Hurled or Smashed, Torn Down or Otherwise Displaced
Certain members of the holy family were treed by the twister, plus
their entourage, including the black-faced wise man in red robe, one
solid blob of plastic, still illuminated, cord still, somehow, trailing
back to the now-roofless house, in front of which sat an SUV with
someone's window air-conditioning unit wedged through the windshield.
I discuss the razor-thin divisions of force, the randomness, over the
hum of the Sani-Ray machine at Ivan's, the barbershop, where only the
smaller sign is gone, though it is gone good, absolutely missing, no
trace for blocks and blocks around.
Ivan's house was similarly spared, he tells anyone who'll listen as he
mismatches the lengths of my sideburns. The house next door, their
front windows were slammed in by someone's discarded Christmas tree,
plucked up, swung around, the whole wall of windows shattered, though
— and here's the miracle of it — the wreath on
their front door, not three feet away from the windows, unmoved, still
hanging primly by one nail and one wire. Ivan whistles in wonderment.
Some of his spittle flecks across my cheek.
We'd never had anything that strong in our lifetimes, and it was
exciting for everyone still living, especially those of us not rendered
homeless. Military helicopters circled around, making noise. Utility
vehicles blocked traffic. Men boarded up the windows of the Winn-Dixie,
but any of the food in the parking lot was free for the taking, so I
got some beans and some tuna, some crackers, a loaf of bread and a
rubber dog toy designed to look like a pork chop which made a squeaking
sound when squeezed.
I gave the toy to Kristal's kid, who was playing with some cutlery.
Kristal was ripped, dazed. Her place, too, had been spared, though it
looked, to use the cliché, like a tornado had hit, plus her
face was really showing, going bad and blistered, methed-up. "You
didn't bring no peanut butter" was all she had to say to me. I put half
of the food in her cabinets, emptied her ashtrays into the trash,
turned the water on at the sink in the hopes maybe she'd get to washing
dishes before it overflowed.
Kristal's porch — the place was setup like a motel, doors
opening to a railed walkway, which was porch enough — opened
onto a matching building and a daycare center beyond that, only after
the storm there was no matching building, just a half-smashed daycare
center and a yellow short bus tipped over on its side.
The kid – Kristal's — tells me he could hear them
screaming, all the babies inside that bus, caught mid-evacuation, first
by the floodwater, then by the wind. He calls them babies because he's
young and mildly retarded, but they couldn't have been too old to be at
that daycare. The kid tells me his rubber pork chop is named Molly, and
that it's his new friend. I say whatever, kid, and muss his hair up a
little, or start to, till I realize his hair is crisp with something,
"I want peanut butter," says Kristal, "Or jelly. I got a taste for
"Why don't you wash some dishes?" I said. "I'll be back."
But I was heading over to old lady Iva's, who'd spread plastic wrap
across the middle of her living room floor and arranged batteries all
over it, batteries of all sizes. Her power was out, and she wanted the
radio, by which she meant this giant, cheap ghetto blaster, its battery
compartment full of rust and, anyway, requiring more D cells than she
had. I showed her the groceries I'd brought her and she told me that if
she didn't have an outbreak on her lips right now, she'd kiss me. "All
I got's here is peanut butter and jelly," she said, "You're a real
lifesaver with your tuna fish."
After that I went home. My electricity was dead, too, so it was too
dark in my bathroom to try and fix the haircut Ivan had given me. I ate
on various leftovers that were in the fridge, and some ice cream from
the freezer, and I listened to the religious frequencies on the AM
dial, which oscillated between themes of miracles and themes of
retribution, deep into the night. At some point, late, I fell asleep,
and when I woke up there was a voicemail on my cell phone, Kristal, a
tirade to the tune of how could I give her son something intended for
animals, for pets? "He's my fucking precious goddamn son, you
son of a bitch," etc., and, "He ain't no fucking animal. You're the
fucking animal. You're a lying faggot, is what you are, diseased little
ass-sucking… You're just a jerk." I listened to all of it,
minutes of it, as she kept forgetting her words or losing her place,
eventually petering out into incomprehensible sounds and sobbing, then
saying things like, "Oh, Billy, Billy, I don't know what I'm saying, I
don't know what's come over me. I just don't know what I'd do without
you, Billy. I just don't know."
Spencer Dew is the author of Songs of Insurgency.
To link to this story directly: http://wigleaf.com/200908hurled.htm
Photo detail on main page courtesy
of Incognita Nom de Plume.
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