to Vonne, what was stranger was the tone in which she spoke, it was the regretful one of a woman who did not have much time left. She realized then that her body was giving in to the water, her muscles seemed to be liquefying, her bones stiffening like rigor mortis. She squeezed her eyes shut wondering if she would see her life flashing before her eyes.
But she was giving in nonetheless, the current was slowly washing away her resolve. Her body would go first though, then she would see her life, as her body stubbornly took in water as though it were air, as she drowned.
“I don’t want to die out here, Vonne,” she said through her chattering teeth, “I don’t want to die.”
“You’re so damned scary,” Vonne said, half-teasing, half-assuringly, “The life jacket will keep your head above water, Thelma Evans.”
Tisha laughed at the Good Times reference. She was not hearing Vonne speak, she was remembering her failed swimming lessons the first summer the two of them were a couple. Her wife had tried, but Tisha was too frightened of the water to get her coordination together.
“The life jacket is the best bet,” Vonne said as Tisha boarded her boat for the first time, after she was taught how to tread.
“I learned how to tread in the shallowest
part of Lake Bastrop,” Tisha argued aloud in the rushing darkness of the flood,
“Not on a street turned into rapids, pulling cars-”
The water did not seem as powerful as before, easier to negotiate.
“If you ever go overboard, just tread and I’ll come back around for you, Tish,” Vonne had said, “I’d jump in after you myself if it came to that.”
She believed her still.
“Oh shit,” Tisha said, and began to unwrap her arms from the around the tree branch. She felt the current pull her away, she grabbed at the drooping limbs of the willow to slow herself. Then she was out from under the tree, putting her entire being into treading. She brushed past a car stalled in the middle of the road, partially inundated, she caught hold of the side mirror, saw the shadow of her terrified reflection in it.
She let go and sailed on, reaching out for a billboard for a Chik-fil-A, with cow statues trying to convince people to eat chickens instead of themselves. She tried to aim herself at the pole it stood on, reaching, missing it by a few feet.
She knew where she was though. Close to the public library and the high school, perhaps there was even still people taking shelter and Vonne was there waiting to wrap her up in her arms.
The water pushed her into a street light, she hugged it, dazed, tired, her extremities felt heavy, numb. Her foot brushed hard ground. She moaned with relief, the floor was running thin. Tisha reached with her booted foot, felt it again.
She eased down the streetlight, toeing until her foot stuck. She screamed, startled. Her foot was stuck across an opening and she could feel water swirling around and past it.
A sewer drain.
One arm slipped off the streetlight, her head and shoulders dipped beneath the water, and she scrambled, choking on the flood. Her other foot found solid ground, but she could only stand on her toes. She quickly grabbed on to the streetlight, locking her hands together, heaving in the dank air of the night.
She tugged at her trapped foot. It would not budge.
She lifted her other foot meaning to wrap it around the light pole as well, but she misjudged the length of her leg. She sent it back below the surface, blindly groping for the ground with her foot. She could not find her perch though, and shouted at the night in fear and frustration.
She would have to use her arms to pull herself out of this mess; perhaps she could tug her foot from the boot.
She hugged the pole of the streetlamp, the drag of the drain was strong, it sucked her foot through the boot, the water that had crawled inside fizzed between her socked toes and the rubber as if it were carbonated.
A sudden cramp claimed the thigh above her trapped foot, and she cried out, her arms slipping from the pole a bit. She gritted her teeth and gripped it harder. She arched her back trying to relieve the pain, moaned as it rocketed down her leg into her calf.
She fought through it, continued to tug, felt her foot turn side ways and slip further down into the sewer drain, swallowing her leg to the knee. She cried out again as she was dragged into dark water.
Above the surface she flailed her arms, stretching her neck, looking up at the black sky. She raised her other foot, found purchase at last and once again balanced on the tip of her toes.
The drain sucked her in deeper, the water clogged her ears and her panicked breathing echoed inside of her head.
She tried to straighten; a new set of cramps plagued her leg.
“No,” she shrieked, one last act of defiance, she could taste the flood now, coppery, and chemical like blood and anti-freeze and rain.
She fainted shortly after, her body exhausted, the sound of her labored breathing in her ears, her screams trapped in her water chocked throat.
The back of the life jacket floated on top of the black water like a tiny orange island until an immense set of jaws gently caught hold of the device, were strong enough to pull her out of the current to the library.
His name was Sloopy and once he was the main attraction at a bar in Slidell Louisiana, called Sloopy’s indicating that he owned the dive. It was all a big laugh with the locals, but Tisha Pembry would not have thought it funny to know she gently carried away, much like a kitten in a mother cat’s mouth, by a six and a half foot long alligator.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Sloopy had never tasted human flesh. That did not mean his reptilian mind had not wondered about snapping off the tender smelling limbs of his handle Jackson Garvey. But then there was always plenty of meat. Feeding time was the main attraction, Jackson would open the large, barred homemade cramped, narrow, tank that was the bar and throw in slabs of pork into the murky water would go red as the folks sat on their bar stools drinking their vodka and beer, smoking and talking and arguing.
There was one time Mac Stevenson the local pimp got mad at one of his girls and dipped her head first into the tank before Jackson was able to stop him. Sloopy meanwhile crept steadily closer his snout brushed the end of her trailing weave before she was snatched away.
Most of the regulars were oblivious to the gator, while newbies gazed in and tapped the glass. In his younger days, he would snap back, but mostly he watched with cold, green, listless eyes, or open and close his jaws slowly.
Sloopy was only a baby when captured by some white boys on a fishing expedition in the swamps. They sold him to a pet shop for fifty bucks and remained there until he was about three feet long and Jackson got the idea to get the fish out of his bar, and put in a gator. The two hundred dollar fee he paid for Sloopy he saw as a trifle investment.
PETA would have been appalled, years of living in the tank stunted his growth, Jackson rarely cleaned his tank, only when the filth clouded over the water and once could barely see the six and a half foot gator in there. But PETA never came to Slidell, or any other places where real animal cruelty happened.
Katrina came to his rescue. Before the levees broke, Jackson made another bright business decision. He would make sure no one looted his flooding bar, and if they did they would find a big surprise. He opened Sloopy’s tank, and left the building, barring it tight behind him. He spray-painted on the metal door: Live Gator Inside, Loot at your Own Risk!
He added Mother-Fuckers in a Samuel L. Jackson inspired moment, and quite pleased with himself he fled the state.
The water rose, and Sloopy slithered out through the roof.
He swam west, traveling through bayous and rivers the floods left everything connected, there was plenty to eat on the way, barking dogs, drinking cows, freshly murdered corpses. Ever alert for people Sloopy kept on the move, until he sensed salt water close by, and ended his journey.
He made Legacy Bayou his new home, and hid out in the park.
But people got to him again, he could hear their strange cries, but not see them. They managed to rope him, but he could not physically feel any bonds. They had hold of Sloopy’s mind, and as they waters began to rise again they sent him out to fetch the woman and be careful not to pierce and taste her flesh.
He would have his reward later, if he stuck around.
So he carried the woman to higher ground, which happened to be the Coolwood Public Library. It was a labor since his body was made for dragging prey into the water not pulling it out, but his stunted limbs managed. The woman began to cough and moan. He tasted her breath and would have thrashed his thick neck and destroyed her right then. Except he has his orders.
Sloopy did as he had been told, then whipped his tail, turning, slithering back into the water and waited.
To be continued in chapter seven: drown
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