“Up,” her mother says, pulling on her arm, hard. “Get your rubber boots on.”Ann couldn’t really figure out what is going on, so she stands up and starts to arrange the yellow coverlet on her bed, but her mother shakes her head. “Now,” she says.
Her mother has two rules: don’t leave the room without making your bed and dress before you leave. Today Ann is leaving her room in her pajamas, her bed all tumbled, so she knows that something is not right. Ann glances at her mother’s face to figure out a reason and she could see clearly the two lines on her forehead and lips, a thin line. No smile there, no good morning wish. All she could hear is the sound of the rain. It sounds like a truck is dumping a load of gravel on the roof. It has been raining hard for two days, but nothing like this.
The front door is open, and just outside it is one of the volunteer firemen. There are a couple of inches of water in their front hallway, and to Ann, it looks like the magic carpet in the cartoons, where you can float up and away.
“Hurry up,” her mother says, handing her the boots. And to the fireman, “My friend’s back in the house at the end of the street.”
“She ‘s up in the attic, and when I stuck my head up those stairs she let out a scream. I tried to calm her down but she says she’s not leaving her house,” the fireman replies.
Ann comes and stands in the middle between her mother and the fireman. “Let me try,” she says. “Go ahead,” her mother says, “Be careful, it is water everywhere.” She bends and zips her rain jacket and pulls the hood upon her head, the way she sometimes does when she is heading to the school bus. “It is not safe to stay here,” the firefighter shouts over the sound of the rain.
“We’re fine,” Ann says as she holds her father’s hand and climbs the small flimsy boat in their front lawn to rescue their neighbor. “Just give me a chance to talk to her,” Ann says as they row off into the darkness. “She always listens to me.”
But nothing like that happened. Ann shouts at the top of her lungs to get her neighbor out from her attic but she wouldn’t. She enters into her front room, the door is not locked and the flood water has started to fill the space. It is a one-story house, and the ladder to the attic is down. She is up there sitting on a stack of two huge suitcases, her legs pulled up under her nightgown. Ann wonders why she has those suitcases. She has never gone anyplace. Maybe she has some important or special stuff inside the suitcases.
“ Just go back down there, Ann,” she says sharply from the half dark and for just a moment she sounded a lot like her mother.
“Come with me. The water’s getting really high.”
“It won’t ever get up here. This is the highest place on the whole farm.” Ann thinks she is almost right about that. “Then I’ll stay here with you,” Ann says.
“We need to get going,” calls the fireman from below.
“You go with them,” she says. “Don’t worry about me. Leave,” she says sternly.
The water is deeper as Ann climbs back into the boat and they sail, like a dream, down their underwater driveways, and onto the water-filled road. It is hard to see much, no lights, no moon. The fireman maneuvered the boat around powerlines that come up suddenly like snakes skittering along the surface and pieces of things, of roofs and fences and strange brown chunks. They float past one of her friend’s barn where the cows are standing and mooing loudly. Ann couldn’t control her sob. “ Let’s help the cows, they are desperate and scared to death,” she begs.
“We will. But first we need to rescue the people, afterward, we’ll come back to rescue the animals.” the fireman says loudly. They stop by another house where Ann’s class teacher Mrs. Quindlen is standing at her front step with her shepherd dog.
After a while, they reach the church and they climb down from the small boat. Her teacher has a plastic bag full of knitting supplies. “ I can’t stand the boredom,” she says. Inside the building, Ann spots almost all her neighbors and they are all talking about the destructive flood.
Ann finds one of her friend sitting at a corner with her backpack and eating a sandwich in her hand. She waves with the sandwich.
“Were you scared?” she asks.
“Yes. But I pretended that I wasn’t.” Ann says.
“ My mother doesn’t know swimming and she doesn’t like to sit on the boat,” she says with a smile. “So I pretended to be brave to make her feel safer.”
“Even if I know swimming, that’s not the kind of water I can swim in. The current is too strong enough to suck us under. I was really scared.” her friend says, stuffing the last corner of her sandwich into her mouth. Ann walks around to look for her mother. Her mother is talking with one of her friend who is wiping her tears with a cotton handkerchief. She has the biggest ranch house with columns in front, a huge living room and a big kitchen. Everything is gone in the flood. She starts to cry again. Ann’s mother puts her arm around her friend’s shoulder and tries to comfort her. Ann turns around and walks over to the big glass window. There is nothing to see outside, except for water everywhere. She stands there, thinking of how to rescue all the cows and dogs from the barns. Hopefully, the fireman has already done that.
- Midwest flood