Flush

by | Jun 23, 2023 | Writing the Weather

From the back of his pickup, Henry holds three full five-gallon buckets steady, taking his eye off runaway splashes long enough to stare at Pearl through the back window, at the wheel of his pickup. Just long enough to see what that looks like. The hot sun is laughing at them, isn’t it? It bounces through clouds and off hard pavement and rubs punchlines into their dry eyes. In this flood, you’ll feel no water. You’ll long for water. You’ll miss.

Before it was all shut off, Henry and Peanut had filled the tub. They hung their arms over the edge of the tub, staring at their reflections, spidered fingers through cool water, watched the drain betray them, watched it clockwise the last of their water.

From the back of his pickup, Henry feels alive. Life in his shins, tearing into the teeth of the bed liner. Life in the sweat teasing the edge of his eyes. Life in Pearl’s uneasy knuckles on his steering wheel. His truck. His life. His buckets of water. His strength.

Henry and Peanut, floating in the apartment pool, watching sky blues, playing the feeling of feeling nothing. It had rained for months, but it had stopped too. But the water hadn’t stopped, until the water made its way downhill, until it made its points clear, until that water overran their water, and shut it all off.

Henry and Peanut, letting the pool surface hug them as the truck reversed its way between the buildings. They had to let their legs break the dream, and then they treaded like puppies while the men unhooked the big plastic drum of water Henry and Peanut knew was the kind farmers had even if they had never seen one before. Henry and Peanut hadn’t known this and then they knew this. They knew this was the kind of water you don’t drink, you don’t bathe, and you don’t cook. They hadn’t known this and then they knew this.

Pearl pulls into the daycare—the Apple Tree. Henry holds the buckets steady as if holding a thing is enough to control a thing, as if he hadn’t already known the one thing that water does is what it wants.

Henry carrying a bucket in each hand, thin biceps peeking through thin skin, dozens of Peanuts orbiting his feet now and risking the stability of the unstable. Dozens of Peanuts now, thrilled by the flood. And Henry feels thrilled too, doesn’t he? Thrill in the fatigue of muscles, thrill in the threshold of water, almost spilling, waving back, contained by plastic, not flooding after all. Thrill in the smell of a dozen unflushed toilets. Thrill in all the Peanuts, watching Henry poor the water, passing from bucket to toilet bowl, conjuring the magic of a flush, the thing they never dreamed they’d go without.

Henry, delivering the dream. Water delivering the dream, just by taking it away. They hadn’t known this and then they knew.

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