After the Flood/ fiction by Gregory Seth Harris

After family, the neighbor, and a friend, huddle in your musty attic. After what was called a tropical storm swells the small creek gushing behind your backyard fence. After its sides burst in near volcanic fury and hail pummels the lawn and wind shakes the patio awning. After the lightning bolts flash like fireworks, the rising water lifting lawn chairs, rain barrels and picnic benches. After the grunge-gray water laps the lower porch steps, climbing higher like the bloated back of a hungry beast, pellets of rain pounding locked windows with the urgency of bullets. As lawn tools and playground equipment ride the undulation of the liquid monster, battleship gray, swallowing everything in its widening current.

After the wet gray tongue slips under doors, pressures basement windows into giving way, crawls under living room rugs as it finds the stairs. After you cling to your whimpering offspring, watch lamps flicker like fireflies before blinking dead. After the rank stench of sewage tickles your high-on-alert nostrils and your neighbor chants The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away so low you think it comes from your own head. After the wind dies down, goes silent and you release your clammy, sour-smelling children. After the smoke-gray blanket of sky begins to thin, casting hints of a prodigal sun’s imminent return, and you release the breath you’ve been hoarding. 

After the dinge of that dim-lit sun descends below the mud-gray horizon and you cover your exhausted children in drop cloths and spare blankets. Your neighbor finding a cot, your friend, a punctured beanbag. After you doze into unsettled sleep, your dreams empty as the night feels eternal. After the eerie silence of pre-dawn, the still air humid and pungent, the lap and gurgle of water seeking escape routes, stray logs and warped lumber bobbing on the umber and tawny brown surface, only the roofs of cars visible along the dense quiet streets. After the despair, the hopelessness and resignation, the shaking of heads, the sinking of hearts 

comes the gathering of rubber-booted neighbors, bundled and ruddy-cheeked. Rescue parties in boats. Helicopters overhead. The resurrection of resolve.  comes the tales of personal tragedy. The wry humor. The Thank Goodness this and the Too Bad that. The collective will to salvage what might be saved. To start all over.  comes the sage advice, the compassionate suggestion, outdoor cats and lost dogs returning. Helping hands from those once barely spoken to. The we-are-all-in-this-together choir that elevates hope into a new statue of liberty.  comes the tests of character once veiled by complacency. Loss carrying in its wake, new courage.  The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. . .only to give again. What doesn’t defeat us. . . . .

After the flood: the earth drenched, the air cleansed, the birds’ cheery song, the cacophony of twitter. The humid sting of putrid and purified atmosphere. The rebirth of crocuses. A radiant blue. That yellow god surveying his laid-bare domain. After the flood: the chainsaws, the hammers, the insurance assessors, the gradual explosion of plump, radiating green. Blossoms from bushes thought dead. The wheels on the bus going round and round, round and round, round and round. The wheels on the bus go round and round, all through the. . . .


Novelist and poet Gregory Seth Harris is the author of the absurdist satire, The Perfect Stranger, a poetic memoir, A Black Odyssey, and numerous published short stories. Best known in the Rocky Mountain region as performance poet SETH, he performs weekly with his musical-poetic ensemble Art Compost & the Word Mechanics. The improvisational band invites poets to join them in poetic jams streamed live every Sunday from 6-8pm (MST) on his Facebook page, SETH & Art Compost.

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