Friday afternoon. Paula sits on a brown rocking chair in the dining room wearing a light blue long sleeved high-necked dress, sipping coffee and reading Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. She has silvery hair with a center part. Her dog Lucy drapes on her leg, eyes half closed.The gusty wind and an abrupt rumble makes both Paula and Lucy to lift their heads. Lucy sits up, her eyes are big, small pointy ears are up covered with anxiety. Paula closes the book and gets off from the rocking chair, She sets the empty tea-cup on the small wooden table and slowly steps closer to the rectangle glass window. The old wooden floor creaks beneath her bare feet. Out of curiosity, she lifts the slightly old white curtain. Outside the clouds are rolling in. Grey and thick clouds swirl and twist in the ever-rising wind. The sky explodes, lighting flashes and in a few seconds later the thunder crackle before finally settling into a loud angry rumble. Eighty eight years old Paula turns back from the window.
“ I did not know that a storm is coming! Yesterday my daughter told me that it will hit near Corpus Christi. Well, maybe the wind turned around. Let me bring the cat inside and then I will call my daughter.” She mutters. She lifts the white shawl with small dark blue flowers from the top of a chair,wraps it around her shoulder, and walks towards the front door. It takes her a while to drag her old feet to the door. The knees have started to give up slowly.She used to run at least forty minutes in every evening after work, used to take lots of protein to keep her calcium level up but now it is hard to walk even to the front door. But she tries to keep up with yoga stretching, walks back and forth a few times from the mailbox to the front door and front door to back to the mailbox.She twists the knob and opens the wooden door. Outside the wind thrashes the rose bushes, gold Lantana,purple Petunia and the purple,yellow and red flower petals are scattered all over the green grass. The tree branches bent in wind bowing to a higher power. The sky is dark as a northern sea.
“ Kitty! Where are you? Kitty!, It is so hard to see in the dark. Paula takes a few steps towards the mailbox. “ Kitty, Kitty! where did he go?” The rain start to pour. Paula walks back into the house. From the kitchen, her dog Lucy barks furiously. She does not like this stormy weather at all. The grey cloud, thunder and lightning wrap her with wild imagination of falling sky or meanness of the world. Lucy wants her master to stay inside,close to her in one room in a tight circle. Paula closes the door from behind and takes off her sandals.
“Meow.the kitty jumps off from the small sofa.
“Kitty,when did you come?” She bends down and gently pats the cat on his head. Lucy is calm now to see both Paula and the cat inside. As soon as they settle in the living room, the phone rings.
“ Mom! Are you okay? I called you earlier but you did not pick up the phone.”
“ I am fine. I just went outside to get the cat.”
“ Listen carefully mom. Three of you go upstairs and stay there until I come to pick you. The Hurricane Harvey is coming and we will get lots of rain. But don’t worry I will be there soon.”
“Sure honey but do you think that Harvey will be like Allison or worse?”
“ Mom, really I don’t know that yet and I hope it is not the same or worse hurricane. But please try to walk upstairs to be in the safe side.”
“ Sure, don’t worry,we’ll wait upstairs. And listen drive carefully. It is very windy outside.” Paula hangs the phone. Three of them sit there for a while until the wind start to howl and heavy rain start to slip under the front door. Lucy starts to bark again and the cat immediately hides under the sofa. Paula adjusts the blackrimmed eye-glass on her nose and gets off from the sofa. From the top of the glass coffee table, she picks up her late husband Steve’s framed photograph gently in her shaken hands. They fell in love when Paula was in the last year of high school and Steve was in his undergraduation, who came as a visiting teacher to her school. He was a perfect gentleman; kind hearted, thoughtful, loving, respectful. They had a wonderful life until he passed away in last year. It is hard to live without Steve. Paula touches the picture with her finger. If anything happens, then she wants to stay close to Steve.
Paula lifts the curtain from the bay window to glance outside. The road has transformed into a river and the muddy rain waters has started to gush into the house. She holds the small frame in her right hand and calls both the dog and the cat to follow her upstairs. It is not that easy to climb the stairs with swollen knees but she tries her best. As she reaches upstair she leans against the wall to calm her heavy breath and looks down to the first floor. The first floor is full with water and the dog toys, her tea cups and her favorite classics are floating on the water. The water has sstarted to rise and cover a few of the stairs. Paula is scared and anxious. Lucy starts to bark.Paula pulls Lucy from the collar and drags her own feet slowly to the bedroom. In a hurry, she has left the cellphone in downstairs. Her forehead is knotted with desperation. Her daughter is not here yet and also she can not contact her. There is no way to call anyone from here because of the sound of the wind and the rain noone can hear her feeble voice. Paula opens the window and looks out side for help.
She tries to locate someone who can help her before the water gobbles her. A young man pulls a rowboat on a rope through chest deep water and comes towards her house. Paula wipes her wet eye-glasses in her dress and looks down to the street. Well it is not a street any more but a river. People floating carrying their dogs and gripping black plastic trash bags stuffed with their belongings. Some people are standing on the roof tops and the mail boxes and waiting for help. Paula pulls both her pets close and folds her palms together. Her prayer is for all these desperate people and their safety.
“ Mom! Mom!” Paula turns around from the window and walks a few steps towards the stair. But the staircase is full of water. She glances back to make sure that both Lucy and the cat are safe inside while clutching Steve’s photograph in her hand. “ I am here darling. But what are you going to do?”
“ Don’t worry mom, just stay there.”
A young man in his thirty helps her daughter in rescuing Paula and she is placed on a small row-boat with her pets. As they arrive in the George R Brown Convention center Paula turns her face towards the gentle man who rescued her.
“ Thank You so much for risking your life and helping me. I will be always grateful to you. Are you a friend of my daughter?”
A small smile appears on his wet face. “ No, I am Luis, a homeless guy. I used to live in a small tent under the bridge and now the bridge is underwater and I was not prepared for a hurricane. Otherwise I should have moved to a shelter nearby. It caught me in surprise. I was swimming to reach to the other side, when I noticed your daughter. She is brave and loves you a lot. She did not care for her life and she was trying her best to pull the row-boat in the water. It was hard for her to pull the boat on a rope through chest deep water, so I decided to join and help her. I am happy to see you safe. Take care.” They stand there in silence for a minute. Then he walks away and arranges himself in a line with two thousand people to get a shelter.