The rains finally stopped and the city was attempting to dry out under a weak summer sun. It was still fairly gray and cloudy overhead, but at least the pounding rain stopped. Karen was starting to feel the effects of cabin fever as she watched the two days of rain pummel the city like no time she could remember. She watched through her window as the street flooded and the lawn became super saturated. It was just impossible to go outside for any reason. She didn’t have a canoe or other water born mode of travel. So she sat in her house for two days, watching the weather channels, reading, discovering new ways to flavor her tea, talking to her mother on the phone, checking her own basement for water which thankfully there was none, and falling asleep on the couch. Now that the rain had stopped she had a very strong desire to go outside and survey the damage.
Karen grabbed her Marc Jacobs rain roots and rolled up her pants legs. The boots were a great investment and she really didn’t care how popular they were, they were stylish and practical, something Karen appreciated. She thought about taking her rain coat just in case it started to rain again. It was getting really humid already and she didn’t want her little exploration of the neighborhood to turn in to a hot sweaty mess. She left the rain coat behind. She grabbed her house keys and her phone, just in case there were any opportunities to take some Facebook worthy photos, and opened her front door.
The water had started to recede from her short front walkway and she avoided a few lingering puddles. Everything smelled so damp but somehow fresh. She was glad the sewers hadn’t back-up. The raw sewage smell just made her terribly sick to her stomach. When she was younger her father had accidentally broken a sewer line while working in front of their old house and raw human waste spewed up like a geyser and covered her father and the cars on the street in filth. The smell was terrible. It made Karen wonder how human beings ever made it through the Dark Ages. Then she remembered that they almost didn’t. She started walking toward the busy streets two blocks west.
She could see that the traffic signal up ahead was flashing red meaning the intersection must have lost power at some point during the storms. They were pretty violent at times, but her house never lost power. She walked looking at the high water still in the street and watched as it moved like a fast river toward the storm drains. Karen though that if she were to step out into it, even ankle deep, she might get swept away and down into the horrors of the underworld. She kept walking along the damp sidewalk.
The sun was still fighting its way through the clouds and every so often it would break through and bathe the wet city in yellow sun. Karen squinted her eyes against the sun as it glared off the surface of the flood waters. She was happy to feel the sun on her face and felt a warming happiness start to fill her as she walked through the neighborhood. She hardly noticed that she was the only person out.
It only dawned on her that no one was around when she got to the corner and the flashing traffic light and there weren’t any cars slowly moving through the intersection. It was odd since the intersection is normally very busy at all times of day. She looked down to the left and didn’t see any road blocks or accidents and then she looked right and didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. There just wasn’t any traffic. There were some cars still parked along the street though and that was good. She was glad that none of them had floated away. Frankly she was glad the whole neighborhood hadn’t floated away in the bustling flood waters.
She carefully crossed the street and found the water had already receded quite a lot. It was only barely cresting over the toe of her rain boots. She slogged gingerly though since she didn’t want to step on a hidden tree branch or into a pot hole. She got to the other corner and turned to her left to walk up toward the corner liquor store. She figured she’d celebrate the end of the rains by picking up a bottle of wine or two. Some sparking white wine would go nice with the dropping water and the warming sunlight. She might even be able to dry her deck furniture out and enjoy the quiet for a while.
Karen splashed her way through some larger puddles that were mimicking mini lakes in some of the rougher hot holes along her route. She felt like a little girl splashing through muddy puddles at her grandmother’s house. She smiled. She looked around and jumped high into the air and splashed down into one of the large linger puddles. She giggled to herself as the water sprayed up everywhere. Her jeans got a little wet but she didn’t mind. It was fun to act childish sometimes, especially when no one was watching.
“Nobody is watching at all,” she said aloud.
She looked up and down the street again and there still wasn’t a soul in sight. She splashed and kicked through the puddle as she walked and suddenly felt a little embarrassed. Plus it was starting to feel a little eerie. Somebody was probably watching her from some window and was making fun of her childish exuberance.
“So what,” she said as she kicked through another deep puddle, “I’m having fun”.
Karen neared the liquor store and realized that it might not even be open. The rains might have prevented the owner, Mel, to get there and open shop. She might not be able to get her wine. She shrugged and figured that if he wasn’t open then she’d just have to turn around and go home. Maybe later in the afternoon she’d be able to make a return trip. She kept splashing her way forward through the puddles.
She heard a car horn suddenly blare from somewhere up ahead. It was the first sound she’d heard besides her own splashing and voice. She looked down the street and saw a guy leaning into the driver’s side window of a car, honking the horn. He was really making it blare. Karen was a little disappointed that this horn noise would be the first sound to disrupt her peaceful little water walk. She’d hoped it be sweet singing birds or maybe some music, maybe someone playing, “Here Comes the Sun”. The guy kept hitting the horn though and it was starting to become unpleasant.
Karen kept moving toward the liquor store and stopped her big splashing. Now she felt she was on more of a mission rather than a playful romp in the puddles. She looked up at the windows of the liquor store and saw Mel was inside behind the counter. He was arching his body toward the sound of the blaring horn. He had a telephone to his ear. Karen thought it was so odd that Mel still had a big black secretary phone at the counter. It looked so out of place in this age of tiny cell phones.
Karen pulled open the store’s door and entered. Mel looked at her and gave her the ‘just a minute’ finger. He was listening to someone on the other end of the phone. Karen nodded and started generally looking at the candy and the sweets on the racks, the potato chips and dips. Maybe she’d get some snacks too. She heard Mel hand up the heavy antique phone.
“Hi Mel,” said Karen.
“Do you hear that guy with the horn,” asked Mel right away.
“I do. What’s going on with that,” asked Karen.
“There’s like, a hole there,” said Mel.
Karen looked at the normally confident and strong Mel and she realized that he was shaken. He looked pale and scared.
“A hole? Like a sink hole,” asked Karen.
“I don’t know. I mean, it’s not a sink hole, it’s just a, a hole,” said Mel.
Mel stepped around from the counter and toward Karen and the window facing the blaring car horn noise. He was clearly frazzled.
“What’s going on,” asked Karen.
“I think, that, this hole is coming for us,” said Mel.
“How can a hole come for us,” asked Karen.
Karen wondered if Mel maybe hit his head or fell in the water or maybe had a stroke. He wasn’t a young man after all. She reached up and put a hand on Mel’s shoulder.
“Are you feeling okay,” asked Karen.
Mel turned and looked at her and suddenly seemed calmer and that he recognized Karen as someone he knew.
“Karen, when did you get here? How did you get here,” he asked.
“I just walked in, didn’t you see me. We’ve been talking about some hole for the last few minutes. You were on the phone when I walked in,” said Karen.
Mel looked over to the counter and then back at Karen. He had a confused look on his face but he looked less afraid than before.
“Yeah, the hole. There’s a hole. I had to report it to the police,” said Mel as he turned back toward the window.
“What’s with the guy blaring the horn,” asked Karen.
“He’s keeping it at bay,” said Mel.
Mel turned back toward Karen and his nose had started bleeding. Karen took a step back as the blood started to drip off his chin.
“Mel! Your Nose!”
Mel didn’t acknowledge her exclamation and turned toward the store door and stepped out onto the sidewalk. Karen tried to stop him but he kept going. He staggered toward the sound of the blaring horn. He turned back toward Karen, blood flowing from his nose and seemingly from his mouth now.
“Mind the store Karen. Mind the store,” he gurgled.
He turned back toward the sound of the horn and then fell forward into a deep puddle. The puddle swallowed him like it was a tar pit rather than rain water. Karen called after Mel but he was gone. She looked down the street for help.
“Help! Help! Help!” she cried out and it echoed between the wet buildings and was drowned by the horn.
The horn was weakening from over-use. Karen looked toward the car and the man leaning into the driver’s window. She could barely make him out. He turned to look at her and Karen could see his face was red, it was bloody. She screamed and rushed back into the liquor store, slipping on the wet tile floor from her rain boots. She slammed the door behind her and braced herself against it.
She had to mind the store, that’s what Mel had said. She had to mind the store.