by Joan Pedzich
The third morning after the storm – or maybe it the fourth - four helicopters went by, mostly taking pictures. Like that was doing anybody any good. The Coast Guard one dropped us water and a box with graham crackers, a flashlight and the meals in plastic like they eat in the service. The wings on those birds of theirs are every kind of scary, beating the air so you can’t have a thought, whipping the water that was still rising. But it was those boys leaning out of their birds, only ones from the government made themselves useful, aiming for us with gallon jugs. Myron caught the water, arms out, raised up like he’ll do in church when the choir lets loose. He pulled the cap off and made our boy Shawn have the first drink. We told him go, drink, take yourself a long pull. Myron made me go next, and we traded off, the two of us trying to keep it to little sips, swirling what we took on our tongues, savoring the pure cleanness of it, leaving most for Shawn.
The box they dropped had a piece of paper in it saying rescue was coming and to stay put. Where’d they think we’d go if we didn’t? Now there was a long night, the one after the water drop, when rescue was promised but not there, when the helicopters stopped and all we could hear was dogs. All night. Frantic, starving, mixed-up dogs. Dogs that got left or trapped. Dogs howling and mooning. Dogs barking until they were hoarse, from roofs and attics and the tops of cars. The wail of them reverberating off the waters caused Myron to wish for his pistol saying he’d put them out of their misery if he could. I told him it was just as well the pistol was drown in the drawer downstairs, as there’d be no knowing where to stop once he started with mercy killings.
In the morning at just light the distant blow of those rotating wings shut the dogs up. We said a prayer they was headed for us and the other folks needing rescue. And for God’s tender mercies. We shared one of the military meals and some water, and I can testify how good freeze dried meatloaf can taste in 90 degree heat. We even tore open the little foil packets of ketchup and licked them shiny. After the meatloaf, we gave Shawn the graham crackers and small tin of peanut butter that came with the meal. He spread one for each of us. Wouldn’t hear of eating his until we each had a bite.
When they finally came, the white helicopter with the orange stripe on its tail lowered a rescue basket, dangling us one at a time over our drown house before hoisting us into the belly of that thing. They got us all on, and in the air I watched our home and the rest of the street float away from us. A dog in the water was trying to get up on our roof, straining for a foot-hold, bawling weaker each time he slipped back in. I didn’t look down again. There was only the woozy blur of the wings, and Shawn and Myron holding on to me for dear life.
Author Joan Pedzich's work has been published in Lake Affect, Halfway Down the Stairs, and Six Sentences.