Whit – Chill (excerpt 1)

Whit Laumond held the door open for each of her four children. Those inside the neighborhood cafe and nearest the door sat and stood with cups of coffee warming their hands.

The cafe was full.

The chill of the morning shot through the door as if that air knew seconds provided the chance to curse the warmth inside. The people understood and even sympathized with the young woman holding the door open, but they mostly wished she’d hurry all them kids of her’s along and shut the damn door.

“Close the door,” a man said. He said it loud. Everyone heard. Whit ushered her kids in just the same.

In the cafe there were small round tables and even more small chairs and a few more people than chairs. Those who stood mimicked those who sat.

The floor added to the roasted aroma an undertone of settled wood and verbally protested each foot on its planks. The windows stretched off the irritable floor to touch the metal ceiling tiles and lined the wall like crooked pictures. Fragments of Mahogany mended the broken pieces of the building together like strong old bones. Whit noticed the layers of old but also that the people trusted the structure of this place. She trusted them. She used to be one of them–a child of the south and, specifically, of the beloved New Orleans.

Inside these walls, it was warm like spring and indeed bloomed beautiful things. Even so, Whit could feel a draft and pulled her coat tight.

Lou’siana Flood – Answer That

My phone rang. I looked down at it but didn’t budge. The morning had Matt and I moving slow. We sat on the front end of our garage and watched the sun struggle against the low fog of blue clouds that hung at the horizon. The air folded in on itself like a dense wet blanket. I had a hard time breathing. Nine days of rain. The waters took things and homes. And lives.

I sipped the coffee he made us and watched the sky but did not hear my children as they played, or the birds as they sang, and certainly not the phone. My eyes watched but everything else played numb.

I studied the sky. I prayed, today at least, it wouldn’t rain. Even that small whimper of my heart felt a little hopeless. It would rain. I knew it would. If I believed in the gods of old, I’d say with certainty Pisces made good on a claim to the bottom boot of home sweet Lou’siana. But I don’t believe in such things, at least, not publicly.

“Answer that,” Matt said, “It could be FEMA or the adjusters.” I answered my phone but the man’s voice on the other end didn’t begin with “mrs. wallace” or “may I speak with.” Instead, the voice joyfully thanked the good Lord above that he got through to me. Cell service suffered these days. Matt made talk of getting high-powered walkie-talkies. I wished this was one of his end-of-world jokes.

“Hey, Alyssa!” the caller said,”I’m so glad I got you. Look, I had to call. Have you been taking pictures? I mean. I just got down here to help and this story isn’t being told. You need to let people know what you’re seeing. You have a gift. We need it.”

At some point in this short sentence, my legs lifted me off the ground and took me a few steps away from our garage. My eyes still glued to the horizon. Pale. And blue.

“I’ve not taken pictures,” I said. I lied. “My hands have pulled boards, walls, floor, belongings and God knows what else from Matt’s parents home. They’ve not had time to be on a camera.”

The truth. I did all those things I said. I’ve pulled boards, walls and floors and belongings out of homes, but I’ve done it with a camera tied around my neck. I pray the camera isn’t ruined. There are pictures.