Note: Thanks to the fact that I’m now a writing minor, I have various bits of short fiction lying around my computer. My latest assignment was to write a “weird” story. Woo hoo! My favorite kind. See if you can guess what the inspiration for this one was.
At first I thought I could easily handle the flood. “Isn’t it raining a lot?” asked my little red-headed sister. I said, “yes, but this is normal. It always rains a lot.”
She walked to the pantry to get a snack, and her socks left sopping footprints across the floor. “Aren’t your shoes waterproof?” I asked.
“Not really,” she said.
Mom was at an Environmental Resources conference in Minneapolis that week, so when it came to solving footwear problems I was on my own. “We should buy you some waterproof shoes,” I said.
We drove in the Honda because it had new tires and didn’t hydroplane as badly. We did okay. We passed several cars that had slid sideways, into the ditch, but no one seemed hurt. Floating into a ditch is a low-impact way to crash.
Some of the puddles in the parking lot were deep, and some were shallow. My little red-headed sister’s shoes were already soaked through. I only walked in the shallow puddles, or else the water would have leaked into my shoes as well. The cashier said, “we have two pairs of rubber boots left,” and I said, “we’ll buy them.” We bought socks too.
“Do you need anything else?” I asked my little red-headed sister.
“Not really,” she said.
I bought her pencils, in case she needed pencils. I needed pencils too, so I bought a packet of four. The pencils were decorated with pictures of little shoes.
It rained all night. The roof leaked, but that was okay because I caught the drips in a teapot. “You’d better not go to school,” I told my little red-headed sister. “The water is too deep.”
“You’d better not go to university, either,” she said.
“I have to go,” I said. “My teachers take attendance and if I miss a day it could severely impact my grades.” I put my new pencils in my backpack. “Stay safe. Don’t let strangers in the house. Call me if you need anything.”
“Okay,” said my little red-headed sister.
I was worried about her, but I had to leave. I hoped she really would call me if she needed anything, but I hoped it wouldn’t be during my Alternative Energy Sources midterm.
I drove part of the way to university and floated part of the way. Luckily, when I floated, I floated in pretty much the right direction. I parked in a no-parking zone, because that’s where my car floated to a stop. I chuckled to myself. The water was too deep for the parking enforcement people to get their little golf carts through and give me a ticket.
In my morning class, one third of my classmates were missing. “I can see who truly cares about this class,” said my history teacher. “Trust me, you’ll be glad you braved the elements.” Then he talked about Great Flood myths for the entire class session, his PowerPoints dense with an impossible volume of information. I scribbled frantically with my new pencils, avoiding the soggiest patches of my notebook.
I had an hour and ten minutes to get to my next class. It was my midterm, so I had to be there, but the water was higher than my rubber boots. I texted my friend Kai, who was on the rowing team, and asked if he could take me. “Sure,” he said. “I’m across town though, so it will take me awhile to get there.”
“That’s okay,” I said. “I have an hour and eight minutes to get to my next class.”
When Kai picked me up he told me that he’d raised $27 by rowing people places. I hoped he wasn’t hinting that I should pay him for rowing me across the quad. I had a bag of fruit gushers in my backpack, so I shared them with him.
Only three fourths of my Alternative Energy Sources class showed up. The teacher glared at us from his perch atop his desk. “I assume you know that failure to take the midterm will result in failing the class,” he said. “You can inform your friends of this later. They still have time to drop the course, you know, but they can’t get a refund at this point.”
We nodded and tried to look like hardworking intelligent students.
“I can’t leave this desk, because I didn’t bring my fishing waders to class this morning,” he said. “Therefore, I’ll have to distribute your midterms the old fashioned way.” He folded them into paper airplanes, one by one, and tossed them to us. Some of them fell on the floor but it didn’t matter because we were all sitting in the upper levels of the stadium-style classroom.
I hadn’t studied properly for the midterm, because I’d been too busy making sure my red-headed sister had all the supplies she needed for being flooded in. “Calculate the energy output of this oscillating wave surge converter.” My foggy memory failed me. Would he at least let me pass, since I’d bothered to show up?
When we tossed our midterms back, some of them landed on his desk but some splashed into the surrounding pool. David Jones dove in to retrieve his midterm, and then, since he was drenched anyway, he carried mine across for me. I gave him some of my fruit gushers.
I checked my phone as I climbed to the second story of Weniger Hall. My little red-headed sister had texted me a picture of the water surging in, under the door. “Go up to the attic,” I texted back, worried. “I’ll come home as soon as I can.” I wondered if I should text my mom too. Was this important enough to bother her with?
A man drove by in a motorboat. I leaned out of the second-story window, yelling and waving my arms. He pulled up alongside me. “Where do you want to go?” he asked.
“Harrisburg,” I said.
“Harrisburg. That’s pretty far. It’ll cost ya a hundred bucks one way.”
“Please, I need to make sure my little sister is okay,” I said. “But I only have twenty bucks and a third of a bag of fruit gushers. Do you take credit card?”
“Nope,” he said, unmoved. He revved up his engine as though he were going to speed away.
“Wait!” I said, frantically. “I’ll give you my French textbook! It cost me $300.”
I climbed into the boat and sat down on the damp seat. It was still pouring. We started south, passing cars, and then furniture, and then some small buildings, all floating north. I was scooping water out of the boat with my Hydro Flask when I saw the first floating house. Sometimes people forget to bolt their houses to their foundations, so things like this can happen. I wasn’t even sure if my house was bolted to the foundation. My mother tended to forget small maintenance tasks like that.
I squinted, trying to see through the storm. “Wait, stop!” I said, “There’s my house!” My little red-headed sister was on the roof. She wore her boots and held a Kermit the Frog umbrella over her head. I was never so happy to see anyone.
The boatman stopped the boat, and I climbed onto the moist shingles and sat beside my sister. “You only took me part of the way, after all,” I said to the boatman. “Is there any way I could get some of my money back? I know it’s hard to give change for a textbook, but maybe you have something of lesser value on you. An outdated history textbook perhaps?”
“Sorry, ma’am,” said the boatman. “I looked up your French textbook on the way here, and the re-sale value is only, like, sixty bucks.” He sped off before I could argue.
The house continued to float north. “I took all our food up to the attic while the water was still below the level of my rubber boots,” said my red-headed sister.
She was so smart. I hugged her close. “What about my school things?” I asked.
“I grabbed those too.”
“Thank you so much,” I said. I was crying, but she couldn’t tell because of the rain and the general damp atmosphere. “I lost my French textbook, but I think I’ll be okay. I have access to the online version until the end of the term.”
We floated along, through Peoria and across what must have been the Willamette River when the water was lower. We drifted ever-so-slightly to the west, until finally we lodged into a small hill and stopped.
“Oh thank you, Jesus!” I exclaimed, waking up my little red-headed sister, who was sleeping in my lap.
“Are we going to be okay?” she asked me.
“Yes,” I said, holding her close. “We’re close enough to university that I can swim to class tomorrow.”